Samia Suluhu Hassan becomes Tanzania’s first woman president

Samia Suluhu Hassan becomes Tanzania’s first woman president
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Samia Suluhu Hassan holds the Qur’an during her swearing-in ceremony after the death of President John Magufuli in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. (AFP)
Samia Suluhu Hassan becomes Tanzania’s first woman president
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Samia Suluhu Hassan inspects a military parade following her swearing in the country's first female President after the sudden death of President John Magufuli at statehouse in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on March 19, 2021. (AFP)
Samia Suluhu Hassan becomes Tanzania’s first woman president
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Samia Suluhu Hassan made history Friday when she was sworn in as Tanzania’s first female president after the death of her predecessor. (AFP)
Samia Suluhu Hassan becomes Tanzania’s first woman president
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Samia Suluhu Hassan made history Friday when she was sworn in as Tanzania’s first female president after the death of her predecessor. (AFP)
Samia Suluhu Hassan becomes Tanzania’s first woman president
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Samia Suluhu Hassan made history Friday when she was sworn in as Tanzania’s first female president after the death of her predecessor. (AFP)
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Updated 19 March 2021

Samia Suluhu Hassan becomes Tanzania’s first woman president

Samia Suluhu Hassan becomes Tanzania’s first woman president
  • Wearing a hijab and holding up a Quran with her right hand, the 61-year-old Hassan took the oath of office at State House
  • Hassan succeeds Magufuli, who had not been seen in public for more than two weeks before his passing was announced on state TV late Wednesday

DAR ES SALAAM: Samia Suluhu Hassan made history Friday when she was sworn in as Tanzania’s first female president after the death of her controversial predecessor, John Magufuli, who denied that COVID-19 is a problem in the East African country.
Wearing a hijab and holding up a Quran with her right hand, the 61-year-old Hassan took the oath of office at State House, the government offices in Dar es Salaam, the country’s largest city.
The inauguration was witnessed by Cabinet members, former presidents Ali Hassan Mwinyi and Jakaya Kikwete. The former heads of state were among the few people in the room wearing face masks to protect against COVID-19.
Hassan succeeds Magufuli, who had not been seen in public for more than two weeks before his passing was announced on state TV late Wednesday. Magufuli had denied that COVID-19 was a problem in Tanzania, saying that national prayer had eradicated the disease from the country. But Magufuli acknowledged weeks before his death that the virus was a danger.
A major test of Hassan’s new presidency will be how she deals with the pandemic. Under Magufuli, Tanzania, one of Africa’s most populous countries with 60 million people, made no efforts to obtain vaccines or promote the use of masks and social distancing to combat the virus. This policy of ignoring the disease endangers neighboring countries, African health officials warn.
Although Hassan announced that Magufuli died of heart failure, exiled opposition leader Tundu Lissu says the president died of COVID-19, citing informed medical sources in Dar es Salaam.
“The immediate job, the immediate decision she has to make, and she doesn’t have much time for it, is what is she going to do about COVID-19?" Lissu told The Associated Press at his place of exile in Belgium.
“President Magufuli defied the world, defied science, defied common sense in his approach to COVID-19 and it finally brought him down,” said Lissu.
"President Samia Saluhu Hassan has to decide very soon whether she is changing course or continuing with the same disastrous approach to COVID-19 that her predecessor took,“ the opposition leader said.
Hassan must also decide how she will address Magufuli’s legacy, including whether to continue with his policies that took Tanzania from a relatively tolerant democracy to a repressive state, Lissu said, questioning if she will be able to restore the country's political freedoms and democracy.
Lissu went into exile in 2017 after he was shot 16 times. The attack came shortly after Magufuli said those who were opposed to his economic reforms deserved to die. Lissu returned to Tanzania to challenge Magufuli in the 2020 elections. He lost to Magufuli in polls marred by violence and widespread allegations of vote-rigging. Lissu returned to exile, saying his life was in danger.
Speaking at her inauguration, Hassan gave little indication that she intended to change course from Magufuli.
“It's not a good day for me to talk to you because I have a wound in my heart," said Hassan, speaking Kiswahili. "Today I have taken an oath different from the rest that I have taken in my career. Those were taken in happiness. Today I took the highest oath of office in mourning,” she said.
She said that Magufuli, “who always liked teaching,” had prepared her for the task ahead. “Nothing shall go wrong,” she assured, urging unity.
“This is the time to stand together and get connected. It’s time to bury our differences, show love to one another and look forward with confidence," she said. "It is not the time to point fingers at each other but to hold hands and move forward to build the new Tanzania that President Magufuli aspired to.”
Hassan will complete Magufuli's second term that began in October. She has had a meteoric rise in politics in a male-dominated field. Both Tanzania and the surrounding East African region are slowly emerging from patriarchy.
After Magufuli selected her as his running mate in 2015, Hassan became Tanzania's first female vice president. She was the second woman to become vice president in the region, after Uganda’s Specioza Naigaga Wandira who was in office from 1994 to 2003.
Born in Zanzibar, Tanzania’s semi-autonomous archipelago, in 1960, Hassan went to primary school and secondary school at a time when very few girls in Tanzania were getting educations as parents thought a woman’s place was that of wife and homemaker.
After graduating from secondary school in 1977, Hassan studied statistics and started working for the government, in the Ministry of Planning and Development. She worked for a World Food Program project in Tanzania in 1992 and then attended the University of Manchester in London to earn a postgraduate diploma in economics. In 2005, she earned a master’s degree in community economic development through a joint program between the Open University of Tanzania and Southern New Hampshire University in the U.S.
Hassan went into politics in 2000 when she became a member of the Zanzibar House of Representatives. In 2010, she won the Makunduchi parliamentary seat with more than 80% percent of the vote. She was appointed a Cabinet minister in 2014 and became vice-chairperson of the Constituent Assembly that drafted a new constitution for Tanzania, a role in which she won respect for deftly handling several challenges.
As president, Hassan's first task will be to unite the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party behind her, said Ed Hobey-Hamsher, senior Africa analyst with the Verisk Maplecroft research firm. The party has been in power since Tanzania's independence.
As a Muslim woman from Zanzibar, Hassan may find it difficult to win the support of the party's mainland Christians, he said, warning that some entrenched leaders may develop “obstructionist strategies” against her. He said it's likely that Hassan will start her rule by maintaining the status quo and not embarking on a significant Cabinet reshuffle.
Hassan is the second woman in East Africa to serve as head of state. Burundi’s Sylvia Kiningi served as interim president of that tiny landlocked country for nearly four months until Feb. 1994.
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Odula contributed from Nakuru, Kenya. AP journalist Bishr Eltouni in Tienen, Belgium, contributed.


