22 March 2014

Tanzania: President Wins Katiba Assembly's Standing Ovation

Photo: Lauren Everitt/AllAfrica
Tanzanian President lauded for his speech on the draft constitution (file photo).

Dodoma — HISTORY was made on Friday as President Jakaya Kikwete inaugurated the Constituent Assembly (CA) and challenged its members to live up to the public's expectations by ensuring a smooth constitution re-writing process.

Since the Chairman of the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) Judge Joseph Warioba addressed the Assembly here on Tuesday, to some members, the mood in the Parliament building was as if a new constitution that embraces the three-tier government had officially been adopted.

Supporters of the three governments seemed happy, whether in Parliament or in some drinking joints in this municipality.

Friday evening, the Parliament debating chamber was packed to capacity, few minutes before President Jakaya Kikwete addressed the Assembly.

All the Assembly members looked curious, trying to figure out what the president was going to say, especially with regard to the union structure, especially the three-tier government system comprehensively elaborated in the Draft.

Generally, calmness reigned from all corners in the House and the leader who was applauded more than others when he entered the Debating Chamber was none other than retired President Ali Hassan Mwinyi.

President Kikwete's speech took more than two hours, as his audience that included Zanzibar's President, Dr Ali Mohamed Shein, his predecessor Amani abeid Karume, Vice-President, Dr Mohamed Gharib Bilal, Zanzibar's First Vice-President, Seif Shariff Hamad, Chief Justice Mohamed Chande Othman and his Zanzibar counterpart Omar Makungu.

President Kikwete was eloquent and straightforward as he was driving home his points. His style to include clichés and jokes made the members to applaud him as they were touched now and then.

His decision to use Reverend Christopher Mtikila's moto 'Saa ya ukombozi ni sasa' (loosely translated as 'time for liberation is now') made the members laugh, though Rev Mtikila wore an impassive face all the time that the president was speaking.

What was rather encouraging even after the president's speech, is that all members gave him a standing ovation, a sign that they were touched by his speech.

The only person who remained seated was Reverend Mtikila, who decided to sit down presumably because President Kikwete did not support his stand on the idea of breaking the union structure. The bottom line is that the president's speech has given new direction to what the new Katiba should look like.

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