Monday, 30 December 2013

Katiba Watch Tanzania: Rasimu ya Pili

Tume ya Katiba kuwasilisha Rasimu ya pili kwa rais leo. Mambo muhimu ni pamoja na muundo wa Muungano, jina la Tanganyika, umri wa mgombea urais, madaraka ya rais,  haki za binadamu na mengine mengi.

Yatakayojiri kwenye rasimu ya pili ya katiba ntayawasilisha kesho.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Will a new constitutional solve Tanzania's problems?

I am a firm believer in constitutionalism. The constitution embodies the history and aspirations of a people. It defines a people. Constitutions world over are emblematic of the historical backgrounds and definitions of a people. It is thus most, if not all constitution's preamble start with the words "We the People". 

I have been involved in may debates with people of all walks of life regarding Tanzania's quest for a new constitution. I have always argued that a new constitution will emancipate the poor, drag us out of the abyss of poverty, poor governance and many other ills that plague our country. Theoretically speaking am right. A properly written law will incorporate the fundamental needs of a people. It will protect the disenfranchised people, distribute wealth equally, will seek to better the lives of the rural poor by giving them services such as schools, medical services, water, good infrastructure, affordable food prices. You could imagine of all the nicities that a new constitution will provide. 

But, will a new constitution solve all our problems? Tanzania is a transition. The country is enormously blessed with natural resources, good tourist attractions, enviable hospitality and a  cohesive national culture. Constitutions need to be implemented and supported unequivocally. Sincere political will is also needed. Yes, it can be done.  

Friday, 6 December 2013

World Cup Draw: Who are likely to go to the Second Round? England will Qualify for the KO Round!

With the FIFA World Cup draw done and dusted, focus now shifts to the actual games in Brazil next summer. The draw was done in the Brazilian City of Bahia. Eight groups of four were drawn pursuant to the criteria of geographical location and latest FIFA World Cup Rankings. Below are the 8 groups:

                                                                                                        To go to the KO Round
Group A:     Brazil (Hosts)                                           Brazil & Mexico 
                     Croatia
                     Mexico
                     Cameroon

Group B:     Spain                                                        Spain & Netherlands
                     Netherlands
                     Chile
                     Australia

Group C:     Colombia                                                 Colombia & CIV
                     Greece
                     Cote d'Ivoire
                     Japan

Group D:     Uruguay                                                   Italy & England 
                     Italy
                     England
                     Costa Rica

Group E:     Switzerland                                             France & Ecuador 
                     Ecuador
                     France
                     Honduras

Group F:      Argentina                                                Argentina and Iran
                     Nigeria
                     Iran
                     Bosnia & Herzegovina

Group G:     Germany                                                 Germany and Portugal
                     Ghana
                     Portugal
                     USA

Group H:    Belgium                                                    Belgium and Russia
                    Algeria
                    Russia
                    South Korea

These predictions are based on current form and FIFA rankings. I could change my opinion with time.
  

A tribute to Mandela: A Servant of Humanity


'South Africa has lost its greatest son' those were the words of South African President Jacob Zuma while announcing the passing of Nelson Mandela. Mandela lived and changed the world. A great man and icon of freedom. He served humanity, influenced humanity and taught us the essence of struggle for humanity. His passing reminds us of his enduring legacy of struggle for justice for all, service and dedication. As a young man, Mandela was a great inspiration of our time. His selfless character and enviable reputation of simplicity has shaped and will continue to shape me. As a Tanzanian, he together with Mwalimu Julius Nyerere remain my political role models.


Fare thee well Madiba!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Deja vu? Opposition Political Parties Wrangles in Tanzania

This is an opinion piece I wrote for the East african Newspaper last year. Deja vu? In light of Chadema power wrangles, this article provides some hindsight!  

Reading the East African (Jan 9-15, 2012) on ‘Why bitter opposition power struggles benefit ruling CCM’ reignited the debate on the need for formulating a new constitution in Tanzania. The piece unearthed the most pertinent issues that ail Tanzania’s current constitution. Contemporary democratic constitutions world over have served as foundations for progress and development. The current constitution has numerous loopholes, give excess powers to the head of state and lacks a proper checks and balance mechanism within the three arms of government. The constitution has failed to provide a comprehensive law in the area of political parties which the author explored in the issue. 