UK’s Afghan evacuation email hotline still broken, says whistleblower

UK’s Afghan evacuation email hotline still broken, says whistleblower
Updated 26 sec ago

UK’s Afghan evacuation email hotline still broken, says whistleblower

UK’s Afghan evacuation email hotline still broken, says whistleblower
  • More than 5,000 emails from desperate Afghans sat in inbox at any given time
  • Inquiry into Britain’s handling of evacuation continues

LONDON: An error in the UK Foreign Office’s IT systems which prevented staff from opening emails sent by desperate Afghans hoping for evacuation has still not been fixed, a whistleblower has revealed.

During the emergency evacuation of British citizens and their Afghan allies, officials from different parts of the UK’s Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office were restricted from opening some emails because they were using separate computer systems.

In damning testimony former civil servant Raphael Marshall said officials trying to assist were “visibly appalled by our chaotic system.”

Marshall said there were usually more than 5,000 unread messages in the inbox at any given moment, with desperate subject lines such as: “Please save my children.”

It has emerged that the issue — related to the merger of the Department for International Development into the Foreign Office — has not yet been resolved.

An employee working in the FCDO told the Daily Mail: “To this day, the FCDO and DFID IT systems are not synchronized. In some instances we cannot send emails or messages to our ex-DFID counterparts and have to do it instead using our personal phones.

“We run two different softwares, on which the majority of our work is done. They are not compatible with each other. On email, it is common for our messages not to go through because of security limitations.”

They warned that if a “major crisis” happened, the office would be hampered by the same issue.

A parliamentary inquiry into the UK’s chaotic evacuation efforts during the fall of Kabul is continuing.

The British government said it had evacuated 18,000 people from Afghanistan — 15,000 during the initial wave of airlifts, and a further 3,000 since the Taliban consolidated full control of Afghanistan’s capital.


London’s handling of Kabul evacuation ‘unforgivable,’ says ex-official

London’s handling of Kabul evacuation ‘unforgivable,’ says ex-official
Updated 38 min 7 sec ago

London’s handling of Kabul evacuation ‘unforgivable,’ says ex-official

London’s handling of Kabul evacuation ‘unforgivable,’ says ex-official
  • ‘The entire operation was to manage the political fallout rather than to manage the crisis’
  • Government spokesperson: ‘This was the biggest mission of its kind in generations’

LONDON: An anonymous official from the UK’s Foreign Office has described the government’s handling of the Kabul evacuation as “unforgivable.”

The senior civil servant, who remains anonymous, told the BBC program “Newsnight” that the way the evacuation was handled caused “huge amounts of trauma and suffering … and most probably lives (were) also lost.”

