Nicodemus Minde, Arusha, Tanzania
Having read a snick preview of Chadema’s proposal to the Constitutional Review Committee of Tanzania, I must admit that the proposal of the type of government sets a dangerous precedence to the existence of the union government. The proposal reads; there will be a united republic of Tanzania made up of the state of Tanganyika and the state of Zanzibar (loosely translated from Swahili). The current Constitution of 1977 reads in Chapter One, Part 1 on the United Republic and its People (1) Tanzania is one State and is a sovereign United Republic and (2) The territory of the United Republic consists of the whole of the area of Mainland Tanzania and the whole of the area of Tanzania Zanzibar, and includes the territorial waters. Besides the numerous flaws in the current constitution, the above mentioned provision has adequately defined and preserved the nature of the political union. A constitution is a document that defined the beliefs and aspirations of a people. It embodies the dreams of a nation across generations. The founding father of Tanzania Mwalimu Nyerere believed in a political union with Zanzibar. The union has withstood many shakeups and myriads of opposition. Despite the setbacks, we as a people of this republic are reminded of the dreams of our forefathers; the dream of keeping alive the union.
One of the challenges the union has faced over the years has been that of the question of the statehood of Zanzibar. In international law, the best known formulation of the basic criteria of statehood is laid down in Article 1 of the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, 1933. In fulfilling this capacity, states are commonly termed as to possess international legal personality. Subjects of international law include persons and entities capable of possessing international rights and duties under international law and endowed with the capacity to take certain types of action on the international plane. Many scholars have argued on the classification of Zanzibar as state. Calls for secession by Zanzibar have largely been on the grounds that it be granted self-determination which is the character of a state.
A critical overview of the proposal of the type and nature of the union government by Chadema threatens the existence of the union. I say this based on the following grounds; (1) By terming Zanzibar a state/country, it will ignite the debate on whether or not Zanzibar possess international legal personality pursuant to international law; (2) in the wake of this debate, holding on to the union whether through a referendum, as proposed by Chadema in the case of either parties wants to opt out of the union, will further raise political tensions which could lead to the breakup of the union.
My position is that whatever proposals are made up by individuals, institutions, and political parties on the type and nature of government should be aimed at maintaining and preserving the political union. This will prove an arduous task since it will be hard to please everyone. But a carefully thought out and all inclusive and well engaged process shall suffice and formulate the appropriate form of government.