Leaders fault proposed Constitution Commission By Rodgers Luhwago, The Guardian, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania 2nd January 2011 A cross-section of opinion makers have faulted President Jakaya Kikwetes move to form a Constitutional Review Commission, arguing that it wont yield a people-oriented document, which is known as the Mother Law. Reacting to the Presidents year-ender speech on Friday, some influential politicians and academicians recalled that several previous commission-based approaches for addressing that subject of critical public interest had been unhelpful. A distinguished University of Dar es Salaam don, Prof Abdallah Safari, told The Guardian on Sunday in a telephone interview yesterday: The government formed several commissions in the past, geared at drawing up a new constitution but no concrete, democractically-oriented follow-ups were made on the outcomes, represented by public views. The don noted that through the commissions, whose members were wholly state-appointed, the government sought to create an impression that much of the input was drawn from members of the public. But, he explained, the views of the public were doctored or ignored altogether, and fresh ones reflecting the governments view-points were chipped in through the White Paper. The best approach, Prof Safari proposed, would be to form a National Constitutional Convention (NCC) featuring all stakeholders, whose inputs, through thorough assessments, would be as nearly accurate representative of the peoples will. The long-experienced faculty of law lecturer cited Zambia as one of the countries in the SADC region that is in process of adopting a new constitution through NCC, after several abortive attempts to that end through commissions. The initiative was made by the late President Levy Mwanawasa. The law professor gave examples of Judge Robert Kisanga and Francis Nyalalis Commissions that both did a good job in the 1990s but whose recommendations the government ignored, charging that the commissioners had over-stepped the terms of reference they had been given. Prof Safari said whereas there were several pertinent issues that needed special scrutiny when drawing up the new Constitution, he cited formation of independent electoral commissions, powers of the president and the structure of the government as amongst those meriting special attention. Chadema Secretary General Dr Willibrod Slaa also expressed his dismay over President Kikwetes stance, pointing out that by sticking to the tried-but-failed constitutional review process, he had not gauged the mood of Tanzanians properly. I categorically oppose the menthod that President Kikwete is talking about because experience shows that a people-centred Constitution can not be drawn through commissions, he said. He added: The President should understand that the Constitution does not belong to him nor to the ruling party. It is the document of wananchi that explains the manner in which they want to be governed and the right way to adopt it is through a national constitutional convention. According to Dr Slaa, commissions have the tendency of preparing questionnaires with almost readymade answers which are then sent to a few selected individuals. Civic United Front (CUF) Deputy Secretary General Julius Mtatiro said the adoption of the new Constitution should start with a stakeholders conference. He said such a conference should brainstorm on major issues before coming up with a draft that is later submitted to the public for refining. He said the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) strategy has never yielded any desired results anywhere in the world. He expressed his fear that the strategy ( CRC) might have been proposed just to ease the ongoing pressure of demanding a new constitution. He said the fact that Attorney General Judge Frederick Werema and Justice Minister Celina Kombani recently rubbished public outcry, the two officials might fustrate the review process since the task falls squarely under their dockets. In his national address to usher in the year 2011 on Friday, President Kikwete said the government had agreed to lead the process of constitutional review to come up with a mother law that would keep pace with the dynamics of development taking place in the country. According to President Kikwete, he has decided to form a Constitutional Review Commission under the leadership of a seasoned lawyer. The commission would collect public views from all groupings in the country before fowarding its recommendations to the relevant organs for further decisions. President Kikwetes decision to review the document is in response to mounting public demand for a new Constitution. The CUFs Mtatiro early this week submited the partys draft of the constitution to the government as a strategy to pressurise the government to respond to the public outcry. Ubungo MP John Mnyika also early this week submited a letter of intent to the office of Parliament , registering his official plan to table a private motion on the new Constitution in the February session. At a media briefing session, Mnyika stressed that the public needed a new constitution and not amendments to the current one. According to Mnyika, the government did, before 1965, form a committee which collected public views which led to the interim Constitution but it did not meet public expectations. The ineffectiveness of the committee led to the formation of the Thabit Kombo Committee in 1976 from whose findings the Constitution was amended in 1977. In 1991, the Nyalali Commission was formed, headed by the then Chief Justice Francis Nyalali, who has since died. The commissions recommendation that a new constitution be written was ignored, Mnyika said. In 1998, the Judge Robert Kisanga Commission also called for a new constitution, but to no avail. If President Kikwete succeeds to give the country a new constitution it would be treated as his memorable legacy in the countrys history, when his second and final five-year tenure as President ends in 2015. Tanzanias constitution has been amended 14 times.