Although the Zanzibar government has long insisted that there is no political crisis in the Isles this view is not widely shared. The ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party did publish a statement in March admitting that there was an impasse but added that a solution depended on the political goodwill of the Civic United Front (CUF) opposition party. The statement also praised Zanzibar President Salmin Amour for his openness in dealing with the situation and his willingness to talk about it to the media.
This change in tack was perhaps stimulated by Father of the Nation Mwalimu Nyerere who had caused some consternation when he said on January 23 (according to the Dar es Salaam ‘Express’) that the first step in resolving any crisis was to admit that there was a problem. It would be unwise to “fumbia macho” (close the eyes); the Zanzibar problem was not only for Zanzibaris, he said. “It is also a Tanzanian problem. The Union would bear the brunt if something went wrong there. It was time the Union government did something to avert a conflict which would have security overtones on the mainland”.
When Professor Haroub Othman of the University of Dar es Salaam (quoted in the ‘Daily News’) said at a seminar that he thought that Mwalimu would be the best mediator in what he described as the ‘crisis-laden islands’ and that he had a feeling that the CCM was not serious in wanting a solution, did not want Mwalimu to intervene and was not even very keen on him, he was soundly rebuked. CCM’s Zanzibar Publicity Secretary Ms Maudline Castico said that the Professor should apologise for making such outrageous statements on CCM’s relationship with the former President. CCM in Zanzibar had the highest respect for Mwalimu and would always treasure his role in the liberation and development of the country, she said. She reminded the Professor about the efforts made by CCM to promote and broaden democracy in the Isles and pointed out that the House Speaker had opened an office in the opposition stronghold of Pemba in an effort to bring about mutual understanding.
Probably referring to the amount of time Mwalimu Nyerere is spending as mediator in Burundi, Serengeti CCM MP Julius Semwaiko told Union parliamentarians that Tanzania should concentrate on solving problems at home rather than those in foreign countries. “We should ask our colleagues from Zanzibar what is going on there” Semwaiko said.
Gradually the press – both government and privately owned – has been taking up the issue. The government-owned ‘Daily News’ in an editorial on January 12, Zanzibar Revolution Day, the 34th anniversary of the 1964 Zanzibar Revolution, wrote: ‘We would like to make a special appeal to President Amour and the opposition to embark on dialogue immediately to solve the present political impasse in the Isles’.
But on the same day Zanzibar President Amour was quoted by the ‘Daily News’ as saying that that there was ‘a conspiracy to bring Zanzibar into turmoil, perpetrated from outside by using internal elements’ but that the solution to the political impasse in the isles would be reached by Zanzibaris themselves. In an apparent reference to a recent by-election in which support for the opposition Civic United Front (CUF) had dropped significantly, he said that the political situation in Zanzibar was excellent and seemed to improve with each passing day. People were learning more and more to live together in harmony under the multi-party system.
Dar es Salaam Archbishop Polycarp Pengo on January 12 urged churches to pray for tranquillity in Zanzibar; the political situation in the Isles was of concern to everybody, he said.
Meanwhile international concern about the situation continues. South African Vice-President Thabo Mbeki was in Zanzibar last year and the Nigerian Permanent Representative to the United Nations was in Zanzibar earlier this year, apparently trying to help. The ‘Daily News’ reported however that the Zanzibar government maintained that they had been there for ‘purely holiday purposes’. President Marti Ahtisaari of Finland is also thought to have discussed the problem during his recent visit and an EU delegation led by Britain had a meeting with Tanzanian Foreign Minister Jakaya Kikwete and raised concern about the crackdown on opposition politicians.
More significant was a second visit to Zanzibar by Commonwealth Secretary General Chief Emeka Anyaoku in January during which (according to the ‘East African’) he had 10 meetings with CCM and CUF party leaders. He proposed what he called a ‘middle course’ including a five-point plan under which the parties would be requested to desist from making confrontational public statements; CUF would be given some ministerial posts in a coalition government plus five of the 10 nominated seats in the Zanzibar House of Representatives plus two additional seats in the Union Parliament; CUF would be expected to call off its boycott of proceedings in the Zanzibar parliament; the media would be asked to give balanced coverage of political activities, and, the government should agree that all former Zanzibar political office holders would receive uniform treatment. Unlike the position after his previous visit, the Chiefs visit did not end there. On February 23 he sent his personal representative, Mr Moses Anafa, to continue the talks but a blanket of secrecy then descended and it is not known whether any positive results were achieved. CCM Publicity Secretary Ms Maudline Castico, who did not take part in the talks, said that she did not think the envoy had any new agenda to offer; any solution depended on the goodwill of CUF.
Visiting British Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Tony Lloyd was reported in the ‘Business Times’ on April 3 as having sharply differed with Tanzanian President Mkapa’s oft-stated position that he has no mandate to intervene in Zanzibar. “The Union does not govern Dar es Salaam only” Lloyd was quoted as saying “Zanzibar is part and parcel of the Union and that is why we say that (the Union Government) has a role to ensure that things are normalised.” According to a letter in the Dar es Salaam ‘Sunday Observer’ Lloyd also pointed out that it was Tanzania that was the signatory to the international conventions on human rights and should be responsible for any violations in any part of the Union including Zanzibar.
