Dar es Salaam. Open Government Partnership (OGP) co-chair Aidan Eyakuze told The Chanzo that he is optimistic that the Samia Suluhu Hassan Administration will rejoin the multilateral initiative that promotes transparency, accountability and citizen empowerment within governments around the world.
Eyakuze, who is also the executive director of Twaweza, a regional non-governmental organisation that works around issues of citizen empowerment and governance, made the remarks during an exclusive interview with The Chanzo that took place at his office in July 8, 2022.
“As the current co-chairs, the Government of Italy and I, signed a joint letter in April 2022 formally inviting the government and country back to the Open Government Partnership,” Mr Eyakuze said. “I have received assurances from both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the State House that our letter is being worked on. So I’m hopeful.”
Tanzania was one of the first African countries to join the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in September 2011, with the then Jakaya Kikwete-led government making ambitious commitments to be more open to its citizens so as to improve public service delivery and to intensify efforts to fight corruption.
But on June 29, 2017, the OGP Steering Committee received a letter from the John Magufuli-led government announcing its withdrawal from OGP effective July 2017.
The government said then that the move was influenced by the fact that Tanzania had already subscribed to other initiatives with similar objectives as a substitute, including the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM).
Since coming to power on March 19, 2022, following the sudden death of Mr Magufuli, President Samia Suluhu Hassan has been taking measures that Mr Eyakuze thinks make her “a natural fit” for the OGP initiative.
For example, President Samia has on numerous occasions appealed to citizens to speak up against corruption and to take ownership of development projects in their area. She has also asked the Controller and Auditor-General (CAG) not to hesitate from stating uncomfortable truths.
“As far as we are concerned, these are steps in the right direction,” said Mr Eyakuze during the interview. “We are ready to help the government in any area of their interests to make sure that Tanzania is back on the OGP as soon as possible.”
Tanzania’s eligibility to rejoin can be secured by simply publishing the executive budget proposal, Mr Eyakuze wrote on June 23, 2022.
During the interview with The Chanzo, Mr Eyakuze touched on the importance of citizens coming together to protect their fundamental rights and freedoms, saying that the freedoms people now take for granted can be lost at any moment.
“Here in Tanzania, a number of laws have been enacted during the previous administration that deny people their fundamental freedoms,” said Mr Eyakuze. “These laws need to be amended so that those freedoms taken from people can be taken back to them.”
Mr Eyakuse, however, warned that this phenomenon – of previously taken for granted freedoms to disappear – is not happening in Tanzania only but all over the world, even in countries that are members of the OGP, like the United Kingdom and Canada.
“So the question remains how willing are we to make sure that the freedoms we are enjoying today will remain with us no matter what administration will come to pass,” he said. “Maybe we can try to do that by integrating these freedoms in our governance structures and systems.”
Still, Mr Eyakuze thinks at the end of the day citizens themselves are the ultimate guardians of their rights and freedoms, urging them to stand firm in protecting them as well as demanding transparency and accountability within the government.
“This government serves you; you’re not the servant of the government,” Eyakuze noted. “You’re the employer of those within the government. You must demand that they serve your best interests.”