Academic journal article African Studies Quarterly

Democratization and Public Accountability at the Grassroots in Tanzania: A Missing Link

Academic journal article African Studies Quarterly

Democratization and Public Accountability at the Grassroots in Tanzania: A Missing Link

Article excerpt


Tanzania has embarked on democratization since 1992 following the adoption of multiparty politics with the aim of improving governance at all levels. Constitutional amendments in 1992 led to the multiparty system. This was followed by Local Government Laws (Amendment) Act, 1992 (No.8), which made corresponding changes in the local government machinery so as to accommodate the multi-party system. The important changes as far as accountability at the grassroots is concerned included making of the offices of the chairpersons of the village assembly and the village council elective, subdividing the village into vitongoji (hamlets; sing. kitongoji) and making elected hamlet chairpersons members of village councils. Accordingly, it led to increased access and availability of information, which is important in enhancing democratic governance by influencing people's opinions and awareness of their rights and responsibilities towards their government. Despite the above reforms, there is a missing link between democratization initiatives and public accountability at the grassroots in Tanzania due to poor legal provisions and regulations guiding the functioning of village government, poor information flows between village government and citizens, a low level of civic competency, and poor participation of the citizens in the decision-making.

The article is divided into five sections: a presentation of the methodology used in data collection and analysis; conceptualizing public accountability with the aim of identifying its necessary conditions; a discussion of public accountability in Tanzania during the single party era; examining democratization processes in Tanzania since 1992 and their effect on public accountability at the grassroots level; an analysis of the data from both primary and secondary sources with the view of establishing why there is a missing link between the democratization process and public accountability in Tanzania. The article ends with the conclusion.

Methodological Issues

This article utilizes data from research that was conducted in Bukoba District of the Kagera Region. Bukoba was chosen because it is a typical rural area located on the northern periphery of the country and thus far from where major political decisions are made and implemented by the government. It is also one of the districts that have enjoyed various interventions as a pilot district--for example, the first Local Government Reform Program (LGRP) and Research and Education on Democracy in Tanzania (REDET), which aim at educating citizens about democratic values. Moreover, the district has a fairly well educated and generally politically enlightened citizenry, which could influence citizens' ability to demand accountability from their village government. The study used questionnaires, observation, and interviews to collect primary data. Data generated through questionnaire were quantitatively analyzed, and those from the interviews were qualitatively analyzed.

The selection of the four wards, one village, and four hamlets for the study was done randomly. From each ward one village was selected and from each village one hamlet was selected as the final unit of study. One of the reasons for this was to collect diverse views from citizens and their leaders. Forty household respondents were randomly selected from each hamlet, and five village government leaders from each village were selected purposively and randomly. Village government chairpersons and Village Government Executives (VEOs) were purposively selected due to their official positions that rendered them key informants; the other three members from village council were randomly selected. Also five leaders of the randomly selected registered autonomous associations were contacted for the study.

Public Accountability: Conceptual Overview

Public Accountability is defined as the social relations that involve the actor and forum, where an actor feels an obligation to explain and justify his/her conduct to some significant other or the forum. …

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