A Beleaguered Political Marriage: The Tanganyika-Zanzibar Union and the Constitution Process in Tanzania

A Beleaguered Political Marriage: The Tanganyika-Zanzibar Union and the Constitution Process in Tanzania

The concept of statebuilding in academic terms has come to refer to peacebuilding (mostly after a period or periods of conflict), and to enhancing the capacity of the state and strengthening its institutions and its legitimacy. Statebuilding has also been carried out following gross historical injustices, like apartheid in South Africa, when it has involved national reconciliation, transitional justice, and healing. For Tanzania, a country that has enjoyed peace and tranquility for the better part of its independence, statebuilding has occurred—and continues to occur—in a peaceful environment.

Tanzania (officially known as the United Republic of Tanzania) is a Union between Tanzania Mainland (formally Tanganyika) and Tanzania Zanzibar (the Indian Ocean archipelagoes of Unguja and Pemba Islands). In existence for fifty years, the Union has won praise from the advocates of Pan-Africanism and the ideologues of African unity.

Tanganyika gained independence from Britain on December 9, 1961. In December 1963, Zanzibar held democratic elections and gained independence from Britain, and the Sultanate of Zanzibar assumed power. In what has come to be known as the Zanzibar Revolution, the Sultanate was brutally overthrown on January 12, 1964. On April 26, 1964, the then president of Tanganyika, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, and Sheikh Abeid Amani Karume of Zanzibar, solemnized a Union and Tanzania was born. Now, five decades later, Tanzania is rewriting her constitution, and the Union question is central to the debate.

Notwithstanding its longevity, the Union has faced many challenges, mostly regarding its constitutionality and legitimacy. Discontents, dissatisfaction, and sometimes general antipathy have come from both Tanzania Mainland and Zanzibar, with these sentiments more visible and vociferous on the Zanzibar side. In 2011, a law was passed to set up a Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) to, among other things,

• Coordinate and collect public opinions;
• Examine and analyze the consistency and compatibility of the constitutional provisions in relation to the sovereignty of the people, political systems, democracy, rule of law and good governance;
• Make recommendations on each term of reference; and
• Prepare and submit a report.

In Article 2, the Act stipulates that it shall apply to Mainland Tanzania and Tanzania Zanzibar, which form the United Republic of Tanzania. With the release of a second constitutional draft in December, 2013, the draft is now before the Constituent Assembly (CA), a body of 635 persons comprising the members of the National Assembly of Tanzania (358), those of the House of Representatives of Zanzibar (76), and an additional 201 members drawn from nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), faith-based organizations, and all registered political parties. It also includes individuals from institutions of higher learning, groups of people with special needs, workers’ associations, associations representing farmers, associations representing pastoralists, and any other group of persons having a common interest.

After months collecting views and opinions from the public and other stakeholders, the CRC presented a comprehensive report together with a second draft of the constitution in December 2013. The report included findings on the powers of the president of the United Republic of Tanzania; the ethics and integrity of the leaders and their accountability; various aspects of policy having to do with electoral systems and the electoral commission in Tanzania; and, particularly, issues regarding the Union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar.

Findings on the last point included a number of complaints stemming from the running of the Union and its operations. Among them were the following from the public in Zanzibar:

• The government of Tanzania Mainland is assuming the role of the Union government, thus benefiting Tanzania Mainland more than Zanzibar.
• The Union matters keep adding up, thus affecting Zanzibar’s autonomy and eroding its identity.
• The face of Tanganyika is being hidden from the Union government, thereby dishonoring the agreements of the Articles of the Union (the principle Union agreement).
• The country seems to maintain two parallel economies rather than a single one into which Zanzibar is fully incorporated, and on which it is consulted by the Union government.

