Opinion: Has the pressure for demand of the new constitution fallen on deaf ears?

Opinion: Has the pressure for demand of the new constitution fallen on deaf ears?

One of the videos that trended online over the past week is the video of BBC journalist Salim Kikeke interviewing President Samia Suluhu Hassan of Tanzania. 

President Hassan’s response during the interview seems to have intensified scepticism, particularly on the opposition about getting the new constitution before the 2025 general elections. Analysts say her response has shuttered the hopes of getting the new constitution anytime soon. 

President Hassan’s facial expression and fading of usual soft tone while addressing the question sufficed to discern her discomfort on keeping the conservation about the new constitution. Salim never seemed to care about the president’s discomfort while addressing the question, instead kept on asking the same question, regardless of the dull and enigmatic response from the president.

Although president Samia has tried to break away from her predecessor’s leadership doctrine in many ways. But her stance on the issue of the new constitution has remained uniform and firm to that of her predecessor. 

On June 28, 2021, opposition and the constitution activists found their jaws on the floor after President Samia revealed that her priority was not the new constitution but stabilizing the economy first. 

“Let’s give ourselves more time as we continue building up our economy. I don’t say that (the call for) constitution is less important, but we still have a lot of things to do as we strive to strengthen our economy,” – President Samia stated during her meeting with editors at the State House in Dar es Salaam (June 28, 2021).

Some say that President Hassan’s response to Salim’s question shouldn’t have been the topic of discussion because she hasn’t shifted even an inch from her previous response, but the question here is how long will she cling to the stance?

The pressure for the demand of a new constitution and an independent electoral commission has mounted since the release of Mbowe from Prison. Mr Mbowe spent nearly eight months behind cell walls following his arrest on July 21, 2021, in Mwanza amid preparations to launch his party’s new constitutional reforms campaign. He was slapped with terrorism charges, allegations believed to have been fabricated to silence him. 

As the pressure intensifies, with regard to the past regime’s experience on Tanzanian politics, people appear sceptical about President Samia’s politcal tolerance, whether she will pick debates and reconciliations over repression and aggressiveness like the past regime.

However, the saying that ‘there is a silver lining in every cloud’ is true. Despite people’s criticism that Samia’s presidency reflects some of her predecessor’s undemocratic conducts like banning political assemblies, but in reality civic space under Samia’s reign is more tolerable than in the previous regime. This experience provides an insight that the new constitution is probably on the way, albeit not necessarily now, as she said on June 28, 2021. 

Maybe the demand for the new constitution might not have fallen on deaf ears, but on the ears that listen but sluggish on taking action. Her recent actions signal the beginning of contemporary politics in Tanzania. She met two prolific CHADEMA leaders, Mbowe na Lissu, that added hopes toward sustainable political reforms in Tanzania. 

It is not that Samia is deaf, but may be there has not been enough noise to win her attention. The need for a new constitution in Tanzania is inevitable. It is just a matter of time.