Zanzibar was hitting the headlines in the media in Tanzania throughout the month of January this year:
Sunday News, January 3. WAKIL WARNS DETRACTORS
Daily News, January 4. VIJANA HAIL SPEECH
Daily News. January 23. WAKIL SUSPENDS CABINET
Daily News. January 27. WAKIL PICKS NEW CABINET

Readers of this Bulletin will recall that developing differences of opinion in Zanzibar first came into the public eye in July 1987. We quoted from a Daily News column (Bulletin No 28) to the effect that Zanzibar Chief Minister, Seif Shariif Hamad had “blamed the restive political situation on disgruntled elements who are disillusioned by the socio-political changes which have steadily whittled away their personal prestige and economic interests”. Mr Hamad had denied that by accepting aid from Gulf countries or by liberalising trade the Zanzibar Government had abandoned socialism or compromised on the Isles’ sovereignty.

Readers will recall also that political rivalry between Mr. Hamad and the President of Zanzibar, Mr. Idris Wakil, goes back at least to the time before the last Presidential elections in 1985 when Mr. Hamad was beaten by Mr. Wakil as Party candidate for the Presidency of Zanzibar. Mr. Hamad received 80% support in Pemba; Mr. Wakil got almost the same in the other island, Unguja. The fact that Mr. Wakil was subsequently elected President by a very small majority (Bulletin No 23) indicated the strength of Mr. Hamad’s support.

The subsequent appointment by President Wakil of Hr. Hamad as Chief Minister was clearly a brave attempt to ensure Zanzibar’s future unity. For it to succeed however the two main parties (Wakil and Hamad) had to work closely in tandem. This apparently did not happen.

And so we come to the bombshell of January 12, 1988. President Wakil revealed that the Government had information that funds were being secretly collected to buy arms and hire mercenaries to invade Zanzibar. He said that those behind the plan were going about telling people that they wanted to liberate the island from foreign rulers. He reminded the people that Zanzibar was part of the United Republic of Tanzania and that any invasion of the Isles would be an invasion of Tanzania as a whole.

Observers of Zanzibar’s always volatile political scene have suggested that various factors may have influenced the recent Government changes.

It was Pemban nationalism say some. Many people in Pemba have long felt that their island is neglected by those in authority in Zanzibar. It was Zanzibar nationalism say others. A feeling that Zanzibar is an unequal partner in the Union.

Or, perhaps the changes were linked to different attitudes to Tanzania’s trade liberalisation policies and, in particular, to the former Chief Minister’s encouragement of increased Omani and Arab investment in the islands.

To Mlamali Adam in Africa Events it was a case of obsession with the past and racism. “The summary dismissal of Chief Minister Seif Shariff Hamadi, the purge of his presumed sympathisers from the Civil Service coupled with the ill-disguised court intrigues are a sideshow, a diversion even, from what lies at the heart of the matter. The trouble with the islands, or with some of its leaders at any rate, is obsession with the past and – not to put too fine a point on it – with racism . . …. The truth is that Hamadi was unwanted from the beginning. Coming from Mtambwe, Pemba, he is the wrong shade of black, has wrong ancestors and his parent’s relatives made the mistake of enrolling in the wrong Party, all of thirty years ago. Therefore, Seif, like blacks in South Africa, must now pay for ‘original sin'”.

Tanzania’s official News Agency, SHIHATA, was clearly angry. In an article headed ‘Hands Off Zanzibar’, published at the beginning of the January events, it wrote:

“The people of Zanzibar last Monday spat on the face of the country’s detractors when they staged a mammoth rally in support of President Wakil’s speech to the House of Representantives. In the speech, the President decried elements of confusion inside and outside the islands ‘and the mainland and called for collective determination to frustrate the detractor’s moves.

