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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Political tolerance, crucial, Africa told

11th May 2012

African governments have been urged to embrace political tolerance and work in partnership with opposition parties to ensure stability and development for their countries and welfare of their citizens.

Speaking in exclusive interview with The Guardian in Dar es Salaam yesterday, participants in the just ended Commonwealth Secretariat conference said it must be realised that governments and opposition parties are struggling to improve people’s welfare, thus it is important to work together.

The conference’s theme was: “Governments and Oppositions; Their Role and Responsibility”.

Speaker of Rwanda Parliament Rose Mukantabana, said both governments and opposition parties work for the interest and development of the people.

Mukantabana stressed the importance of regular debates on national issues between the government and opposition to ensure political and economic development.

“Equal participation without discrimination of any ideas is the key to development”, said Speaker Mukantabana.

The Tanzania Parliament’s Presiding Chairman, Sylivester Mabumba underscored the need for political tolerance between African governments and opposition parties, saying it would lead to unity and harmony which is a catalyst for development.

“It is not true that ideas from opposition parties are always awful…sometimes they give good ideas that have to be taken up for implementation by ruling parties,” he noted.

Mabumba who is a Member of Parliament for Dole constituency in Zanzibar urged African governments to ensure political impartiality, urging governments in power to accept challenges and ideas given by opposition parties.

He said during the meeting stakeholders insisted that leaders must embrace transparency and respect human rights when executing their duties.

Ugandan Minister for Information and Communication Technology, Ruhakana Rugunda said the importance of such conferences which bring together stakeholders to discuss the political situation in African countries.

Goodwell Lungu, Executive Director, Transparency International in Zambia said governments and opposition parties should find common ground especially on the observation of human rights.

African governments should also guarantee freedom of expression for their citizens and allow opposition parties to air their views, instead of denying them such rights on the pretext of security concerns.

“In most African countries opposition parties suffocate from denial of the rights of airing opinions,” he noted, adding that the meeting had helped in building a common understanding in handling some of the issues that hinder development in Africa.

For his part, Director for Political Affairs Division at the Commonwealth Secretariat, Amitav Banerji said governments and opposition parties are partners and should work together at national level.

He said African countries should find ways to avoid conflicts because national consensus is the only key to people’s development. He said parliaments play an important role in conflict management due to its wide arena for discussions and debates.

Banerji said such workshops help legislators, civil society representatives, political party leaders and other stakeholders to learn how to hold their governments accountable and share common values.

“Civil societies are currently playing a vital role towards development in African countries”, he said.

He said they will prepare a special report on the conference with all necessary documents and give them to key stakeholders for implementation.

The meeting brought together stakeholders from Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Seychelles. Banerji said similar conferences have already been held in West Africa, South Africa, The Caribbean and India.

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