As Tanzanians celebrate their independence 52 years on, Nick Branson reflects on the state of the country’s union.
Fifty-two years ago this week, Presidents Julius Nyerere and Abeid Karume ratified the Articles of Union, establishing the United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar. The two men pledged to draft a constitution for the new nation within one year. Although the new state adopted the name United Republic of Tanzania on 29 October 1964, it did not obtain a permanent statute until April 1977, two months after Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) became the sole legal party.
Tanzania’s dual-government structure is unique in Africa. As negotiations between Mwalimu Nyerere and Sheik Karume were conducted in secret, one can only speculate as to the reasons why the new nation adopted this model rather than a fully-fledged federation. It is possible that the United Kingdom (UK) provided a prototype for President Nyerere, influenced by his study at the University of Edinburgh, and his attorney general, Roland Brown, an English barrister.
In both contexts, this lopsided model remains far from perfect. In September 2014, the UK narrowly survived an attempt by Scottish nationalists to end over three hundred years of Union, while Tanzanian politics was dominated by constitutional debate for three years following the formation of a Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) under Justice Joseph Warioba in February 2012. Questions over the basic law remain unresolved following the postponement of a popular referendum on the proposed constitution.
Since his election in October 2015, President John Pombe Magufuli has demonstrated little appetite to revive plans for the plebiscite, conscious that this could provide ammunition to the opposition coalition, Umoja wa Katiba ya Wananchi (Ukawa). Ukawa remains determined to overhaul the Union and introduce a three-tier government. This would echo proposals outlined by Justice Warioba, and previously by Justice Robert Kisanga.
A blot on the landscape
Regardless of his political preferences, President Magufuli cannot pretend that all is well in the United Republic. During his term of office, Zanzibar has endured a constitutional and political crisis which strikes to very foundations of the Union.
Curiously, the United Republic of Tanzania has two electoral management bodies, neither of which are subject to challenge in court. The National Electoral Commission (NEC) is competent to administer ballots for the Union president and parliament, in addition to the mainland’s local councillors, while the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) is responsible for votes for the Isles’ president, House of Representatives and local councillors.
By contrast, the registration and management of political parties is one of 22 “Union matters” listed in the schedule to the constitution. Legally, parties must be nationally representative and resolve to uphold the United Republic of Tanzania. The schedule of Union matters also invests in the president the power to declare a state of emergency, and makes him commander-in-chief of the armed forces and police.
Although Magufuli may not have ordered troops to arrest the ZEC Deputy Chairman, Justice Abdulhakim Ameir Issa, at the Bwawani Hotel on 27 October 2015; the armed deployment ahead of Zanzibar’s re-run election on 20 March 2016 cannot have taken place without his consent. It remains to be seen whether such a display of military might helps or hinders the maintenance of peace and stability on the Isles in the long-term.
Party first, institutions second
Institutions not subordinate to the head of state, such as the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRAGG), criticised the unilateral annulment of the elections by the ZEC Chairman, Jecha Salim Jecha, who was himself a CHRAGG commissioner until May 2013. The Law Societies of Tanganyika and Zanzibar both ruled that Jecha did not possess the mandate to annul the vote, thus his actions were illegal. These opinions were conveniently overlooked in the interests of bolstering the authority of CCM at a time of apparent uncertainty.
Yet overlooking Jecha’s chicanery has undermined the ZEC’s credibility. The electoral commission’s failure to remove from ballot papers the names of candidates boycotting the re-run, combined with the enforcement of a curfew and imposition of a heightened military presence, culminated in an extremely low turnout in Pemba. Zanzibaris now openly question the legitimacy of incumbent president, Dr Ali Mohammed Shein, who hails from that island.
Dr Shein’s decision to co-opt three politicians who collectively obtained less than 4% of the vote is viewed as an insult to the Government of National Unity (GNU), which was endorsed by popular referendum in July 2010. Shein and his acolytes may welcome an end to the era of inclusive governance, but their disregard for state institutions designed to constrain the power of the ruling party has not gone unnoticed.
Only time will tell whether President Magufuli moves to rectify this situation. Within the ruling party structures, he has thus far been subordinate to outgoing chairman, former president Jakaya Kikwete, and his deputy, Dr Shein. He will, however, assume the CCM leadership at the party’s convention in June 2016.
As a chemist, Dr Magufuli probably views the Zanzibar Revolution as the catalyst for the Union. But he may be wondering whether half a century later, the compound formed by Mwalimu Nyerere and Sheikh Karume is bound together by anything other than Chama Cha Mapinduzi. When he takes charge of green and gold, will President Magufuli seek to reinvigorate the Union, or merely maintain the status quo?
This article was first published in The Citizen newspaper.
Nick Branson is Senior Researcher at Africa Research Institute, a non-partisan think tank based in London. He is the author of “Party rules: Consolidating power through constitutional reform in Tanzania”, among other articles.
The views expressed in this post are those of the authors and in no way reflect those of the Africa at LSE blog or the London School of Economics and Political Science.