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Peaceful transfer of power: Mama Samia’s record setting presidency

Sunday April 04 2021
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President Samia Suluhu Hassan.

By Erick Mwakibete

Tanzania pulled of another peaceful transfer of power in a region where some countries have never known anything like that. The new president, Samia Suluhu Hassan, rose to power and in the process setting several records.

President Hassan had been the Vice President before rising to the presidency. She played the part very well in a region where it is not easy being number two. In some neighbouring countries, presidents have replaced their number twos at will to prevent the rise of another power base. Vague constitutional clauses about the line of succession set up possible meltdowns of their countries in the event they are no longer around.

For some of the neighbouring countries where presidents cannot replace their number twos due to constitutional constraints, it has led to frosty and troubled relationships between presidents and their number twos with some ending up in different political tents or conveniently staying in the same political tent to meet certain ends. This has especially been true in those countries where the political party or alliance in power is weak or fractured beyond the effective control of its leadership.

In a previous era, it was a dangerous post to have with power changing hands depending on so many factors with the constitution being the least of those. A number two could end up in prison if they are lucky enough.

Presidents of the multiparty era in this country and their political party, CCM, have had a knack at picking their number twos.

President Hassan replaced President John Magufuli who passed on. Inheriting the presidency in a shadow of such a towering immediate predecessor is challenging in itself. While the circumstances are different, she could take a leaf from former president, the amiable Ali Hassan Mwinyi who led the country in the shadow of his predecessor for a decade.

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There are those who have questioned whether she will be able to keep going the things her predecessor got right and change what they think should be changed. There have been long lists of what everyone thinks should be her priorities now that she is in charge.

These lists have been leaving out some important things including the long ruling party, CCM whose election manifesto is implemented. The political dances and calculations done behind closed doors with power brokers are crucial in determining the country runs smoothly. This too is not a new mandate, one after a general election has been held.

Without a doubt there will be continuity in many things, after all CCM have their own intra-party elections in 2022. Before 2022 arrives, it is a party in a transition as well with certain posts vacant plus some of those in charge on their way out due to old age or CCM’s tradition of leaders giving way to newly elected presidents whether in Union or in Zanzibar.

Not a single president ever completely broke from the past including Magufuli. There were many elements of his time in office which were a continuation of his predecessors.

However, she will certainly have a mark of her own on the presidency.

She has been in public service for more than two decades and still, there is a lot that is unknown about her. There have been glimpses of her abilities from time to time, way before she even became the country’s number two. All these glimpses point to a calm pair of hands.

It is very possible that President Hassan will never get a fair hearing of her time in office whether from her critics or her supporters. There are those who distrust any president from CCM while in office regardless of their actual record because they have come to view that party as not representing them and their dreams, visions and ambitions.

She has another challenge too which none of her predecessors ever faced. She is a woman. There are many who will harshly judge her solely based on her gender. Her success and failures will be viewed through such parochial lens.

As a popular phrase from a popular television series goes, wish her good fortune in the wars to come.