Religious Leaders Meet With Political Parties’ Leaders
CCT has been facilitating high level consultative meetings between Religious Leaders and other important stakeholders at national level including political parties, government officials, national election commission and law enforcers organs, to challenge policy and legal frameworks that perpetuate systematic injustice and threat of peace and promote a culture of dialogue to resolve sensitive matters of contention between religions (Christianity and Islam), political parties (ruling party and opposition parties) and all Tanzanians at large. The political tension that is experienced in Tanzania still needs further mediation and dialogues within the political parties and religious leaders. The need to continue engaging malt-stakeholders dialogues in democratic processes is still of high importance.
With this background CCT in collaboration with Tanzania Centre Democracy (TCD) which is formed by the political parties having members of the parliament conducted a consultative workshop on 9th May, 2017. The meeting was attended by 7 members of the political parties which are chairperson and party secretary from CHADEMA, NCCR-MAGEUZI and ACT-Wazalendo and 18 Religious leaders from religious leader’s umbrella bodies of TEC, CPCT, CCT, BAKWATA and KARISMTIC. The ruling party CCM was invited by TCD but did not show up in the meeting.
The meeting was successful as it was a forum to evaluate and discuss different issues that are happening in the political space and share concerns on the role of each other in addressing the issues. Some of the concerns raise were that the religious leaders have been quite and have not provided its prophetic voice to emerging issues, freedom of speech and media, independency of the judiciary and parliament, abduction and disappearing of people, and killings of citizens and police in Kibiti,rufiji and Mkuranga.
It was agreed that these meetings should continue to provide a forum for discussion and consultation in addressing the national peace and tranquility.
OBJECTIVE OF THE CONSULTATION
The main objective of the consultation was to discuss together the national peace and tranquility. Specifically it aimed at
- Sharing the experience of the political situation in Tanzania
- Evaluating the political environment that threaten the peace of Tanzania
OPENING REMARKS BY CCT CHAIRPERSON-Bishop Alinikisa Cheyo
The chairperson of CCT, represented by vice chairperson, thanked all the participants for their readiness to come and participate in this meeting. He emphasized that roundtable consultations and discussions have been the source of peace and harmony in the history of the world. It is important to make sure these meetings are happening to calm the tension before the situation becomes violent. He asked the participants to be open and ready to discuss the situation in a way that will contribute to peace and justice within the Tanzanians
OPENING REMARKS BY TCD CHAIRPERSON – Hon. Freeman Mbowe
The chairperson of TCD thanked the religious leaders for their input in the discussion of peace and harmony in the country. He asked religious leaders to forgive the politicians when they err in words or deeds. He said that Tanzania Centre for Democracy was established as a platform for political parties with members of parliament to discuss and negotiate different issues as a means to maintain peace and secure political environment in the country. However the operations of TCD in the current regime has changed and so far TCD has failed to perform its duties as it is supposed to.
The chairperson of CHADEMA Hon. Freeman Mbowe, opened his presentation by saying that the permanent powers of the country are build up in the pillar of trust and people. He insisted that the religious leaders have both powers of trust and people in their outreach. He challenged the religious leaders not being courageous enough to take steps to address the issues that are ongoing in the country as a measure to have a better country that is peaceful and democratic. He revealed that the political parties rely on religious leaders to direct the roadmap to the country’s peace, democracy and development. He said that the country now is faced with the following issues that the religious leaders have to work on and find the solutions if Tanzania is to remain a peaceful and democratic state.
- The political space is shrinking every day: Since the introduction of multi-party in Tanzania political parties have been allowed to conduct politics according to the law. However with the 5th regime Government political activities have been tightly restricted. For instance Political Parties can no longer conduct public meetings, while some of the internal meetings are also interfered or disallowed. Yet, leaders and MPs from political parties are threatened due to unwarranted arrests and unfounded charges them with different cases and even abducting them is going on. The state is quiet but fearful.
- Freedom of media and freedom of speech: The introduction and implementation of the Media Services Act and Cybercrime Act have been used to jeopardize freedom of speech and media. The media is highly censored since publication or airing of content is under strict scrutiny by the government. There is fear among media houses as well because airing content contrary to government’s wishes is not safe. In a particular incident he cited a case where a government official forcefully entered a media house premises and tried to coerce publication of content in his favour, against journalism ethics.
- Independency of the Judiciary: This is a highly important pillar for any democratic state where citizens believe to get justice, he insisted. For now the judiciary is not independent as the Regional and District Commissioners have been given powers over judicial officers. To date the arm is lead by Acting Chief Justice and the President has been offering resources directing the judiciary of what to do. Therefore the public is losing trust as to whether they can get justice from Judiciary.
