Samia Suluhu Hassan joins a very thin list of female African presidents


Samia Suluhu Hassan joins a very thin list of female African presidents
File image of then Tanzania's Vice President now President Samia Suluhu Hassan. PHOTO | COURTESY

Samia Suluhu Hassan was on Friday morning sworn in as the sixth President of the United Republic of Tanzania following the death of President John Pombe Magufuli.

Suluhu, who was the Vice President, was sworn in at 10.15am at State House, Dar es Salaam.

She will go down in history as the first female President of Tanzania, and the first female Head of State in the East African Community.

Suluhu now joins an elite list of very few women leaders to ever lead their African nations, among them:

Sylvie Kinigi (Burundi)

Sylvie Kinigi, who served as Burundi’s acting President when then President Melchior Ndadaye was shot dead. PHOTO / COURTESY
Sylvie Kinigi, who served as Burundi’s acting President when then President Melchior Ndadaye was shot dead. PHOTO / COURTESY

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia may have been the first woman elected President in Africa, as recognized by many, but she was never actually the first woman President in Africa (note the difference).

That honour, history books argue, belongs to one Sylvie Kinigi who served as Burundi’s acting President when then President Melchior Ndadaye was shot dead alongside 6 other country officials.

Kinigi first served as Burundi’s Prime Minister from February 10, 1993 to October 7,1994 and then as Acting President from October 27,1993 to February 5, 1994.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (Liberia)

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first woman elected president in Africa. PHOTO / COURTESY
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first woman elected president in Africa. PHOTO / COURTESY

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf initially ran for the Liberia presidency in 1997 but lost the election to Charles Taylor.

She then gave it another stab in 2005 and won, thereby becoming the first woman elected president in Africa.

This feat earned the economist and former finance minister the title ‘Africa’s Iron Lady.’

She ran for office again in 2011 and won her second term, bagging Nobel Peace Prize at the same time, before stepping down in 2018.

Joyce Hilda Banda (Malawi)

Joyce Banda, who served as Malawi President from April 7, 2012 until May 31, 2014 following the death of then President Bingu wa Mutharika. PHOTO / REUTERS
Joyce Banda, who served as Malawi President from April 7, 2012 until May 31, 2014 following the death of then President Bingu wa Mutharika. PHOTO / REUTERS

Joyce Banda and Samia Suluhu Hassan share so many similiarities in their rise to the top office.

Banda, like Suluhu, did not sign up to become president; she was also her country’s first female Vice President.

She served in that position from May 2009 until April 2012 when she was elevated to the top seat following the death of then Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika.

Banda served as President from April 7, 2012 until May 31, 2014 when she lost the elections and left the country after she was implicated in a scandal.

She was, in the same year, named 40th most powerful woman in the world and the most powerful woman in Africa by Forbes.

Sahle-Work Zewde (Ethiopia)

President of Ethiopia Sahle-Work Zewde. PHOTO / COURTESY
President of Ethiopia Sahle-Work Zewde. PHOTO / COURTESY

Sahle-Work Zewde was unanimously elected President of Ethiopia by members of the National Parliamentary Assembly.

She assumed office on October 25, 2018 and still serves in the position to date.

Ameenah Gurib-Fakim (Mauritius)

Ameenah Gurib-Fakim served as Mauritius President following the resignation of then President Kailash Purryag. PHOTO / COURTESY
Ameenah Gurib-Fakim served as Mauritius President following the resignation of then President Kailash Purryag. PHOTO / COURTESY

Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, like Sahle-Work in Ethiopia, was unanimously elected President by the National Assembly.

This came following the resignation of then Mauritius President Kailash Purryag.

Gurib-Fakim served as President from 2015-2018.

Catherine Samba (Central African Republic)

Catherine Samba was elected Acting President of Central African republic from 2014 until 2016. PHOTO / COURTESY
Catherine Samba was elected Acting President of Central African republic from 2014 until 2016. PHOTO / COURTESY

When Central African Republic rebel leader Michael Djotodia stepped down from his self-appointed presidency in 2014, he gave way for history to be made.

Hence, in came lawyer Catherine Samba – then mayor of the capital city of Bangui – who was elected and took over as Acting head of State, hence transition president.

She held the position from 2014 until 2016.

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Story By Ian Omondi
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