Dar es Salaam. The Global Steering Committee of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) said on Thursday that Kigoma-Ujiji municipality would continue embracing the OGP partnership despite Tanzania’s decision to pull-out of the initiative.
The government officially withdrew its OGP membership over three months ago, according to a letter submitted to the OGP Global Steering Committee, dated 29th June 2017 and signed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation, Dr Augustine Mahiga.
The move has thrown into doubt the government reforms that had been initiated by former President Jakaya Kikwete who championed the initiative since 2011. However, Dr Mahiga said the government has subscribed to other initiatives with similar objectives.
According to the OGP Global Steering Committee, the municipality of Kigoma-Ujiji, one of the fifteen sub-national pioneers of the OGP, would continue participating in the OGP despite the government decision to pull-out.
The Kigoma Ujiji Municipal Mayor, Mr Hussein Ruhavi, yesterday confirmed to The Citizen on Sunday that on September 22, his office received a letter from the OGP office in Washington informing the municipality of continued technical support in OGP activities even after the government’s withdrawal from the initiative.
Mr Ruhavi said one of the OGP’s 15-month plan is scheduled to be completed in December. He added that another plan meant to help Kigoma-Ujiji residents solve their development challenges was already on course and set to begin January in 2018.
“For now, it’s too early to state how we will work with the government. I will call a meeting with the financial committee of the municipality in order to discuss the way forward. OGP is very vital for our development in Kigoma-Ujiji,’’ said Mr Ruhavi who is also the ACT-Wazalendo councillor in Bangwe Ward.
The mayor explained that the municipality has the mandate, according to Article 146 of the Constitution, to run its affairs as a local government as long as it is fulfilling the development agenda.
The OGP Programme Coordinator in Kigoma, Mr Kalila Mchumi, told The Citizen on Sunday that he was awaiting an official letter from the government on how the OGP programme would be implemented.
“I can’t state that the government has withdrawn entirely from the OGP. We have been informed that activities will continue here in Kigoma-Ujiji,’’ he said in a telephone interview.
According to a letter to the government, the OGP Global Steering Committee said that Kigoma-Ujiji was an independent participant in the OGP.
“As part of the pilot programme, OGP will continue to provide technical support to the municipality and civil society partners to achieve local goals in terms of open government,’’ said the letter signed by Steering Committee Co-chairs.
About ten days ago, the Global Steering Committee of the OGP met during the UN General Assembly in New York to advance the global discourse and agenda on the OGP initiative.
Foreign affairs and East African Cooperation minister Dr Mahiga explained in a letter to the OGP that Tanzania enacted the Access to Information Act of 2016 which promotes access to information and disclosure about activities at every level of the government.
He said the government was already party to the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) which advocates similar objectives as those in the OGP.
“We believe that our membership to different initiatives with similar objectives will hinder our participation,’’ said Dr Mahiga in a letter bearing Ref No: CLB 128/244/01/82. However, he said Tanzania would continue assessing its membership with the OGP.
However, OGP co-chairs have expressed disappointment at Tanzania’s withdrawal from the initiative, according to the latter sent to the government of Tanzania on behalf of the Steering Committee on September 12, 2017.
“We are disappointed to lose such an active member of the partnership,’’ said the letter, but expressed hope that Tanzania’s decision would be reconsidered in future.
Since 2011 when Tanzania joined the OGP, it has been investing in the initiative with high hopes of making government business more open to its citizens.
It became the second African country after South Africa to have joined the partnership, out of 80 countries around the World that joined it.
Tanzania is among the Africa 8 countries that opted to join OGP at that time.
(Additional Reporting by Ibrahim Yamola)