After nearly Eight months into the new Magufuli administration, stakeholders in Tanzania met at the Policy Forum Breakfast Debate held on the 29th of July 2016 to discuss and reflect on the role of civil society in enhancing governance and human rights in the current political context.
CSOs at the event expressed concern that the new administration was creating a climate of fear and intimidation towards civic actors and urged government to restore the enabling environment for them to operate as watchdogs, who had an important role in holding governments accountable and ensuring duty-bearers perform their responsibilities to the people they serve.
Speaking at the debate, Paul Mikongoti, Programme Officer - Research from Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) in fact noted that the prime responsibility and duty of the state is to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms (through the adoption of appropriate legislative, judicial and administrative measures).
Further, he urged unity amongst all stakeholders pleading for them to come together to ensure that good governance and human rights are upheld.
Participants were reminded, however, that at times civil society misses the opportunity to show their relevance during governance crises and in fighting for accountability. Brian Cooksey, an Independent Researcher who delivered a presentation entitled “Escrow: Lessons for Tanzanian Institutions”, said CSOs reaction to the Tegeta Escrow Account (TEA) scandal was muted at best. Given the enormity of the issue and the importance of accountability in the civil society governance discourse, this was a missed opportunity for CSOs whereby apart from a Policy Forum statement signed by a number of NGOs, there was no sustained attempt by them to mobilize popular support around the Escrow/IPTL issue.
In other politically-charged governance and accountability matters, nonetheless, CSOs have shown their ability to find space to manoeuvre. Mikongoti mentioned various interventions of human rights which LHRC had done in 2015 and one of them being engaging in the Constitutional Review Process despite the outcome resulting in the government stalling the process.
Beatrice Mkani, from Sikika, an organisation that works to ensure quality health services by strengthening health systems and public financial management showcased how they use the Social Accountability Monitoring (SAM) tool to enhance accountability.
“SAM entails a broad range of actions and mechanisms that citizens, communities, independent media and civil society organizations can use to hold public officials accountable. SIKIKA adopted SAM in order to reinforce accountability in health resources management and provide space/opportunities for citizens to participate in public resources management,” she said adding: “SAM has been useful to Sikika in improving effectiveness of councilors in the districts they work (in terms of requesting documents as per standing order, monitor health services).”