Tanzania’s new leader Samia Suluhu Hassan was unanimously elected president of the country’s powerful ruling party on Friday, succeeding her predecessor John Magufuli who died in March in mysterious circumstances.
Hassan, 61, was elected head of the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) at an extraordinary meeting in Dodoma of the political outfit that has ruled Tanzania since its independence sixty years ago.
A CCM veteran who rose through the party ranks over a 20-year political career, Hassan became Tanzania’s first female president when she was sworn in following the sudden death of Magufuli.
The presidency and CCM stewardship was vacated when the strongman leader died in late March and under the Tanzanian constitution, Hassan as his deputy was elevated to head of state.
Authorities said Magufuli died of a heart condition after a mysterious three-week absence, but his political opponents insisted the Covid-sceptic had succumbed to the coronavirus.
Since her inauguration on 6 April, Hassan has made a break from her predecessor, whose uncompromising leadership style earned him the nickname “Bulldozer” and whose tenure was marked by an erosion of democratic freedoms.
Tanzania was long seen as a haven of stability and democracy in an otherwise volatile neighbourhood, but alarm grew over Magufuli’s increasingly autocratic rule since his election in 2015.
Hassan has reached out to Tanzania’s political opposition and vowed to defend democracy and basic freedoms, and has promoted a science-based approach to combating the coronavirus pandemic largely ignored by her predecessor.