61 year old Samia Suluhu Hassan made history on Friday when she was sworn in as the president of Tanzania at a ceremony in the commercial capital Dar es Salaam before a roomful of dignitaries.
“It’s not a good day for me to talk to you because I have a wound in my heart,” said Hassan. “Today I have taken an oath different from the rest that I have taken in my career. Those were taken in happiness. Today I took the highest oath of office in mourning,” she said in her maiden speech.
Under the constitution, Hassan will serve the remainder of Magufuli’s second five-year term, which does not expire until 2025.
Hassan was born on January 27, 1960 in Zanzibar, a former slaving hub and trading outpost in the Indian Ocean.
Then still a Muslim sultanate, Zanzibar did not merge formally with mainland Tanzania for another four years.
Her father was a school teacher and her mother, a housewife. Hassan graduated from high school but has said publicly that her finishing results were poor, and she took a clerkship in a government office at 17.
By 1988, after undertaking further study, Hassan had risen through the ranks to become a development officer in the Zanzibar government.
She was employed as a project manager for the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) and later in the 1990s was made executive director of an umbrella body governing non-governmental organisations in Zanzibar.
In 2000, she was nominated by the CCM to a special seat in Zanzibar’s House of Representatives. She then served as a local government minister – first for youth employment, women and children and then for tourism and trade investment.
In 2010, she was elected to the National Assembly on mainland Tanzania. Then-President Jakaya Kikwete appointed her as Minister of State for Union Affairs.
She holds university qualifications from Tanzania, Britain and the United States. The mother of four has spoken publicly to encourage Tanzanian women and girls to pursue their dreams.
“I may look polite, and do not shout when speaking, but the most important thing is that everyone understands what I say and things get done as I say,” Hassan said in a speech last year.
Hassan is the only other current serving female head of state in Africa alongside Ethiopia’s President Sahle-Work Zewde, whose role is mainly ceremonial.