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An eye on elections, President Hassan sidelines a challenger

Job Ndugai ousted as parliamentary speaker after he criticised government's debt strategy as threatening sovereignty

President Samia Suluhu Hassan is shoring up her position in an early bid to win the ruling party's nomination in the 2025 elections. Last month she ensured the departure of long-time parliamentary speaker Job Ndugai. He was replaced by Tulia Ackson, a close ally of President Hassan.

The National Assembly voted unanimously in the new speaker. Ackson, a lawyer and Ndugai's deputy, was a shoo–in once she was nominated by the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party.

Ndugai resigned on 6 January after he criticised the government's plans to increase borrowing, warning that 'the country risks being auctioned'. Although he retracted the comments, the President rejected his apology. Then, concerted pressure from the CCM forced his hand.

In her first 10 months in office, President Hassan's government has secured about US$3 billion in new loans, the latest a $567 million loan from the IMF, all of which will increase debt-service payments which account for almost a third of government spending.

Having served more than six years in the speaker's chair, Ndugai was widely believed to harbour presidential ambitions (AC Vol 62 No 6, After Magufuli, a difficult transition). His sacking, together with a reshuffle last month, the second in four months, is another signal that President Hassan is preparing the ground to secure an uncontested nomination as the CCM's presidential candidate ahead of the 2025 elections (AC Dispatches, 15/09/21, President appoints the country's first woman defence minister in mini-reshuffle).

A source close to President Hassan said that she is eager to win her own electoral mandate. She inherited office as Vice-President after John Magufuli died last year. Last month she threatened to purge 'rebel ministers' who were planning to challenge her for the CCM presidential ticket in 2025.

In the reshuffle, President Hassan left the ministries of finance, defence, energy, tourism and foreign affairs unchanged, while appointing to ministerial posts several key supporters of former President Jakaya Kikwete, including Nape Nnauye and Ridhiwani Kikwete, his son (AC Vol 62 No 7, Life after the bulldozer).

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