The Chanzo is hosting Digital Freedom and Innovation Day on April 20, 2024. Register Here

Close this search box.

Electoral Bills Review: Genuine Commitment for Transitional Justice in Tanzania?

The sincerity of reforms is expected to be seen in ongoing law reforms, which require good intentions in practice.

subscribe to our newsletter!

The year 2024 is crucial for democracy stakeholders in the country as it marks the upcoming local government elections and a test of how much the democratic environment in the country has improved.

Ahead of the elections, there are three bills tabled at the parliament for discussion and review in February. They include the National Electoral Commission (NEC) Bill, 2023, the Presidential, Parliamentary, and Local Government Elections Bill, 2023, and the Political Parties Affairs Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2023.

As a part of legal reform, the review of the bills is quite an important process in measuring the willingness of the government to bring forth reforms as coined by President Samia Suluhu Hassan in the philosophical 4Rs (Reconciliation, Resilience, Reforms, and Rebuilding). It is also a way to measure the fairness of the upcoming Local Government Authority Election.

There is dissatisfaction from stakeholders regarding the three bills such as lack of independence in the NEC, restrictions on private candidates, uncontested elections in court, and civil servants acting as returning officers, majority votes 50+1 for presidential candidacy to be declared a winner.

Building trust

The ongoing legal reform would have been an important tool to build trust in the democratic processes in the country contrary to the previous regime, which was considered dictatorial as it significantly restricted the democratic space, saw an increase in human rights violations, implemented strict laws that limited freedom of speech and constrained political and civic activities, reported malpractices during the 2019 and 2020 elections such as uncontested candidates, which led to the removal of opposition party candidates, and unjustifiable restrictions on the provision of civic education to voters, extreme censorship of media content.

READ MORE: Stakeholders Recommend for Electoral Commission to Have Its Staff Instead of Depending on Council Directors

These sudden changes in the political landscape had caused political parties to disintegrate, and a loss of faith in the electoral process. The low turnout of voters during the 2020 general election was a bad sign that people may become disinterested in participating in political affairs because they feel that their voices are not heard through the ballot-casting process. Over time, this could result in a nation of passive citizens who are unable to actively participate in the political process of their country.

In addressing the past discrepancies, President Samia created a task force to collect opinions on reforms to, among other things, strengthen our democracy. The task force proposed recommendations to address urgent issues such as reforms of the electoral laws, the National Election Commission, resuming the Constitution review process, and amending the law governing political parties.

Transitional justice

The ongoing amendment of the three bills is an outcome of the task force recommendation and falls within Samia’s 4Rs, whose aim is to rectify past injustices, address past grievances, restore unity and freedom, and a sense of normalcy in social and political contexts. This could arguably be termed as the mechanism of transitional justice.

Like any other transitional justice process, legal or political reforms may be necessary, and solutions may involve civil trials, truth commissions, apologies, lustration, or reparation and institutional reforms. Several established mechanisms have proven effective for example South Africa established a truth commission to transition from apartheid.

Samia’s 4Rs philosophy was anticipated to be one of the solutions of transitional justice to cure the past. However, it would have been beneficial if each of the four Rs were defined with specific objective indicators, expected results, timelines, key stakeholders, and roles of each stakeholder. 

READ MORE: An Awakened Citizenry Is Critical In Ensuring Effective Control of Power

Perhaps we could have come up with a special independent committee that oversees the implementation of the four Rs. This approach would have enabled the progress of implementation to be measured and identify areas that need improvement. 

Currently, the implementation of the four Rs is largely driven by politicians, with minimal citizen participation and an independent review process. To achieve meaningful reform, the four Rs in the context of transitional justice should address multiple issues, including delivering justice to victims of repressive regimes and punishing those responsible for human rights violations.

Long-term reforms

Long-term legal and political reforms should aim to promote justice, punish perpetrators, and provide effective healing for those affected by past trauma. It is essential to involve the community in this process instead of solely relying on politicians or elites. Addressing social and economic issues is also crucial for maintaining social cohesion as ignoring these problems can make it fragile.

A true political will through this period is to see the amendment of the laws reflect the opinion of stakeholders so that the same mistakes are not repeated, it is important to publicly acknowledge who was responsible and hold them accountable. The sincerity of reforms is expected to be seen in ongoing law reforms, which require good intentions in practice.

The ongoing legal reform as part of the 4Rs is a very crucial process of transitional justice that should be aimed at curing the wrongdoing of the past. Let’s ensure that the 2024 and 2025 elections are distinct from the previous ones. 

READ MORE: Stakeholders Resolve to Proceed With Minimum Constitutional Reforms Ahead of Elections

The current amendment and proposition of new laws that intend to establish democracy in the country should reflect the people’s views. Without that, we are not truly implementing the reforms as promoted in the philosophical 4Rs of our president. 

In the transitional justice process, reform seeks to build trust between all citizens and their public institutions. Reform should be well implemented inclusively and transparently.
Fortunata Kitokesy is a human rights expert based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. She is available at or on X as @fortunatak. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of The Chanzo. If you are interested in publishing in this space, please contact our editors at

Digital Freedom and Innovation Day
The Chanzo is hosting Digital Freedom and Innovation Day on Saturday April 20, 2024 at Makumbusho ya Taifa.

Register to secure your spot

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *