Bill of Rights—People Against the Government

Written by Kay Mbuya | Posted on  26th Feb 2016.

Thomas Jefferson American Founding Father who was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence stated that “A Bill of Rights is what the people are entitled to against every government, and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inference.” A bill of rights, sometimes called a declaration of rights or a charter of rights, is a list of the most important rights to the citizens of a country. The purpose is to protect those rights against infringement from public officials and private citizens.

Actually the term originates from England, where it refers to the Bill of Rights 1689 enacted by Parliament following the Glorious Revolution, asserting the supremacy of Parliament over the monarch, and listing a number of fundamental rights and liberties. In Tanzania the debate about the bill of rights stated on the eve of independence. The British Government that had administered the country for more than four decades without any bill of rights wanted to incorporate the bill of rights in the country’s Independence Constitution of 1961 with no vain. However the idea of having a Bill of rights in the constitution did not die in Lancaster House.

The debate continued until 1984 when the Fifth Amendment to the 1977 Constitution was enacted. And at last Tanzania had a constitution which protected the citizens against the government. The constitution contains at least 7 main parts in the bill of rights. But today ill only touch 4 main sections. These are:

• The Right to Equality The main purpose of this section is to make sure that everyone is equal in the hands of the law and the government. In this section all persons are equal before the law and are entitled, without any discrimination, to protection and equality before the law.

• The Right to Life In this section every citizen of Tanzania has the right to live and to the protection of his life by the society in accordance with the law and has the freedom to live.

• The Right to Freedom of Conscience This section involves freedom of opinion and expression of his ideas. It also involves right to the freedom to have conscience, or faith, and choice in matters of religion, including the freedom to change his religion or faith.

• The Right to Work Through this section the constitution grants every citizen the right to equal opportunity and right to equal terms to hold any office or discharge any function under the state authority. Which means everyone in the country has the right to work. This is just a sneak preview of The Bill of Rights. There are still many more information on the bill and it’s the responsibility of all citizens to get to know their rights. The truth of the matter is a lot has changed ever since the Bill of Rights was passed and assented. But a lot more needs to change including the citizens getting to know their rights.

As a youth take initiative to learn the constitution. Use all the tools you have to get knowledge of your rights. Nelson Mandela once said “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” and I believe education of the Bill of Rights is a powerful tool to bring good governance.