Magufuli’s death: Tanzania to swear in first female president Samia Suluhu

On Wednesday evening she had the task of announcing to Tanzanians that President John Magufuli had died and on Thursday Vice-President Samia Suluhu Hassan is due to take his place as the country’s head of state.

First elected as Magufuli’s running mate in 2015, she was re-elected last year and will serve out the rest of the five-year term in the top job.

She will become Africa’s only current female political head of state – the Ethiopian presidency is a largely ceremonial role – and join a short list of women on the continent who have made it to the top.

The 61-year-old is affectionately known as Mama Samia – in Tanzanian culture that reflects the respect she is held in, rather than reducing her to a gendered role.

But she was a surprise choice for a running mate in 2015, leaping over several other more prominent politicians in the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party, which has been in power in one form or another since independence in 1961.

First elected to a public office in 2000, she came to national prominence in 2014 as the vice-chairperson of the Constituent Assembly, created to draft a new constitution. There her calm demeanour in managing occasional outbreaks of pandemonium and the way in which she dealt with some of the more outspoken members earned her plaudits.

Tanzania's President-elect John Magufuli (L) gestures as Vice President-elect Samia Suluhu holds up a certificate during the official election announcement ceremony in Dar es Salaam October 30, 2015.
Samia Suluhu was first elected vice-president alongside John Magufuli in 2015 (AFP)

In terms of personality she strikes a contrast with Magufuli.

Where he appeared impulsive, not afraid to speak off the cuff and let his feelings be known, she is more thoughtful and considered.

She is also said to be a good listener who believes in following the correct procedures.

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