Party Rules: Consolidating Power through Constitutional Reform in Tanzania

Since the creation of the United Republic of Tanzania in 1964, the basic law – katiba in Swahili – has been the subject of persistent controversy and contestation. Despite being presented at the outset with a seemingly unsustainable constitutional settlement, a strong executive has repeatedly deferred and obstructed a radical overhaul of the katiba. The imperative to preserve national unity has often been cited as the pretext. Successive presidents have carefully directed popular participation in reform, restricting it to the confines of the dominant party. The recommendations of legal experts have been routinely ignored, resulting in a series of incoherent, disjointed and sometimes even contradictory constitutional amendments that have failed to address the concerns of citizens and the key issue of the distribution of power. This Briefing Note summarises the history of constitutional reform in Tanzania – a history that renders unsurprising the ruling party’s steadfast response to contemporary demands for a fundamental overhaul of governance.