Tanzanian leader offers constitutional referendum


Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete pledged to call a referendum on a new constitution in east Africa’s second-largest economy, amid growing opposition pressure for reform.

He reaffirmed the government’s promise to have the new constitution in place by 2014, a year before the next presidential and parliamentary elections.
“We want to go into the 2015 general election with a new constitution. This process does not require street demonstrations … it does not require violence,” Kikwete said in a televised national address, Reuters reports.

He criticised opposition leaders for trying to derail the process and called for patience and political tolerance.
“They (opposition leaders) are calling me a dictator and say the president should not be the one to appoint the constitutional review commission,” he said.
“The criticism that I get, especially from my own party, is that I have allowed too much freedom to political parties and the media.”

Kikwete said he would appoint an all-inclusive constitutional review commission.

Opposition leaders and activists want to limit presidential powers, introduce electoral reforms and allow independent candidates to stand for parliament and president.

Among their demands are a change in the law to allow presidential results to be challenged in court and the formation of an independent electoral commission.

Kikwete was re-elected for a second and final term in office in an October 2010 vote marred by a record low turnout and allegations of rigging, with opposition leaders protesting against their lack of recourse to a judicial hearing.

Kikwete also said the depreciation of the shilling and rising inflation rate in Tanzania were a result of rising food and fuel prices and economic woes in the euro zone and America.
“The state of the world economy is unstable … the euro zone economy is passing through a difficult period of uncertainty especially in countries such as Ireland, Portugal, Greece and Spain, and we don’t know who is next,” he said.
“These countries that are in trouble are the main markets for our products, they are the sources of foreign direct investment and our imports.”

Tanzania’s year-on-year inflation rate climbed to 17.9 percent in October from 16.8 percent in September, mirroring rising consumer prices across the region.