Tanzania’s Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan will be sworn in as president, the presidency says, an historic move that is set to make her the East African country’s first female head of state.
She will inherit a country of 58 million people whose economy has been slowed by COVID-19, a pandemic her predecessor downplayed and who questioned the efficacy of vaccines produced to combat it.
In a statement, the presidency said Hassan would address the nation after being sworn in and hold a cabinet meeting.
Her ascension comes after the death of President John Magufuli, 61, whose death due to heart disease was announced on Wednesday, more than two weeks after he was last seen in public.
Magufuli’s absence since February 27 had fuelled speculation about his health and sparked rumours he had contracted COVID-19, although officials had denied he was ill.
According to Tanzania’s constitution, the vice president serves out the remainder of the term of a president who dies in office. Magufuli, who was first elected in 2015, secured a second five-year term in polls in October last year.
Described as a soft-spoken consensus-builder, Hassan will also be the country’s first president born in Zanzibar, the archipelago that forms part of the union of the Republic of Tanzania.
Her leadership style is seen as a potential contrast from Magufuli, a brash populist who earned the nickname ‘Bulldozer’ for muscling through policies and who drew criticism for his intolerance of dissent, which his government denied.
The new president will be faced with the task of healing a country that was polarised during the Magufuli years, analysts said, and building her own political base to govern effectively.
Hassan will also be faced with a decision on whether to procure COVID-19 vaccines for the country, a move that up until now the government has been sceptical of.