A Political Parties Act is one fundamental piece of legislation that mould society, economy and political participation, which is a prerequisite for democracy and good governance. The recent wave of expulsion of party members by their political parties in the opposition on various grounds and the clear lack of consensus on the consequences of such a move by various stakeholders such as the Registrar of Political Parties’ office, political parties themselves and the judiciary is a sign of a weak political parties law. The ruling party may be a beneficiary of the internal squabbles of the opposition parties, but it is imperative upon all stakeholders in the constitutional review process to put national interests first. Such a review requires patriotism and unity. Nurturing a progressive liberal democracy starts with building strong ideologue political parties and civil institutions. Let this be a challenge to all players in the constitution review process.  

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I heard tales of how prolific a writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was but from my early reading of her book,  I must admit she's an excellently gifted writer.

Let me be consumed in what Ifemelu and Obinze have in store. The descriptive prose and flowing connections of culture, tales of love and Nigerian stereotypes makes a good reading.

Thank you CNA for this good book.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

The Westgate Terrorist Attack: Any Lessons for Kenya’s Approach to Regional Security?

My jointly written article was recently published on Kujenga Amani Website. The article analyzes security implications of the region following the Al Shabaab terror siege on Westagate on September 21. For further details see article here.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Bishop Njoya and Dr. Mvungi Juxtaposed: Tanzania will get a new Constitution!

Nico Minde, Arusha
 
The death of Dr. Sengondo Mvungi, a member of the Constitution Review Commission (CRC) is a major blow. A man described by his colleagues as bright, humble and dedicated, Dr. Mvungi indeed was a man respected by many. Dr. Mvungi was a constitutional law expert and a law lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam. In 2005 he ran for the presidency on a NCCR Mageuzi ticket coming a distant fifth with a paltry 0.49% of the votes. He was badly injured after robbers broke into his house beating hima nad injuring him badly. He passed away after being admitted in a South African Hospital on 12 November. 

World over, prominent and even ordinary people have lost their lives while pursuing dreams. Nationalists in Africa bore the brunt while fighting for independence. Some like OR Tambo did not see the fruits of independence whereas a man like John Garang only lived a month after helping his country, South Sudan get independence. Their memories still live on, we celebrate them. 

The famous Kenyan cleric Bishop Timothy Njoya who fought the state using the pulpit now enjoys the fruits of a new constitution.  "I was defrocked by the PCEA three times, and I have been reinstated three times. I have also been ‘killed’ by the government three times and I have ‘risen’ three times,” he says. Rev. Njoya was once beaten by gangsters, who chopped his fingers and left him for dead because he campaigned for multiparty politics in Kenya. He says his greatest rewards is dismantling one-party rule. Just like Rev. Njoya, Dr. Mvungi was beaten and left for dead by unknown assailants. However, unlike Njoya, his fate was tragic. No one is alluding foul play to his death or any other sinister or ominous allegations in that regard, apart from the fact that he was attacked and beaten up by thugs and later died. But as Njoya likes to say "Through my beatings, comatose, and humiliation I bore a new constitution for Kenya". Maybe Dr. Mvungi's blood is first amongst the many that will fall for a cause, but eventually a NEW CONSTITUTION WILL COME TO BIRTH IN TANZANIA. Fare thee well, Dr. Mvungi!

Iran and the two Genevas

Via Al Monitor- Iran Pulse

Interesting analysis..read more here.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Database tracking Performance in Secondary Schools in Tanzania Launched

A website has been launched to track down the performance in O-Level Secondary Schools in Tanzania. Tanzania's education sector has received a barrage of criticisms from different people most notably educational and curriculum practitioners and policy experts. Further questions arose following the abysmal and appalling Form Four results last year (2012), which saw a record failure of 60 percent. A Commission to Investigate Causes of Poor Form IV Results was quickly formed by Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda. The findings are yet to be made public.

Just last week, the Ministry of Education came up with a new grading system which saw the expunging of Division Zero (Sifuri). Despite these changes, I have read and listened to a number of arguments and it seems the idea has not augured well with many. Tanzania's education system has for decades been on the spotlight for all the negative things. Issues such as the crisis of language in our education system, poor education infrastructure, inadequate skilled teaching personnel, corruption in the education sector, poor payment of teaching staff, amongst many other problems. In the recent past, civil societies in the ares of education have really brought these issues to us. CSOs such as Haki Elimu and Twaweza have instilled a culture of public accountability and citizen action in the areas of education. Civic awareness and the demand for accountability has risen forcing government to act in expediency. 

