A NEW CHAPTER FOR TANZANIA: KARIBU MHE. MAMA SAMIA HASSAN SULUHU
Her Excellency, Mama Samia Hassan Suluhu was sworn on March 19th, 2021, as a new president of the United Republic of Tanzania after the sudden announcement of John Pombe Magufuli’s death on March 17th, 2021.
Mama Sania Suluhu, 61 years old, was the first female Vice President from 2015 to 2021 and first President of Tanzania, March 19th, 2021, and the third female president in the East African Community.
With her assuming power as a president of Tanzania, it could not come at a better time, and much needed a change of Leadership and political climate in Tanzania.
As the first female president, she brought a delightful feeling among women, especially African women who are often culturally suppressed, undermined, and not equally valued in society for their role compared to men. Regardless of their quality/merits, they might possess equal or supersedes that of men. Yet, women disproportionately suffer gender discrimination and sexism compared to men with the same quality/merits, a problem many women are wrestling with across the globe.
Will Mama Samia Suhulu, a calm, soft-spoken woman and very opposite of her predecessors, sustains the pressure to bring back Tanzania from the brink of collapse of her peace, unity, and justice it finds herself today?
Now at the center stage amid tragedy, the fight to save the country’s economy, and the real threat of the COVID-19 Pandemic will fight back a prime issue many Tanzanians are pondering now with hopes for better with caution about the unforeseen and unknown.
Nevertheless, a new chapter and a renewed hope for a unique and 21st century forward together for a vibrant Tanzania is a determination in many Tanzanians’ minds.
Mama Samia Suluhu is not new in politics or in the affairs of running the government. After all, she was a Vice President to her predecessor John Pombe Magufuli from October 2015 to March 2021.
Before becoming a Vice President, she earned credits and a good reputation for excellent work performances while working with the constitution committee in 2014 as a Vice-Chairperson of the constituent assembly tasked with drafting the country’s new constitution.
While she becomes a president at a very challenging time whereby the country has gradually receded from her previous positions and is now deeply rooted in corruption and division, also party-politics hierarchies, all of which threatens peace, unity, democracy, and prosperity; her work becomes tougher and calls for united voices to support the phenomenon of maternal magic at the caption of saving humanity to ease the pain of those wrongly abused, tortured, disappeared, or killed under the Leadership of her predecessors-the end of a dark chapter and a seek for closure (truth reconciliation) that their pain did not go in vain and NEVER AGAIN for a president to use his/her leadership positions to support and commit atrocities against own people.
Under John Pombe Magufuli, Tanzanians experienced a different life, different from what the president had promised. The promise to curb corruptions rebuild a stable and vibrant economy that will lift poverty, maintain peace and democracy, and the rule of law; but instead drifted apart and was replaced by the violation of human rights, the erosion of democracy, intimidation, harassment, torture; and a totalitarian-authoritarian government that produced fear and desperation for the need to go back to the good-old-days when Tanzanians enjoyed peace and freedoms regardless of the poverty around them-the authoritarian rule of John Pombe Magufuli threatened Tanzanians more than their poverty and poor economy of the country.
Will Mama Samia Suluhu now take the bull by the horns?
Only 15 days in power, we have seen her coming out and assume control with strength! She is setting the tone in which direction she wants to lead the country.
She is already affirming her position as a President in her first public speech as she reminded people that, “Nasi Kwa upande wetu tulijikuta tunalazimika kukaza buti” ,” “for us, on our side, we find ourselves forced to tighten the boots…”lakini katika uongozi wake, tumejifunza mengi…tumepikwa vizuri, tumeiva haswa, tumeiva sawasawa…na tunaweza kusema bila kigugumizi tuko tayari…” “But from his leadership, we have learned a lot…we are cooked well, we are well-ripened(matured), we are really, really ripened(matured), we can speak without stuttering/ambiguity that we are ready….” …
She went on and said, “Kwa wale ambao wana mashaka Mwanake huyu ataweza kuwa Rais wa Jamhuri ya Muungano wa Tanzania, nataka niwaambie, “aliyesimama hapa ni Raisi”… Nataka nirudie kwamba, “aliyesemama hapa ni Raisi wa Jamhuri ya Muungano wa Tanzania” mwenye maumbile ya Mwananke”… “For those who are doubting whether this woman could be a president of the United Republic of Tanzania, I want to tell you that, “the one standing here is the President”; I want to repeat that, “the one standing here is the President of the United Republic of Tanzania” whose genetics is of a woman.”, https://youtu.be/xGzdGC1EUAA.
Such a powerful statement acknowledged not only her gender-feminism but also warnings that gender should not be the center stage/overshadow of her Presidency but her Leadership — “ the one standing here is the President.”
