Dar es Salaam. A leading observer of Tanzania’s affairs has noted with concern what he describes as a mismatch between President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s goodwill on reforms and actual legislative changes her administration has delivered, urging her to fast-track the reform project.
Deus Valentine, Chief Executive Officer of a Zanzibar-based think tank Center for Strategic Litigation (CSL), made the analysis during an interview with The Chanzo in Dar es Salaam on July 12, 2023.
It followed the release of the 5th R: Tanzania Civic Space Monitor 2022 – Achieving Meaningful Democratic Renewal in Tanzania. The report, a product of CSL, examines major civic space issues for 2022, excluding 2021, when Samia took the helm of the country’s leadership.
“Our analysis shows that President Samia has asserted her authority over the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM), abandoned some of the worst anti-democratic practices of her predecessor, and established her credentials to lead the country for the remainder of her term,” Mr Valentine said during the interview.
But he noted that while these efforts are underway, the Tanzanian public is still in the dark about where the current reform efforts are headed.
“No agenda has been tabled of the issues and scope of reconciliation, how they will be attended to, how the public will participate and how the state will account for specific outcomes,” Valentine said.
“In the same vein, Tanzanians are unaware of what the President’s reform priorities are and how she expects to achieve them,” he added. “It is necessary to produce such an agenda and engage in dialogue to provide room for meaningful accountability.”
Since coming to power following the death of her predecessor John Magufuli, Samia has undertaken several initiatives interpreted as a means to chart a new democratic future for the Tanzanian state.
From engaging political stakeholders to improve political pluralism in the country to launching a committee to investigate its criminal justice system, Tanzania’s first female Head of State has won the hearts of many from within the country and beyond its borders.
There have been complaints from the country’s major political actors that while Samia’s reformist gestures are welcome, the lack of a clear timetable for the achieving things she has promised – like the revival of the stalled constitution-writing process – leaves those promises in serious doubts.
In its analysis, CSL points to several issues that it thinks are yet to be attended to by the government, notwithstanding Samia’s positive gestures. They include threats to the rule of law, separation of powers, the Union, the participation of girls and women, the independence of civil society, the judiciary and the bar, and state-civil society engagement.
Mr Valentine told The Chanzo that the work so far done should be a means and not an end and should lay the ground for more sustainable dialogue with a more diverse agenda.
“The President has her work cut out. The Tanganyika Law Society published a broad compendium of legislative amendments to be adopted to reinstate basic rights, freedoms, and a healthy business environment,” Valentine explained.
“Unfortunately, neither the Ministry for Constitutional and Legal Affairs nor the Attorney General has taken ownership of the legislative reform agenda, leaving a significant gap in achieving the desired reforms,” he lamented.
Valentine called on President Samia to appoint a lead within her office to champion the reform docket with an articulated agenda and defined timelines instead of ad hoc task forces, committees, and commissions.
“Without legislative backing, Samia’s reform efforts are unlikely to stand the test of time,” he warns. “They will remain vulnerable to the expedience of the relevant authorities.”