Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu last week confirmed her political ambitions, saying she intends to run for office in 2025 — to become the country’s first elected female president were she to win.
Speaking at an event to mark the International Day of Democracy in Dar es Salaam on Wednesday, President Samia said her own elevation to the top job was thanks to "the grace of God" and constitutional requirements. “This president (her) is leading because of God’s wish and constitutional requirements,” she said.
She urged Tanzanian women to join forces to ensure a woman candidate wins the vote outright in the next presidential election.
“We have favoured men to become presidents for far too long. God has given us this special opportunity... if we don’t grab it with both hands it will become like a curse upon us (women),” she said.
She also reiterated her pledge to appoint more women to positions of leadership as a way of bridging the gender gap.
President Samia's remarks came on the back of her first significant Cabinet reshuffle on Sunday, which included two more women among four new ministerial appointments.
Stergomena Tax became the country's first woman defence minister after an eight-year stint as executive secretary of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Ashatu Kijaji was named as information minister, taking the number of female ministers running key dockets to seven in a 23-strong cabinet (just under 30 percent).
Women now also account for 46 percent of regional administrative secretaries, 43 percent of judges, and 44 per cent of district commissioners.
President Samia also ordered a professional women’s database to be availed to her for consultation in making future appointments, asserting that some important information was hard to come by via government agencies.
President Samia was vice-president during former president John Magufuli's five-and-a-half year tenure and became president by constitutional decree following his death in March. According to the Tanzanian Constitution, since by October 2025 she will have served more than two-thirds of what would have been the late Magufuli's second term as president, she is eligible to run for only one term of elective office.
Speculations have been rife over how she would assert her authority within a political landscape thrown into confusion by the former president’s sudden death, including handling expected challenges from diehard Magufuli supporters within the ruling CCM party. Political observers say the changes she has initiated are a clear indication that she wants to stamp her authority before the next presidential elections.
“I have used the first six months in office to learn. I was the vice president before, but during that time I did not get the chance to acquaint myself on 'inner' operations, now I have,” said President Samia adding, “During that time some of you took my calmness for weakness and did as you pleased. But I am glad that some of you performed well. As we move forward, the government will be led solely on strong action and not noise.”
Additional reporting by Luke Anami