I’m the president, Samia asserts, warning power-hungry factions in Tanzania

TANZANIA’s new President Samia Suluhu Hassan has warned power-hungry factions allegedly engaged in conspiracy against her, especially those who disparage or cast doubts about the capacities of women to be at the helm of the country. “I am the president,” she asserted.

“For those who think, ‘will this woman be president of the United Republic of Tanzania?’ I want to tell you that the one standing here is the president… I repeat, the one who is standing here is the President of the United Republic of Tanzania, whose biological make-up is a woman.”

She made this statement on Monday evening in Dodoma City during her public address at the national mourning of John Magufuli, the former President of Tanzania.

Immediately after President Samia’s statement, the crowd of mourners clapped for three minutes in appreciation.

Some analysts are of the view that this statement carries  a broader connotation, and suggests that President Samia Hassan recognizes that there are some people within the ruling system who want to undermine her authority  on the basis of her gender since she is the first woman in Tanzania to become president.

Even before Samia announced President Magufuli’s death last week, there were rumours that some top government officials, including those in the intelligence and security forces, were hatching a plan to by-pass the constitution in a bid to prevent her from becoming president.

There are reports that some of Magufuli’s cronies, particularly those from the Sukuma tribe, whom he had implanted into sensitive goverment positions, especially within the Tanzania Intelligence and Security Services (TISS), had wanted the country to be led by “their man” to protect their interests and inheritance from Magufuli.

However, the top officials of the Tanzania People’s Defence Forces (TPDF) stood firm and demanded that Samia be sworn in as president as the constitution requires.

The others who wished Samia Hassan to be president were a section of top leaders and retirees within the ruling party, whose voice had been stifled in the past five years of President Magufuli’s administration.

Reports say even the manner in which Samia announced the death of Former President Magufuli showed serious defects, indicating that she was trying to outsmart those who wanted to flout the Constitution.

First, contrary to common practice, her announcement was not a live broadcast, rather, it was pre-recorded and sent to the media. Second, Samia was alone, unaccompanied by any government leader or state entity. Third, even the Government owned television – the Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation – did not play the National Anthem as is customary. Fourth, even after Samia Hassan announced Magufuli’s death, the government’s communications systems did not publicise the day of her expected swearing-in as president.

This was in contrast with social media which circulated the reports the day before. The State House Communications Directorate announced the event in the very the morning of the day Samia was sworn in.

President Samia’s statement, therefore, underscores what she originally said on the day she was sworn in, and which was reiterated by Former President Jakaya Kikwete, that “the country is in safe hands.”

The message accentuates the fact that leadership is a gift (and in this case it is ) in compliance with the constitution, laws and directives and is not based on one’s physical or biological make-up.  

One scholar, gender and civil rights activist, Laeticia Mukurasi, said: “It was necessary to rebuke and nip in the bud the aspersions cast about her ability to be president that is being debated on many social networks. People have even resorted to citing sacred scripture to justify the idea that women are not worthy of leadership positions. The language she used was appropriate for this occasion – she used the ‘oppressor’s language to confront the ‘oppressor'”

One lecturer of the University of Dar es Salaam who preferred anonymity for security reasons, said President Samia’s statement in the presence of all security forces, foreign presidents and the Tanzania public was purposely meant to assert her authority as the country’s new commander-in-chief.

“It’s the president’s voice of authority; a warning against rebels and male chauvinists who are attempting to look down on women,” he said.

His opinion coincided with that of Otela Magele, the director of the Tanzania Society for Poverty Eradication (Taspe) based in Dar es Salaam, who said the president’s statement was a stern warning to her aides against any attempts to sabotage her leadership.

SAUTI KUBWA is aware of some senior male government officials and cabinet members who used to look down on Samia when she was Magufuli’s vice president. She assumed power on 19th March following the death of President Magufuli two days earlier.