Dar es Salaam. CHADEMA national chairperson Mr Freeman Mbowe on Friday ruled out the opposition party’s involvement in the ongoing political dialogues organised by the Tanzania Centre for Democracy (TCD), arguing that there is no guarantee that the process would lead to substantial political reforms in Tanzania.
Mr Mbowe, who was released from jail on March 4, 2022, after authorities withdrew the terrorism and economic sabotage case that faced him and three other co-defendants, was speaking during a press conference at the party’s headquarters in Dar es Salaam.
“We cannot continue with processes that would end up denying us the New Constitution,” Mbowe, who spent 226 days in remand prison before he was released unconditionally, said amidst applause from party members. “We will not take part in the TCD-led processes.”
TCD, a democracy think-tank formed by parties with representation in the parliament, is expected to organise a two-day conference on justice, peace and reconciliation that will take place between March 30 and March 31, 2022, in the capital Dodoma.
The conference, which is expected to be graced by President Samia Suluhu Hassan and draw participation from other democratic stakeholders in Tanzania, including civil societies, is a follow-up to the previous conference to discuss the status of multiparty democracy in Tanzania organised by the Registrar of Political Parties.
Two pieces of legislation are of concern and the upcoming Dodoma conference is expected to give recommendations on how to improve them: the National Elections Act and the Political Parties Act.
Zitto Kabwe, leader of the opposition ACT-Wazalendo who doubles as TCD chairperson, told reporters on March 5, 2022, that already two model bills have been prepared with assistance from the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) and if successfully turned into laws they will go a long way in ensuring free and fair elections in Tanzania.
But Mr Mbowe told reporters today that CHADEMA will not take part in the said conference because changes sought are minimal while the party aims for a comprehensive overhaul of Tanzania’s political system by reviving the stalled process on constitution writing.
“TCD[-led dialogue] is a strategy to block the process for the New Constitution,” Mr Mbowe said during his first press conference since he became a free man. He was presenting the resolutions of CHADEMA’s central committee that sat on March 16, 2022, to deliberate on the ways forward after Mbowe’s release.
This is the latest argument by CHADEMA for boycotting ongoing political dialogues in Tanzania. The party, together with opposition NCCR-Mageuzi, boycotted the Registrar-organised dialogue under the pretext that its chairperson was behind bars. With Mr Mbowe now out, CHADEMA has decided to come up with another argument: New Constitution.
“The independent electoral commission sought by the ongoing TCD-led dialogues is a result of the New Constitution,” said Mr Mbowe, echoing the predominant position within CHADEMA that has pitted the party against ACT-Wazalendo whose short-term target is an independent electoral body. “Political problems call for political solutions. For us, New Constitution is a priority.”
But Mr Mbowe elaborated that the party won’t sit quiet and do nothing amidst the ongoing efforts to redefine Tanzania’s politics. He said the party would continue to engage other important stakeholders and make its case in an attempt to ensure that Tanzania has a New Constitution before the 2025 elections.