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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Only constitutions, not strong men can make Africa stable

8th April 2012

It now seems inevitable that more and more people around the world will take Africa’s upcoming ‘prophet’ TB Joshua more seriously.

Probably no prophet, among many who are emerging these days, appears to be both large and popular as TB of Nigeria. His latest prophecy about the death of a president in this region this year has now been honoured by President Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi.

Paradoxically, President Mutharika appears to have chosen Easter as the right moment to honour the prophet’s prediction. All one could do now is to wish his family and the people of Malawi strength to overcome the grief.

It is also the hope of anyone wishing Africa well to wish Malawi a calm and smooth transition like the one experienced in Zambia when President Mwanawasa died a few years ago.

News that some power brokers were trying to exploit the tragedy to twist the constitution so as to deny the current Vice President the right to assume office is debilitating to Malawi’s democracy. Whatever the motive, the results would not set the right precedent.

In democracy people don’t just wake up in the morning and change provisions in the constitutions so as to benefit personally. That only happens with strong men and military juntas. Today’s Africa does not need strong men. Africa needs strong constitutions that can stand the test of time. While strong men can survive whatever forces that stand in their way they cannot defeat death the same way Mutharika couldn’t.

And the issue of strong constitutions brings us back home. This weekend President Jakaya Kikwete offered Tanzanians a monumental Easter present. The team he picked for the Constitutional Review Commission is indicative of the fact that Kikwete is serious about the future welfare of this country. It is a team constituted by numerous renowned individuals of impeccable integrity and genuine love for this country.

The challenge that remains is for the team to know that the future of this country rests solely in their hands and that they will be judged in history not by what they did in their previous careers but just this task. Although some critics have expressed doubts as to whether the President will take seriously recommendations of the final report, given negative experiences of the past, it is not necessarily rational to expect the worst.

President Kikwete’s attitude throughout this process has been quite accommodating. Despite the initial apprehension the opposition parties and other critics showed with regards to Kikwete’s intentions, he soon provided the opportunity to deliberate with different political groups and was able to win their trust.

If Kikwete’s positive attitude towards the need for a new constitution that will strengthen this nation today and tomorrow reflects his true and inner intentions then his legacy on this matter shall live longer than the lifespan of whatever shortcomings critics see in him.

Nevertheless one challenge that lay ahead is to see that every citizen is provided with an opportunity to participate in this historic exercise which does not present itself often.

While opportunity for citizens to give views seems imperative, it is also expected of the Commission to do its best to facilitate information, education and communication in general.

One of the biggest shortcomings of most democracies, including matured ones, is that they tend to be hijacked by elites who tend to live in the ivory towers of their own and oblivious of the realities on the ground.

It should be everyone’s hope that this process shall not be consigned to the elites or any other groups that wish to see their views override the views of other groups. We can only wish the Commission, and our country, all the best.

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