Why I think Tulia is unsuitable to lead IPU

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

The news came through late last week that the government of Tanzania is supporting the candidature of our speaker of parliament, Dr Tulia Ackson, to lead the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) for a few years. It is a body composed of most parliaments and, no doubt, very prestigious. It is reportedly now the turn of Africa, and the gender card is in consideration.

As much as it would be a wonderful thing to see a Tanzanian occupy that post, I'm sorry to say that our speaker is most unsuitable as far as I'm concerned. Dr Tulia is the sad epitome of all that has gravely gone wrong in Tanzania over the years.

The foreign minister, Dr Stergomena Tax, in making an appeal to the international community to rally behind Tanzania, tried to project a romantic image of an era long gone and buried with Julius Nyerere.

The Tanzania we have evolved into is one where Dr Tulia's predecessor, Job Ndugai, could physically attack a fellow parliamentary candidate without any form of questioning from his party or the government. Instead, he was rewarded with the speakership.

It is the case that virtually everything in the political affairs of Tanzania with a bearing on the direction of travel is handled in the dark. This darkness speaks to how Tulia found herself nominated to the National Assembly in 2015 and made deputy speaker by fast-tracking in the most inscrutable fashion.

And one very noticeable aspect of her job was the level of security that accompanied her. I only ask myself what it will be like on the roads if she becomes the IPU president.

As 2020 beckoned, it became imperative that Dr Tulia seek a parliamentary seat. Given the unashamed machinations of the Magufuli regime, it was a walk in the park.

The ramifications of the manner in which Tanzania has been whimsically run have been to reduce our parliament to an arm of the executive. Today, Tanzania dares put forward a name to lead the IPU.

 Surely? On what grounds if it is not an individual seeking to bolster her inglorious political standing?

It wouldn't be stretching it one bit to find that Dr Tulia has her eye on the presidency of the country, and the IPU is being viewed as a feather in her cap. I'm reminded here of a Tanzanian lady who became the first president of the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) and soon after developed the idea that her star could shine more brightly. I’m afraid it only dimmed after.

It was with thorough bemusement that I read in The Citizen, Dr Tax describing Dr Tulia as "a distinguished politician, a remarkable lawyer, and an accomplished academician who has demonstrated maturity, professionalism, dynamism, and outstanding leadership skills throughout her career."

Judging by her years in academia at the University of Dar es Salaam, I have yet to come across any original thoughts expressed by her. There is absolutely nothing worth noting about Tanzania or Africa from her perspective. And I’m not even here to go close to matters of the constitution that go beyond the intellectual capacity of many of the political class in Tanzania. I’m speaking about the manifold legal challenges that someone of her academic background ought to have something of interest to say publicly.

One serious dimension of Dr Tulia’s speakership that I wish to inform the readers of is the likelihood of her facing turbulent political waters in the Mbeya Urban constituency come 2025. The lady is also already advocating for the split of the constituency for population reasons, but it only stirs up images of someone running scared.

This whole scenario would augur terribly for IPU. Let other female presiding officers on the continent of decent standing come forward. I can easily think of the South African one as suitable.

On a final note, in examining Dr Tulia, I thought it worth revisiting an article I wrote on the 9th of February, 2022, headlined, "Is our parliament fit for purpose"?

This followed the elevation of Tulia to presiding officer.

"In spite of all the mad rush, CCM, after many twists and turns shrouded in mystery, eventually settled on a candidate in the name of Dr Tulia Ackson Mwansasu, a ‘headmistress-like’ young lady who was previously deputising Ndugai...

"The depressing sight continued just after Madam Tulia had made her pitch. Some singing broke out but was nipped in the bud for obviously embarrassing reasons. Moments before, a candidate was showered with money for his presentation. All beneath the dignity of the hallowed chamber.

"To cap off the day's events, even a member of the so-called Covid-19 women MPs from Chadema had the temerity to ask an opposition candidate a question...

"And when it did come down to the declaration of the victor, the CCM candidate won every vote, including from whatever minuscule opposition there is in the House. Not even a protest vote!

"That is our 21st century Bunge"!

Tanzania mustn’t be the site for the export of cruel jokes to the rest of the world, for crying out loud! Democracy is the name of the game, we are told. The IPU deserves much better from Africa!