Rush to salvage Tanzania's constitution review as deadline draws close

Saturday May 17 2014

Tanzania Constitution Council picks Kenyan lawyer PLO Lumumba to lead talks, warring parties at CA reach out to each other to resolve contentious issues. TEA Graphic/FILE

Efforts are under way to salvage the constitution review in Tanzania weeks after the proceedings of the Constituent Assembly were thrown in disarray following a walkout by members aligned to Ukawa, a group of opposition politicians.

Jukwaa la Katiba Tanzania (Jukata) — the Tanzania Constitution Council — has engaged renowned Kenyan law scholar and politician Patrick Loch Otiendo Lumumba, popularly known as PLO, to reconcile the parties while the Tanzania Centre for Democracy (TCD) has been holding closed-door meetings.

Prof Lumumba is expected in Tanzania on May 22.

TGNP Network, an umbrella of several civil society and non-governmental organisations that was previously known as the Tanzania Gender Networking Programme (TGNP), is also exerting pressure on authorities to rescue the process.

President Jakaya Kikwete gave the CA an additional 60 days from August 5 to conclude debate on the Second Draft Constitution and come up with a third and final version that will be subjected to a referendum.

The CA met for 70 days from February 18 but only managed to make regulations and start debate on two chapters of the draft, which were not finalised because of the Ukawa walkout.


READ: Fiasco in Dodoma a fresh threat to review process

The meeting lacked the quorum to make binding decisions.

According to the Constitution Review Act, two-thirds of CA members from Tanzania Mainland and a similar number from Zanzibar are needed to pass the debated provisions of the draft.

Ukawa walked out over a misunderstanding on the structure of the Union. While the Constitution Review Commission proposed a departure from the two-tier government to a three-government structure, the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) wants the status quo retained.

UNDP weighs in

Jukata chairman Deus Kibamba told The EastAfrican that Prof Lumumba will be in the country for three days.

Said Mr Kibamba: “In fact, he has started to go through the literature in a bid to gather background information to help him understand the situation before he embarks on the work.”

He said Prof Lumumba will be assisted by two Tanzanians, with Jukata providing the secretariat for the team.

Late last week, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) threw its weight behind the initiative, with its administrator Helen Clark urging Ukawa to return to the CA when it resumes in August.

“Given the agreed process that is in place, everybody is supposed to air their views,” Ms Clark said.

Ukawa has, in principle, agreed to get involved in rescuing the process but its secretary, Julius Mtatiro, told The EastAfrican that no one has formally contacted them.

Ukawa, which brings together three opposition parties — Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema), Civic United Front (CUF) and NCCR-Mageuzi — has shown no signs of returning to the CA.

Instead, Ukawa has been taking steps to distance itself farther from the process. For instance, it has embarked on a tour of the country “to sensitise the people to support” its cause. Last week, it formed three teams that will hold rallies in Central, North and Southern Highlands zones.

READ: Party interests stand in the way of progress

But Mr Mtatiro said that did not mean Ukawa had closed the door on talks.

“We are open to talks, but the talks should be well intentioned,” he said. “We know that in such a situation, negotiation is the best way out, so we cannot refuse to talk.”
CCM ideology and publicity secretary Nape Nnauye however said the ruling party would not negotiate with Ukawa “because we have no problem with either the constitution making process nor Ukawa.”

Mr Nnauye told The EastAfrican that it was Ukawa which walked out of the CA and it is they who should be made to return to the process.

“CCM stands by its position that we are not ready to talk with Ukawa because we have not seen anything wrong with the ongoing process.”

He insisted: It is Ukawa who walked out of the process and it is they who should be made to return.”