Unlike her predecessor, who was a COVID-19 denier who ordered people not to wear a mask, social-distancing, coronavirus testing, and wrestled with the WHO orders and directives, Tanzanians are anxiously hoping for a U-turn and join the world community in battling this deadly coronavirus in practical ways to ease the trauma many people still suffering from due to lack of cohesiveness and consistent approach in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Leaders inspire people for the good or the bad… So far, it seems as if we are witnessing a lost opportunity regarding wearing masks in public.
Occasionally we have seen Mama Samia Suluhu and her cabinet members with facial coverings-masks, but it is not consistent! The double massaging public is counterproductive. Consistency affirms discipline, which is inevitable if you want to fight the COVID-19 with success under the coronavirus pandemic threat.
In many ways, African countries tend to have their ways of doing and minding their business which oftentimes backfired on them and was unproductive.
In the 21st century, African need to be more proactive in looking up to other countries for interests that are akin to theirs and emulate what works… We have many things that are a universal, more common good, that unite us than those that divide us.
What motivates and leads a country to engage in doing things opposite from the rest of the world?
Does that country know better than the others, or have they reached a better place by maintaining their status quo?
Should Mama Samia Suluhu unclench her fist and be willing to extend her hand to join WHO and the international community in the efforts to battle the coronavirus?
Change is hard but inevitable in life.
For many, the hopes are that she will try to change things she does not like and stand for changes that are a must. “The fight must go on. The cause of civil liberty must not be surrendered at the end of one, or even a hundred defeats,” said Abraham Lincoln.
Although the road ahead for her will not be a smooth road-for one, she faces the challenge of the first female president in the country, where culturally, a woman is subjected to despise simply for being a woman no matter how strong and capable a woman is, the male chauvinism force tends to push her into the feminism state and thereby weaken her.
But given her career experiences, Mama Samia already reminded women how to be strong and fight to pursue whatever one is aspired to when she graciously shared her career journey to let us know that “she is her own person” capable of any challenges, including that of Presidency.
And she has warned people not to underestimate her for her feminism, she said, “Ninaweza nikaongea na wewe na sauti hii ya upole,” “I can talk to you with the same soft-tone voice…Lakini ukanielewa nimezungumzia kitu gani”, but you will understand what I meant” … “Pamoja na kwamba macho yamelegea, lakini yanaona…nina macho makubwa sana ya kukuona”, “even with my sleepy-eyes, I can see you, and I have big eyes to see you.” https://youtu.be/KHJ2buwpbvs.
Her statements so far can be summed up with this quote, “In politics, if you want anything said, ask a man; if you want anything done, ask a woman,” said Margaret Thatcher.
Are the Tanzanians ecstatic than ever about the path to normalcy and that their tomorrow will be better than yesterday?
Is the reversal of the bitter past being upon Mama Samia Suluhu?
Yes! Already nicknamed “Conciliator-in-Chief” mimicking her last name “Suluhu” Swahili for “solution” or “problem-solver” and her calm and wit temperament, Mama Samia Suhulu’s political plate is overflowing with demands for change. Political change…economic change…socio-cultural change for a new chapter, a 21st century Tanzania.
Baraka Obama once said, “Change is hard in our own lives and the lives of nations, and change is even harder when we carry the heavyweight of history on our shoulders…But today, we are making those changes because it is the right thing to do.”
Certainly, Mama Samia Suluhu will need to gather enough courage and the WILL to meet the changes Tanzanians wish to see in their country and their lives.
Will Mama Samia Suluhu level the playing field by inviting back the political players Magufuli kicked out of the political arena?
We may draw some answers or rather speculations from her remarks following the appointment of her cabinet ministers and some reshuffling of the ministers previously picked by her predecessor; how she chose her cabinet Misters, “I looked and decided not by how they look or by their names-technical-know-who, but by their qualification-technical-know-how”…and this is just the beginning, she said as she warned them to coordinate and cooperate to bring efficiency in their work areas instead of the current individualist/unilateral ways of manipulation within the government departments and ministries workforces.
President Samia Suluhu insisted on focusing on working hard and making necessary changes that are a must. And warned those who are thinking about campaigning for 2025 elections to abandon that thinking and focus on work, “mind your work record because your work record will follow you”, she asserted.
Commenting on the Union Budget Proposal for 2020/2021 on balancing income and expenditure, she insisted on finding better ways to collect taxes by following proper tax laws enforcement. Fixing and reducing the tax burden to the marginalized workers instead of harassing or killing the taxpayers, the business people, and the use of force to demand and collect high taxes.
