2009-05-11 07:54:00 Cautious support for poll plan by Church THE CITIZEN Some political analysts have cautiously welcomed the move by the Catholic Church to conduct extensive civic education ahead of next year's elections. But the Muslim Governing Council rounded on the church for attempting to narrow the people�s choice of what it (the Church) says are ideal leaders. The Catholic Church says its election project is aimed at educating the people on the choice of public office holders. It has justified the project as a remedy for a country faced with a "leadership crisis." An association affiliated to the Catholic Church- the Christian Professionals of Tanzania (CPT)- launched the project in January. It is contained in an 18-page booklet titled Mpango wa Kichungaji Kuhamasisha Jamii Kuelekea Uchaguzi (A Pastoral Project to Sentitise the People Towards Election), and is already circulating among the Catholics. Prof Mwesiga Baregu, a senior political science lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam praised the project as a relevant and timely move ahead of the 2010 elections. "It is one of the main duties of religious leaders to help their followers choose the best public leader they want," he said. "However, they must also make sure their sensitisation campaign is not only in the best interest of people who belong to one religion," he added. But Sheikh Sanze, the secretary-general of the Muslim Governing Council, said the project had undermined the freedom of other religious bodies. "It should be stopped immediately since it might compel other religious organisations to make similar statements. At the end we will have confusion in the country," he said. Justifying the project, the CPT executive secretary, Mr Joseph Ibreck, told The Citizen that the Church had no reason to discriminate people on religious grounds. He said his association was trying to educate all Tanzanians on election issues and ensure that they voted as informed citizens who understood the issues at stake pertaining to the country's leadership. "We want voters to elect a leader who is committed to serving all the people without discrimination based on religion, tribe or political ideologies,"he said. Prof Baregu said religious institutions were better placed to provide civic education because they dealt with people�s spiritual and physical needs. He urged the Catholic Church to use the project to sensitise voters on the moral conduct expected of holders of key public offices. "It would even be much better if the CPT focuses on providing a guideline on certain moral standards to measure the integrity of people aspiring to become leaders," he said. For his part, opposition leader Professor Ibrahim Lipumba of the Civic United Front (CUF) said there was nothing wrong with the move by the Church. He said: "In a country like Tanzania with a population of about 40 million people, there is no doubt religion plays a key role in shaping the political landscape." "What I only see as wrong and dangerous is when the focus shifts to supporting a leader based on his faith because then, the exercise will divide people," he added. Prof Lipumba said while the Constitution gave people the freedom of worship, it did not give any particular religion power to determine the shape of national politics. The Catholic Church's project started in January and is divided into 15 phases. It is expected to go beyond the 2010 elections up to 2011. It seeks to influence the decisions of especially Christian voters' through educating them on issues perceived to be key priorities for the next government. Among other things, the church is directing its followers to question all aspirants of political jobs next year on how they intend to address the highlighted issues. Followers of the Church are expected to hold meetings on a quarterly basis and then send their resolutions to their leaders for implementation. A schedule of the project shows that it has entered its sixth phase this week, under which the church would be conducting sensitisation seminars to be attended by some leaders of small Christian communities and apostolic associations. The six major issues recommended for discussions include 'Priorities According to the Church Social Teachings' and 'The Importance of Ethical Leaders in Bringing Social, Political and Religious Change in Tanzania'. Seminars will also discuss the �Legal System in Tanzania: Strengths and Challenges' and �Human Rights in Financial and Business Policies.' Other topics are: the 'Ethical Approach in Political and Economic System' and 'Social Security'. The Church has raised concern over the six areas of dignity, leadership, rights, business and finance, economy and social security; and directed its followers to consider these as the key issues for next year's elections. Between October and December next year the main agenda would be to participate in the election and assessing the electoral process while in January 2011 there would be a national post election convention. In the project document, the Church says Tanzania has witnessed serious leadership problems in recent years and calls for an urgent remedy for the situation. "First we must discuss the cause of this problem and then look for a remedy. In politics, we must examine the process of appointing candidates in their respective parties," part of the document reads. It also seeks to probe the source of funds used by political parties and discuss the possibility of introducing proportional representation instead of the present system where the winner takes all.