Director of the Norwegian Agency for International Development (NORAD) Jan Arne Munkeby said “Until a political solution to the problem of Zanzibar has been found, Norway will not enter into new agreements for assistance to Zanzibar.”
The reaction of Minister of State in President Mkapa’s Office Kingunge Ngombale-Mwiru was to castigate these two diplomats for talking to the press instead of following official channels. According to the ‘Daily News’ (April 2) Zanzibar CCM Publicity Secretary Maudline Castico went further. The remarks by the envoys of Britain and Norway were a gross misconception of the real situation in the Isles; they were one-sided in favouring the opposition. They had gone too far by meddling in the political affairs of Zanzibar instead of concentrating more on development issues, she said. These diplomats had remained silent when the opposition engaged in acts aimed at disturbing the peace. There was no violation of human rights in the Isles as the two envoys had implied. In a reference to the treason trial (see below) she went on ‘It is the height of absurdity to suggest that criminal prosecution is a violation of human rights since law courts are institutions established to ensure those same human rights are safeguarded’.
It is also reported that three journalists, including a BBC correspondent, were briefly detained by the Zanzibar police while trying to cover demonstrations in support of those being charged with treason.
DAY OF HARMONY
When the newly elected CUF MP for Mkunazini took his seat on February 3 there was a rare day of harmony between the parties Mr Juma Duni Haji MP pledged his allegiance to the Zanzibar government, shook hands with CCM cabinet ministers and was applauded on both sides of the House. The other CUF MP’s even attended morning prayers for the first time since November 1995 – they object to blessings for President Amour – and stayed in the House until it ended the session.
But, by the next day, the harmony was over. The 25 CUF MP’s were abruptly suspended (and lost their allowances) for 20 days for ‘their persistent failure to attend House sittings’.
THE TREASON TRIAL
The trial for treason of 17 CUF opposition political leaders, including CUF Deputy Secretary General Nassor Seif Amour and three members of the Zanzibar House of Representatives continues. They were originally arrested (in December) on charges of sedition; they allegedly plotted to overthrow the Zanzibar Government and remove President Amour; later the charge became treason. All have been refused bail and several have been held in prison for over four months. On January 6 CUF leader Seif Shariff Hamad and Secretary General Shabani Mloo were interrogated for 2 hours by Police CID from Dar es Salaam but later released.
The 17 CUF activists started a hunger strike on January 19 because of what they described as ‘the unsatisfactory handling of their case (a preliminary hearing before submission to the High Court) by the state.’ They ended their strike on January 23 after being assured by Zanzibar Attorney General Ali Mohamed Omar that their case would be handled fairly. He agreed to look into why the police had delayed producing the file on the case. The case had been adjourned from January 9 to February 3. The Magistrate said (at the Vuga regional court) that he was not competent to give a ruling on the failure of the prosecution to bring evidence against the accused.
On February 3 the court was told that the Attorney General had indicated that the evidence so far collected by the police was not enough considering the seriousness of the charges; these could attract capital punishment or life imprisonment he said. The police were given one more month to collect evidence.
When the case was resumed on March 3 the prosecutor, Police Superintendent Patrick Biatao, said that the Attorney General had ordered police to round up more suspects after going through a police file. Many of these suspects had left Zanzibar but a man-hunt had been launched. Mr Omar had warned the police that going ahead with the trial without arresting the other suspects was tantamount to fighting a losing battle.
The defence counsel requested the court to dismiss the case as the prosecution had failed to bring the needed evidence within the allotted one month without giving convincing reasons. The trial Magistrate agreed with the defence that the Attorney General should be summoned to shed light on the evidence and the case was due to come up again on March 17th. The defence asked the court not to agree to any further adjournments and the magistrate said that he needed time to study the request.
When the case resumed on March 17 it was attended by foreign diplomats from Dar es Salaam. Responding to alleged criticisms from the diplomats, Zanzibar Chief Minister Dr. Mohamed Bilal said that the treason charges were not politically motivated and that the diplomats concerned were contravening diplomatic norms in interfering in Zanzibar’s internal affairs.
LIPUMBA LOSES CASE
Former CUF candidate for the post of President of Tanzania, Professor Ibrahim Lipumba, and the Majira newspaper have lost a case in the Isles’ High Court in which they were accused of defamation. Prof. Lipumba admitted that in a speech in Pemba during the last general elections he had accused Zanzibar Electoral Commission Chairman Zubeir Juma Mzee of buying a house in Kilimani for Shs 60 million paid for from a bribe he had received for ensuring that President Amour would win the presidency. The defendants were ordered to pay Shs 30 million each to Mr Mzee for defamation. The judge said that no proof had been provided to support the allegation that Mzee had bought the said house. Speculation that he was often seen in the house was not enough evidence to prove that he had bought the house immediately after the election. President Amour announced in April that Mr Mzee had been reappointed for another five year term as chairman of the Electoral Commission.
And now some good news! Tsetse flies have been finally eradicated from Zanzibar. Under an International Atomic Agency project, tsetse were mass bred in a ‘fly factory,’ male flies being sterilised with gamma radiation and released by air to mate with females, who were therefore not able to produce offspring. Since September 1996 not a single wild fly has been captured in once heavily infested areas of Unguja – Daily News.