I am pleased to see more efforts been directed towards tracking the performance of secondary schools in Tanzania using innovative and modern ways such as having a results database for all schools in Tanzania.  The initiative is within  the context of Tanzanias commitment to the Open Government Partnership, The Shule Yangu initiative promises to be a fantastic idea more precisely because the government has failed in its duty. Such brilliant initiatives will not only improve awareness but act as a engagement platform for all stakeholders to discuss and monitor education trends across Tanzania. The initiative has started with Form Four Results, I am pretty sure the A-Level Tracking will be launched soon. The government should embrace this and seek ways for consultative dialogues in order to improve the standards of education in Tanzania.

For further details see Shule Yangu website here.  

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Why Tanzania is being excluded from the EAC

After posting a comment on my Facebook page on Tanzania's exclusion from the East African Community, one of my friends quickly reminded me of what has become a common phrase that "Tanzania is dragging its feet and we shall move on without you". Well, the threats are coming to fruition, with the rapid rise of "the coalition of the willing" of Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda and most recently South Sudan. The coalition of the willing is a phrase that has been coined to refer to the commitments of Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda to go it alone without Tanzania and Burundi. See my previous analysis on EAC woes here.

Having bilateral or for this case, trilateral meetings between and amongst states within the East African Community setup is not a problem. The Treaty of the EAC however, in Article 6 on the fundamental principles of the Community, is governed on mutual trust, political will and sovereign equality; peaceful coexistence and good neighborliness; and peaceful settlement of disputes. What Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda are doing is right pursuant to their national interests but not within the spirit of the Treaty. The Treaty establishes key organs which aid the running and operations of the bloc. These include; the summit, the council, the coordination committee, sectoral committees among eight other institutions. The summit which is composed of the Heads of States meet at least once a year to map and discuss important issues concerning the community. The recent meetings by the heads of Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda dubbed as integration summits can be described as a mini summits. Tanzania has now been excluded from these meetings in three occasions now. They first met in Uganda, then in Mombasa and this week met in Kigali. It is no brainer that there is a deliberate attempt to exclude Tanzania and Burundi from "their" affairs.  The coordination committee which is made up of permanent secretaries responsible in respective country's EAC ministry is involved in the coordination of activities agreed by the summit and the council. The sectoral committee is involved in different sectors concerning the community such as infrastructure. The actions by the three countries which were centered on infrastructure should have involved both the coordination committee and the sectoral committee as agreed by the Treaty.

South Sudan has been seeking to join the EAC. This was evidenced by the attendance of Salva Kiir, the President of South Sudan. Article 3 of the Treaty talks about membership and conditions for admitting a new member. In Article 3 (2) states that "The Partner States may, upon such terms and in such manner as they may determine, together negotiate with any foreign country the granting of membership to, or association of that country with, the Community or its participation in any of the activities of the Community. The meeting of the three states with South Sudan could be interpreted as going against the provisions of the Treaty since not all partner states were present when meeting South Sudan even if the subject of discussion wasn't on membership admission. 

Speaking in Parliament yesterday, Tanzania's East African Cooperation Minister Samuel Sitta threw spanner into the works when he said Tanzania's cooperation with DRC and Burundi was feasible. Mr. Sitta went on to say that Dar could divorce itself from the community. Methinks that he was just trying to be cynical whilst trying to flex Tanzania's muscles. Tanzania and Rwanda have had simmering tensions ever since President Kikwete called for Kigali to negotiate with the rebel outfit FDLR. Tanzania went forth to send her troops as part of the UN intervention brigade to DRC to help neutralize armed groups in the Eastern part of DRC. This did not auger well with Rwanda's president Paul Kagame. Tanzania has also been carrying out a nationwide operation to weed out illegal immigrants with many Rwandans falling victims. This also heightened the tensions.

Tanzania remains an integral component of the East African Community and a reliable partner. With Tanzania sharing a border with all the other four states, its influence remains very important.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

The World Today: A glimpse in the Headlines

Sudan, South Sudan leaders in deal over Abyei anr borders in Juba.

Mozambique ex-rebels Renamo attack after ending deal.

Final campaigns before Madagascar goes to the poll.

British Foreign Secretary says Assad not in Syria future plans.

Libyan terror suspext in court in New York.

France angry about US spying.

Uruguay to start selling marijuana next year.

Former Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson launches his autobiography

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Happiest Countries Report; Somalis are happier than Tanzanians!

For those who love world indices on various issue, the World's Happiness Report is out. As norm, African countries ranked the lowest in this index. The report shows that there is no African country in the top fifty with Angola being ranked as the Happiest nation in Africa. Tanzania was ranked a lower than Somaliland and other post-conflict nations such as Liberia, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sierra Leone. 

