Samia Suluhu Hassan was sworn in as president of Tanzania in mid-March, while the country was still reeling from the sudden death of her predecessor, John Magufuli, two days earlier. Dressed in a black suit, the 61-year-old former vice president spoke sorrowfully about the passing of Magufuli, officially from a longstanding heart condition.
“Today I have taken an oath different from the rest that I have taken in my political career,” Suluhu Hassan said upon becoming the country’s first female president and the first from the semi-autonomous Zanzibar archipelago. “Those were taken in happiness. Today I took the highest oath of office in mourning.” She then announced that the official grieving period for Magufuli would last 21 days. Shell-shocked Tanzanians wondered where the country was headed.
In the weeks leading up to his death, Magufuli, who had just begun his second term as president, had been suspiciously absent from public life, leading to speculation that he had actually fallen ill with COVID-19 and was in a hospital bed in neighboring Kenya or India. After authorities unexpectedly announced his death, rumors about its true cause only intensified.