Tanzania: Constitution Forum Received Well After Sensitisation

Prof. Abdul Sheriff, Chairman of Baraza la Katiba, Zanzibar

Prof. Abdul Sheriff, Chairman of Baraza la Katiba, Zanzibar

Zanzibar — AFTER months of heated debate during the first phase of the proposed new Union Constitution, Zanzibar is relatively calm, after the second phase of kicked off last Friday.

Thanks to the Zanzibar Constitution Council- Baraza la Katiba Zanzibar (BAKAZA) for engineering the changes. BAKAZA is little known to many but its contribution in ‘new union constitution process’ is laudable. Tempers and emotions that flared during the first phase of the process have cooled.

Arguably members of Constitution Review Commission (CRC) had challenges in collecting views in Zanzibar, where the divided political leaders and some Muslim leaders divided people. It was very clear that leaders and followers of the rival political parties, CCM and CUF were divided, mainly over how Zanzibar should feature in the constitution. Sometimes the division threatened stability and created hatred.

The biggest issue in Zanzibar is the structure of the Union. Leaders and fans from CCM remain bold to defend the current two governments as the best structure for Tanzanians, while CUF fans and leaders say the current structure is outdated suggesting for Zanzibar’s full autonomy and the re-introduction of the independent Tanganyika government.

The row between CCM and CUF joined by some members from the Islamic propagation groups probably prompted BAKAZA to look for funds and start educating people on the best way to discuss the constitution with maximum tolerance to others.

With support from the ‘Open Society Initiative for East Africa (OSIEA), BAKAZA started to run awareness programmes in the urban and rural areas, helping people understand how to argue wisely and great tolerance. BAKAZA is formed by Zanzibar Law Society (ZLS), Zanzibar Female Lawyers Association (ZAFELA), Waandishi wa Habari za Maendeleo Zanzibar (WAHAMAZA), Zanzibar Youth Forum (ZYF), Umoja wa Watu-wenye-ulemavu Zanzibar (UWZ), Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA) – Zanzibar, and Pemba Press Club (PPC).

BAKAZA led by retired Prof of the University of Dar es Salaam Abdul Sheriff, organised a number of forums where people get a chance of discussing the union constitution. BAKAZA published two small books: a 37 page summary of the 131 page draft constitution and a book entitled ‘Katiba Tuitakayo- Katiba Mpya na Suala la Muungano’ containing what most Zanzibaris would like to see in the union constitution

BAKAZA’s ongoing intervention has become important in the islands as many people have benefitted. Normally BAKAZA forums are open to all, but targeting youths and women who have been active in discussing the union. Many political leaders remain silent about the BAKAZA work, but some like the Zanzibar’s First Vice president Seif Sharif Hamad is praising the organisation for educating Zanzibaris about ‘New union constitution.’

“Please attend BAKAZA forums so that you can learn more about the constitution,” said Hamad said recently, prior to the start of second phase of constitution process on July 12, 2013, at a public rally held in Kitope constituency, north of Zanzibar.

However, some critics think facilitators in BAKAZA forums take side are anti-union activists. But professor Sherif says, “we have been open in all our forums, our objectives are very clear that we need Zanzibaris to discuss the constitution maturely, considering the interest of Zanzibar.”

He said the BAKAZA has been educating and encouraging Zanzibaris to consider: (a) Zanzibar is a ‘state’; (b) what would be the status of Zanzibar in the union; and (c) despite its small population of 1.3 million, it should be considered as an equal partner in the union.

In forum the professor in collaboration with the organisation secretary Mr Saleh Mohammed and facilitators from other BAKAZA members introduces all chapters in summary form before the participants discusses. The first draft of the New Constitution was launched by the Constitutional Review Commission Chairperson, Justice (Retired) Joseph Sinde Warioba on 3rd June, 2013.

The draft Constitution proposes for a three tier Government: Tanganyika, Zanzibar and the Union Government. The retired judge said the decision came after consideration of all views on the contentious union issue. In the new scheme of things, the Tanganyika government would have its own President, parliament and other organs. The union government would be leaner, with about 15 cabinet members and a parliament that does not exceed 75 members.

The Zanzibar Isles will retain their own semi-autonomous government under the new arrangement as was the case under the old. Zanzibar and the mainland united in April 1964 to form the union government. The current structure was rejected because of the sensitivities and opposition from both sides of the union.

CRC has also proposed the reduction of the number of union matters from the current 22 to seven. Issues that would still be under the union include foreign affairs, immigration and citizenship, the central bank and currency and defence and security.

Source, Daily News Tanzania, July 17, 2013


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