Six variables are used in the survey, namely GDP per capita, years of healthy life expectancy, social support systems, perception of corruption, prevalence of generosity and the freedom to make life choices. See here for full report.Well going by the variables used, it is evident why Tanzania ranked this low. Although there has been an improvement in health service provision over the years in Tanzania with significant improvements in malaria prevention and treatment provision of healthcare to the rural poor has not been achieved. The other variable of perception of corruption has been our undoing. There has been an increment in corruption related vices in government institution and public service. Institutions such as the police, migration, have been notorious in this. On freedom to make choices, Tanzania remains quite repressive in its laws. Most recently, the repressive Newspapers Act was used to ban Mwananchi and Mtanzania newspapers. There have been calls to amend this retrogressive law but the government remains unconvinced. Social support systems are also lacking. This report reminds the government of its duties especially for the ruling party which campaigned on a platform of "maisha bora kwa kila mtanzania" (Quality life to Every Tanzanian).

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Misinformation is EAC Integration's biggest Hurdle, not Tanzania

Tanzania has occasionally been accused as a stumbling bloc to the efforts of greater and deeper integration of the East African Community. Detractors and doomsayers have gone as far labeling Tanzania a sympathetic and closer to the Southern African Development Community (SADC). A new term has now been coined by the other partner states to show their solidarity minus Tanzania "The coalition of the willing". This came after the heads of states of Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda and some representatives from countries eyeing EAC membership met in the port city of Mombasa to discuss issues of trade. Tanzanian leaders reiterated that they were not invited. Tanzania's East African Community Affairs Minister Samuel Sitta has slammed this as "an act of isolation" and said that "Tanzania will not be bullied into fast-tracking the integration".  Tanzania's stance has always been a gradual and systematic approach to integration. 

The current tripartite coalition of Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda is contrary to the spirit of the community. But that being said, EAC's biggest hurdle is not Tanzania but misinformation and lack of civic awareness among the people of East Africa. Many a times, the EAC has been labeled an elitist body. That couldn't be far from the truth. The bloc has turned into a boardroom agenda of the Summit, the Council of Ministers and other technocrats. Many rural people do not know what the East African Community is and what its goals are. The integration paths of Economic Union, Common Market Protocol, a Monetary Union and ultimately a Political Federation are virtually unknown to the local people.

Just the other day, angry Kenyans reacted on social media to the alleged chasing out of Kenyans from Tanzania using the hash tag #SomeoneTellTanzania and Tanzanians reacted with a similar #SomeoneTellKenya. Reading the tweets, one could see the level of misinformation among the citizens of East Africa. People know very little about one another. We do not appreciate our differences and strengths. We have become very insensitive to one another. This can only be remedied through thorough civic education. The EAC leadership under the General Secretary Richard Sezibera should aim at incorporating integration studies in the school curriculum, where children are taught to appreciate the values of their neighbors and this will no doubt strengthen the quest for regional integration.    

