Even though this shift in strategy by Samia is endorsable by political pundits, her approach to keep the old authoritarian constitution intact to safeguard the interests of powerful factions is questionable.
While she has often reiterated that fixing the economy is her priority even before the constitution, this approach has infinitely faulty lines, making Tanzania prone to authoritarianism.
The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Tanzania President to discuss her situation of COVID and human rights violations in the country.
The truth is that human rights violations are part and parcel of the current constitution, and replacing it is the only way to promote humanitarian regimes in this African country.
Constitutional stability and democracy are also some of the things that must set precedence for a better economic environment.
President Samia Meeting with Antony Blinken: Samia Needs to Gear up Her Efforts
The top-tiered meeting between President Samia Suluhu and Antony Blinken is undoubtedly a significant development. This is not the first time that the United States has tried to engage Tanzanian leadership in talks.
Tanzania is yet to start the official vaccination drive in the country and has just finished its attempt to join the global initiative of COVAX.
The data collected by the government is still questionable to a great extent.
At a time when almost all the countries are immunizing their citizens, this lackadaisical approach of Tanzania, primarily due to the former president, demands urgent attention.
As Antony Blinken extended his support to Tanzania once again, Samia must grab the opportunity with both hands.
President Samia Suluhu should capitalize on the involvement of the United States in the matter. The acquisition of the vaccination by Tanzania would be much easier this way, and the burden of the incumbent government would be divided exponentially.
The denial of the pandemic by the former president, followed by his efforts to conspire against vaccinations in the nation, has done much damage to Tanzania. Now, when President Samia Suluhu has crafted a pro-vaccination strategy, she needs to implement it in full flow.
Reforming the Economy without a Constitution: An Approach with Faulty Lines
Tanzania’s approach to reform its economy is vulnerable to authoritarianism. While many businesses have appreciated President Samia Suluhu for her efforts, it is just because she is at least better than her predecessor.
Before thinking of reforming the economy, the installation of the new constitution is a sensible approach in any case.
This would attract the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in significant numbers. Businesses, in general, prefer a democratic environment in the country where they want to invest.
The volatile political environment where freedom of speech is a pipe dream is the biggest repellent to businesses.
Only a new constitution can instill this freedom in Tanzania. The president in Tanzania is an all-powerful entity, and participatory politics is a rarely practiced phenomenon.
The process of legislation in the country needs to be more inclusive for long-term institutional reform. Even if President Samia agrees to a new constitution today, it will take ages for the systematic reforms and the building of the democratic institution.
The federal government would need manpower to equip the different departments with the devolution of power. Proper mechanisms with rigorous checks and balances would be installed, which is never a short-term phenomenon.
This will trigger a series of investors as they would find a market of more than 58 million people. It will not only foster the FDI in the country but also create the interest of the local investors and potential entrepreneurs. With the favorable investing environment, Tanzania’s economy can even compete with another regional power, Kenya.
Power or People: It’s Samia’s Time to Make a Choice
Even if the government follows the path of reforming the economy first, this willpower is vulnerable to the hunger for power.
For instance, any government willing to improve the economy needs to walk the unpopular path. New tax measures will be introduced with the everlasting inflation in the country. As she is eyeing her party nomination for the 2025 presidential elections, going down this path without constitutional reform will divert her from the ultimate purpose.
President Samia Suluhu’s rule in Tanzania should be driven by her own vision instead of her party policy.
The late John Magufuli was also the product of, and obviously the contributor to, the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM). CCM and TANU have ruled the country without any interruption since its independence. Keeping the constitutional authoritarian helps CCM wins power in every election, which is evident from their win in the last six presidential elections.
Wrapping up the existing constitution would mean that CCM would deny the presidency themselves.
So, the resistance is apparent within the political parties and the civil society. But while President Samia Suluhu must go against powerful giants of the country, she needs to go against her party as well to reform the constitution once and for all.
The need of the hour is a new constitution that caps the absolute powers that currently lie in the hands of the president and military. Only then could the United Republic of Tanzania start progressing leap and bounds.