Samia Hassan Suluhu becomes first woman president in traditional East Africa
ANALYSIS | THE INDEPENDENT & AGENCIES | As stipulated in the Tanzanian constitution, Vice President Samia Hassan Suluhu was on March 18 sworn in as the country’s 6th President following the death of John Pombe Magufuli on March 17. She is the country’s first woman President.
After swearing in, in front of former Presidents Hasan Mwinyi and Jakaya Kikwete, President Suluhu inspected a guard of honour, was given a gun salute, and then addressed the country on TV and radio.
Who is Samia Hassan Suluhu?
Before it was confirmed he had died, reports that Magufuli has been flown abroad for treatment were surprising, because left on his own, he rarely traveled outside the country’s borders. Suluhu has been the face of Tanzania abroad.
What that meant was that his Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan has been the most noticeable figure, representing Tanzania, at all international meetings in the past five years.
Magufuli ‘The bulldozer’ has made only eight visits abroad since he was elected Tanzania president in 2015. He rarely traveled far, reportedly for health reasons, and had only visited Ethiopia, Kenya, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Uganda (twice) since he became president.
That means, Samia Suluhu Hassan was the face that everyone is familiar with, representing Tanzania at all the UN, African Union, SADC and East African Community meetings held outside their country.
In fact, two weeks back at the virtual East African Heads of State Summit, Magufuli appeared at the introduction only and left Samia to participate in the rest of the discussion. It turns out that was the last time he was seen in public.
According to the African community newspaper Mshale, “hers has been a slow and methodical rise to the top”. The result is that she became the second female vice-president in the region after Uganda’s Speciosa Naigaga Wandira Kazibwe (1994 to 2003).
Samia Suluhu Hassan, 61, is from Zanzibar. She has been the 10th Vice President of the United Republic of Tanzania since November 05, 2015, under President Dr. John Pombe Magufuli. Previously, she was a Minister of State, Vice Presidents Office in charge of Union Affairs.
In 2005-2010 she served as a Minister for Tourism, trade and Investment in Zanzibar and in 2000-2005 a Minister of Youth Employment, Women and Children Development in Zanzibar.
Samia Suluhu Hassan received Primary Education in different schools including Chwaka Primary School in Unguja in 1966 to 1968, Ziwani Primary school in Pemba from 1970 to 1971 and Mahonda Primary School in Unguja in 1972, according to details on her biography on the Vice President’s website.
In 1973 to 1975 Samia joined Ngambo and Lumumba Secondary School in Unguja. After secondary education in 1977 she joined the Zanzibar Institute of Financial Administration (ZIFA) for Statistics studies.
After studies she was employed by the Ministry of Planning and Development. In 1986 she joined the Institute of Development Management- IDM (present Mzumbe University) in Morogoro for advanced studies in Public Administration.
After various studies in Tanzania, Samia joined the National Institute of Public Administration in Lahore, Pakistan. In 1991 she joined the Institute of Management for Leaders, Hyderabad in India for a Certificate Management Course.
After studies in 1992 she was employed in a Project funded by the World Food Programme (WFP). Samia attended the University of Manchester in London for graduate studies to pursue a Postgraduate Diploma in Economics. In 2004 -2005, she progressed to Masters Degree in Community Economic Development through a joint-programme between the Open University of Tanzania and the Southern New Hampshire University, USA. According to the newspaper Mshale, “she has demonstrated a proclivity for continual learning.
Her Political journey
In 2000 Samia was elected as a member of the Zanzibar House of Representative for special seat and appointed as Minister by President Amani Karume. She was the only high-ranking woman Minister in the Cabinet. In 2005 she was re-elected and appointed as a Minister in another portfolio.
In 2010, she sought election to the National Assembly, she won by more than 80% standing in the parliament representing Makunduchi constituency. In 2014 President of United Republic of Tanzania Dr. Jakaya Kikwete appointed her as a Minister of State for Union Matters. In the same year she was elected as the Vice Chairperson of the Constitutional Assembly tasked with drafting the country’s new constitution.
In 2014 Samia was elected the Vice Chairperson of the Constitutional Assembly tasked with drafting the country’s new constitution.
In July 2015, the Ruling Party (CCM) Presidential nominee John Magufuli chose her as his running mate for the 2015 General election, making her the first female running mate in the party’s history.
Her entry into national electoral politics, explains Mshale, came relatively late by African standards.
“I have risen to this position as a result of my competence and not through favours,” she has repeatedly said.
She is married to Hafidh Ameir, tying the knot in 1978, a union that has been blessed by one daughter and three sons. Ameir is a retired agriculture officer and is currently a consultant. Their offspring are in careers ranging from business to information technology. The daughter is the only one to have followed in the mother’s footsteps. The daughter, Mwanu Hafidh Ameir, is a member of the Zanzibar House of Representatives.
The last time a woman ran a country in East Africa was in 1994, when Agathe Uwilingiyimanain served as Prime Minister of Rwanda (specifically from July 18 1993 until her death on April 7 1994).