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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Why constituted constitutional commission looks credible

15th April 2012

A number of events took place at the climax of the Easter season, but strange as it may look, one of them clearly overshadowed the rest. In Arusha the now countrywide popular CHADEMA announced its intention to appeal against the court ruling which made one of its MPs lose his parliamentary seat by a stroke of a judge’s pen.

The President announced the Constitutional Commission to oversee the Constitution writing process, and film actor Steven Kanumba died in Dar es Salaam.

It is the death of the young Kanumba which literally stole the show by dominating newspaper front page stories, getting a big share of the air time in the electronic media and nearly putting the entire nation in mourning mood. There is much to say about the Kanumba phenomenon and his post-humus unprecedented “greatness’.

One point of view is that film entertainment is getting more and more popular among the youths and women, adding that the sudden death of a popular actor can now easily move the nation, as these two social groups are a force to reckon with - in terms of numbers.

One may as well add that politicians striving desperately to win the hearts of the youth contributed to make the otherwise normal event extraordinary

This was a diversion. Our point here is that the Constitutional Review Commission, whose announcement coincided with the death of the actor, is likely to have a big impact on the fate of this country and consequently, one expects members of the public to have interest in its composition as well as its terms of reference. It seems this is happening now, as the Kanumba event is already part of history.

We may as well recall that according to the Constitutional Review Act, 2011, under which the Commission under discussion gets legitimacy, its functions go beyond collection and coordination of public views on the desired constitution for land. The Commissioners are required to also analyse and examine “the consistency and compatibility of constitutional provisions relating to the sovereignty of the people, political system, democracy, rule of law and good governance…” They are expected as well to make recommendations and draft a Constitutional Bill on how best the United Republic is to be governed.

The list of the Commission’s functions is not long but the responsibility of making recommendations as well as drafting a new constitution is obviously demanding and challenging, and cannot be entrusted to every Dick, Tom and Maganga. A wrong choice of members of such a body can easily lead to a false start of the constitution making process.

To be noted as well is the fact that right from the beginning some social groups, including leaders of some political parties, civic organisations, scholars and other opinion leaders, were suspicious that the appointing authorities would probably come up with names of commissioners they are likely to influence to do things in the interests of the two governments and ruling party of the day. .

Now it appears the unveiled list of Commissioners, much as it may not be perfect or may not satisfy everyone, has assured many that the Union Government President, Jakaya Kikwete, and Zanzibar’s President Mohamed Shein are serious on the constitutional issue. At least they have demonstrated that on this one they are not ready to work with people likely to tell them only what they would like to hear.

A list of 30 Commissioners and 4 members of the Secretariat with two former Prime Ministers, a former Chief Justice, former Attorney General, legal practitioners who have held senior posts in the past, University Professors, former Ministers etc., is indeed strong and equal to the job, by any standards.

Many opine that the President has tapped available talent and experience in the best way he could, under the prevailing circumstances which require him to engage in the delicate balancing act to cater for the interests of various stakeholders in society.

In the team are personalities who have been vocal on various social issues, those who believe in consensus as a way of resolving conflicts in the society and some advocates of the politics of inclusion and not exclusion.

On the whole, the Commission seems to have substantial public approval and its challenge is to ensure it leaves to the citizens’ high expectations. The Commission however, can only succeed if we give it maximum cooperation.

Muhanika is a Media Consultant ([email protected])

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