Tanzania: Why Tanzania’s President Suluhu Hassan is Reviving Constitution-Writing Process

Johannesburg — President Samia Suluhu Hassan took over as the country’s first-ever women president two years ago, changing the Tanzanian political space. Since Suluhu Hassan has made several reforms, including lifting the ban on newspapers and a ban on opposition rallies imposed by her predecessor, John Magufuli.

However, a growing number of MPs and opposition members and activists want her to go beyond and change the constitution.

Under the late Magufuli there was little civic space and lots of clamping on the opposition parties. Opposition parties have expressed dissatisfaction with the country’s current constitution, saying it is “full of patches, and only caters to the ruling party’s interests”.

Following these calls, on 6 May, Suluhu Hassan finally gave the go-ahead for political parties meeting to get the constitution-writing process under way. The recommendations of a government-backed task force on democratic reforms will guide the process. This task team was appointed by the president in 2022 to review the political situation in the country, among other recommendations, the task team proposed the revival of the constitution-writing process.

In September 2022 the task team concluded collecting public views. The team advised that the draft that was shelved in 2015, just before being presented for voting in a public referendum, would provide the best basis for the next steps.

Suluhu Hassan said that the consultations for the constitution-making process should involve various other stakeholders and ordinary citizens from both Tanzania and Zanzibar apart from just the politicians

The Ministry of Constitutional and Legal Affairs has allocated a U.S.$3.8 million budget in for the 2023/24 fiscal year to revive the new constitutional-writing process. The funds will also be used to amend election laws and for the reforms of the National Electoral Commission (NEC).

The constitution writing process was initiated by Tanzania’s fourth president, Jakaya Kikwete, but stalled in 2014. The country’s current constitution was adopted in 1977 by senior members of the ruling party when the country was a one-party state.

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