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WHO IS THE FIRST FEMALE PRESIDENT OF REPUBLIC OF TANZANIA SAMIA SULUHU HASSAN?

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Tanzania is mourning the untimely passing of President John Magufuli who died on Wednesday March 17 at Mzena Hospital in Dar es Salaam

Therefore, in accordance with constitution, the Vice President, Samia Suluhu Hassan will be sworn after 24 hours as the President of the Republic of Tanzania to serve the remaining term until 2025.

She is now in her capacity the acting President.

According to Article 37 (5) of The constitution of Republic of Tanzania, after the swearing in of Samia Suluhu Hassan as President, she will consult with the ruling party (CCM) on the appointee for the position of The Vice President.

The 37 (5) article states ‘the office of President becomes vacant by reason of death, resignation, loss of electoral qualifications or inability to perform his functions due to physical infirmity or failure to discharge the duties and functions of the office of President, then the Vice-President shall be sworn in and become the President for the unexpired period of the term of five years.

In accordance with the conditions set out in Article 40, and, after consultation with the political party to which he or she belongs, the President shall propose the name of the person who shall be Vice-President and such appointment shall be confirmed by the National Assembly by votes of not less than fifty percent of all the Members of Parliament.

Samia Hassan Suluhu (born 27 January 1960) is a Tanzanian CCM politician and the designated President of Tanzania due to be sworn into office following the death of President John Magufuli on 17 March 2021.

She became Tanzania’s first female vice-President following the 2015 General election, after being elected on the CCM ticket along with President John Magufuli.

Suluhu and Magufuli were reelected to a second term in 2020. Before her tenure as vice-president she served as the Member of Parliament for Makunduchi constituency from 2010 to 2015, and was also the Minister of State in the Vice-President’s Office for Union Affairs from 2010 to 2015.

Prior to this, she served as a minister in the semi-autonomous region of Zanzibar in the administration of President Amani Karume.

In 2014, she was elected as the Vice Chairperson of the Constituent Assembly tasked with drafting the country’s new constitution.

Suluhu was born in the Sultanate of Zanzibar and after completing her secondary education in 1977, she was employed by the Ministry of Planning and Development as a clerk.

She pursued a number of short-courses on a part-time basis. In 1986, she graduated from the Institute of Development Management (present-day Mzumbe University) with an advanced diploma in public administration.

Upon graduation, she was employed on a project funded by the World Food Programme. Between 1992 and 1994, she attended the University of Manchester and graduated with a postgraduate diploma in economics.

In 2015, she obtained her MSc in Community Economic Development via a joint-programme between the Open University of Tanzania and the Southern New Hampshire University.

In 2000, she decided to join politics and she was elected as a special seat member to the Zanzibar House of Representatives and was appointed a minister by President Amani Karume.

She was the only high-ranking woman minister in the cabinet and was “looked down on” by her male colleagues because of her gender.

She was re-elected in 2005 and was re-appointed as a minister in another portfolio.

In 2010, she sought election to the National Assembly, standing in the parliamentary constituency of Makunduchi and winning by more than 80%.

President Jakaya Kikwete appointed her as the Minister of State for Union Affairs, In 2014, she was elected as the Vice Chairperson of the Constituent Assembly tasked with drafting the country’s new constitution.

In July 2015, CCM’s presidential nominee John Magufuli chose her as his running mate for the 2015 election, making her the first female running mate in the party’s history.

She subsequently became the first female vice-president in the history of the country upon Magufuli’s victory in the election.

After Magufuli’s death on 17 March 2021, Suluhu became the 6th President of Tanzania, the first Zanzibari president and the country’s first female president.

She now becomes the first Female president in East African countries.

In 1978, she married Hafidh Ameir, at present a retired agricultural officer.

They have four children, her daughter Wanu Hafidh Ameir (born 1982), the second child, is a special seat member of the Zanzibar House of Representatives.

