Will Kikwete’s intervention save Tanzania’s constitution talks? 

Kikwete+PIX

President Jakaya Kikwete has been accused of no longer being a referee but an active player for one of the competing teams. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete was scheduled to meet members of the Tanzania Centre for Democracy (TCD) this weekend to discuss the fate of the Constituent Assembly (CA), in a move that analysts say is unlikely to heal the rift between two opposing sides in the constitution review.

TCD comprises the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) together with some opposition parties. But another coalition of opposition parties dubbed Ukawa has boycotted the CA sittings since April this year, citing violation of the law governing its activities.

While CCM insists that the Constituent Assembly should go on without the opposition, analysts say the President’s intervention is unlikely to unlock the stalemate.

The chairman of NCCR-Mageuzi, a member of Ukawa, told The EastAfrican newspaper that reconciliation is key to the progress of the review.

The CA recently accepted fresh opinions from some groups such as pastoralists, religious groups and artistes, a move that chairman Samuel Sitta defended by saying the assembly is gathering views from people it had not heard yet.

Deus Kibamba, the chairman of the Constitution Forum, a lobby, said the president was unlikely to save the constitution-making process because “he has lost his referee’s status and worn the jersey of one of the competing teams.”

A proposal by the opposition to postpone the review until after the 2015 elections has received support from a cross section of experts who say the available time is inadequate.

“The time between now and the next elections is too short, with too many issues to discuss. Tanzanian people must now agree to make minimal amendments for the sake of improving the electoral system because it is not going to be easy for the government to deliver a constitution in the remaining time,” said Kenyan lawyer Prof Patrick Lumumba, who served as a consultant in the exercise.

He said Tanzania’s draft is more issue-oriented than Kenya’s in 2010 in which, he said, regional and personal interests took centre stage.

“Tanzanians may have problems like any other country, but they debate more issues than any other country in the region,” he said.

Union with Zanzibar

Among the key issues under review is the state of the Union and the fundamental question of whether the country needs the Union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar that was crafted in 1964.

Others are the land tenure system, and what structures of governance will help the two regions maximise economic and political benefits.

While advocating the postponement of the process until after the elections, Mr Kibamba said there are too many things to be done in a short time, such as registration and issuance of national identity documents and registration of voters.

Observers say the process is doomed to fail because of the involvement of too many politicians in the Assembly.

“Unlike Uganda, Tanzania incorporated politicians in the CA and they are going to wreck it,” said Mr Kibamba.

Dr Hellen Kijo-Bisimba, executive director of the country’s human rights watchdog, Legal and Human Rights Centre, said in an interview that inclusion of politicians in the Constituent Assembly was a grave mistake because “this is the lot whose priority is power, they would want the constitution to help them head to State House or the legislative assembly.”

Mr Kibamba said a draft constitution that proposes public servants should not own bank accounts abroad, legislators should not be ministers, and a limitation of term as Members of Parliament is not something such politicians would favour.

Source: Africa Review

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