Meanwhile, the dominant sentiments in Tanzania Mainland (Tanganyika) were as follows:

• Zanzibar has attained and assumed full autonomy with its own flag, national anthem, and a government with its own constitution, making it a more or less sovereign state in international law.
• Zanzibar has abrogated the terms of the Union so that, if laws of the Union are to be used in Zanzibar, they must be brought before the Zanzibar House of Representatives, making the constitution of Zanzibar superior to the Union Constitution.
• Further contradiction exists between the Union constitution (of 1977), which states in Article 1 that Tanzania is one state and a sovereign United Republic, and the constitution of Zanzibar (of 1984), which states in Article 2 that Zanzibar is one of two states forming the United Republic of Tanzania.

Altogether, these complaints shook the foundations of the Union, whose legitimacy and constitutionality had long been in doubt, with academics even questioning the existence of the Articles of the Union that established it (Legislation of the Agreement of the Tanganyika–Zanzibar Union). Renowned Tanzanian legal and political scholar Issa Shivji pinpoints this in his book, Pan-Africanism? Lessons of Tanganyika–Zanzibar Union, claiming the Articles’ existence was even questioned by Wolfgang Dourado, who at the time of the Union was the attorney general of Zanzibar. Dourado said there was no law ratifying the Articles nor was such a law published in Zanzibar’s Government Gazette.

The CRC report, which was premised on the opinions of a majority of Tanzanians (from both sides of the Union), proposed a revised constitution providing for a three-government format, with a government of Tanganyika, a government of Zanzibar, and a Union government. Appearing before the CA to explain the merits of this framework, CRC chairman Joseph Warioba held the position that a three-tier government structure would help abate the frailties of the Union. He supported his stance by appositely referencing historical accounts and other similar case studies, as well as reports of previous commissions set up to look into the squabbles of the Union, and opinions from the people, government institutions and departments, and political parties, among other interest groups.

Warioba also outlined the problems of the current two-government structure, which is supported by the ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM). He cited it as one of the reasons the Union continues to claim that what is currently in place is two countries with two governments, rather than the one country with two governments, as the founding fathers had intended. Warioba believes the three-tier government structure proposed in the draft constitution, in which the two parties of the Union form a federal type of government, will be even stronger than the government of the founding fathers.

The framework and future of the Union have been central to the Constituent Assembly’s discussions and debates about the second draft constitution, as presented by the CRC. Without doubt, the Union has epitomized the idea of Pan-Africanism as envisioned by modern progenitors, such as Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Julius Nyerere of Tanzania. Amid the incessant squabbles, the constitutional review process has also provided an ideal avenue to discuss the past, the present, and the future of Tanzania. In this way, Tanzania has joined a list of many other African countries, such as Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Sierra Leone, and Zimbabwe, that are also now reviewing their independence constitutions. On August 27, 2010, after almost two decades effort, Kenya promulgated a new constitution, while Zimbabwe approved a new constitution upon parliamentary approval following a constitutional referendum victory in May 2013.

The proposed three-tiered government structure will ease the historical tensions between Tanzania Mainland and Zanzibar, and strengthen this iconic political union. The contentious issues between these two entities raised herein can best be addressed by this government format which gives Zanzibar an identity, as well as Tanganyika, through a revised Union government. Having a constitution that captures and espouses the aspirations of a majority of Tanzanians is key for continued statebuilding.

About the Author

Nicodemus Minde is a researcher at the International Law and Policy Institute (ILPI) African regional office in Arusha, Tanzania. Prior to this he was a research associate at the School of Humanity and Social Sciences at the United States International University (USIU) in Nairobi, Kenya. He previously worked at the African Union Advocacy Program under the Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa (OSIEA) in Nairobi. He holds an MA and BA in International Relations from United States International University. His areas of interest include international law (with a special focus on international human rights and criminal law), foreign policy analysis, development, and peace and conflict studies. Minde, a Tanzanian national, has written a number of analyses on issues of the constitution process in Tanzania, international criminal law jurisprudence, foreign policy, and peacebuilding and statebuilding in South Sudan. He is also a freelance writer for a local sports newspaper. He blogs at decolanga.blogspot.com.

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