Why Iran seeks constructive engagement

By Hassan Rouhani,
Hassan Rouhani is president of Iran.
Three months ago, my platform of “prudence and hope” gained a broad, popular mandate. Iranians embraced my approach to domestic and international affairs because they saw it as long overdue. I’m committed to fulfilling my promises to my people, including my pledge to engage in constructive interaction with the world.
The world has changed. International politics is no longer a zero-sum game but a multi-dimensional arena where cooperation and competition often occur simultaneously. Gone is the age of blood feuds. World leaders are expected to lead in turning threats into opportunities.The international community faces many challenges in this new world — terrorism, extremism, foreign military interference, drug trafficking, cybercrime and cultural encroachment — all within a framework that has emphasized hard power and the use of brute force.
We must pay attention to the complexities of the issues at hand to solve them. Enter my definition of constructive engagement. In a world where global politics is no longer a zero-sum game, it is — or should be — counterintuitive to pursue one’s interests without considering the interests of others. A constructive approach to diplomacy doesn’t mean relinquishing one’s rights. It means engaging with one’s counterparts, on the basis of equal footing and mutual respect, to address shared concerns and achieve shared objectives. In other words, win-win outcomes are not just favorable but also achievable.
A zero-sum, Cold War mentality leads to everyone’s loss.Sadly, unilateralism often continues to overshadow constructive approaches. Security is pursued at the expense of the insecurity of others, with disastrous consequences. More than a decade and two wars after 9/11, al-Qaeda and other militant extremists continue to wreak havoc. Syria, a jewel of civilization, has become the scene of heartbreaking violence, including chemical weapons attacks, which we stronglycondemn. In Iraq, 10 years after the American-led invasion, dozens still lose their lives to violence every day. Afghanistan endures similar, endemic bloodshed.The unilateral approach, which glorifies brute force and breeds violence, is clearly incapable of solving issues we all face, such as terrorism and extremism. I say all because nobody is immune to extremist-fueled violence, even though it might rage thousands of miles away. Americans woke up to this reality 12 years ago.
My approach to foreign policy seeks to resolve these issues by addressing their underlying causes. We must work together to end the unhealthy rivalries and interferences that fuel violence and drive us apart. We must also pay attention to the issue of identity as a key driver of tension in, and beyond, the Middle East.At their core, the vicious battles in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria are over the nature of those countries’ identities and their consequent roles in our region and the world. The centrality of identity extends to the case of our peaceful nuclear energy program. To us, mastering the atomic fuel cycle and generating nuclear power is as much about diversifying our energy resources as it is about who Iranians are as a nation, our demand for dignity and respect and our consequent place in the world. Without comprehending the role of identity, many issues we all face will remain unresolved.I am committed to confronting our common challenges via a two-pronged approach.First, we must join hands to constructively work toward national dialogue, whether in Syria or Bahrain.
We must create an atmosphere where peoples of the region can decide their own fates. As part of this, I announce my government’s readiness to help facilitate dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition.Second, we must address the broader, overarching injustices and rivalries that fuel violence and tensions. A key aspect of my commitment to constructive interaction entails a sincere effort to engage with neighbors and other nations to identify and secure win-win solutions.We and our international counterparts have spent a lot of time — perhaps too much time — discussing what we don’t want rather than what we do want. This is not unique to Iran’s international relations.
In a climate where much of foreign policy is a direct function of domestic politics, focusing on what one doesn’t want is an easy way out of difficult conundrums for many world leaders. Expressing what one does want requires more courage.After 10 years of back-and-forth, what all sides don’t want in relation to our nuclear file is clear. The same dynamic is evident in the rival approaches to Syria.This approach can be useful for efforts to prevent cold conflicts from turning hot. But to move beyond impasses, whether in relation to Syria, my country’s nuclear program or its relations with the United States, we need to aim higher. Rather than focusing on how to prevent things from getting worse, we need to think — and talk — about how to make things better. To do that, we all need to muster the courage to start conveying what we want — clearly, concisely and sincerely — and to back it up with the political will to take necessary action. This is the essence of my approach to constructive interaction.
As I depart for New York for the opening of the U.N. General Assembly, I urge my counterparts to seize the opportunity presented by Iran’s recent election. I urge them to make the most of the mandate for prudent engagement that my people have given me and to respond genuinely to my government’s efforts to engage in constructive dialogue. Most of all, I urge them to look beyond the pines and be brave enough to tell me what they see — if not for their national interests, then for the sake of their legacies, and our children and future generations.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Debate on Sim-Card Tax: Views by Tanzanians


A study by Twaweza on the controversial sim-card tax reveals a number of interesting findings. One key finding is that the tax amount is equivalent to a one week worth of airtime for the poorest households. One positive finding was that most Tanzanians have access to mobile phones but still an abysmal 46% are aware of the sim-card tax. See complete briefing here


Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Tanzania needs "Minimum Constitutional Reforms" for Now

A constitution symposium was organized by the Tanzania Constitution Forum (Jukwaa la Katiba) yesterday in Dar es Salaam. A number of paramount issues were raised by the discussants. Chief among them was the constituent assembly composition. This follows the heated debate in parliament last week over the same issue. A Bill was passed in parliament last week proposing 357 MPs in the United Republic of Tanzania and 81 representatives of the Zanzibar House of Representatives to be part of the constituent assembly. The Bill further proposes that 166 others be appointed by the president meaning that the total membership will be 604. The Chairperson of Jukwa la Katiba Deus Kibamba highlighted a very important issue of minimum reforms. 

As pointed out earlier in this blog, constitutional making process is not a one time event but a long and tedious process. From the look of things, it would be next to impossible for Tanzanians to finalize the tit-bits of the process and then go for a constitutional referendum before the next general elections in 2015. It is believed that there could be a deliberate ploy by certain people to frustrate the process so that the elections are pushed to 2017. The timeline set by the Constitution Review Commission will be hard to see the delivery of a new constitution before the elections of 2015. The suggestion for minimum reforms by Mr. Kibamba are timely and could be of great service to Tanzania at this time. 

