In defence of Tulia’s bid for IPU’s presidency

Speaker of the National Assembly of Tanzania. Dr Tulia speaks in the Parliament. PHOTO | COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • Closed systems tend to either fast-track or slow-track processes, including plans for leadership changes or placements

On May 17, 2023, an article entitled Why I think Tulia is unsuitable to lead IPU was published in this newspaper. Andrew Bomani, acting publicity secretary of the opposition United Democratic Party (UDP), penned it.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) is a cherished 134-year-old global organisation of 179-strong member parliaments, based in Geneva.

It works to empower parliaments and parliamentarians to rejuvenate peace, democracy, sustainable development, balance, and diversified assemblies.

Importantly, it defends the human rights of parliamentarians. Essentially, referenced content demonstrates freedom of expression at optimal swing, reflecting rare editorial independence and maturity. Cheers, Citizen! So arresting was it that it was widely catalogued on social media.

Its theme was prominent, as was the personality surrounding it. Besides, the Foreign Ministry had raised the stakes by announcing National Assembly (NA) Speaker, Dr Tulia Ackson (46), as a contestant. Nevertheless, this opinion isn’t bashing over the author’s propositions; instead, it imbues them with an objective context, with flavour and colour.

First, it alleges that Dr Tulia Ackson was ‘fast-tracked’ to becoming the Deputy Speaker and shortly thereafter, the NA Speaker.

All political parties debatably epitomise closed-system organisations. Each commands in-house policies and procedures, which are in turn observed to drive internal operations and external interactions too.

Closed systems tend to either fast-track or slow-track processes, including plans for leadership changes or placements, all of which are contingent on internal policies and politics.

This partly explains the prolonged delays of internal elections across Tanzania’s political divides, or cases where top leadership remained unchanged for decades! So, in CCM’s closed system too, it’s incorrect to assume that Dr Tulia’s ascendancy dodged the intra-party vetting standards of meritocracy.

Hence, it’s absolutely absurd to campaign against her IPU’s presidential aspiration on the basis of her being ‘fast-tracked’ to the Speakership. And the past provides much precedent. In 1964, former Secretary-General of the OAU (1989-2001), Dr Salim Ahmed Salim, was ‘fast-tracked’ to become Afro-Tanzania’s ‘youngest’ Ambassador to Egypt at 22 years old. Meanwhile, the international diplomatic space seemingly fazed upon seeing Dr Tulia’s election bid being opposed from home! It exposes Tanzania’s maddening inter-party ‘baseless’ rivalry.

Indisputably, in 2007, the University of Cape Town established that her PhD thesis ‘originated’ from her intellectual labour.

 Besides, Dr Tulia’s professional ‘originality’ is testified to in publications and talks on labour law topics.

Pointing rubbish at those achievements amounts to character assassination.

At the University of Dar es Salaam’s School of Law, she demonstrated a distinguished teaching and academic leadership career. That ‘original’ career integrity won the hearts and minds of the watchful higher authorities.

So, in 2014, retired President Kikwete appointed her to the Constituent Assembly of Tanzania, representing higher learning institutions.

Shortly after, in 2015, she was appointed Deputy Attorney General. The rest of Dr Tulia’s career path is history. Another ‘funny’ proposition suggests that Dr Tulia vies for the IPU post as a strategic move to contest Tanzania’s presidential post. One is limited to commenting because Dr Tulia wasn’t afforded the right to reply on such a significant allegation.  So, hearsay. But as surreal as it might seem, would it be sinful for one to strategize to achieve one’s own career goals?

On shuffling over facts, efforts to demobilise IPU’s potential votes against Dr Tulia’s credentials are probably motivated by domestic power and control gimmicks, selfishness and greed, or a desire to become ‘useful idiots’ for foreign candidates. Apparently, closed systems behave and act differently from individuals. Without details, the author suggests South African NA Speaker Mapisa-Nqakula (66) is more suitable. Today, in South Africa, it’s until pigs fly that the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party would see eye to eye on this proposition. The EFF reportedly nurtures conflict with the Speaker for kicking its members out of the Chamber on February 9, 2023, for gross misconduct. Aggrieved, EFF filed a complaint to the IPU’s Human Rights Committee of Parliamentarians, alleging the Speaker had treated them improperly.

Impartial, rule-driven IPU resolved EFF’s beefs were inadmissible. Finally, gender optics aside, age weighs heavily in 2023’s IPU elections too.

IPU embraces greater youth representation in parliaments, arguably including its own hierarchy.

In her bidding pack of priorities, the relatively younger Dr Tulia is committed to introducing constructive reforms, aiming to make the IPU robustly responsive to contemporary challenges.

They include gender equity, youth representation in parliaments, and strengthening the position of geopolitical groups.  She is badly needed to put Africa and Tanzania on the map.