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Constitutional reforms ready for public debate

It is imperative to commend them for their bold decisions on various matters including the decision to review the existing Constitution. The government has made one of the most difficult decisions to demystify the underlying issues that are now debated openly in public.

It is no longer taboo to discuss what is expected from the Commission for Constitutional Review which was installed recently. When many people speak their minds regarding the new constitution in the streets, restaurants, bus terminals, markets and other public places, people who are not objective feel jealous that someone is taking the credit on this development.

We know about nations that have experienced critical instability with embarrassing repercussions in public. Tanzanians have never experienced this scale of instability and have thus developed a sense of responsibility. They hold their leaders in high esteem. Many people have praised the nation’s leaders for the prevailing peace and harmony, which has been in place for the past 50 years.

The peace and tranquility, which prevail in the country, have been built on the principals of humanity, freedom, equal rights, unity and patriotism When some political analyst, including prominent politicians, dared to make malicious statements in public, spreading rumours that no one in the Forth Phase Government will be bold enough to initiate a debate on the Constitution they were proved wrong.

What these people hype is something that most upright leaders ignore. Ordinary people do understand now how eager the leaders are in connection with engaging the public on issues of national interest, including the need to review the Constitution. One political analyst, who is a staunch proponent of party politics, described President Jakaya Kikwete as a political firebrand who is ready to reach out to the Opposition and work with them.

When addressing elders in Dar es Salaam recently the president said that the Constitution Review Commission would draw skillful members from different sources including political parties who together with legislators from Zanzibar, the National Assembly and 300 other members would form the constitution assembly.

Initially the government moved to Parliament the Constitutional Review Bill 2011 which was passed to formalize the process of setting up the committee without infringing the existing Constitution which is the supreme law. “A constitutional review does
not mean introducing a brand new document. This is not suspension of the constitution.

We need to stand together on issues of national interest for the country to cherish peace, stability and unity,” President Kikwete said. He said he did not mind if someone held a different opinion regarding his presidency since everyone is entitled to his or her
opinion. This remark from the president impressed many political analysts.

The political legacy on freedom of expression and democracy that President Kikwete will leave behind upon completion of his term of office will remain to be a challenge to his successors, one analyst says. When addressing the nation after appointing the Constitution Commission, the president stated that he would do anything at his disposal to ensure that those appointed will collect people’s views freely.

He would assure them state protection. Some people will never appreciate anything, because their minds are biased. Even if there was a fair selection of members of the Constitution Review Commission it will always appear to them with prejudice, the president told the nation.

However, the country’s constitution is not just a piece of paper. It is a document which contains the do’s and don’ts that the nation has to respect and uphold. If you look at the composition of the constitution commission one can always appreciate the level of professionalism, accomplishments and dignity of those appointed.

Some members of the commission are people who have acquired a range of experiences, qualifications and moral authority which makes them command respect. These people’s credibility has come a long way. It is through their patience, perseverance and hard work that they have been able to stand out from the crowd.

Based on this philosophical background the public has to consider that the nation is privileged to be able to deploy such personalities of high integrity to consult the nation on the future of the constitution. The members of the Constitutional Review Commission, which will soon start collecting the views of the wananchi on what should be included in the document.

The president appointed former Prime Minister Joseph Sinde Warioba to lead the commission as chairman and former Chief Justice Augustino Ramadhan as vice-chairman. Justice Joseph Warioba, has already called upon political parties to promote tolerance among their members and other Tanzanians, if the country is to achieve a smooth transition in the process of writing the new Constitution.

“I am not supporting the view that politicians have no role to play in the process. My view is that politicians should play a role by telling their supporters to make constructive contributions in the ongoing debates as the future of this country lies in their hands,” he said. “The recommendation that the Bill should be translated into Kiswahili language is equally important but it should also go an extra mile to rewrite some of the sections which hinder the public from discussing issues of national interest,” he said.

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