Tanzania’s new president, Samia Suluhu Hassan, said Friday that the country should unite and avoid pointing fingers after the death of John Magufuli, her COVID-19 sceptic predecessor, urging the east African country to look forward with hope and confidence.
Wearing a red hijab, she took her oath of office on the Koran in a ceremony at State House in the commercial capital Dar es Salaam, SABC reported. She is the first female head of state in the country of 58 million.
Vice president since 2015, Hassan gave a brief and somber address after she was sworn in, addressing a heavily male crowd that included two former presidents and uniformed officers.
“This is a time to bury our differences, and be one as a nation,” she said, SABC reported. “This is not a time for finger-pointing, but it is a time to hold hands and move forward together.”
The remarks appeared aimed at dispelling a national mood of uncertainty that developed after Magufuli, criticized by opponents as a divisive and authoritarian figure, disappeared from public view for 18 days before his death was announced.
His absence from national life drew speculation he was critically ill with COVID-19. Magufuli died of heart disease, Hassan said when announcing his death on Wednesday.
Among the first challenges facing Hassan, 61, will be a decision on whether to procure COVID-19 vaccines. Under her predecessor, the government said it would not obtain any vaccines until the country’s own experts had reviewed them.
World Health Organization (WHO) head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted congratulations to Hassan and said he looked forward to working with her to keep people safe from COVID-19.
Tanzania stopped reporting coronavirus data in May last year, frustrating the WHO.