Samia Suluhu Hassan is a soft-spoken, Muslim woman thrust from the obscure role of vice president to become Tanzania’s first female leader after John Magufuli’s sudden death.
Under the constitution Hassan, the country’s 61-year-old vice president, will serve the remainder of Magufuli’s second five-year term, which does not expire until 2025.
She will also become the first female President in East Africa.
After consulting with her Chama Cha Mapinduzi ruling political party, Suluhu will propose her possible successor as Vice-President – with the official appointment being confirmed by the National Assembly via votes of no less than 50% of all the Members of Parliament.
Suluhu was born in 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. She 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, she rose the ranks to become a development officer in the Zanzibari 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.
She was a parliament member for the Makunduchi constituency from 2010 to 15 and has been Minister of State in the Vice-President’s Office for Union Affairs since 2010.
In 2014, she served as the vice-chairperson for the Constitutional Assembly which was tasked with drafting Tanzania’s new constitution.
Suluhu is married to Hafidh Ameir, a retired agriculture officer, and together they have three sons and a daughter.
Their daughter Mwanu Hafidh Ameir is a member of the Zanzibar House of Representatives.
Suluhu is among a very small circle of women to lead East African nations. Burundi briefly had an acting female president in 1993, while both Mauritius and Ethiopia have had women appointed to the ceremonial role of president.
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