In August, British forces evacuated around 15,000 Afghan allies and their families from Kabul as the Western-backed government fell to the Taliban.

“The entire operation was to manage the political fallout of what was happening, rather than to actually manage the crisis and that, for me, was the most upsetting and most difficult aspect of it,” she said.

Her condemnation comes as the British government faces a parliamentary inquiry that has exposed damning information about the evacuation operation and its failings.

Former Foreign Office official Raphael Marshall told MPs that hundreds of thousands of emails went unread during the evacuation of Britons and their allies — an account corroborated by the BBC’s source.

She said: “You had dozens of people reading harrowing horrific bits of information in emails and knowing full well that nothing was going to be done with any of it, other than a report at the end of the day to say the email had been read.”

The official, who has decades of experience working in diplomacy, said the evacuation was the worst operation she had witnessed in her career.

The government told the BBC that 1,000 Foreign Office staff worked tirelessly alongside others to carry out the evacuation.

“This was the biggest mission of its kind in generations and the second largest evacuation carried out by any country. They are still working to help others leave,” a spokesperson said.

“Regrettably we were not able to evacuate all those we wanted to, but our commitment to them is enduring, and since the end of the operation we have helped more than 3,000 individuals leave Afghanistan.”


With vaccine resistance high, Poland faces surge of COVID-19 deaths

With vaccine resistance high, Poland faces surge of COVID-19 deaths
Updated 2 min 47 sec ago

With vaccine resistance high, Poland faces surge of COVID-19 deaths

With vaccine resistance high, Poland faces surge of COVID-19 deaths
  • Poland and several other countries in Central and Eastern Europe are battling their latest surges of coronavirus cases and deaths while continuing to record much lower vaccinations rates
  • The mortality rate in Poland, while lower than it was than in the spring, recently has caused more than 500 deaths per day and still has not peaked

WARSAW: As 83-year-old Hanna Zientara endured subfreezing temperatures to get a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot in Warsaw, her 30-year-old grandson was starting a Canary Islands vacation while unvaccinated and stubbornly refusing his grandmother’s repeated pleas to protect himself.
“I am worried about him, but I have no influence over him. None,” Zientara said. “He has many doctor friends who aren’t getting vaccinated, and he says if they aren’t getting vaccinated, then he doesn’t have to.”
Poland and several other countries in Central and Eastern Europe are battling their latest surges of coronavirus cases and deaths while continuing to record much lower vaccinations rates than in Western Europe.
In Russia, more than 1,200 people with COVID-19 died every day for most of November and on several days in December, and the daily death toll remains over 1,100. Ukraine, which is recording hundreds of virus deaths a day, is emerging from its deadliest period of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the mortality rate in Poland, while lower than it was than in the spring, recently has caused more than 500 deaths per day and still has not peaked. Intensive care units are full, and doctors report that more and more children require hospitalization, including some who went through COVID-19 without symptoms but then suffered strokes.
The situation has created a dilemma for Poland’s government, which has urged citizens to get vaccinated but clearly worries about alienating voters who oppose vaccine mandates or any restrictions on economic life.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki received his vaccine booster publicly last week and urged others to get their shots to protect older adults at Christmas. He noted that some family gatherings during the pandemic have “ended tragically, ended with the departure of our grandfathers, grandmothers.”
To promote vaccines, Health Minister Adam Niedzielski pointed out Monday that of the 1,085 people under age 44 who died with COVID-19 so far this year in Poland, only 3 percent were fully vaccinated. “This black statistic could be different thanks to vaccinations,” he said.
With a health system already stretched to its limits, Poland’s government announced Tuesday that it is requiring doctors, other medical personnel, teachers and uniformed workers like police officers, members of the military and firefighters to be vaccinated by March 1.
Critics of the right-wing government denounced the step as too little too late, while a far-right party, Confederation, slammed it as discriminating against unvaccinated Poles.
The resistance to vaccines in Eastern Europe is rooted in distrust of pharmaceutical companies and government authorities, while disinformation also appears to be playing a role.
As worried grandmother Zientara received a Pfizer vaccine booster dose on Tuesday, the Polish government reported 504 more deaths, bringing the pandemic death toll to over 86,000 in the nation of 38 million.
Sitting nearby was Andrzej Wiazecki, a 56-year-old who needed no convincing to come in for a booster shot. He said he has several friends hospitalized with COVID-19, including a previously healthy and athletic 32-year-old who is fighting for his life.
“I expect him to die, especially since there is no room for him in the intensive care unit because there are so many patients that he is lying somewhere in a corridor,” he said.
“He didn’t want to get vaccinated,” Wiazecki said. “His siblings are also not vaccinated, and even though he is dying, they still don’t want to get vaccinated.”
With 54 percent of Poles fully vaccinated, the country has a higher coronavirus inoculation rate than some nearby countries. Ukraine’s vaccination rate is 27 percent, and in Russia, where domestically developed vaccines like Spuntik V are on offer, it is about 41 percent. Bulgaria, which like Poland belongs to the European Union, has a vaccination rate of 26 percent, the lowest in the bloc.
The discovery of the omicron variant last month has fueled fears in Poland, where experts believe the variant is likely already circulating though no cases have been confirmed. Many critical questions about omicron remain unanswered, including whether the virus causes milder or more severe illness and how much it might evade immunity from past COVID-19 illness or vaccines.
According to Polish media reports, the variant’s emergence led some holdouts to finally get their first vaccine shots in the southern mountain region of Podhale, where the vaccination rates are far below the national average.
But at the vaccination center in Warsaw, located in a blood donation center, there were not many first-timers. Coordinator Paula Rekawek said only one person had turned up in the center’s first three hours of operation Tuesday to request an initial dose.
Warsaw restauranteur Artur Jarczynski has found a business opportunity in the high level of vaccine resistance. His popular Der Elefant was the first restaurant in Poland, and until recently the only one, to require customers to show proof of vaccination to enter.
Jarczynski said that while traveling in Western Europe, he was asked for proof of vaccination to dine and thought it was a good practice. When he first introduced the requirement at Der Elefant, anti-vaxxers demonstrating in front of parliament brought their protest to his restaurant and he sought police protection. Jarczynski says he also was bombarded by hateful phone calls for a couple of days.
Yet many patrons appreciate the rare public space where they can feel safe while enjoying a meal, such as the mussel soup, steaks and other fare served for lunch on Tuesday. One diner, Ryszard Kowalski, said he liked knowing everyone around him was vaccinated but the restaurant’s policy was proof “there is no need for government orders” to create safe environments.
But Jarczynski has not yet dared to impose the vaccine requirement in several other Warsaw restaurants he owns.
He described Der Elefant as “an island in a country of almost 40 million people, which on the one hand makes us happy, but also sad that we are just such a tiny island.”