In 1997, a Inter-Parties Parliamentary Group (IPPG) in Kenya pressed the then president Daniel Moi for crucial reforms before going into the 1997 general elections. Their calls included the set up of the electoral body in terms of composition and appointment of members, issues of the expanding the Bill of Rights of the minority, equity in political representation and resource distribution. Such calls together with those preceding the 2007 elections are vital lessons for Tanzania.

In truth, it will be diffucult for tanzania to have a new constitution before the elections. A lot of issues remain unsolved and division on issues such as the composition of the constituent assembly further shows we need more time. I urge the Constitution Forum to go ahead and highlight the needed "minimum reforms" and present them to the CRC and even the president. Taking lessons from Kenya, one of the minimum reforms should be the composition of the National Electoral Commission (NEC). The process of choosing commissioners to this body should be a cross-party consultative engagement and NEC should be given much independence. The Chairperson of this body should also be vetted by parliament. 

The call for minimum reforms by Mr. Kibamba are timely and should be taken into consideration.        

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Striking Syria Illegal, immoral and dangerous

Phyllis Bennis; additional input from Nico Minde

With an impending motion before Congress on whether or not US carries a military intervention in Syria, Phyllis Bennis examines why the move to sanction a military operation will be illegal, immoral and dangerous. President Barack Obama is coy over the move as interpreted by his move to seek "Congress authorization". Secretary John Kerry has been adamant saying that the President needs no authorization to act. It has been reported in late August that the Bashaar Al Asaad government used chemical gas on its people. International pro-US media has been propping the story and calling for an imminent strike on Syria. Below is an analysis by Bennis posted in Al Jazeera. 

See analysis here




Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Friday, 23 August 2013

The Future of American Diplomacy

Via the Diplomat

Is not doubling down on its great-power past, but in response to the "rise of the rest" is something more inclusive. Globalization has been changing U.S. foreign policy since the beginning of the American Republic. From our first diplomatic post in Tangier, Morocco founded in 1777, to the more than 285 diplomatic facilities around the world today operated by the U.S. Department of State, the business of diplomacy has evolved over time.

While it is obvious that thriving markets and global security go hand in hand, along with America’s central role in both arenas, often our diplomacy and institutions do not reflect this reality. In other words, the channels of influence that America could once rely on—large, multinational consortia of first-world powers—are waning in power. If one thing is clear to ambassadors around the world, it’s that U.S. diplomacy needs a jumpstart into the 21st century.

The key for American diplomacy is not doubling down on its great-power past, but harnessing the future on the ground. The enthusiasm and entrepreneurial spirit that became infectious in the “Arab Spring” countries will remain the norm. Young people are tapping into the culture of innovation, even amidst the political difficulties and a lack of access to money and resources. In turn, effective, pragmatic partnerships based on shared objectives—economic growth, stability and more—will be the engine for increased security and prosperity. This is the future of diplomacy, not just at the U.S. State Department—but worldwide.

On The Ground 
While terms such as “Economic Statecraft,” “Global Engagement,” and “Strategic Partnerships” have come into fashion in Washington, the tangible impact of these buzzwords is difficult to measure. Ironically, some of the most challenging places for U.S. foreign policy represent some of the greatest opportunities for these new approaches in 21-century statecraft.

The key is to create and empower stable business conditions in unstable places through private-sector leadership. The intersection of public and private sectors has now blurred the lines in diplomacy. Today, our diplomats are beginning to understand that public-private partnerships can get the most out of available resources, technology, knowledge, and networks. In fact, these partnerships might be the most effective foreign policy tool America has at its disposal today.

Take Israel and Palestine, where U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is pushing towards a final diplomatic peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. Last year, I visited the Palestinian Territories to support an event called “Celebration of Innovation,” a locally organized business development and investor pitch competition. Essentially the State Department’s own prototype of Shark Tank, fifteen young Palestinian entrepreneurs were selected from hundreds of applicants to compete for the chance to present their ideas to an international audience. The two winners, Alaa—a twenty-four year old from the Gaza Strip who had never left his home before winning the chance to pitch his business—and Aya, the first Palestinian woman to own and raise sheep from Nabulus, are representative of a global change. If one thing became clear, it was that the next generation doesn’t want charity; they want a chance. 

