A Hundred Days A President: Samia Suluhu’s 100 Days in office.

As President Samia Suluhu prepares to mark her first 100 days in office on the 26th of June, I have decided to reflect on her time as president and the impact she has had on the nation thus far. It is not lost to me that she entered office in the most trying of circumstances. In one singular moment she became the first vice president to ascend to the presidency after the death of a sitting president and the first female president of the United Republic of Tanzania.

Ideally the president has three major roles to play. That of head of state, that of head of government and that of commander-in-chief.

  1. Head of state: This involves being the moral compass and conscience of the nation. It is more or less a ceremonial role being performed by the number one citizen. It involves dealing with human nature and guiding the mood of the nation. In this role the president brings out the better angels of our nature. The president is the comforter-in-chief and the face of the nation both home and abroad.

For the purpose of this article, I will only focus on President Samia Suluhu’s role as head of state. This is because it is too soon to measure her impact as head of government as the parliament has only recently passed her first budget and she is still organizing her government with various reshuffles and appointments of government officials. As commander-in-chief, the country remains relatively safe and there have been no major security concerns (which might be a credit to her as most security issues are dealt with behind closed doors).

As head of state she was immediately faced with two challenges, leading the first presidential transition due to the death of a sitting president and leading a nation in shock and uncertain about what the future held. It could not have been easy juggling these two while also coming into grips with her unexpected raise to the top job. To her credit, if she ever had doubts, she never showed it in public. She handled herself with poise and class even while constantly reassuring people who were seeing for the first time a lady lead the nation.

After the burial of the late Magufuli, President Samia Suluhu quickly went to work to make changes within government. The CAG report for the first time in many years showed graft, corruption and even profit loss of the national carrier, all of which in the past few years had not been made public. She maintained government stability by not making any major changes to the cabinet and government but by mostly reshuffling ministers and permanent secretaries. However her removal of Bashiru Ali Kakurwa who had recently been appointed as the head of the civil service indicated her intentions to take a different direction from her predecessor.

President Suluhu started making public appearances setting the tone for her desired interactions with the citizens she was now responsible for. She first met with elders in Dar Es Salaam, then women in Dodoma and finally youth in Mwanza. She plans on meeting with leaders of the Catholic church on the 25th of June. What is key to note is not necessarily the appearances themselves, because even her predecessor made such appearances. What should be noted is her tone and level of engagement in such appearances. She is less of a lecturer than her predecessor but instead prefers to listen and engage with people and listening to their views before she highlights her government’s plans on matters of concern to the groups.

President Suluhu has shown to be more willing to accept public criticism of her government. She ordered the reopening of media outlets which had been banned under the previous administration and although it has never been made public or official but it is important to note that restrictions on sites such as Twitter were lifted not long after she entered office. She from time to time remarks about content she reads on social media and has been heard to use social media lingual such as “mkeka” in her speeches. In deed she appears to be more approachable and effortlessly charismatic.

President Suluhu also quickly moved to normalize relations with neighboring Kenya, which had been at the very least salty the past couple of years. She appointed Ambassador Liberata Mulamula, an experienced and career diplomat as her minister of foreign affairs no doubt wanting to take a more professional approach towards the country’s foreign policy. She has held meetings with a number of international bodies and attended virtual meetings of world leaders all indicating Tanzania’s return to the international stage.

Most importantly she has changed the mood of the nation after last years general elections left the nation divided. She has steered away from confrontational politics and instead using the normal channels of engagement while allowing opposition parties, activists and people with different views to express their opinions openly without fear of repercussion. Her newly appointed Director of Public Prosecution has moved to drop charges of long standing cases such as those of the Uamsho clergy and businessmen who had been kept in remand for years over money laundering and economic sabotage charges. It is hard to quantify it but the general mood of the nation has simply changed for the better.

Therefore, in regards to her performance as head of state, and by considering the conditions under which she ascended to the presidency, I give President Suluhu a passing grade. With most of her appointments to government posts complete, and with her first budget coming into affect in the next few days, it will now be interesting to see how she fairs as head of government. It is my sincere hope that she will perform greatly in this role as well. My expectations are neither unfounded. A president who listens to her citizens tends to fair well in management of the government. And from her 5 years of experience as vice president, it is reasonable to expect that she has a great grasp of what works and what doesn’t. In deed she should use the considerable political capital she now possesses to take the necessary steps in steering the country towards her vision.

Thomas J. Kibwana

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Political Enthusiast

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