Katiba Institute partnered with Jukwaa la Katiba Tanzania(JUKATA) to host a meeting on constitutional term limits on 24 November 2024 in Dar es Salaam. The meeting sought to enhance understanding of the importance of constitutional term limits to promote good governance. It was also an opportunity to promote public conversation on the issue of term limits in the East Africa region.
Katiba Institute provided background and context of the term limits project, highlighting the initiative’s importance in Africa. In 2019, The National Democratic Institute launched the Term Limits Initiative to promote support for presidential term limits across sub-Saharan Africa through high-level advocacy and citizen mobilisation. Since 2019, Katiba Institute has been undertaking activities mainly targeting the East African region. The activities include webinars, online campaigns, and meetings with journalists, civil society organisations, academia and the youth.
The meeting was relevant even though Tanzania has consistently respected the presidential term limits as provided by the Constitution. In 2019, some ruling party members proposed extending the presidential term from 5 to 7 years. This was the second time such a proposal was made in many years. In addition, various stakeholders have active discussions about constitutional reforms in the country, and term limits are one key area.
Dr. Ananilea Nkya, the Board Chairperson of JUKATA, emphasised the importance of conversations around democratic governance and challenged participants to be involved and contribute to such discussions. She said that failure by civil society and the public to participate in discussions, such as those of constitutional reforms, is a threat to democracy.
Mpale Mpoki, an advocate in Tanzania, underlined the importance of controlling power as a critical aspect of democracy. He took participants through Tanzania’s history in the context of control of power. One notable concern is the dominance of one political party – despite having a multiparty democracy in Tanzania since 1995, the Chama Cha Mapinduzi(CCM) has remained in power ever since. He noted that the situation affects the effectiveness of parliament where there is no accountability by the ruling party.
While calling for solid independent institutions, Mpale emphasised the need for an effective judiciary.
“An effective Judiciary brings about checks and balances for both the parliament and the executive,” Mpale observed.
He urged the media and civil society organisations to continue playing their active roles in defending democratic values in society.
Other issues raised during the discussions addressed a threat to media freedom and civic space. Participants raised concerns over introducing some laws, which they said are steps to curtail media freedom and civic space. These laws include the Cyber Crimes Act, The Tanzania Communication and Regulatory Authority Act and other laws that touch on the registration and operations of Non-governmental organisations
Participants appreciated the importance of the discussions on control of power. They expressed a collective commitment to contribute to the democratic process actively and pledged support initiatives aimed at strengthening governance structures. They encouraged continued education and awareness campaigns to empower citizens with knowledge about their democratic rights and governance issues in general.
“It is important to have these conversations so that citizens know the importance of term limits and therefore are not manipulated about it at any point.” a participant noted.
Bob Wangwe, JUKATA’s Executive Director, reiterated the importance of sustained collaboration between organisations, governments, and citizens to uphold democratic values. He said that the conversation on constitutional term limits and control of power could not have come at a better time as Tanzanians discuss the issue of constitutional reforms.