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The Powerlessness of a Secular State to Protect Secularism

August 20, 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author: Isakwisa Amanyisye Lucas Mwakalonge

Numbering: Issue 1.B, Idea: African Freethinking

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: African Freethinker

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: August 20, 2021

Issue Publication Date: TBD

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 1,466

Keywords: Constitution, Dar es Salaam, East Africa, Isakwisa Amanyisye Lucas Mwakalonge, religion, Tanzania, United Republic of Tanzania.

The Powerlessness of a Secular State to Protect Secularism

Isakwisa Amanyisye Lucas Mwakalonge[1],[2]*

Dar es salaam, Tanzania – East Africa.

Currently it came into view as if the United Republic of Tanzania is facing a constitutional dilemma, since some of the state organs specifically the executive and the parliament are developing a habit of neglecting the constitutional fact that Tanzania is a secular state. That being the case then it is expected that all three branches of the state (the executive, parliament and the judiciary) are also required to operate in a secular way when performing their everyday duties.

However, this is not the reality, the opposite is true, because some branches of the state carry out their day after day responsibilities while diverting from the constitutional philosophy of separation of religion from the state. In various occasions the executive and the parliament fails to separate themselves from religious influences. For example when a new president is sworn in Christian priests and Muslim sheikhs are invited to the occasion so as to conducts religious prayers to the ceremony, why this? this habit must stop at once, because the state is secular, hence religious affairs are not to be encouraged here, even though the person who is being sworn in or affirm may be affiliated to a certain religion, that is fine but this is to be left as an individual matter rather than making it obligatory for the Islam and Christian leaders only be invited to conduct religious prayers to their sky god in official government ceremonies, and if it is indispensable to avoid them then members of other beliefs and faith including the Traditional African Religions, Secular humanists, Freethinkers ,Jews, Hindus are also to be invited to give their words, instead of discriminating them…because Tanzania is neither Christian state nor an Islamic republic, it is a secular state which allows a liberty of choice in matters of belief to be a private affair to each citizen while all state affairs are supposed to be left operating in a secular way, but so surprising Muslims and Christians are left to dominate in all state affairs…this habit is very unbecoming, and if the reason is that they are large in number, then why African traditional religions are not given the chance? Because in terms of percentages Christians, Muslims and African traditional religions in Tanzania their percentages ranges thirty percent per each of them. Article 13(5) of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania, 1977 provide the right of equality before the law and it prohibit discrimination of all kinds including discrimination basing on religious affiliations, therefore it is very astonishing why only Muslims and Christians are the ones be given priorities at the expenses of violating Constitutional philosophy of separation of religion from state affairs?

A further Constitutional controversy by the executive branch do arises on the national anthem. The national anthem contains some verses which says God bless Tanzania, God bless Africa…These words are somehow contradicting the Constitution, because the constitution declares that Tanzania is a secular state, though some individuals may be members of various religious affiliations of their choice, while some are non-believers, secular humanists as well as freethinkers, one may be asking himself or herself that ….do secular state…the state as an institution believe in existence of god? Does secular state have faith in the existence of god residing somewhere the way religious people believes? If the answer is affirmative, then which god? Is it a Christian god? Jehovah or a Muslim god Allah or an African tradition religion god(s) who differ from one society to another or Shinto god, or Taoists god or Buddha’s god or Hindu’s god or Jewish god? In fact, this national anthem raises much confusion about which god is asked in the national anthem to bless Africa and Tanzania? This is a Constitutional crisis, and such dilemma was at once addressed by the former president of Tanzania Julius K. Nyerere in one of his official speech. To paraphrase his words Nyerere said that… “I am so baffled …how comes a secular state has the national anthem which says God bless Tanzania. God bless Africa? I don’t know how this happened.” These are baffling words out of the mouth of a former head of state questioning himself how comes a secular state has a national anthem which glorifies god? Indeed, it is a constitutional dilemma.