- Independency of the Parliament: The government is interfering too much with affairs of the National Assembly to the extent that the parliament is not an independent pillar of the state. The government has banned live broadcasts from the National Assembly; the president is not adhering to the Budget Act as he reallocates resources as he wishes without following the procedures of reallocation in budget process. Worse enough the ruling party MPs are afraid of challenging the government. These are some of the issues that threaten the independency of the parliament and the oversight role of the parliament.
- Elected leaders .V. appointed leaders: There is a growing trend of the appointed leaders like District commissioners, District executive Directors and Regional commissioners to act as if they have more powers than elected members. The President has even said that councilors should not “disturb” District Executive Directors (DEDs) not taking into account the powers of councilors according to Local Governments Act. So far serious controversies have happened between presidential appointees and elected leaders (MPs and Councilors). Therefore adherence to the rule of law and equality before the law is at stake.
He concluded by saying that, there is a state of fear amongst the members of political parties, the public servants, members of parliament and public at large. The religious leaders are quite and have not used their prophetic voices to address the injustices that are going on. Religious leaders have put the interests of their organization at the expense of the state interests and some have become part of some the political parties and fail to address the injustices conducted by the government. He insisted that the religious leaders should stand to their prophetic voice and address the injustices
The chairperson of NCCR-Mageuzi Hon. James Mbatia thanked CCT for organizing this meeting. He seconded the issues highlighted by CHADEMA chairperson and he insisted that, the dialogues between political parties and religious leaders are important for the national peace and harmony. The role of the religious leaders in addressing the situation of the country now is of high importance. Religious leaders are quite and have not taken steps to address the situation of the country. They should be pro active before the situation is uncontrollable. The culture of Tanzanians of dialoguing and tolerance is decreasing every day steps have to be taken and religious leaders have a role to play.
In his conclusion, he said that conflict that is going on within the CUF have to be resolved and Zanzibar crisis and religious leaders have a role and moral mandate to solve the problem with CUF.
The peace that Tanzania is experiencing did not come from nowhere, but it has been built, said Hon. Zitto Kabwe, the Leader of ACT-Wazalendo. Despite the fact that Tanzania is having all major elements for civil conflicts, there have been no eruptions of civil wars. This is because for a long time we have had a political culture that entertained dialogue and peaceful resolution of tensions. Unfortunately the political culture of Tanzanian is deteriorating and that threatens the foundation of peace in Tanzania. He said that the country is faced with the following problems
- Economic depression: He said that even though we are talking of the economic growth in public, the truth is that by August,2016 if there are no steps taken Tanzania economy will collapse and we shall go to serious economic depression
- Unemployment: unemployment is increasing in the country. The government has failed to create opportunity for employment and now they have shed off about 10,000 Tanzanians on fake certificates. The situation of bad is a time bomb as also private sector is downsizing its workers.
- The killing of citizens and police in Rufiji, Mkuranga and Kibiti:
There has been a series of killings in this district causing death to the police and citizens. However, the government has not taken serious steps to address the issues. There is possibility of growing rebel groups in this area of there is a terrorist group in these district. Religious leaders should push for some steps to be taken before the situation runs out of hand.
He concluded by saying that, he is wondering as to why the religious leaders are quite in telling the President Magufuli of all these issues. Why are they quite? Why are they not as vocal as they used to be in the past?
DISCUSSION AFTER PRESENTATION
The religious leaders thanked the members from political parties for being ready and participating in this meeting. The discussion raised the following issues of concerns;
- They agreed that there are some challenges facing some of the religious leaders that hinders their prophetic voice including the threats, being polarized and sometime affiliation to the political parties.
- Sometimes political leaders are not giving out the information to the public that is reliable and realistic for the religious leaders to take actions. The need to collaborate to get reliable information is necessary.
- The need to address the political situation in Zanzibar. Even though Zanzibar looks calm and peaceful emerging of one party system is not health and things might happen and become out of hand and uncontrollable actions that will destabilize the peace. Sharing of the national cake is important if Zanzibar is to remain at peace.
WAY FORWARD AND CONCLUSION
The meeting participants agreed the following as the way forward;
- The meeting between political parties and religious leaders should be continued. TCD in collaboration with CCT can enable the meeting at least twice a year to allow discussions and consultations
- For the religious leaders to digest the information and sharing among themselves and come up with a prophetic messages to address the issues brought forward by the political parties for maintenance of peace
- For the religious leaders and political parties to continue to find a way to meet with the President to discuss with him different national issue
- The need for the make sure constitutional making process is revived and continued
- To establish a small task force of religious leaders to mediate the ongoing CUF conflict.
- To meet with the speaker and discuss with him some issues of national concern and the role of parliament as an oversight body
Meeting participants concluded that, the meeting was an important forum for discussions and consultation in addressing peace issues in Tanzania. It is a necessary forum for being proactive to address and maintain the existing peace and Tanzania political culture of discussion, tolerance and humility. It was agreed that the efforts by CCT and TCD were worth efforts.