Tanzanian Vice-president Hassan Sworn In As President
Tanzania got a new president today as Vice-president Samia Suluhu Hassan was sworn in.
Hassan is the country’s first female president after the sudden death of John Magufuli from an illness shrouded in mystery.
Hassan, 61, a soft-spoken Muslim woman from the island of Zanzibar, will finish Magufuli’s second five-year term, set to run until 2025.
Wearing a bright red headscarf, Hassan was sworn in as the country’s sixth president, at a ceremony in Dar es Salaam, where neither she nor the majority of attendees wore a mask, in the Covid-sceptic nation.
“I, Samia Suluhu Hassan, promise to be honest and obey and protect the constitution of Tanzania,” said the new president, as she took the oath of office before inspecting troops at a military parade and receiving a cannon salute.
She becomes the only other current serving female head of state in Africa alongside Ethiopia’s President Sahle-Work Zewde, whose role is mainly ceremonial. Hassan was little known outside Tanzania until she appeared on state television on Wednesday night to announce that Magufuli had died aged 61 from a heart condition after a mysterious three -week absence from public view. But questions have been raised over the true cause of his death, after multiple rumours that Magufuli — one of the world’s most fervent Covid-sceptic leaders — had caught the virus and had sought treatment abroad.
Main opposition leader Tundu Lissu insists his sources said Magufuli had Covid-19 and had actually died a week ago. And Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper, which last week reported an “African leader”, in clear reference to Magufuli, was in a Nairobi hospital, on Friday gave more details of his illness, also indicating Magufuli had in fact died last week.
Citing sources, the paper said Magufuli was discharged from Nairobi Hospital on life support after it was determined he could not be resuscitated and returned to Dar es Salaam where he died last Thursday.
The paper details his initial evacuation to Nairobi on March 8 in a medical plane, as he suffered “acute cardiac and respiratory illnesses.”
The main question hanging over the new president is whether she will usher in a change in leadership style from her predecessor, nicknamed the “Bulldozer”, notably in the handling of the pandemic.
Magufuli leaves behind a complex legacy, after a swing to authoritarianism which saw him crack down on the media, activists and free speech while refusing to take any measures against Covid-19.
He called for prayer instead of face masks, refused to publish case statistics or implement lockdown measures, and championed alternative medicines.
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In May last year, he revealed a papaya, quail and goat had tested positive for the virus in a secret operation, proving “sabotage” at the national laboratory.
However by February, as cases soared and the vice president of semi-autonomous Zanzibar was revealed to have died from Covid-19, Magufuli conceded the virus was still circulating.
The opposition and rights groups have urged Hassan to change course.
“As we continue mourning, let us use this period to open up a new chapter for rebuilding national unity and respect to freedom, justice, rule of law, democracy and people-centred development,” said Freeman Mbowe, the chairman of opposition group Chadema, in a statement Thursday.
He urged Hassan to “lead the nation toward reconciliation”.
Meanwhile Human Rights Watch said in a statement that the new government “has a chance for a fresh start by ending problematic past practices.”
However analysts say Hassan will face early pressure from powerful Magufuli allies within the party, who dominate intelligence and other critical aspects of government, and would try and steer her decisions and agenda.
“For those who were kind of expecting a breakaway from the Magufuli way of things I would say hold your breath at the moment,” said Thabit Jacob, a researcher at the Roskilde University in Denmark and expert on Tanzania. Hailing from Zanzibar, the semi-autonomous island in the Indian Ocean, Hassan rose through the ranks over a 20-year political career from local government to the national assembly.
A ruling party stalwart, she was named Magufuli’s running mate in the 2015 presidential campaign. The pair were re-elected in October last year in a disputed poll marred by allegations of irregularities.
Hassan must consult the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) about appointing a new vice president.
The party is set to hold a special meeting of its central committee on Saturday.
Tanzania is observing a 14-day mourning period and details on Magufuli’s funeral have yet to be announced.
Magufuli is the second East African leader to die under mysterious circumstances. Burundi’s equally Covid-sceptic leader, Pierre Nkurunziza, died from “heart failure” last June after his wife was flown to Nairobi to be treated for coronavirus. [AFP]
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BREAKING:Soldier Guarding Ugandan Minister Shoots Him Dead
A Ugandan national army soldier has shot and killed a government minister he was guarding.
Retired Colonel Charles Okello Engola, who was the deputy minister for gender and labour, was shot at his home on Tuesday morning.
It is not yet clear whether there was an argument between the soldier and Col Engola.
The soldier, yet to be officially identified, then shot himself dead.