Other Female presidents in Africa

Slyvie Kiningi, Acting President of Burundi (February – October 1993)

The first female President in Africa was Slyvie Kiningi. She was the Prime Minister of Burundi from February 10, 1993 to October 7, 1994. During this period, she served as the acting President of the country from October 27, 1993 to February 5, 1994 when the incumbent President Melchior Ndadaye was shot together with 6 of his officials. After his death, Kiningi gathered 15 ministers to continue to govern the country thus, technically making her the first female president on the continent.

Ivy Matsepe-Cassaburi, Acting President of South Africa (September 2005)

Ivy Matsepe-Cassaburi also served temporarily as the acting President of South Africa when the President and his vice were out of the country for four days in September of 2005. She was also selected by the cabinet to serve as the constitutional and official head of state for an interim period of 14 hours on September 25, 2008. This was the period between the resignation of the current President Thabo Mbeki and the taking of office by the Kgalema Motlanthe.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia ( January 2006 – January 2018)

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is Africa’s first elected President who served two consecutive terms after winning the 2005 and 2011 Presidential elections. She had initially run for Presidential office in 1997 against Charles Taylor, but she lost. During her tenure she was also elected Chair of the Economic Community of West African States in June of 2016.

Rose Francine Rogombe, Interim President of Gabon (June 2009 – October 2009)

Rose Francine Rogombe served as interim President of Gabon from June 2009 to October 2009 after the death of President of Omar Bongo. As President of the Senate at that time, she automatically became the Head of State because she was constitutionally  the first in line for presidential succession.

Agnes Monique Ohsan Bellepeau, Acting President of Mauritius (March – July 2012 and May –  June 2015)

Agnes Monique Ohsan Bellepeau was the Acting President of Mauritius from March 31, 2012 – July 21, 2012. This was the transition period between the resignation of the current President Anerood Jugnauth to the inauguration of the new President Kailash Purryag. She served again as Acting President between the resignation of Purryag and the inauguration of the new President, Ameenah Gurib from May 29, 2015 – June 5, 2015.

Joyce Hilda Banda, President of Malawi (April 2012 – May 2014)

Joyce Hilda Banda served as President of Malawi from April 7, 2012 to May 31, 2014 following the death of President Bingu wa Mutharika. She was the country’s fourth President. She was also the country’s first female Vice President (May 2009 to April 2012). In 2014, Forbes named President Banda as the 40th most powerful woman in the world and the most powerful woman in Africa.

Catherine Samba, Acting President of Central African Republic (January 2014 – March 2016)

Catherine Samba Panza was the Acting Head of State of the Central African Republic from 2014 to 2016. She became interim President when rebel leader Michael Djotodia resigned from his self appointed Presidency. Before she took on this role, she was the mayor of the capital city Bangui from 2013 to 2014.

Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, President of Mauritius (June 2015 – March 2018)

Ameenah Gurib-Fakim was the first female President of Mauritius from 2015 to 2018. She was selected to be a Presidential candidate in 2014 following the resignation of then President Kailash Purryag. She was unanimously elected President by the National Assembly.

Sahle-Work Zewde, President of Ethiopia ( October 2018 – Present)

Sahle-Work Zewde is the first elected female President of Ethiopia and currently the only female out of  the 54 Presidents in Africa. She took office on October 25, 2018 after being unanimously elected by members of the National Parliamentary Assembly. Prior to her election as President, she worked as Special Representative of United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres to the African Union and Head of the United Nations Office to the African Union.

These African women Heads of State stand on the shoulders of many female giants, known and unknown, remembered and forgotten, who came before them. These include for example, but not limited to the Dahomey Amazons of Benin, an all-female military regiment on whose shoulders stand many women serving in armed services and law enforcement.

The contribution of women to what Africa is today is unquestionable. However, the recovery from the disruptive and brutal colonization and slave trade has been very slow.

Partially, African leaders mostly male who mismanaged, abused and continue to abuse their power since the end of colonization equally share the blame for disempowering African women whose contribution is unequivocally needed to build a more prosperous, just and peaceful Africa.

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