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Tanzania Opposition United in Referendum Challenge

  • Peter Clottey

Tanzania's President Jakaya Kikwete is seen in a Feburary 24, 2013, file photo.

Tanzania's President Jakaya Kikwete is seen in a Feburary 24, 2013, file photo.

Tanzania main opposition Chadema and other rival political parties are preparing to launch a legal challenge to the government’s decision to hold a referendum about the country’s draft constitution in April 2015. That’s according to Ibrahim Lipumba, a leading member of the consultative assembly that helped to draft the proposed measure.

Tanzania’s attorney general Frederick Werema announced that the referendum about the proposed constitution would be held next spring.

Lipumba, leader of opposition group Civic United Front, and a former presidential candidate of his party, said President Jakaya Kikwete’s administration failed to follow current laws during the vote in parliament to endorse the measure, which he said could plunge the country into chaos and violence.

“The constitution was not passed legally in the constituent assembly because in order to pass the constitution, we had to vote on Zanzibar, as well as on the Tanzania mainland, and the government did not have two thirds majority on the Zanzibar part,” said Lipumba.

Supporters of the governing Chama Cha Mapinduzi say the opposition parties are to blame for boycotting proceedings during the drafting of the constitution.

Lipumba said the opposition’s boycott, though, was due to the administration’s refusal to include proposals that called for political reforms in the draft constitution.

“We boycotted because the laws were not being respected, because if you have a process that is rigged in the first place, continuing participating in that process, you become part and parcel of that particular process … so we had to protest and get out of the sham,” said Lipumba.

He said there are indications the electoral commission would not have the time to compile a fresh voter list that would be needed for the referendum next year.

“If the National Electoral Commission does not have a credible voter register and it has not yet registered voters how can you announce a date of the referendum when the National Electoral Commission is not ready for this election?” asked Lipumba.

“A lot of people have not registered. All the youth that were 17 years old in 2010, and less than that have not been registered in the voter register. So you have about more than 5 million people who have not been registered,” he said.

Some analysts say the referendum is likely to pass due to the enormous support the ruling party enjoys among the population. But Lipumba disagreed.

“The government is not popular, they want to rig the election to be a guaranteed to win the referendum and we are saying ‘no’ -- that we are not going to accept the rigging of the election,” said Lipumba.

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