Working with the best and brightest that this troubled region had to offer, their ingenuity—especially limited money and shaky security—is impressive. While observing the number of Palestinian businessmen and entrepreneurs that had succeeded throughout the Arab world, despite the odds, a Palestinian professor commented to me that, “Diamonds are created under pressure, therefore it is only natural that Palestinians entrepreneurs are like diamonds within this region.”
Alaa beamed with pride as he presented his business idea of creating miniature furniture for densely packed living conditions, like those in cramped New York studios, that he invented to deal with the overcrowded apartment in Gaza that his family lived in. Aya, short and covered in a traditional head-scarf, electrified the crowd with her energy as she pitched her idea of raising organic sheep to be locally sourced, given restrictions faced in the West Bank of imports from neighboring countries. In a packed room that was being broadcast live on television, both of these young entrepreneurs won grants to further develop their businesses.The amount of these micro-investments were negligible when balanced against the international aid and development budgets that the U.S. lends to their homeland. But the impact of empowering these young leaders—and the jobs they create—will be felt long beyond the legacy of the political leaders that today dictate the terms of the ongoing peace process. Cities like Richmond and Chicago have seen a link between creating jobs and lowering crime; Gaza and Nabulus are no different.

Changing Global Dynamics
The international system, which until the 1990s saw power disproportionally concentrated in North America and Europe, has since witnessed a dramatic change in distribution to other players—mostly in Asia and South America. To understand why 20th-century diplomacy needs an upgrade, it’s worth a look at the recent changes on the global stage.

Brazil, once a poster-child for income inequality, has enjoyed its economic renaissance following a prolonged lull. Indonesia, although still manacled by corruption, has evolved from an insular military dictatorship into a politically stable democracy with a promising economy. India has gone from an aid-dependent regional power to a hotbed of entrepreneurship, with its economy more than doubling in size between 2002 and 2008.

In that same period, Turkey’s economy has more than tripled, accompanied by a strong sense of identity and a brash self-confidence. Last, but certainly not least, is the dramatic rise of China, which in 1990 had a gross domestic product per capita less than India’s, but is today almost four times as wealthy. Yet with each of these economic successes comes development challenges, as played out recently in the streets of Brazil and Turkey through protest movements, not to mention the ongoing tumult playing out throughout the Arab world.

This so-called “rise of the rest” presents the United States with a decision. On the one hand, it could incorporate these new players into established systems of global governance, more accurately reflecting the distribution of international power and strengthen international cooperative mechanisms. On the other hand, if the West were to continue to resist or deny these new global players a place at the high table, there is a strong likelihood that the entire global system – which the West created and carefully nurtured over the past half century for its benefit, and that of others – may be jeopardized.


Friday, 16 August 2013

Kenya Referendum Talk: Lessons for Constitution Making in Tanzania

Nico Minde
Constitution making is not a one-time event, rather it is a long time and historical process that may be highly contentious, highly volatile and could cause massive divisions if not handled well. I once wrote in this blog that no country can say it is going to write a constitution in one or two years as envisioned by Tanzania. Building strong democracies world over require building strong constitutions and strong constitutional culture (constitutionalism). With Tanzania in this process of drafting a new constitution, we should be reminded of the challenges that lie ahead. We should take substantive lessons from our neighbors Kenya. Kenya has now being involved in two constitution referendums between two crucial general elections. 

In 2005, the proposed constitution was rejected in a landslide "No Vote" which was spearheaded by the opposition together with some 'rebel' cabinet ministers. The move highly embarrassed the government and president Mwai Kibaki who then dismissed the rogue cabinet ministers. Kenya then experienced the worst moment of its history after the 2007 general elections. Violence erupted after dissatisfaction with the presidential elections killing and displacing many Kenyans. Our neighbors saw this as an opportunity to speed up the then stalled constitution making process. Under Agenda 4 which was one component of Agenda items of the National Accord Reconciliation Agreement (NARA) there was need to examine and address constitutional, legal and institutional reforms, poverty and inequality, youth unemployment and land reforms. It was mediated by former UN secretary General Kofi Annan as a measure of restoring sustainable peace in the country. The success of this process came when Kenya voted in a peaceful referendum in August 4 2010 and subsequently promulgated in August 27, 2010 in a colorful ceremony. 

