January 1, 2011

President pledges new constitution

President Jakaya Kikwete has announced that he was appointing a team to work on a new constitution for Tanzania, after growing calls for changes to the country's political system. Opposition parties, religious leaders, civil society organisations, media and legal experts have called increasingly for a new constitution, after the disputed presidential election in October 2010.

"We have agreed to start the process of reviewing our constitution ... I have hereby decided to appoint a constitutional review commission, which will be headed by a seasoned lawyer," Kikwete said in an end-of-year nationwide address.

"I believe that time is now ripe for a new constitution that takes into account various social and economic changes," Kikwete said. "We need a constitution that copes with the challenges of the 21st century," he said in a speech broadcast live by television and radio stations.

According to Kikwete the commission should co-ordinate the collection of views of people from all walks of life. "The Constitutional Review Commission which I am forming will be headed by a seasoned lawyer, with representation from all groups in our society. "The members will be drawn from both parts of our country -- Zanzibar and Tanzania mainland," Kikwete emphasised. The commission would forward its recommendations to the government and the relevant authorities would draft the new constitution. "I hope the exercise will be conducted peacefully and thoroughly. We don’t expect riots and name-calling in the exercise, in which all Tanzania are expected to emerge winners," the president said.

Opposition leaders want to limit presidential powers, introduce electoral reforms and allow independent candidates to stand for parliament and as president. Among their demands are a change in the law to allow presidential results to be challenged in court and the formation of an independent electoral commission. Political analysts have claimed that the country could face further clashes if the government rejected calls for a new charter. (The Citizen Daily)

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