By Spy Uganda
Reports that Tanzania’s president John Pombe Magifuli has been flown abroad for treatment have been met with a lot of confusion, considering that he hardly flies out of the country.
Since he was sworn into office in 2015, President Magufuli has only traveled out of Tanzania eight times. He has only traveled to the neighboring countries of Kenya, Rwanda, Namibia, South Africa, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Uganda – the only country he has visited twice.
What this has meant over the years is that his vice-president, Samia Suluhu Hassan, has been the face of Tanzania in most of the international meetings. She represents Tanzania at all UN, AU, SADC and EAC meetings that are held outside Tanzania.
Interesting to note, President Magufuli’s last public appearance was during a virtual East African Heads of State meeting where he appeared but only for the introduction and then left Suluhu to continue with the rest of the discussion.
So, who is this Tanzania’s most noticeable figure? We look at some of the things you might not know about Tanzania’s vice-president Samia Suluhu Hassan:
- She is 61
Suluhu was born on January 27, 1960 in the Sultanate of Zanzibar. She went to school in Zanzibar and studied statistics at the Zanzibar Institute of Financial Administration before getting employed by the Ministry of Planning and Development as a clerk.
In 1986 joined Mzumbe University for advanced studies in Public Administration before joining the Institute of Management for Leaders, Hyderabad in India or a course in management.
She also attended the University of Manchester for her postgraduate diploma in economic and in 2005 she did her master’s degree in community economic development through a joint program between Open University of Tanzania and Southern New Hampshire University, USA.
- She’s been in politics since 2000
She was first elected as a member of the Zanzibar House of Representative for a special seat in 2000 and was appointed Minister by then-President Amani Abeid Karume of Zanzibar.
She was the only high-ranking woman minister in that cabinet.
- Joined National Assembly in 2010
Suluhu was elected to the National Assembly in a landslide win in 2010 as the MP representing Makunduchi constituency, marking her entry into national electoral politics.
- Joined cabinet in 2014
In 2014, President Dr. Jakaya Kikwete of the United Republic of Tanzania appointed her Minister of State for Union matters for the office of the Vice President.
In the same year, she was also elected the Vive chairperson for the Constitutional Assembly – the body tasked with drafting the country’s new constitution.
- The first female running mate on a CCM party ticket
In July 2015, the ruling party CCM’s presidential nominee Hon John Magufuli chose her as his running mate ahead of the country’s 2015 General Elections.
- The second female vice-president in East Africa
The Magufuli-Suluhu ticket won the 2015 General Elections making her the first female vice-president in the region since Uganda’s Specioza Naigaga Wandira who was in office from 1994 to 2003.
- Her daughter is also a politician
Suluhu is married to Hafidh Ameir and together they have three sons and a daughter. While her husband is a retired agriculture officer, her daughter Mwanu Hafidh Ameir, is the only one in the family who has followed in her political footsteps. Mwanu is a member of the Zanzibar House of Representatives.
- She stands to be Tanzania’s president
The medical condition of President John Magufuli has been kept in secret since February 27 when he was last seen in public.
The government has conspicuously remained silent on the president’s health and location since concerns about his health and whereabouts became public. This has raised concerns about whether he is capable of carrying out his duties as the head of state.
This leaves all eyes fixed on his deputy, Suluhu, who stands to take over if the president is indeed confirmed incapable of carrying out his duties.
The Tanzanian constitution upholds that the vice president should step in as president if the incumbent is incapacitated either by physical or mental health.
- The first female president in East Africa?
If she does get sworn in as the President of Tanzania, Suluhu will only be the second woman to head an East African country.
Agathe Uwilingiyimanain was the first woman to head an East Africa country when she served as Prime Minister of Rwanda from July 18 1993 until her death on April 7, 1994.