All over again the incapability of a secular state to protect Secularism is manifesting itself through the parliament in parliamentary sessions (The National Assembly). It is a habit nowadays, each day before the parliamentary session commences in the national assembly (in the house) …the assembly begins with a prayer to God, normally the prayer session is led by the speaker of the National Assembly. During the prayer … Words like Ooh God the all might bless our parliament, bless our nation, and protect our nation from enemies… are being uttered, and then the prayer ends by members of the parliament screaming amen. Actually this is a typical religious influence. Why the National Assembly as a state organ vested with a duty of making laws of the nation, including the laws which turned Tanzania to be a secular state, yet the same organ is in front line to conduct a prayer to god session in the parliament, while constitutionally the parliament is supposed to be operating in a secular manner, because it is a branch of a secular state. This is very astonishing. it is wise if issues of prayers to god are to be left to each individual member of parliament alone, and it is to be done at each person privately instead of forcing them to shout amen every day while in the house as if they are in a certain religious temple in a religious republic somewhere in the middle east or India.

The Judiciary: The Judiciary is one of the state organs that is vested with judicial powers in the United Republic of Tanzania, this is according to Article 4(2) of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania, 1977. While article 107A (1) of the same Constitution provides that “The Judiciary shall be the authority with final decision in dispensation of justice in the United Republic of Tanzania”. As one of the three branches of the state in Tanzania the Judiciary is vested with duties of providing justice, ensure compliance with the laws, settling disputes between people and companies, protect the right of the citizens and solving constitutional disputes, article 107A (2) a, b, c, d, e, of the Constitution do illustrate so. While Article 107B of the Constitution provides that “In exercising the powers of dispensing justice, all courts shall have freedom and shall be required only to observe the provisions of the Constitution and those of the laws of the land.” In The united Republic of Tanzania, the judiciary composes the Court of Appeal, the High Court of the United Republic of Tanzania, the special constitutional Court of the United Republic of Tanzania, and the Lower courts subordinate to the High Court. The officials in the judiciary system include the court assessors, court clerks, judges, state attorneys who conduct state prosecutions, advocates and magistrates. The Judiciary is headed by the Chief Justice. Practice indicates that judiciary is the only remaining state organ which still maintains the philosophy of separation of state affairs from religious influence. The judiciary perform its duties absolutely in a secular manner, except only when a person is invited to appear before the Court as a witness, hence when such person is in a witness box, then he or she is supposed to take oath by either swearing in if is a Christian or affirm if a person concerned is a muslin, whilst a non-religious mode of swearing is also there for non-believers. Judiciary as an institution in the state do consider matters of belief in god and religion as a private affair to each individual, be it the employees of the judiciary or those who comes before courts of law as witnesses… they are not forced by the judges to conduct a prayer to god before court sessions commences or forcing those in courts to shout amen. Judges do not conduct, command or lead prayers to god in either open Courts or courts conducted in chambers, Court sessions are conducted perfectly in a secular approach, the mode in which the Constitution entail.

To bring the point home, the United Republic of Tanzania is gradually becoming powerless in protecting, preserving and observing the Constitutional philosophy of separation of religion and state. The constitutional philosophy requires that all state affairs to be conducted in a secular way, while religious stimuli are to be left to individuals as their private affairs, but so surprising religious influence is nowadays dominating some state organs daily businesses, this is a Constitutional dilemma which need to be resolved immediately.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Lucas Is Assistant Editor African Freethinker/ in-sightjournal.com (Tanzania), a Lawyer, an Advocate of the High Court of Tanzania, a Notary Public and Commissioner for Oaths, Member of the Bar Association of Tanzania main land, also a Freethinker activist in Tanzania(E-mail: isamwaka01@gmail.com.)

 [2] Individual Publication Date: August 20, 2021: https://insightjournalonline.wordpress.com/2021/08/20/the-powerlessness-of-a-secular-state-to-protect-secularism.

*Contacts are: Email: isamwaka 01@gmail.com. Mobile Phone +225 754326296. WhatsApp +255 629204106

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