Last updated on August 14th, 2022 at 09:40 am
Samia Suluhu Hassan has been the president of Tanzania since March 19, 2021. She had held the position of Vice President but took over as the nation’s first female head of state when President John Magufuli passed away due to an illness.
While the public has speculated that Magufuli might have died of the coronavirus, a heart condition was reported as his cause of death.
Shortly after taking over, President Hassan dramatically reversed the government’s perspective on covid-19 vaccinations.
Tanzania was initially very opposed to covid-19 vaccines developed in the West and the government planned to refuse any donations of doses. “You should stand firm. Vaccinations are dangerous. If the white man was able to come up with vaccines, he should have found a vaccine for AIDS by now,” said Tanzanian President John Magufuli in January of 2021.
However, President Hassan has voiced a completely different tune. In July of 2021, she herself was vaccinated in front of the media.
Samia Suluhu Hassan initially gave Tanzanians reason to be hopeful and optimistic about the role of free speech and the press. She lifted bans on multiple newspapers that had been banned under Magufuli. However, Tanzania is still no easy place for journalists and Hassan’s critics would argue that nothing meaningful has really changed.
According to nonprofit Freedom House, journalists continue to be targeted. Multiple media outlets have been suspended and arrests have been made in relation to media that was critical of Hassan’s administration.
In 2022, Samia Hassan received praise from the international community for taking steps to create a more civilized political environment. She met with opposition leader Tundu Lissu, who has had to flee the nation on multiple occasions due to political unrest and an attempt on his life.
Hassan is just one of two current female African presidents. The other is President Sahle-Work Zewde of Ethiopia; however, that role is largely ceremonial and holds less power than Ethiopia’s prime minister. She is the first muslim woman to be an African president. She was also Tanzania’s first female vice president.
There are many promising opportunities for the advancement of women’s empowerment and gender equality in Tanzania. For many, Hassan’s inauguration as Tanzania’s first female president signaled a massive step of progress in the right direction.
However, the World Bank explains, “the high rates of gender-based violence in the country remain a serious concern.” Despite having a woman as its head of state, Tanzania still faces an uphill battle against gender inequality when it comes to the workplace, politics, and crime. Tanzania also has one of the highest levels of income inequality in the world as well.
President Hassan is to serve for the remainder of what would have been Magufali’s term. She does not have to face re-election until 2025.
Hassan has been in public office for decades. Governmental roles she has held include serving as Minister of State in the Vice-President’s Office, responsible for Union Affairs (2010-2015), and Minister in the semi-autonomous government of her home region of Zanzibar (2000-2010).
President amia Suluhu Hassan was born on January 27, 1960 in Makunduchi. She has a degree in public administration from the Institute of Development Management, a postgraduate degree in economics from the University of Manchester, and a Master’s degree of Community Economic Development from the Open University of Tanzania and Southern New Hampshire University.