In a show of support unprecedented in the history of their young country, the Zanzibaris called for the blood of the divisive elements, urging the Government to expose them, remove those inside the country from their responsible positions and punish them to save the people from unnecessary problems. In a no-nonsense speech, which registered it’s message in no uncertain terms, Wakil warned the detractors that the people of Zanzibar were wide awake and were waiting for them. The people were alert and would crush any move to undermine their unity under the leadership of the CCM Party. He added that some external enemies were using local agents and the media to create dissent between the people of Pemba and Zanzibar as well as between the Isles and the Tanzania mainland. Whatever their pretexts, he said, those trying to destabilize the political setting in Zanzibar were colonial agents who wanted nothing less than the re-introduction of foreign rule and feudalism. Zanzibar had not achieved miracles (in recent years) ….. but the basis for an egalitarian society had been firmly laid and is discernible through improved health, education, better communications and transport, reliable power supply and enhanced agricultural and industrial development. Above all, there had been the unprecedented revolution in the democratic process whereby, now, people had a full share in the decision-making mechanism, whose policies are governed and implemented by the people’s own institutions”.

The SHIHATA article concluded with these words: “And those inside the country who think everything is going wrong in Zanzibar are very free to leave and go to join their mentors. Good riddance!”

Mr. Seif Shariff Hamad was replaced as Chief Minister by Dr. Omar Ali Juma (47) who was previously Principal Secretary in the Zanzibar Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock Development and Natural Resources and also comes from Pemba. Dr. Juma obtained a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from the Moscow Veterinary Academy together with an MSc degree during the period 1961 to 1968. He took a post-graduate degree in Tropical Veterinary Medicine in Edinburgh between 1976 and 77. He has also studied at Reading University. He is married with eight children.

The new Cabinet has 11 Ministers with 4 new faces. Five former Ministers were dropped. The Cabinet now includes the following persons:

Omar Ali Juma – Chief Minister (new)
Idi Pandu Hassan – Minister of State, President’s Office and Chairman of the Revolutionary Council
Taimur Saleh Juma – Communications and Transport (new)
Jaffar Mfaume Ali – Finance and Planning (new)
Rufeya Juma Mbarouk – Minister of State, Chief Minister’s Office (new)
Soud Yussuf Mgeni – Agriculture, Livestock Development and Natural Resources
Maulid Makame Abdullah – Health
Abubakar Khamis Bakary – Water, Construction and Energy
Ramadhani A Shaaban – Information, Culture and Tourism
Abdullah S Mugheiri – Trade and Industries
Omar Ramadhani Mapuri – Education

At the time of writing – early April 1988 – calm seems to have returned to Zanzibar. If indeed it ever departed.

The new Chief Minister appears to have been making a good impression with an energetic and no-nonsense approach. In recent speeches he has been quoted in the Daily News as having said : “The time has gone for the Youth Organisation VIJANA to prepare long and impressive messages at public rallies”.

“Zanzibaris are free to criticise both the Isles’ and Union Governments provided they use the proper fora. Grievances should be put down in writing, with proper details and genuine names if they are to be treated seriously”

“The economic situation is so bad that the time might come when the Government will fail to meet it’s obligations to the people … People must increase the spirit of hard work. There are people who right now do no work deceiving themselves into thinking they are boycotting the Government”

It seems that there has been too much political passion in Zanzibar during recent weeks and that there is a good chance of things now settling down. The former Chief Minister appears to have been over-ambitious in his pursuit of his policies, somewhat impetuous and lacking in the spirit of compromise necessary if progress is to be made in a divided country. One must wonder whether, in certain of his public statements, the President also might have over-reacted.

Meanwhile, in London, senior Government officials, asked to comment on the Zanzibar events, pointed out that what had happened was that a new Chief Minister had been appointed and a few Cabinet changes had been made. There was nothing unusual in that. In neighbouring Kenya, at about the same time, the country’s Vice-President had also been removed from office and given a post of lower status.

And the Zanzibar Government has indicated that the former Chief Minister remains a free man and is continuing to represent his Mtambwe constituency in the Zanzibar House of Representatives.
David Brewin

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