Tanzania’s soft-spoken Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan on Friday was sworn in as the East African country’s first female president after the sudden death of John Magufuli from an illness shrouded in mystery.

“I, Samia Suluhu Hassan, promise to be honest and obey and protect the constitution of Tanzania,” said Hassan, dressed in a black suit and red headscarf before dignitaries at a ceremony in the commercial capital, Dar es Salaam.

In her first public address as president, the 61-year-old leader announced 21 days of mourning for Magufuli and public holidays on March 22 and on March 25, the day the late president will be buried.

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.

Read more: FG secures release of 60 Nigerian prisoners in Tanzania

“It’s not a good day for me to talk to you because I have a wound in my heart,” said Hassan. “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, after being sworn in at 10am local time (07:00 GMT) on Friday.

Hassan ascended to the presidency after President Magufuli’s death due to heart disease was announced by the government on Wednesday, more than two weeks after he was last seen in public.

Magufuli’s absence since February 27 had fuelled speculation about his health and sparked rumours he had contracted COVID-19, although officials had denied he was ill.

The constitution also states that after consultation with their party, the new president will propose a deputy, the choice to be confirmed by the votes of no fewer than 50 per cent of the National Assembly.

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