Dar es Salaam. Top legal minds gathered yesterday to commemorate 16 years since the death of Tanzania’s longest serving Chief Justice Francis Nyalali, and called on the country to reassess its direction in promoting the rule of law.
Participants, former judges, senior law lecturers and intellectuals, described Mr Nyalali as one of the most disciplined and principled public servants whose contribution to the building of the nation deserved to be honoured at the national level.
Nyalali was appointed Chief Justice in 1977 at the age of 42 and served the key arm of the state until 2000 when he resigned.
Throughout his service he was held in high esteem and he is credited for safeguarding the independence of the judiciary at a time it was almost difficult to do it.
“It is not enough to just celebrate his life, but rather look for a way of carrying forward his dream so that he can continue to live among us,” said Prof Issa Shivji, the chairman of Nyerere Resource Centre.
He proposed the starting of Nyalali Annual Lectures on the rule of law to debate the concept of “Rule of Law,” which the late CJ demonstrably stood for.
“Rule of law is a broad concept than the law. It is meaningless to have a rule of law with bad laws,” said Prof Shivji, citing the newly enacted Statistics Act as one of the bad laws that curtailed promotion of the rule of law.
“That’s why I say it is very important to consider the rule of law before the law. By the way, it is the people who rule and not the law,” he said.
Senior law lecturer Chris Peter Maina said Nyalali did a great job of protecting the independence of the Judiciary during the one-party era when it was practically nearly impossible.
“He stood firm to protect the judiciary under the one-party system; it was not an any easy task that time. This is yet another example of how he was prepared to protect the judiciary,” he said.
Former Prime Minister and chairman of the disbanded Constitutional Review Commission, Joseph Warioba said he remembered Nyalali as one of the people who demonstrated a high level of leadership.
Nyalali is credited for spearheading great reforms in the judiciary, including the establishment of the Court of Appeal and setting up administrative system in the judiciary.
“He was simple, hardworking and humble, yet patriotic. He is the only person, besides Mwalimu (Julius Nyerere), who has led a state pillar consecutively for 23 years. There is no doubt that was a high level of leadership with incomparable capabilities,” said Justice Warioba.
The ceremony was organised by the Centre for Strategic Litigation and brought together top legal minds in the country.
Others in attendance included former chairman of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) Judge Damian Lubuva, Justice Steven Bwana and Tanganyika Law Society (TLS) president FatmaKarume.
Others were senior law don Chris Peter Maina, former chairman of the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRGG) Tom BahameNyanduga, retired Court of Appeal Judge, John Mrosso and justice John Mgeta.