Tanzanian opposition leaders and rights activists held a forum Thursday urging the government to revise the constitution to allow more political space. The forum, called "Katiba Day," which means constitution day, comes after President Samia Hassan asked Tanzanians to give her time to first fix the economy.
The movement was fueled by President Samia Hassan’s remarks Monday, when she held her first press conference.
Hassan urged Tanzanians to give her more time before she can allow the banned political rallies to resume and revive the stalled process of drafting a new constitution.
"Give me some more time so that I can stabilize Tanzania economically, inviting investors to invest and creating jobs and then the rest will follow," the president said. "When the time arrives, we will deal with the issue of the new constitution and lifting the ban on political rallies. Right now we do allow political parties to organize meetings with their people, and I think you see that.”
The late President John Magufuli halted the process of drafting a new constitution soon after taking office in 2015 and banned political rallies the following year.
Opposition politicians say there’s no reason to give President Hassan time, saying that democracy cannot limit economic growth.
Benson Singo is the deputy secretary of the Party for Democracy and Progress, better known as Chadema.
"The constitution needs to be written not for the president’s wishes but for the wishes of Tanzanians," he says, adding that his party will not agree to give the president additional time, because even Magufuli requested more time to build the country. "When we gave it to him, he dropped the economy," he said.
Rights groups say the president should focus on the constitution since it facilitates stability.
Onesmo Olengurumwa is the director of the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders coalition.
"The things the president wants to do will go smoothly if she has a constitution that allows her to do them with the assurance of stability," he said, adding that “she has to do things in the national interest, not in her own interests.”
Tanzania is currently governed by the 1977 constitution that was formed under a single-party system. Opposition and critics are challenging it since it favors the ruling CCM party.