Chadema goes it alone in new Tanzania constitution push

By BOB KARASHANI

Chadema, Tanzania’s main opposition party, on Friday, formally dissociated itself from a cross-party political initiative aimed at coordinating proposals in the push for a new constitution and independent electoral commission.

The chairman Freeman Mbowe said that at a meeting of the party’s top leaders in Dar es Salaam on Wednesday, the leaders resolved that the Tanzania Centre for Democracy’s approach to the issues involved was not in line with Chadema’s picture of what it wants to achieve.

“All we see is a strategy to postpone further the Katiba Mpya agenda that remains our primary focus after all is said and done,” Mr Mbowe said after chairing Chadema’s first top-level meeting since his release from jail over terrorism-related charges two weeks ago.

TCD is an alliance of political parties designed to be a platform for multiparty democracy in Tanzania. Its current membership includes the ruling CCM, Chadema, ACT-Wazalendo, Civic United Front (CUF) and NCCR-Mageuzi parties.

Currently chaired by ACT-Wazalendo leader Zitto Kabwe, TCD has convened a ‘Justice, Peace and Reconciliation Conference’ in Dodoma on March 30-31 intended as a follow-up to an earlier meeting in December, with President Samia Suluhu Hassan again expected to be the chief guest.

But Mr Mbowe has denied statements by TCD officials that Chadema had accepted an invitation to attend the conference. “Neither I nor any other leader from this party will be there,” he asserted.

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According to Mr Kabwe, the conference will discuss two draft bills for a new National Elections Act, and Political Parties Act prepared with assistance from the non-profit Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC).

Chadema boycotted the first conference convened by TCD in Dodoma last December, citing the then ongoing Mbowe terrorism trial as evidence of insincere commitments towards ending an opposition clampdown initiated by President Magufuli’s administration.

Talks with Samia

On Friday, Mr Mbowe also revealed talks during his private meeting with President Suluhu at State House in Dar es Salaam on the day prosecutors dropped terrorism charges against him and three others after they had spent eight months behind bars.

He said the talks were intended to “lay a foundation for more reconciliatory dialogue going forward as we (Chadema) continue to pursue our main objectives of a new constitution and a fair elections system not controlled by the state.”

“The president and I reached some principle points of agreement, but if we as a party see that the dialogue is not going anywhere, we will remove ourselves from the entire process without any hesitation or qualms whatsoever,” Mr Mbowe said.

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