Dodoma. They weren’t in the august House; there wasn’t anyone there to speak on their behalf, but they remained the main agenda of the day in the Constituent Assembly (CA) yesterday.
They are the Coalition of Defenders of the People’s Constitution, popularly known in their Kiswahili acronym, Ukawa, who, led by CUF’s Prof Ibrahim Lipumba, packed their bags and abandoned the CA last week, charging that the Assembly was dividing the country.
As the CA reopened after the Easter break, Ukawa members who comprise a considerable segment of the meeting, kept their promise of staying away.
The question on whether they would return or not placed in a quandary CA Chair Samuel Sitta who had to travel to Zanzibar over the Easter break in a frantic bid to find a solution.
Mr Sitta did not reveal the kind of solution he had in mind, but he was said to have reached out to the leaders of CUF, which comprises the majority in the Ukawa.
Asked by The Citizen about his trip to Zanzibar where he held talks with President Ali Mohammed Shein and the First Vice President Seif Shariff Hamad, he said he held talks with government leaders, not Ukawa.
He didn’t expound the outcome of his engagement even as leading voices in Ukawa claimed on Monday they hadn’t been approached by anyone for a solution to the embarrassing stalemate.
With only a day to prologue to CA on Friday, it is unlikely the Assembly will see a full House before the meeting resumes in August.
This situation did not prevent the remaining MCAs from the ruling CCM and some of the 201 presidential nominees from continuing with the debate on Chapters One and Six of the Second Draft Constitution that has sharply divided the House.
The remaining MCAs were divided into two – the majority hardliners who continued to taunt Ukawa for “chickening out” and the neutrals who called for reconciliation and the return of their colleagues.
One MCA, Mr Amos Makala, who is also the deputy minister for Water, said Ukawa shouldn’t be referred to as Coalition of the Defenders of the People’s Constitution, but rather, as the Coalition of the Defenders of the Few People’s Constitution.
“Those who have walked out of this chamber have no strong arguments, and those who can defend their arguments have remained. The peace that we’re now enjoying here confirms one thing: the naughty ones have left,” he said.
MCA Paul Makonda said Ukawa were propagating lies “whose founder is the devil, which makes the group’s members Satan’s children.”
He declined to retract his statement when he was asked to do so, saying he would never apologise for saying what he claimed was the truth.
Mr Almas Maige, an MCA from the 201 Group and representing the Association of Tanzania Employers (ATE), said by questioning the validity of signatures in the Articles of Union, the Ukawa MCAs were masquerading as forensic experts.
“They have no argument, that’s why they walked out,” he stressed.
Some MCAs from Zanzibar have clearly shown they are unhappy with Ukawa pitching camp in the Isles, claiming the grouping was only jeopardising peace there.
“We are tired of political violence in Zanzibar… Why doesn’t Prof Lipumba take Ukawa to his Tabora homestead or to Tundu Lissu’s Singida?” Ms Maua Daftari queried.
Mr Hamis Dambaya (Appointed MCA, Farmers Mainland) stood out as one of the few MCAs who were calling for reconciliation.
A better Constitution would be written on the basis of a consensus, which meant that those who walked out should return and participate in the debates, he argued, adding:
“Besides the debating chamber, there is no other place for writing the new constitution; we, the MCAs, and the chair in particular, are duty-bound to apply our experience to ensure we convince our colleagues to return at all cost.”
Sheikh Thabit Jongo (Appointed – Religious Institutions Zanzibar) called on Ukawa to return for them to defend their three-tier Union model and lodge their complaints.
“They are the ones defending the federal state in here; they should come back and keep on persuading others,” he said