PRESIDENT Jakaya Kikwete has announced that the Constituent Assembly will convene from February 18, urging political parties to set their differences aside and come up with a new constitution that will serve all Tanzanians.
The Constituent Assembly, whose members are expected to be announced on Friday, will be held for 70 days. An additional 20 days will be granted if the need arises.
President Kikwete made the announcement on Thursday at a special meeting for political parties’ council held at the Mwalimu Nyerere International Convention Centre in Dar es Salaam on Thursday.
Mr Kikwete said the nation depended on the contribution of political party members, including those who will participate in the constituent Assembly, to discuss all the views raised with the aim to arrive at an amicable agreement for the benefit of the nation.
“If you don’t collectively agree on issues that will be raised, then the nation will be plunged into chaos. We do not want that to happen. Go out there and deliberate on a new constitution that will put national interest above all else,” President Kikwete stressed.
He urged all political parties and their members to deliberate on the new constitution; come up with ideas – and listen to and discuss those ideas peacefully so that those that are ideal are taken on board.
“I will be surprised if political parties don’t deliberate and come up with ideas to present at the constituent assembly. You will need, however, to be flexible in listening and accepting when a good idea is presented regardless of which political party that idea has come from. You have the responsibility of giving this nation a new unbiased constitution,” he explained.
Mr Kikwete urged political parties to have a good network and a reliable communication system to create modalities that will help solve problems that will arise amicably for the interest of the nation.
“I believe that political parties can make this exercise move forward or stop altogether if they will put political parties interests ahead of the nation’s’. The public depends on you to make a new constitution that will serve all the people of the United Republic of Tanzania,” he quipped.
Mr Kikwete noted that there were 3,774 applicants who stood an equal chance of being selected to the constituent assembly against 201 available slots.
A breakdown of those that applied against the available slots as shown in brackets include non-governmental organisations; 1, 647 (20), religious organisations; 329 (20) and political parties; 198 (42).
Others are educational institutions; 130 (20), organisation of people with disabilities; 140 (20), workers’ organisations; 202 (19), pastoralist organisations; 47 (10), union of fishermen; 57 (10), farmers; 157 (10) and those with identical ideological inclination; 727 (20).
“Therefore, 3,753 people will not be in the constituent assembly not because they are not good enough, but because of the few opportunities available,” President Kikwete noted, adding that the new constitution will serve the nation for the next 50 years or more unless the East Africa Community (EAC) or African Union (AU) turns into a political federation.
In his welcoming speech, the Political Parties Council Chairman, Mr Peter Mziray, commended President Kikwete for putting national interests above those of CCM.
Mr Mziray urged political party affiliates and the media to refrain from spreading and writing provocative reports.
He also urged President Kikwete to consider involving opposition party leaders in his foreign official trips, noting that the council also faces a number of challenges, including an office and limited financial resources.
The Political Parties Registrar, Judge Francis Mutungi, promised the president that his speech will be a working document in all deliberations in the constituent assembly to ensure the nation doesn’t plunge in chaos.
Commenting on President Kikwete’s address to the council’s meeting, the CCM Secretary General, Mr Abdulrahman Kinana, said the head of state’s advice was timely and aimed at ensuring that the nation gets a really people-centred constitution.
National NCCR-Mageuzi Chairman James Mbatia said the country belonged to all Tanzanians regardless of political affiliation, pointing out that political parties should put aside their differences and formulate a new constitution that will serve the people well.
National CHADEMA Chairman Freeman Mbowe welcomed President Kikwete’s counsel, noting that the CCM national chairman should stress to the ruling party members that the focus is the public and not political parties.