6 January 2013

Tanzania: Participating in Constitution Review Exercise Encouraging

THE first phase exercise of collecting views from the people in the constitution review process has been completed with the chairman of the Constitution Review Commission (CRC), Judge Joseph Warioba hailing it as successful.

The people have also been hailed for exercising a sense of maturity by openly tackling on issues that concern public most. National sovereignty, accountability and good governance, powers and privileges of parliamentarians and their terms of office, agriculture, judiciary and national security were among areas of concern by those who attended and contributed their views.

We have witnessed how people have used the necessary means of communication, including the social media, to give their views on what they expected in their constitution. More than one million ordinary Tanzanians across the country gave their views in the exercise. President Jakaya Kikwete, when addressing the nation on December 31, 2011, after assenting the Bill into Law, promised Tanzanians that it was going to be a unique constitution because it would be very participatory. Everyone would have opportunity to contribute ideas; the objective is to have people's constitution. He was hailed both from within and outside the country as having demonstrated the highest degree of democracy by allowing people's participation in the drafting of the new constitution rather than having legal technocrats seating in some air conditioned offices and amend the old document purporting it to be for Tanzanians. We also learnt from Judge Warioba's meeting in Dar es Salaam yesterday that in several meetings held across the country the team noted incidents of some politicians who had been coaching their electorates what to ask or pressurise from the Constitution Review Commission (CRC) team. It had been realized, from news reaching our newsrooms that some element for political parties' biases, religious fanaticism, regional and tribal inclinations were noted. There are some clauses in the current document that must be retained in the new document. For example, issues such as building a society founded on the principles of freedom, justice, fraternity and concord are too important to be left out. It is a known fact that a national constitution should rise above political parties' politics, religious preferences or regional and tribal lines if we wish this country well. Any individual or groups of people trading along such sentiments should be treated cautiously because they do not wish this country well. We should never allow anything that is bent on diverting us from the principles that unites us as Tanzanians and peace loving people. We should not allow few people to destruct our peace that has been enjoyed from time in memorial under the pretext of freedom of expression. People should bear in mind that freedom goes hand-in-hand with responsibility, thus, we should not sow seeds that will make us regret in future. Therefore, as the Constitutional Review Commission team embarks on the next stage of views collection exercise, the groups that will be required to give views must do it with sober minds. We want a constitution that is inclusive enough and that will take this country to a higher level of social, political and economic development.

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