Before turning the gun on himself, some eyewitness said the soldier walked around the neighbourhood shooting in the air.
Initial reports suggest a number of people may be injured and videos on social media showed locals gathering at the scene in shock.
Col Engola was a senior government official, and had previously served as a deputy minister for defence.
The Speaker of Uganda’s parliament confirmed Col Engola’s death in a short statement while presiding over the morning session.
“This morning I received sad news that Hon Engola has been shot by his bodyguard and after, shot himself. May his soul rest in peace. That was God’s plan. We can’t change anything,” Anita Among told MPs on Tuesday.
At 80, U.S. President Biden Announces Re-election Bid
President Joe Biden on Tuesday formally announced his bid for reelection, setting off a battle to convince the country his record merits another four years in the White House and his age won’t impede his ability to govern.
In a video released early Tuesday, Biden framed next year’s contest as a fight against Republican extremism, implicitly arguing he needed more time to fully realize his vow to restore the nation’s character.
“When I ran for president four years ago, I said we are in a battle for the soul of America. And we still are,” he said in the video, which opened with images of the January 6, 2021, insurrection and abortion rights activists protesting at the US Supreme Court.
“The question we are facing is whether in the years ahead we have more freedom or less freedom. More rights or fewer,” Biden says in voiceover narration. “I know what I want the answer to be and I think you do too. This is not a time to be complacent. That’s why I’m running for reelection.”
Biden’s official declaration ends any lingering doubts about his intentions, and begins a contest that could evolve into a rematch with his 2020 rival, former President Donald Trump. He enters the race with a significant legislative record but low approval ratings, a conundrum his advisers have so far been unable to solve. Already the oldest president in history, he also confronts persistent questions about his age.
The launch comes four years to the day Biden made his 2020 bid official. That race became a mission to restore the country’s character and prevent Trump from achieving a second term.
Biden’s fourth and final presidential campaign will rest on similar themes. Just as he did in 2020, Biden is making an appeal to the nation’s ideals, particularly with the specter of Trump’s return.
His announcement video warns against “MAGA extremists” who he says are “dictating what health care decisions women can make, banning books, and telling people who they can love.”
“Every generation of Americans has faced a moment when they’ve had to defend democracy. Stand up for our personal freedoms. Stand up for the right to vote and our civil rights,” he says. “And this is our moment.”
But Biden’s campaign will also ride on promoting the achievements made during the first two years of his presidency — and an argument he needs more time to “finish the job.”
“I know we can,” he says.
The Republican National Committee immediately rolled out an attack ad against Biden, unveiling what it called an “AI-generated look into the country’s possible future if Joe Biden is re-elected.” The dystopian video intermixes “news” of Biden’s reelection in 2024 with faux reports of high crime, international turmoil, rampant illegal immigration and financial calamity.
Little enthusiasm for another Biden run amid concerns about his age
No major Democratic challengers are expected to emerge, and Biden is likely to enjoy an easy path to his party’s nomination. Only two challengers are in the race: author Marianne Williamson and anti-vaccine activist and environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Still, at 80, Biden is the nation’s oldest president. Polls have consistently reflected concern about his age even among Democrats.
Most Americans — and even a majority of Democrats — in recent surveys have shown little enthusiasm for another Biden run.
A series of upcoming challenges, from the ongoing war in Ukraine to a still-uncertain economy, could provide hurdles to Biden’s reelection. And now that power in Washington is divided, the GOP-controlled House has largely dashed hopes for major legislative accomplishments in the two years ahead of the 2024 vote.
India Overtakes China As Most Populous Nation
India has become the world’s most populous country, overtaking China, according to the United Nations.
According to UN estimates on Wednesday, India’s population is 142.86 crore against China’s 142.57 crore.
This is the first time that India has topped the UN list of most populous countries since it started collecting population data in 1950.
China is facing a looming demographic decline as birth rates plunge and its workforce ages. Several regions have also announced plans to boost birth rates — but official efforts have so far failed to reverse the decline.
India has no recent official data on how many people it has because it has not conducted a census since 2011.
India’s once in a decade census was due to be held in 2021 but was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Nearly 1/4th of India’s population is under the age of 14, according to the UN data. 68 per cent of the population is in the 15 to 64 age group, while 7 per cent is above the age of 65.
Estimates by different agencies have suggested that India’s population is expected to keep rising for nearly three decades before it peaks at 165 crore and then would start declining.
The new UN report also estimated that the global population will have hit 8.045 billion by mid-2023.
Other countries, mostly in Europe and Asia, can expect a demographic slump over the coming decades, according to other UN figures published last July which forecast how the world’s population will develop between now and 2100.
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