Making history: What we know about Tanzania’s new president Samia Suluhu Hassan

Samia Suluhu Hassan was born on 27 January 1960 in Zanzibar, a former slaving hub and trading outpost in the Indian Ocean.

New Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan inspects a military parade following her swearing in as the country's first female president - after the sudden passing of President John Magufuli - at statehouse in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on 19 March 2021. Picture: AFP.

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania - Samia Suluhu Hassan is a soft-spoken, Muslim woman thrust from the obscure role of vice president to become Tanzania's first female leader after John Magufuli's sudden passing.

She took her oath of office on Friday at the statehouse in Dar es Salaam with VIPs in attendance.

"I, Samia Suluhu Hassan, promise to be honest and obey and protect the constitution of Tanzania," said the new president, as she took the oath of office before inspecting troops at a military parade and receiving a cannon salute.

Under the constitution, Hassan, the country's 61-year-old vice president, will serve the remainder of Magufuli's second five-year term, which does not expire until 2025.

READ: Samia Suluhu Hassan: Tanzania officially has its first female president

A former office clerk and development worker, Hassan began her political career in 2000 in her native Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous archipelago, before being elected to the national assembly on mainland Tanzania and assigned a senior ministry.

A ruling party stalwart, she rose through the ranks until being picked by Magufuli as his running mate in his first presidential election campaign in 2015.

The Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) comfortably won and Hassan made history when sworn-in as the country's first-ever female vice president.

The pair were re-elected last October in a disputed poll the opposition and independent observers said was marred by irregularities.

She would sometimes represent Magufuli on trips abroad but many outside Tanzania had not heard of Hassan until she appeared on national television wearing a black headscarf to announce that Magufuli had died at 61 following a short illness.

In a slow and softly spoken address - a stark contrast to the thundering rhetoric favoured by her predecessor - Hassan solemnly declared 14 days of mourning.

Now that she has been sworn in, she will consult the CCM over the appointing of a new vice president.

GETTING THINGS DONE

Hassan was born on 27 January 1960 in Zanzibar, a former slaving hub and trading outpost in the Indian Ocean.

Then still a Muslim sultanate, Zanzibar did not merge formally with mainland Tanzania for another four years.

Her father was a schoolteacher and mother a housewife. Hassan graduated from high school but has said publicly that her finishing results were poor, and she took a clerkship in a government office at 17.

By 1988, after undertaking further study, Hassan had risen the ranks to become a development officer in the Zanzibari government.

She was employed as a project manager for the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) and later in the 1990s was made executive director of an umbrella body governing non-governmental organisations in Zanzibar.

In 2000, she was nominated by the CCM to a special seat in Zanzibar’s House of Representatives. She then served as a local government minister - first for youth employment, women and children and then for tourism and trade investment.

In 2010, she was elected to the National Assembly on mainland Tanzania. Then president Jakaya Kikwete appointed her as the Minister of State for Union Affairs.

She holds university qualifications from Tanzania, Britain and United States. The mother of four has spoken publicly to encourage Tanzanian women and girls to pursue their dreams.

"I may look polite, and do not shout when speaking, but the most important thing is that everyone understands what I say and things get done as I say," Hassan said in a speech last year.

Hassan would be the only other current serving female head of state in Africa alongside Ethiopia's President Sahle-Work Zewde, whose role is mainly ceremonial.

Download the Eyewitness News app to your iOS or Android device.