Samia: We're here to show women can lead

Tanzania's President Samia Suluhu Hassan shows a vaccination certificate after she received a shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at the State House in Dar es Salaam, on July 28, 2021.

Photo credit: Photo | AFP

What you need to know:

  • Tanzania President Samia  Suluhu has said there were people who doubted she was qualified to lead when she first became head of state because she was a woman.
  • She added that despite challenges, other countries could learn from Liberia and Central African Republic who have had female leaders.

Tanzania's president has said there were people who doubted she was qualified to lead when she first became head of state because she was a woman.

Some "don't believe that women can be better presidents and we are here to show them," Samia Suluhu Hassan told the BBC.

In March, the 61-year-old was sworn in after her predecessor died in office.

She is currently Africa's only female political head of state. The Ethiopian presidency is a ceremonial role.

"Even some of my government workers dismissed me at first as just another woman, but they soon accepted my leadership," Ms Samia said.

"But this is not just in Africa, even in America, (Hillary) Clinton reached a place where we thought she was going to be the president but she couldn't," she added.

Ms Samia advised that focusing on implementing development plans and prioritising people's needs was the best way to deal with critics.

She added that despite challenges, other countries could learn from Liberia and Central African Republic who have had female leaders.

John Magufuli

President Samia replaced John Magufuli who died from heart complications, she announced at the time.

Magufuli was accused of cracking down on dissent and curtailing certain freedoms. His replacement was seen as someone who would bring a different tone to leadership.

But the recent arrest of main opposition leader Freeman Mbowe on terrorism-related charges has led some to wonder if President Samia is continuing the policies of her predecessor.

However, the Tanzanian leader defended the move saying Mr Mbowe's charges were "not political" because he had been under investigation since September last year.

"He was out of the country for a long time. I don't know why he fled but when he returned he started creating trouble with calls for a new constitution.

"I suspect that, knowing the charges he was facing, he calculated that if he was arrested he could claim that it was because he was pushing for a new constitution," the president said.

Mr Mbowe was detained after he had said the last election was fraudulent.

President Samia said she would "leave to the courts to decide if he's guilty or not guilty.

The Tanzanian leader also said she was ready to meet with opposition members and other stakeholders to discuss changes to the constitution "when the time is right".

The president has taken a different approach to the pandemic than Magufuli, who was a well-known Covid sceptic.

"My main worry now is not vaccine hesitancy but availability of vaccines, we have received donations from the US and acquired some from Covax facilities, but they will soon run out," Ms Samia said. (BBC)

Welcome!

You're all set to enjoy unlimited Prime content.