Philippines bans travelers from France to prevent omicron spread

Philippines bans travelers from France to prevent omicron spread
Updated 59 min ago

Philippines bans travelers from France to prevent omicron spread

Philippines bans travelers from France to prevent omicron spread
  • This adds to an earlier ban on travelers from South Africa and 13 other countries

MANILA: The Philippines will ban travelers coming from France to prevent the spread of the omicron COVID-19 variant, the presidential office said on Wednesday.
The ban, which applies to everyone who has been in France in the past 14 days, runs from Dec. 10 to Dec. 15.
This adds to an earlier ban on travelers from South Africa and 13 other countries to prevent omicron, which has yet to be detected in the Philippines.


Omicron reported in 57 countries, hospitalizations set to rise, WHO says

Omicron reported in 57 countries, hospitalizations set to rise, WHO says
Updated 08 December 2021

Omicron reported in 57 countries, hospitalizations set to rise, WHO says

Omicron reported in 57 countries, hospitalizations set to rise, WHO says
  • WHO declared the omicron variant, which was first detected in southern Africa, a variant of concern

GENEVA: The omicron variant has been reported in 57 nations and the number of patients needing hospitalization is likely to rise as it spreads, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday.
The WHO, in its weekly epidemiological report, said more data was needed to assess the severity of disease caused by the omicron variant and whether its mutations might reduce protection from vaccine-derived immunity.
“Even if the severity is equal or potentially even lower than for delta variant, it is expected that hospitalizations will increase if more people become infected and that there will be a time lag between an increase in the incidence of cases and an increase in the incidence of deaths,” it said.
On Nov. 26, the WHO declared the omicron variant, which was first detected in southern Africa, a variant of concern. It is the fifth SARS-CoV-2 strain to carry such a designation.
The number of reported COVID-19 cases in South Africa doubled in the week to Dec. 5 to more than 62,000 and “very large” increases in incidence have been seen in Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Lesotho, it said.
The spread of omicron, coupled with enhanced testing and low vaccination rates may have played a role, it added.
Referring to the risk of reinfection, the WHO said: “Preliminary analysis suggests that the mutations present in the omicron variant may reduce neutralising activity of antibodies resulting in reduced protection from natural immunity.”
“There is a need for more data to assess whether the mutations present on the omicron variant may result in reduced protection from vaccine-derived immunity and data on vaccine effectiveness, including the use of additional vaccination doses,” it said.
The omicron variant can partially evade the protection from two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech, the research head of a laboratory at the Africa Health Research Institute in South Africa said on Tuesday, reporting the results of a small study.