Tanzania President Samia: We’re here to show that women can lead

Dar es Salaam

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, who was promoted from the the vice-presidency, 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. 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.

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.— BBC

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