Of mice and men

RASIMUAt the end of July, President Kikwete addressed the country in a speech which had a wide range of issues but one, perhaps inevitably was dominated by the ongoing process of writing a new constitution for this country. As he spoke about the recent unsettling developments in Arusha he sounded like a leader making yet another promise. For the sake of our country we hope it turns out as he promised.

It was the issue of a new constitution making process however that gobbled up the headlines on the next day. In his speech the President went to great lengths to try and extricate himself from all the blame that has been thrown his way. And again even though he extended an olive branch to Ukawa members-an acronym he was careful to avoid in his speech-nonetheless he made it clear as to where he stood to be counted.

There is no backing down.

This was no accident. The President was fighting to salvage the pieces of what might turn out to be his greatest legacy. After a first term characterized by gridlock and political in-fighting within his own party this is an issue worth his time before the attention shifts from him to those lining up to succeed him.

And this is where it gets interesting.

Despite all the political bickering we have heard from the opposing and competing sides and narratives from the members of Katiba Assembly, they all have one thing in common: No one is talking about dissolving that assembly and going back to the drawing board. Their disagreements are centered elsewhere.

The whole process is turning out to be a protracted political battle in which winners are not guaranteed but losers are.  During political campaigns of the last general election in 2010, some parties promised the people a new constitution “within 100 days” had they won; they didn’t. But that left the people yearning for a new mother law to suit the times.

When the process finally came into motion, despite its problems in the early days, few would have predicted the political mediocrity that followed when the real business of drafting a new constitution kicked in.

In 1785, a Scot one Robert Burns wrote a poem to a mouse-as an apology of “breaking nature’s social union, An’ justifies that ill opinion”. That is what lacked in the President’s speech. An apology to the people for not dissolving a body that is spending way more resources than it deserves.

An apology is what’s lacking from the Speaker of the Katiba Assembly. An apology is what is lacking from Ukawa leaders. An apology is what’s lacking from Tanzania Kwanza leaders. These should apologize to the people for letting us down instead of going in cycles, with nothing new to offer. Recycling worn-out arguments and at times devising new, convoluting arguments.

Ukumbi wa Bunge la Katiba

Ukumbi wa Bunge la Katiba

Members of Katiba Assembly should apologize to the people for a job poorly done. They should apologize for demanding too much pay for too little work. They should apologize for holding hostage a better future for this country all for the sake of achieving short-term political goals.

If Burns, a farmer offered an apology to a mouse “on turning up in her nest with the plough” even though all he was doing was making sure that his family does not go hungry then the more reasons all those who have failed us owe an apology, albeit a belated apology.

They should apologize for giving us nothing but grief and pain for a promised joy.

After the apologies have been said and the Katiba Assembly dissolved, then we go back to the drawing board. Start afresh with cooler heads. As things stand now, politicians and their minions in opposing sides and narratives have adopted a mindset that characterizes the relationship of cats and dogs. It is a zero-sum mindset.

Politicians should stop treating the new constitution making process like a bargaining chip while holding the rest of us, mere mortals hostages to their whims. Each side is claiming to represent the people. But all that the people want is “nature’s social union” to remain intact after all this is said and done.

We deserve way better than this.

By Erick Mwakibete

Mwakibete is a contributor of WeWrite and he can be reached through: wmashambani@gmail.com

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