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Your Voice, Your Choice!

Symposium on local government elections for students of secondary schools and universities

On 3rd of October 2014, the Civic Educations Teachers' Association (CETA) and the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Tanzania (KAS) jointly hosted a "Students Symposium on Local Government Elections" in the auditorium of the National Museum in Dar es Salaam. The occasion was the upcoming nationwide local government elections on 14th of December 2014 and the voter registration process for the National Elections in 2015.

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In addition to the invited guests from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO-RALG) Mr. Dennis Bandisa, the National Electoral Commission (NEC), Mr. Salvatory Aluta and Mr. Adolph Kinzero and the University of Dar es Salaam, Mr. Frank Mbele more than 300 students of secondary schools and universities of Dar es Salaam attended the event.

„Your Voice, Your Choice“

Under the title "Your Voice, Your Choice - Rights and Duties of Youths During the Upcoming Elections" the event was intended to support the preparation of young voters, who often will during the upcoming local electionsoccur occur for the first time at the ballot box.

The symposium began with an introductory speech by the resident representative of the KAS Tanzania office, Stefan Reith. He highlighted the importance of young voters in a democracy. Especially in such a young nation like Tanzania it is important not to forget the young people, to involve them intensively in the democratic process and to constantly promote their commitment. Mr. Reith also took the opportunity to shortly introduce the principles and work of KAS, emphasizing the long-standing collaboration with Tanzania which began in 1964 following the invitation by the late Julius Nyerere to conduct trainings of students at the Kivukoni College in Dar es Salaam .

His speech was followed by a short welcome note by the Chairman of CETA, Mr. Safari Minja. He presented CETA's work in the field of civic education of pupils and students. Further, he stressed that political education in the classroom alone is not sufficient to support young people to actively participate in politics, elections and democracy. In addition, Mr. Minja thanked the KAS for the very successful long-term cooperation and support.

Free and fair elections

The first presentation of the day was held by Mr. Alute from the National Electoral Commission (NEC) on the subject of Voter Education. According to Alute, NEC was founded in 1993 and is made up of 120 permanent staff. The electoral management body consists of seven members, all of them are appointed by the President himself. Their functions are to supervise and coordinate the registration of voters as well as the presidential, parliamentary and local council elections, to publish information regarding to the elections and electoral results and to provide the education of voters. Furthermore, Alute explained the current electoral system in Tanzania and the importance of the voter registration process. During an election period (of five years) NEC is instructed to update the electoral register twice. In the registration process for the upcoming National Elections in 2015 the new Biometric Voter Registration Kit (BVR) will be used for the first time; hence about 22 million voters are to be re-register until the upcoming elections. To conclude his presentation, Mr. Altue appealed to the young guests to prepare for the registration process and the elections, because only if they do, free and fair elections are possible.

Mr. Adolph Kinyero, Computer Analyst from NEC hold the next presentation on Voter Registration in which he provided basic information on the BVR, saying it was geared to improve the efficiency of the registration process.

Registration process for the voters

Mr. Kinyero reasoned the use of the new registration system by the abolition of the traditional Polaroid Camera which should no longer be used due to its negative impact on people's health. Also the positive experience of Nigeria and Kenya, which had adopted the system earlier, pushed the decision to introduce the BVR in Tanzania as well. According to Mr. Kinyero, the system is particularly advantageous because it has no problems with limited storing of information, the time of registration is significantly lower than with the previous methods (registration of a voter takes, according to Mr Kinyero only 3 minutes) and data are immediately available online and usable. He supplemented the presentation with a video about the BVR system and the BVR registration process.

After the two presentations, there was the opportunity for the pupils and students to express their questions, suggestions and opinions on the presentations which were held. These were extensively answered by the speakers afterwards to clarify misunderstandings and reservations. There was a great interest of the young guests, whereby a heated discussion on the topics of a free, fair and independent democracy, a transparent electoral process and voter registration was initiated. A lunch break supplied the guests with necessary energy for the second half of the symposium.

The day continued with the third presentation on the Local Government Procedures. Frank E. Mbele, Program Manager and Policy Analyst at the University of Dar es Salaam, highlighted the importance of elections and went on that every democratic government depends on an interested and participating population. Only well conducted and transparent elections at all levels will ultimately lead to socio-economic growth, good governance and sustainable development. Precisely for this reason the participation of the population in elections is so important.

According to Mr. Mbele especially the younger voters were represented too weakly in the past elections. As an example he mentioned the local elections in 2003, in which the proportion of young voters (age undefined) located just at around 1.2%. He continued, that elections in Tanzania are only for the elderly until now which was a worrying fact in a country where 40% of the population consists of young people. Especially those young people have to be involved more intensively in the policy-making process. For that reason it is important that the young generation wakes up and takes part in political process of today.

The function of the local government

The last presentation of the day was held by Mr. Dennis Bandisa from the PMO. Mr. Bandisa explained the basic functions of local government. They have to promote the political, administrative and fiscal decentralization to involve the population in the political process at the local level. The local elections determine the chairpersons of the village, members of the village council and the chairpersons in hamlet and town authorities. On contrary to the higher city councils which are determined in the national elections, the government of a village is composed of about 15-25 members. Following the presentation, Mr. Moses Kulaba of Agenda 2000 summarized the contents of the presentations and gave a more critical view on the information which were given in the presentations and discussions before. Finally, the guests had the opportunity to contribute their ideas and questions within a second round of discussion.

The entire day was very informative and enlightening for all participants. Due to the cooperation with CETA, a large number of pupils and students were reached. Further, NEC and PMO gave important first-hand information, answered even critical questions in detail and an exchange of knowledge between all stakeholders was possible. It was the first time that stakeholders from NEC and PMO came together with students to educate and discuss the topic of “voter education”. KAS and CETA draw a positive conclusion from the event and are planning to continue with this kind of events to sensitize the young generation on their rights and duties and the importance of the upcoming elections.

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