Samia Hassan Suluhu a public administrator and economist by profession is Tanzania’s Vice President and currently the acting President after the death of President John Magufuli.
In recent years, Suluhu had become the political face of Tanzania, representing the country at all high level global and regional political meetings not held in Tanzania.
She joined politics in 2000 and was elected as a special seat member to the Zanzibar House of Representatives and was appointed a minister by President Amani Karume.
Suluhu 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, Suluhu was elected as the Vice Chairperson of the Constituent Assembly tasked with drafting the country’s new constitution.
In July 2015, the ruling political party Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) presidential nominee John Pombe Magufuli chose her as his running mate for the 2015 election making her the first female running mate in the party’s history.
Suluhu subsequently became Tanzania’s first female vice-President in the history of the country upon Magufuli’s victory in the 2015 election.
She also became the second female vice-president in the East Africa after Uganda’s Specioza Naigaga Wandira Kazibwe who was in office from 1994 to 2003 and made history as Africa’s first vice president.
The duo of Suluhu and Magufuli last year were re-elected to a second term.
But on the night of Wednesday, March 17, 2021, Suluhu had the difficult task to break the news to Tanzania, East Africa, Africa, and the world about the passing away of President Magufuli following weeks of speculation about his health and wellbeing as the coronavirus pandemic persists.
Last year, Magufuli made headlines, when he dismissed the seriousness of coronavirus in Tanzania, urging his citizens to pray coronavirus away, believing the satanic virus can’t live in the body of Jesus Christ.
He also blamed the growing number of positive cases on faulty test kits.
Also in June last year, he claimed his country had eradicated coronavirus by the grace of God, and questioned the safety of foreign Covid-19 vaccines, and made no plan to procure any shots for his country.
He pushed for the use of herbal medicine and steam treatments.
Following his disappearance from the public scene, and growing concern on his whereabouts, and health, in a televised announcement, Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan explained that the 61-year-old president died of a heart condition that he had suffered from for 10 years.
What the announcement meant in terms of leadership
Article 37(5) of the Tanzanian Constitution says when “the Office of the 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 the President, then the Vice President shall be sworn in and become the President for the unexpired period of the term of five years and in accordance with conditions set in Article 40.
Upon the death of President Magufuli on March 17, 2021, Suluhu is designated to become the 6th President of Tanzania, the country’s first female president, also the first Zanzibari since Ali Hassan Mwinyi to become president and likely the first female muslim head of state.
However, some media reports from Tanzania claim Suluhu is not popular across the CCM’s different factions.
A Tanzanian political analyst according to media reports disclosed that hardline Magufuli supporters and Christian nationalists oppose Suluhu replacing Suluhu.
But other reports state that she is backed by factions within the ruling party that support former president Jakaya Kikwete, especially those from Muslim communities.
The 61 years-old Suluhu was born in the semi-autonomous Zanzibar on January 27, 1960. She also served in the government of Zanzibar in different capacities.
She served as Minister for Tourism in Zanzibar between 2005 and 2010, and served as a Minister of Youth Employment, Women and Children Development in Zanzibar between 2000 and 2005.
After consulting with her CCM party, Suluhu will propose her possible successor as Vice-President who has to be confirmed by the National Assembly via votes of no less than 50% of all the Members of Parliament.
If she is sworn in, Suluhu will make history as the first female president in Tanzania, she will also become the second female head of state in East Africa after Sylvie Kinigi of Burundi who was acting president between October 1993 and February 1994 following the assignation of President Mechior Ndadaye.
In the wider Eastern Africa region Suluhu will become the third female president after Ethiopia’s Sahle-Work Zewde who has been president since October 2018, but whose post is only ceremonial.
On taking over the presidency Suluhu will lead for the remainder of Magufuli’s term until 2025.
She will also be eligible to contest for one more five-year term as this will be deemed her first term.
Suluhu pursued a number of short-courses on a part-time basis after completing her secondary education in 1977.
She had got herself employed by the Ministry of Planning and Development as a clerk upon completing her secondary education.
She got educated in Zanzibar and studied statistics at the Zanzibar Institute of Financial Administration.
She later in 1986, graduated from the Institute of Development Management (present-day Mzumbe University) with an advanced diploma in public administration before joining the Institute of Management for Leaders, Hyderabad in India for a course in management.
Between 1992 and 1994, she attended the University of Manchester and graduated with a postgraduate diploma in economics.
In 2015, she obtained her Master of Science in Community Economic Development via a joint-programme between the Open University of Tanzania and the Southern New Hampshire University.
Suluhu is married to Hafidh Ameir a retired agriculture officer since 1978.
Together they have three sons and a daughter Mwanu Hafidh Ameir who is a member of the Zanzibar House of Representatives.