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Restructuring Tanzanian Constitution: Why a Decentralized System is best

The oldest constitutions in the world were framed in the 17th century and have been described as revolutionary pacts because they ushered in new political systems. After decades of a permeable and loosely constructed constitution, Tanzania is now in the process of drafting a supreme law that will address and map the future of Tanzania. The Constitutional Review Commission under the chairmanship of retired judge Joseph Warioba is now in the stages of creating constitutional councils (mabaraza ya katiba). The 1977 constitution was born after the political union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar. The law, as Issa Shivji puts it, derived its legal authority from the Articles of the Union. The process meant that Zanzibar lost its autonomy and was succeeded by Tanzania. International law, under the topic of state succession will best explain the 'dissolution' of Zanzibar and how its autonomy was swallowed by mainland Tanzania. This is a sensitive topic, which has elicited sharp reactions from Tanzania Zanzibar politicians. 

The ascension of the 1977 constitution, declared by virtue of law, the supremacy of single party dictatorship in Tanzania under the CCM banner. I don't intend to delve into the ramifications thereof of a single party rule. Of crucial importance today shall be the decentralization form of government through a contextual analysis of Tanzania. 

Tanzania has been operating as a loosely conceptualized unitary state. There is a union parliament, house of representative in Zanzibar, a union president and the president of Zanzibar. Zanzibar MPs have always called for more autonomy of the isle. Bickering over the 'state' of Zanzibar have become a norm. In addressing the dissatisfaction of Zanzibar on the degree of autonomy, a decentralized form of government can best deal with this.

Decentralization is a mechanism that disperses authority from the central government to other institutions or levels of government, and as such it becomes one solution to many problems that arise over dissatisfaction by constituent members. Decentralization can involve assigning sub-national levels of government elements of 'self-rule' by which they obtain the authority to regulate and/or run certain functions or services on their own such as healthcare, primary education and can also include the establishing of a system of shared rule, allowing sub-national entities to be involved in national rule making, often through delegation of duties. The object of decentralization remains devolution of services, and creating national unity within a polity. 

A decentralized form of government will see more economic development through federal state, regional or county based government. Services shall be devolved to local constituents, meaning that the management of these basic necessities will be at the plate of local government. Appeasing Zanzibar can best be done through sub-national devolution where these units are given autonomy as constituent entities of a territory. With over 26 regions, Tanzania can best serve the needs of the now 45 million people better through a well structured devolved system of government. The positive effects of decentralization of power are among many; the limitation of authoritarianism at national level brought about by dictatorial political parties and individuals, increasing responsiveness to the needs and preference of the people, encouraging positive, active approaches to government and policy development. For a country that is well blessed with resources, good climate, tourism (just to mention a few), Tanzania;s form of decentralization can be a model for prosperity. Though, negative aspects can crop such as harmful competition among regions, deficiency in human and financial resources, a proper law and good leadership can instigate progress. The depth of decentralization can go as far as judicial/legal devolution, revenue devolution, fiscal devolution among others. A constitutional edifice that champions this will no doubt bring prosperity.


  1. Zanzibar to be given autonomy or semi-autonomy!! i would imagine you meant the latter. Do they want it or it is you proposing that it is good and may work better for them? Then something in the document should also be clear, like a referendum on the way forward especially regarding secession interests or declare it unitary once and for all...


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