Recentralisation? Interrogating the state of local democracy, good governance and development in Tanzania

This report investigates the extent to which Tanzanian Local Government Reform Programme has brought about more democratic decision-making processes. The main findings point to several positive changes. Good governance reforms, aiming to restructure central and local governments, have been undertaken and implemented. Parliament and the councils have been strengthened, as well as civil society organisations and media, and they are better able to participate in policy formulation and decision-making. The local government now has well elaborated structures for governance and democratic participation from the sub-village level to the district level. 

However, the outcomes of the government reforms on democratic processes at the local level have been limited. This study examines the extent to which various actors at different levels can exercise horizontal and vertical accountability. The findings indicate that the reforms have not adequately changed existing power relations, the interests of the political elite, or the dominant ideology of political actors. Real power still lies in the hands of the ruling party elites at the national and district level and constrains power sharing at the local government authority level and at the ward, village, and sub-village level.

A key constraint to improved governance is the lack of awareness, knowledge, and capacity to process information by citizens and elected members of the political structures. The village and the sub-village structures have a huge and underestimated potential, both as entry points into the political system, and as effective mechanisms for democratic governance. However, the opportunity the local government reform programmes had to make a “local turn” – and that briefly did so – appears rather to have turned back to recentralisation.