Tanzania’s new president Samia Suluhu Hassan said Thursday she was ready to defend democracy and fundamental freedoms, adding that she would soon hold talks with opposition leaders, in her first speech to parliament broadcast by local media.
“Democracy, individual freedom and freedom of the press “are important to foster development and peace,” the president said.
“In the interest of protecting democracy, I intend to meet with all political party leaders to discuss how they can best conduct their political activities for the benefit of our country,” Hassan added.
The 61-year-old vice president to the former leader John Magufuli became Tanzania’s first president following the sudden death of the head of state on 18 March at the age of 61.
In power since 2015, John Magufuli, nicknamed the “Bulldozer”, was re-elected in October after an election described as a farce by the opposition, and was widely criticized for his authoritarian style.
He had banned political rallies in 2016 – outside election periods – to allow him to carry out his development agenda for the country.
His first term in office was marked by a sharp decline in fundamental freedoms, according to human rights organizations.
At the beginning of April, in a speech given when swearing in new members of the government, the President had called for MPs to stop comparing her with Magufuli.
She further indicated that her country’s response to the Covid-19 epidemic would henceforth be based on science, whereas John Magufuli systematically played down the pandemic, calling on his fellow citizens to pray to God to get rid of it.