How Samia’s political will has led to hope for new constitution

President Samia Suluhu Hassan presides at a meeting of senior government officials, which discussed plans to revive the stalled constitution review process. The meeting took place at Chamwino State House in Dodoma on Saturday. PHOTO | STATE HOUSE

What you need to know:

  • The constitution review process stalled in 2014 and seemed dead and buried in 2016, but all indications are that it will be revived soon

Dar es Salaam. President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s efforts to revive the stalled constitution review process points to political will in the highest office in the country as far as key developments are concerned.

The constitution writing process was initiated by Tanzania’s fourth President, Mr Jakaya Kikwete, but stalled in 2014.

However, hopes faded further following the election in 2015 of the late John Magufuli, who stated categorically that a new constitution was not among his priorities.

However, stakeholders including political parties and civil society organisations have been pressing for the revival of the process, citing costs incurred so far and the public interest.

Last year, President Hassan appointed a task force to review the political situation in the country and the team, among other recommendations, proposed the revival of the constitution writing process after the 2025 General Election.

The CCM Central Committee in its June 22, 2022 meeting directed the government to look into ways of reviving the process.

The Ministry of Constitutional and Legal Affairs said last month that Sh9 billion would be set aside for the endeavour in the 2023/24 financial year.

On Saturday, President Hassan convened a meeting of senior government officials at Chamwino State House in Dodoma to discuss the process’ revival and amendment of election-related laws, including the National Electoral Commission (NEC) and Political Parties (PPs) acts.

Those who attended the meeting include Registrar of Political Parties Francis Mutungi and Constitutional and Legal Affairs minister Damas Ndumbaro, according to director of presidential communications Zuhura Yunus.

Others are Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office (Policy, Parliamentary Affairs, Labour, Employment, Youth and People with Disabilities) Jenista Mhagama and several heads of government institutions.

Looking at the document’s history, political will is of paramount importance for the realisation of different processes at the government sphere.

ACT-Wazalendo secretary general Ado Shaibu told The Citizen that President Hassan has shown high level of political will, noting that despite inheriting the country whose democracy was at the cross, she has pushed for the new political chapter.

He said political will is associated with several challenges, hinting that not all decisions would be accepted by all members in the ruling party (CCM), the government and the society.

“It requires a strong and courageous leader who can move on regardless of what conservatives in the party, government and the society say,” he said, adding that President Hassan has that strength.

Chadema deputy secretary-general (Mainland) Benson Kigaila said by revitalising the constitution writing process, the government will be fulfilling responsibilities it denied in 1989 or before introduction of pluralism in 1992.

“Political will is a very important thing, but it is the responsibility of all stakeholders; the government, political parties and non-governmental organisations.

“Political will is required for things to move on. Political will that involves one person alone shouldn't be commended. Chadema has been pushing for this agenda for many years, therefore it deserves strong recognition,” Mr Kihaila added.

Civic United Front (CUF) deputy secretary-general Magdalena Sakaya said President Hassan has demonstrated political will especially following strong stakeholders involvement in the strengthening of democracy.

“She wants to see the task force recommendations are implemented and unify the country,” she said.

Ms Sakaya commended the Sh9 billion allocation in the 2023/24 budget, saying it provides hope that some issues they have been fighting are now on the pipeline.

A political science lecturer from the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), Dr Richard Mbunda, said political will plays an important role in execution of political processes.

He said the new constitution writing cannot be a neutral process because changes could positively and negatively affect both the ruling party and opposition parties.

“The present constitution gives more powers to the President, therefore the Head of State’s decision can determine whether certain processes should continue or not.

“We have seen this during the era of President Kikwete, who commenced the process, the late JPM (President John Pombe Magufuli), who stalled the process, and now President Samia who is reviving it,” Dr Mbunda said.

He added that President Hassan has demonstrated the will to listen to the new constitution stakeholders, despite the task force proposals that the process should re-start after General Election 2025.

Dr Paul Loisulie of the University of Dodoma (Udom) echoed Dr Mbunda’s view, saying political will is key to successful implementation of government plans.

He said that political will gives leaders the push to prioritise issues, despite those issues being absent in plans of their respective political parties.

"Many issues have stalled due to leaders’ lack of political will which is instrumental in the realisation of issues,” Dr Loisulie said.

For his part, Open University of Tanzania (OUT) lecturer Revocatus Kabobe said every stakeholder was ready for the new constitution process with exception to the government.

“What President Samia has done was to give the signal that things are now ready. However, politicians’ readiness is not enough, other stakeholders should be involved,” he said.

 CCM CC member Leila Ngozi said it was evident that the government is now going to implement the task force’s recommendations on political challenges.

“There are things that have been listed that even we within CCM believe that once they are addressed, the country will have better politics and democracy,” she told The Citizen’s stablemate Mwananchi.