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Tanzania’s new president challenges Covid denial

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Tanzania’s new president, Samia Suluhu, attends a service honoring President John Magufuli on March 26, 2021

Her predecessor was recognized for his rhetorical outbursts, whereas Tanzania’s new president is calm.

The place he was contentious, President Samia Suluhu Hassan is extra conciliatory.

The place he was autocratic, she seems to be extra inclusive.

It’s lower than two months because the dying of the previous President, John Magufuli, aged 61 however his vice-president, who was sworn in as head of state quickly after he died, seems to be on a unique path.

Whether or not it’s President Samia’s strategy to coronavirus, media freedom or coping with the opposition she has set a brand new tone, along with her feedback typically being delivered in a relaxed and authoritative method.

Tanzania"s new President Samia Suluhu Hassan takes oath of office following the death of her predecessor John Pombe Magufuli at State House in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania March 19, 2021

President Samia was sworn in two days after her predecessor died in March

However, the president seems uncomfortable when comparisons are made and has instructed off Tanzanian legislators for contrasting her with Magufuli.

“Magufuli and Samia, are primarily the identical individual. I’ve been following the controversy, and I need to say it’s unhealthy for our nation,” she instructed MPs a month after she was sworn in.

However “it’s nearly inconceivable to not make comparisons”, in keeping with journalist and political commentator Jesse Kwayu, noting that there’s a large distinction.

“She is… prudent and comes on board with lots of rigour and a focus to element. She… understands the right channels of communication and correction.”

The very first time she stood on stage as president, her aura, alternative of phrases and manner promised a totally totally different kind of management. It was one which Tanzania had not skilled since Magufuli, nicknamed “the bulldozer” for his no-nonsense strategy, got here to energy in 2015.

“The place others would have stammered, she is making daring bulletins,” Deodatus Balile, managing editor of Jamhuri Media Restricted, says, describing her as diplomatic.

“She realises that Tanzanians can’t reside in isolation, and we now have to be a part of a system, and take a look at some points as a part of a worldwide entity.”

Maybe the sharpest distinction is in her strategy to Covid-19.

Vaccines and lockdowns?

Magufuli scoffed on the international warnings over coronavirus and downplayed its risk, refusing to permit Covid-19 vaccines into the nation. At one level he introduced that the virus had been defeated by prayer in Tanzania.

Steam inhalation booth

Beneath Magufuli, Tanzanians have been instructed by the authorities – with out offering proof – that steam inhalation helped to guard in opposition to coronavirus

There aren’t any dependable statistics on an infection or deaths from the virus in Tanzania as Magufuli’s authorities stopped releasing them in Might final yr.

President Samia, however, acknowledges that Tanzania can not want the virus away.

Inside three weeks of being in energy, she fashioned a committee of consultants to advise her on the standing of Covid-19 within the nation and the mandatory steps to take to maintain folks protected.

She has even been seen carrying a face masks, one thing that Magufuli by no means did, though it was on a go to to Uganda, and never in Tanzania itself.

Whether or not her pronouncements are making a significant distinction to the perceptions round Covid-19 and resetting the clock is but to be seen. It’s also true to say that no new insurance policies have emerged from the professional committee.

With new variants of the illness being reported throughout the globe, many are eager to know her perspective to vaccinations. Individuals are additionally ready to seek out out if she would take into account lockdowns and curfews as methods to comprise the virus, which her predecessor rejected.

Such measures would have an effect on thousands and thousands of poorer Tanzanians together with casual merchants who’re the help base of the ruling social gathering – Chama Cha Mapinduzi.

If she was going to go down that path then President Samia would wish to deliver out her qualities of persuasion in arguing that restrictive measures have been of their pursuits.

However she has these qualities, in keeping with Mr Kwayu.

Tanzania's President-elect John Magufuli (L) gestures as Vice President-elect Samia Suluhu holds up a certificate during the official election announcement ceremony in Dar es Salaam October 30, 2015.

Samia Suluhu was elected vice-president alongside John Magufuli in 2015

President Samia first got here to nationwide consideration in 2014 when she was elected because the vice-chairperson of the Constitutional Meeting mandated with drafting a brand new structure.

She emerged as “a really mature chief, composed and having the potential to stability opposing voices and opinions”, the political commentator says.

That willingness to listen to totally different opinions has led to a brand new perspective to the media.

Magufuli’s authorities was chargeable for shutting down media retailers and was accused of harassing and imprisoning journalists. Some politicians and activists who publicly opposed Magufuli have been additionally detained.

However President Samia has been seen to be reopening public debate.

Olive department

She ordered the data ministry to reverse earlier choices saying the federal government ought to “not give [people] an opportunity to say that we’re limiting press freedom”.

The president has additionally reached out to the opposition with the goal of discussing “how finest they are going to conduct their political actions for the advantage of our nation”.

She already had the repute of holding out an olive department following a go to to opposition chief Tundu Lissu in hospital in 2017 after he was shot a number of occasions by gunmen in an assassination try. She was the one authorities official to take action.

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It’s also anticipated that President Samia will take a much less aggressive stance than Magufuli in direction of worldwide firms within the nation.

In 2017, Acacia Mining, a subsidiary of Canadian mother or father firm Barrick Gold, was slapped with an unbelievable $190bn (£145bn) tax invoice over royalties the federal government stated it owed, although it denied any wrongdoing. Barrick managed to cut back the invoice as a part of a settlement with the federal government, which included sharing future financial advantages extra equitably.

Magufuli additionally restricted regional companies from accessing the Tanzanian market, and tightened restrictions on unprocessed items coming in from international locations like Kenya.

“Her tone up to now is about selling investments and driving commerce, and broadening the tax base,” Sanjay Rughani, who heads a CEO discussion board, says.

“As for the non-public sector, we’re wanting to see her embrace us extra in authorities’s processes that search to construct Tanzania.”

President Samia is due on Tuesday to make her second worldwide journey, this time to Kenya, in her seven weeks in energy. Evaluating this to Magufuli’s 10 official journeys overseas in his six years in workplace, Mr Kwayu is assured that the brand new president shall be extra outward going through.

“I’m sure Tanzania goes to be put again on the worldwide map,” he says. “It can participate in regional engagements like battle decision, and will probably be properly represented in locations just like the United Nations Basic Meeting.”

For him, President Samia’s totally different strategy to main the nation will not be about tarnishing her predecessor’s repute however fairly about “selecting democracy… and casting off” what was stifling it.

She nonetheless has to tread a path linking the earlier authorities – which in any case she was a part of – and a brand new fashion of administration which is extra accepting of a various vary of opinions.

Africa’s earlier feminine heads of state:

President Sahle-Work

The position of Ethiopia’s President Sahle-Work Zewde is essentially ceremonial, in contrast to her Tanzanian counterpart

1993-4 – Sylvie Kinigi – caretaker President of Burundi, following the killing of Melchior Ndadaye

1996-7 – Ruth Perry – chair of Council of State after Liberia’s first civil battle

2006-18 – Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – elected President of Liberia

2009 – Rose Francine Rogombé – Interim President of Gabon following the dying of Omar Bongo

2012 – Monique Ohsan-Bellepeau – Performing President of Mauritius, after the resignation of Sir Anerood Jugnauth

2012-14 – Joyce Banda – President of Malawi, after the dying of Bingu wa Mutharika

2014-16 – Catherine Samba-Panza – transitional President of Central African Republic, elected by parliament

2015-18 – Ameenah Gurib-Fakim – President of Mauritius, elected by parliament

2018-present – Sahle-Work Zewde – President of Ethiopia, elected by parliament

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