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Tanzania’s first female president praises political tolerance


NAIROBI, Kenya — Tanzania’s president Samia Suluhu Hassan has said that as the East African country’s first female leader, she has brought a new level of political tolerance to the nation.

Hassan was speaking at an International Women’s Day rally organized by an opposition party. More than 3,000 women attended the event, including leaders of 19 opposition parties.

“The opposition is lucky to have a female president in charge because if there is a misunderstanding, I will stand for peace and make sure the men straighten their egos,” she said to cheers, song and dance.

She said there was a “new culture of unity” between the opposition and her government and while some critics are not happy about it, “they will get used to it”.

Hassan shared the stage with the chairman of the main opposition Chadema party, Freeman Mbowe. He said Hassan’s agreement to attend the opposition event provoked mixed reactions as the country experienced “fear, hatred and mistrust” under Tanzania’s previous leader.

Mbowe was repeatedly arrested during former President John Magufuli’s administration and was only released after Hassan came to power. Hassan was vice president under Magufuli and succeeded him when he died in 2021. She has been accused of continuing her predecessor’s anti-democratic policies, but in January she lifted a six-year ban on opposition rallies.

Another opposition leader, Godbless Lema, who spent two years in exile and returned to the country last week, also attended the Women’s Day event and Hassan welcomed him home.

The opposition Women Charter party, which organized the event, told Hasan to consider health a priority as it is the biggest challenge facing Tanzanian women, including relatively high infant and maternal mortality.

Women make up more than half of Tanzania’s population of 63 million people, according to the 2022 census.

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