EXTRAORDINARY SAGA IN ZANZIBAR

Exemplifying the political distinctiveness of Zanzibar and the intensity of the tension between the two parties there – the ruling CCM and opposition Civic United Front (CUF) – which hold respectively 26 and 24 elected seats in the Zanzibar House of Representatives – was a bizarre incident which has been featured in banner headlines in the Tanzanian media.

Mr Salum Mbarouk (29) MP for Mkunazini announced on August 1 that he was resigning from parliament. He won the seat in the 1995 elections with 2,730 votes compared with 1,113 for the CCM candidate. On August 2 he appeared on television to explain why; it was because the political conflict was exacerbating ethnic tensions and his belief that the boycott of the Isles’ House of Assembly by CUF had gone on long enough, he said.

The Dar es Salaam Guardian then reported, on August 6, a lengthy story from Mr Mbarouk about how he had been taken, in mid-July, to a government house on the West coast of Zanzibar and had been offered by senior government officials (whom he named) substantial salary and allowances, a post as special adviser to President Amour and a chance to stand in the inevitable by-election as the CCM candidate if he would give up his parliamentary seat. When he refused he said that he had been forced at gunpoint to announce his resignation in front of a TV camera and forced also, with a threat that otherwise he would be thrown into the Indian Ocean, to sign a resignation letter addressed to the Speaker of the House. He said that he had been ferried to Dar es Salaam on July 26, returned to Zanzibar and again to Dar es Salaam where he had been concealed in the Agip Motel, Room 307. On August 4 he said that he had managed to escape to Magomeni where he spent the night in the Mosque; on August 5 he took refuge in the Swedish embassy accompanied by CUF officials.

CCM sources ridiculed this story and claimed that, having resigned voluntarily, he then had to take measures to protect himself from angry CUF supporters. It was the CUF which had kidnapped him.

Meanwhile, on August 7, the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) announced a timetable for a by-election in the Mkunazini seat even though the Union Government, which is usually reluctant to interfere in Zanzibar’s internal affairs, had promised, only two days before, to carry out a thorough investigation of the whole matter. According to the Daily News, the government spokesman was responding in parliament in Dodoma to a motion from Deputy Opposition Leader John Cheyo MP and leader of the UDP party, calling for the arrest of those responsible for the alleged kidnapping.

On August 11 Prime Minister Frederick Sumaye told the National Assembly that Mbarouk was in the hands of CUF leaders and that they would be held responsible for any harm that came to him. He said that Mbarouk had presented a typed letter of resignation on July 15; he had been asked to present it again in his own handwriting and had done so indicating that his resignation would take effect from August 1. To add to the mystery the Guardian reported that the signatures on the two letters might be different.

On August 9 the Daily News reported that the CUF would file an application in the Zanzibar High Court seeking to stop the Mkunazini byelection as Mr Mbarouk was still the MP for the constituency. On August 15 the Daily News reported that three top CUF leaders including Mr Mbarouk had been summoned to the office of the criminal investigations department.

Clearly, one side or the other is not telling the truth. Political analysts can see a clear motive for the CUF to be bringing the case into the public eye and particularly to international attention and for not wanting to lose one of its MP’s. In the case of the CCM the motivation for kidnapping is difficult to understand, but CCM’s determination to retain control in Zanzibar is apparent. The unaccustomed speed of the Zanzibar Electoral Commission in announcing the date of the by-election, gave grounds for some observers to have their suspicions about the ruling party’s intentions.

In a rapidly moving situation, as this issue of TA went to press, the police were said to be looking for Mr Mbarouk.

POLITICAL DEADLOCK CONTINUES

The political deadlock in the Isles continues as the CUF still refuses to accept the last election results and is boycotting the House of Assembly in the Isles (though not the Union National Assembly in Dodoma).

Many in Zanzibar must have had high hopes when it was announced that an international conference on democracy would be held in Zanzibar in July and that the UNDP had been involved in preliminary planning with Speaker of the National Assembly Pius Msekwa. But the UNDP subsequently withdrew.

Among those who spoke at the conference, which was chaired by Judge Joseph Warioba and attended by President Chissano of Mozambique, was Zimbabwe-based journalist David Martin who said that the original cause of the divisions in Zanzibar had been the internal election which had immediately preceded Zanzibar’s independence in 1963. At that time the party then representing African interests had won a clear majority of the popular vote but that parties largely representing Arab interests, ‘with British collusion’ won most of the constituencies and formed the government. The situation then had been like it was now he said but the result had been the violent revolution of January 12,1964.

Martin said that he did not want to be drawn into a debate about the rights or wrongs of the 1995 elections in Zanzibar (which precipitated the present deadlock) and went on to attack the attitude of Western diplomats in Dar es Salaam (two High Commissioners were said to be leaving shortly – he hoped their successors would be more open minded) and the former colonial power in particular, for its ‘intemperate negativism’ in refusing to deal with Zanzibar President Salmin Amour and for giving the CUF the impression that it still had the support of the West in its refusal to reach a compromise with the government.

1 Comment »

  1. Tanzanian Affairs » ZANZIBAR said,

    April 28, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    […] No 59 [actually TA58] contained details of the extraordinary story of Zanzibar CUF MP Salum Msabah Mbarouk who […]

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