Tanzania Needs Judicial Reforms to Uphold Rule of Law

Tanganyika Law Society's new president spoke with Christopher Kidanka on governance in Tanzania.

TLS is apolitical. We are a professional body working to defend the rule of law and ensure that the judiciary functions independently and that the separation of powers between the pillars of government is clear-cut.

Where do we draw the line between defending the rule of law and politics?

One is considered to be engaging in politics if he or she seeks to take the reins of power.

It is our duty as the legal profession to defend the rule of law just like every citizen, without being considered political.

We want to see parliament work independently, be respected and pass laws without pressure while exercising its oversight role.

According to Article 63 of the Constitution parliament must not seem to be dictated to.

How would you describe the state of governance in Tanzania?

It is challenging. We see a country being ruled through proclamations; arrests without evidence with some suspects languishing in remand for years; others are charged with say money laundering which is non-bailable, and investigations continue for years.... There is a need for criminal justice reforms.

But it is also encouraging that the Ministry of Constitutional and Legal Affairs has begun to crack the whip on district commissioners who detain people arbitrarily.

Tanzania appears cautious about signing regional treaties such as the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance and the African Continental Free Trade Area. What is your take on this?

Arusha hosts the African Union Court of Justice, and it is unfortunate that our country has not made relevant local legislations to domesticate the treaty.

One can even raise questions on why Tanzania should then continue hosting that court? We also need to operationalise the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights.

In your one-year tenure as president of TLS, what should Tanzanians expect?

I will advise the government on law and good governance. I will also ensure lawyers work free from intimidation and harassment.

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