NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — 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 spoke at a rally for International Women’s Day which had been organized by an opposition party. More than 3,000 women were at the event including leaders from 19 opposition parties.
“The opposition is lucky that it is a woman president in charge because if a misunderstanding occurs, I will stand for peace and make the men settle their egos,” she said amid cheers, singing and dancing.
She said there was a “new culture of unity” between the opposition and her government and although some critics are not happy with it, “they will get used to it.”
Hassan shared the platform with the chairman of the main opposition party Chadema, Freeman Mbowe. He said Hassan’s agreement to attend the opposition event elicited mixed reactions because the country experienced “fear, hate 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 she lifted a six-year-old ban on opposition rallies in January.
Another opposition leader, Godbless Lema, who was in exile for two years and returned to the country last week, also attended the Women’s Day event and Hassan welcomed him back home.
The opposition party Women Charter, which organized the event, told Hasan she needed to address health as a priority as it is the biggest challenge for Tanzania’s women, including relatively high rates of infant and maternal deaths.
Women make up more than half of Tanzania’s population of 63 million people, according to the 2022 census.