Tanzania: President Hassan’s sacking of Foreign Affairs minister points to weakness in constitution

By Abdul Halim, in Dar es Salaam
Posted on Thursday, 20 October 2022 15:46

Tanzania's President Samia Suluhu Hassan listens at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 15, 2022. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan has sacked the foreign affairs minister Liberate Mulamula from her cabinet after reported actions that may have 'crossed boundaries'. But the easy removal of Mulamula by presidential decree points to a need that the constitution is due for an amendment.

In a brief statement released by the Presidential communications directorate on 3 October, the official cause for Mulamula’s dismissal was not disclosed, but her replacement was announced: the former defence minister and former secretary of Southern Africa development Community SADC, Stergomena Tax. In his place, Hassan has appointed Innocent Bashungwa as the new minister of defence.

‘Respect boundaries’

Speaking at State House during the inauguration ceremony of newly appointed ministers on 3 October, President Hassan warned the new members of her cabinet to observe their boundaries.

“Remember that there is an authority in this country and the power assigned to them has limits. If they want to go above their own authority, they must obtain consent from the high authority.”

She also emphasised the importance of protecting state secrets.

Hamdoun Marcel, a political and diplomatic analyst, says Mulamula failed to observe the government’s official stance on certain issues like the Ukraine-Russia war.

“There cannot be division in the government and there must be collective responsibilities despite personal ambitions. If Ambassador Mulamula was not agreeing with the way the government is doing things she should resign instead of overstepping her authority.”

‘Undermining power’

A senior official from the Ministry of Foreign affairs, speaking to The Africa Report on the condition of anonymity, says Mulamula had been engaging in discriminative diplomatic practices.

“She forged and maintained good relationships with the west and forgot other places. This is wrong diplomatically because this country has more than 40 foreign missions,” says the diplomatic source, who is currently serving Tanzania’s mission in an Asian country.

Other sources inside the government tell The Africa Report that Mulamula was seen as crossing the line following last month’s UN General Assembly in New York.

The main contention was a photo of Mulamula with US President Joe Biden and his wife Jill during a dinner reception hosted by White House.

Hassan opted not to attend the assembly, but sent Vice President Philip Mpango in her place.

“We all know that our delegation to the United Nations general assembly was led by the Vice President, so why didn’t we see a picture of the US president with our Vice President? That means Mulamula was acting on her own,” says one ambassador in the ministry of foreign affairs, who asked to remain anonymous.

Being photographed in such a photo was likely viewed as a deliberate move by Mulamula to undermine her senior government colleagues, say analysts, and thus going against government protocol.

Mulamula forged and maintained good relationships with the west and forgot other places. This is wrong diplomatically….”

In her speech, Hassan also stressed the need for ministers to follow the government’s lead in all matters.

“Whatever the government decides, it is your decision. You should pay heed to the guidelines. You cannot act in any other manner,” she said.

Change the constitution

The 1977 constitution of Tanzania gives power to the president to hire and fire ministers without providing an explanation.

Makame Mussa, a lawyer and opposition supporter, says this current situation of the sacking of Mulamula clearly demonstrates why Tanzania needs a new constitution.

“In a country where the constitution works properly, the minister should be able to tell the public why she disagrees with the government stance and at the same the constitution would underline why and how the president may remove a minister. Tanzania requires a new constitution that can limit presidential power,” he tells The Africa Report.

Meanwhile, Article 37 (1) of the 1977 Tanzania’s constitution further states: “The president shall be free and not obliged to take advice given him by any person, save where is required by this constitution or other law to act in accordance with the advice given to him by any person authority.”

“This constitution is outdated and that is why we insist on having a people-centred constitution. The constitution that will allow peoples and leaders to express their views without fear of being punished,” says Emmanuel Chengula, a lawyer and member of opposition in Tanzania.

Who is Liberata Mulamula?

Prior to her dismissal as minister of foreign affairs, Mulamula served as a permanent secretary at the ministry of foreign affairs from May to December 2015. She also served as the First Executive Secretary of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR).

Tanzania requires a new constitution that can limit presidential power.”

Mulamula is the Associate Director of the Institute for African Studies and a career diplomat with 35 years of experience having served in various capacities such as Tanzania’s Ambassador to Canada, US, and as permanent representative to the UN. She also served as special advisor to former president Jakaya Kikwete on all diplomatic matters from 2012 to 2013.

During her tenure in Washington as Ambassador, Mulamula participated actively in preparations for the first US-Africa Summit on the partnership for economic growth.

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