She gave a strong condemnation about the business community’s mistreatment because when you lose them by injustice treatments, they go somewhere else, she said. Under her predecessor’s business community was harassed, immensely targeted, and penalized, even jailed in the name of tax collection.
She argued the responsible ministry and department of taxation to be more strategic and avoid losing taxpayers. Practices of money extortion, blackmail with the intention to get more money simply because the law allows you to abuse it, must stop, she warned.
Without ambiguity, she will spearhead her predecessor’s massive economic infrastructure ambition. After all, she was part and parcel of the team as his Vice President. She also said they are ready to continue effectively, with speedy, and the same desire and determination as her predecessor.
Although she implied, she would follow Magufuli’s economic initiatives, she left no doubt that “she is her own person” as the commander-in-chief.
Even if she decides to adopt the “Zidumu fikra za Magufuli” mantra, her “how approach to the implementation” will not be the same.
She has three distinct qualities that immediately distinguished her from her predecessor-she is a gentle, calm, and tentative listener. These qualities in Leadership engage, unite, and respect, which was missed during the Magufuli rule and caused a lot of discomfort and division, but very must-have in Leadership qualities.
Together with those qualities, she is a smart woman. She showed strength as the nation mourns and closes the old chapter.
Women leaders' records show that when women lead, they tend to bring much-needed strength and goodness to society…they lead better than men…because women know this, “Leadership is not bullying and Leadership is not aggressive. Leadership is the expectation that you can use your voice for good. That you can make the world a better place.” Sheryl Sandberg, founder of LeanIn.Org and Chief Operating Officer of Facebook.
So, Tanzanians and the international community feel a sense of relief and view the Female President as a game-changer.
Domestically, people are optimistic that Samia will ensure the population of Tanzanians shares economic gains. Years of economic reform measures that punish its people have not translated into better services to the people of Tanzania.
Mama Samia Suluhu’s economic investment in Tanzania will consider the involvement and contribution of private investment in a different paradigm. When Tanzania utilized her abundance of Natural heritage, it generously offers a unique opportunity to invest in the future of Tanzanians natural resources and improve the current level of poverty many Tanzanian experiencing.
As we witness history unfolding in Tanzania, we are contemplating Mama Samia Suluhu’s championing the economic infrastructure that incorporates social services investments in a more balanced approach and without alienating the international community as partners. At the same time, unilaterally, Tanzania cannot sustain itself without that support. Otherwise, we will match the same tune of the beating African drums that seems to ground us in the same position, “make-time,” but to nowhere.
Her commanding exposure working with the WHO during her early career as well as under the Magufuli as his Vice president whereby attended some, if not most of the foreign meetings, conferences, and or workshops representing Tanzania since her boss did not like to travel outside the country can capitalize on that in building relationships she had forged to pave the way for constructive relationships that collapsed or tarnished by her predecessor.
Tanzania is a land of plenty of opportunities if best explored and utilized…private sector should be viewed as the engine of economic growth in the 21st century if we aspire to achieve economic prosperity. But we cannot continue with the abusing and the blaming tendencies of not taking responsibility and accountability and hope to improve and achieve a sustainable economy.
The CCM party trajectory should change and be the inclusive party whose best interests as a party be less about the party’s survival and more about the people’s prosperity.
The CCM party hardly understands that they are a party, not a government! And unless the CCM party separates itself from using government as a property of its party-political struggles will continue indefinitely.
Tanzania’s current political climate needs urgent interventions for economic prosperity to make an impactful milestone in the lives of the population of Tanzania.
We see a promising path to political stability under the Leadership of Mama Samia Suluhu as a champion of constitutional reform, a work she performed exceptionally well to earn her credibility of recognition in 2014 as a Vice-Chairperson tasked with drafting Tanzania’s new constitution. We hope she will tackle well the constitutional issues that have been a stumbling block in allowing the full exercise of democracy and functional democratic institutions such as independent electoral commission, respect and strengthening the rule of law, social liberties; also safeguard our unity, freedom, and justice.
We learned a lot from the election of 2020, the need for transparency, and a constitution that respects people’s choices, “My vote is my choice and my voice.” Voting is as much a right and a duty of a voter. Voter suppression violates that right. Tanzania’s constitution must protect voting rights; when you do not care about the voters, their vote does not matter because you do not count them.
Although it has been only 15 days since Mama Samia Suluhu assumed the Presidency, much has been said already about her Presidency, primarily by comparison to her predecessor and, of course, her gender.
Even though many anticipations rely on the initial convincing positive analysis of her, 100 days in office will give a more objective analysis of her and Tanzania under her leadership.