Despite 67% of Kenyans voting for the Proposed New Constitution, there is still dissatisfaction with a number of key issues. A group allied to the opposition Coalition for Reform and Democracy (CORD) called March 4 Movement (M4M) is calling for a referendum to change the constitution by having an electoral college system when electing a president and not through a popular vote as it is currently (more details here). The senate is also dissatisfied with the pace of devolution and revenue allocation in the counties. The referendum talk should be a reminder to Tanzania in key constitutional making issues. One is the form of government. Tanzanians should debate thoroughly on the type of government that will best suit us. This will among other things include the role of the President, the nature of the political union between Tanzania mainland and Tanzania-Zanzibar, the role of the legislature, the election of the president and so on. The other crucial factor is the role of provincial administration in governance. The constitution councils (Mabaraza ya Katiba) should take positive lessons from Kenya while debating on the keys issues as raised herein.    

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Can Rouhani engage with the US?

Nico Minde
New Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was sworn in early this month. He takes over from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who according to many analysts took the already sour relations with the US to the abyss. Dr. Rouhani is a moderate cleric who is seen by many as a person who could try and engage with the US on issues central to Iran's nuclear agenda. Al Monitor offers an analysis on the same here. The era of Ahmadinejad was filled with fiery rhetoric and Iran positioned itself for increased sanctions from the West. Iran became isolated and its economy hit the doldrums. In his swearing in ceremony, Rouhani called for a "language of respect" when negotiating with Iran and not through sanctions. "If you seek a suitable answer, speak to Iran through the language of respect, not through the language of sanctions," the president said. The president also hinted that Iran will seek to engage with the US. He further said that Iranian nuclear program was a peaceful one and one that is geared towards generating electricity and sustainable energy. Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking on CBS News before Rouhani took oath, he said that Iran is getting closer to the red line he illustrated during the UN summit in New York last September. The two sides continue to be antagonistic towards each other which could jeopardize the negotiations and talks. However, the indications by the new President saying he is willing to engage with the US is welcoming. Iran should however be wary of American scheming and not fall into their marauding antics. Before his elections Rouhani said that the West needs to be genuine if they were to negotiate over Iran nuclear issue. As a former chief nuclear negotiator, President Rouhani understands this very well.

Mali Elections Infograph

Via Al Jazeera

With the counting of votes for the presidential elections run off in Mali, Al Jazeera gives a infographic analysis. See it here.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Kikwete responds diplomatically to Rwanda jibes

Nicodemus Minde
Tanzania's president Jakaya Kikwete has responded to the diplomatic spat between Tanzania and Rwanda. President Kikwete was very diplomatic in responding to the jibes and counter jibes coming from some quarters of Rwanda. Kikwete had early made proposals to the Rwanda government to negotiate with the FDLR militia. President Kikwete during the 50th anniversary of the African Union in Addis Ababa, called on Rwanda to negotiate with the rebel outfit because the military efforts have failed. In a quick rejoinder Louise Mushikiwabo, the Rwandan Foreign Minister described Kikwete’s remarks as “aberrant” and “shocking”. The simmering tensions have gone on for long now. As is alleged Rwanda's president Paul Kagame publicly threatened to hit president Kikwete. The following is an excerpt of his alleged tirade: 

"And those whom you recently heard speaking for the Interahamwe and FDLR, saying that we should negotiate with them. Negotiate with them? As for me, I do not even argue about this issue because I will wait for you at the right place and I will hit you!! I really did not… I didn’t even reply to him, I never arg… uh… it is known, there is a line you can’t cross. There is a line, there is a line that should never be crossed. Not once. It’s impossible!!…”

Jakaya Kikwete who previously served as Foreign Minister for ten years before he became president, has been very diplomatic in his response. Ideally, President Kikwete response embodies the tenets and principles of Tanzania's foreign policy. He used his monthly television and radio address to elaborate on the spat. "Our relations with Rwanda remain the same and nothing has changed" he said. President Kikwete said that he has heard a lot been said about him and Tanzania concerning the remarks he made. In a diplomatic and cordial language, Kikwete noted that the facts have been "completely been put out of proportion and completely out of context". He acknowledged Tanzania's close ties with its neighbors and the historical support Tanzania offered to Rwanda. In a calm demeanour Kikwete said he had nothing personal and against Kagame and that he was just airing his views. 

The response by Kikwete further highlights Tanzania's historical image of a peace-loving country. The country has modeled itself as an island of peace and a good neighbor as espoused in its key foreign policy pillars. The move by Kagame, which Kikwete notes, has deeper undertones. As a leader, Kikwete was entitled to give his views. If the views did not augur well with Rwanda, then its leaders should have in the same light responded to them and not throwing jibes and war rhetorics. Kikwete reminded its percieved enemies that Tanzania is cable of defending at whichever onslaught.