International and local pressure on Zanzibar for an improvement in the human rights situation there has led to a tense situation in the Isles during recent weeks.
AMOUR NOT TO STAND – CCM PRAISED FOR DECISION
The first issue causing tension was whether the Zanzibar Constitution should be changed to allow President Salmin Amour to stand for a third term in office from October. In one of the most difficult decisions they have had to take, the Central and National Executive Committees of the CCM in Dodoma eventually decided at the beginning of March (following an earlier 4-day CCM meeting of CCM elders in Zanzibar which had recommended the change) that the Zanzibar constitution should not be changed. Instead, the matter could be reconsidered after the October elections. After its narrow win in 1975 many in CCM in Zanzibar apparently feared that, without the tough minded and assertive Dr Amour (popularly known as ‘commando’) heading its election list, the party might have a struggle to win in October.
This had become a major national issue during February as lawyers, academics and politicians of all persuasions on the mainland said it would be a breach of democracy. Mwalimu Nyerere before he died had made it clear that he was not in favour of such a thing. Union Vice-President Dr Omar Ali Juma (from Zanzibar and believed to have presidential ambitions himself) indicated that he also did not favour Amour’s continuation in office. 45 mainland CCM MP’s in the Union parliament petitioned Amour to shelve the proposed amendment. Then another group of 52 mainland CCM MP’s, including the Deputy Speaker and ten former ministers, censured Amour for his attempts to amend the constitution. Finally, it is believed that President Mkapa and former President Mwinyi brought their influence to bear against the change at the Dodoma meeting. Even though Amour himself chaired the meeting he kept a low profile and insisted repeatedly that he wasn’t himself pushing for the constitutional change.
Opposition leaders joined CCM supporters on the mainland in welcoming the outcome. The leading article in the Guardian was headed ‘Cheers CCM’. The East African said that CCM deserved kudos for its decision which would have come as a relief to most ordinary Tanzanians ‘who had seen the question of the Zanzibar constitution built into a crisis of almost umanageable proportions before their very eyes’ .
Returning to Zanzibar after the Dodoma debate, President Amour was quoted in the Daily News as saying that the decision had not been bad but had been taken to ‘give time for CCM to look into ways of revising its presidential two-terms policy’. Although the Isles government had all the powers necessary to amend its own constitution, it had been forced to seek prior consultation and the wisdom of CCM on proper ways to carry out the idea.
President Mkapa announced a minor cabinet reshuffle on March 2. Minister of Home Affairs Ali Ameir Mohamed changed places with Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office (Information and Policy) Mohamed Seif Khatib. Some speculated that the apparent demotion of Ameir, who hails from Zanzibar, was because he was on the losing side on the issue of a third term for President Amour but he denied this.
AN EIGHTH AMENDMENT TO THE ZANZIBAR CONSTITUTION
Other aspects of the Zanzibar constitution have also been under debate recently. The Government proposed and the Civic United Front (CUF) opposition opposed a Bill, one of the clauses of which would allow Dr Amour, as a former president, to be immune for life from prosecution for any acts committed while in office. 35 MP’s took part in the debate but CCM failed to get the necessary two thirds majority. The voting was CCM 47 to CUF 24. Some CCM members threatened to take the House Speaker to court for allowing the four CUF MP’s in prison (for treason) to vote. The Speaker explained that the four had written to him to indicate that they were opposed to the Bill.
According to the Guardian, on April 18, the CCM majority in the House approved a government plan to reduce the number of constituencies ahead of the elections. CUF complained that some narrowly held CUF constituencies in Pemba were amongst the ones to be removed.
THE COMMONWEALTH-BROKERED AGREEMENT
On March 24 outgoing Commonwealth Secretary General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, issued a statement accusing Zanzibar of lack of progress on a range of critical areas of the agreement which had been signed between the two Zanzibar parties on June 9, 1999 (The agreement was published in TA No 64 Editor). He was referring amongst other things to the composition of the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC), establishment of a credible voters register, equitable access to the public media and reform of the judiciary. Dr Amour later described this as unfair as 90% of the agreement had been implemented.
Commonwealth special envoy Dr Moses Anafu arrived in Zanzibar on March 26 for a week in an attempt to get the two parties to fully implement the agreement. Dr Anafu told ‘Tanzanian Affairs’ that the government had told him that they had implemented 30 of the 38 proposals drawn up by the Inter-Party Committee (IPC) set up to implement the agreement and six others needed amendment before implementation. Two had been turned down. Outstanding issues included the reform of the Electoral Commission, the appointment of two additional CUF members to the House of Representatives (the government said that this was difficult as it would mean displacing two CCM members and that President Amour had no powers to do this) and the formation of the committee to examine alleged mistreatment of students and civil servants suspected of being supporters of CUF (the government said that it would appoint an independent assessor instead).
Dr Anafu said that few of the proposals needed legislation -only those concerning the reform of the judiciary and the composition of an independent electoral commission were likely to need it and the experts who had been in Zanzibar in connection with the agreement had prepared the necessary draft bills.
As this issue went to press it was reported from Zanzibar that the new Commonwealth Secretary General, Mr. Don Mc Kinnon, who had already written to President Mkapa expressing his concern about delays in implementing the agreement, had been invited to visit the Isles. Dr Anafu said that he himself expected be in Zanzibar at the end of April to pursue agreement implementation. He explained that during his March visit he had received assurances from President Amour that the agreement would be implemented in full but that there was no need to set a timetable. Anafu said that Tanzania had always had an enviable reputation because of the peace which had reigned in the country for many years and anything that detracted from this would be a loss for Africa. He had urged CUF to show restraint. He also added that during the negotiations last year, when it looked as though there was going to be an impasse, President Mkapa had intervened as Chairman of CCM, had appointed a negotiating team and facilitated the agreement. He hoped that President Mkapa might be able to do something similar again.
THE TREASON TRIAL
The most serious problem between the island and the mainland has for long been the alleged abuse of the human rights of opposition supporters in Zanzibar as exemplified by the insistence of the Zanzibar authorities on pursuing a case of treason against 18 CUF leaders. Most mainlanders are embarrassed by the way in which the accused have been held in jail for two years without trial and by the adverse international publicity given to the case. On January 26 45 CCM Union MP’s called on President Amour to stop the trial. They said it was political and lowered the dignity of the nation. The CCM committee in parliament then stated that this was their personal action and was not a CCM decision.
The Dar es Salaam Guardian reported that when the hearing of the trial had resumed on January 19 there were riots outside the High Court in which stones were thrown, tear gas bombs fired and some 70 people were injured.
The government’s case was not strengthened by the confusion on its own side. Zanzibar’s Attorney General (AG), the 72-year old Mohamed All Omar, had caused quite a stir earlier when he had said that the treason trial was nothing but politics and that he could not proceed with the case unless eight more top CUF leaders including Vice-Chairman Seif Shariff Hamad and Secretary General Shabaan Mloo were also arrested something which could have caused further outcry locally and internationally. The then Union Minister of Home Affairs Ali Ameir Mohamed made it clear that he wanted the trial to proceed without additional arrests.
However, on January 25 the Attorney General, having tried without success to persuade the Director of Criminal Investigations and the Police to effect the additional arrests, himself issued a warrant for the arrest of Hamad and Mloo. Both had presented themselves to him two weeks earlier volunteering to be arrested. They later said they had been prepared to die or face life imprisonment. On January 26 however, there was a bombshell. The Attorney General was summarily replaced by High Court Judge Saleh Abdullah Damoha.
On 27th January defence counsel in the case asked the High Court to dismiss the charges because Zanzibar was not a sovereign state and therefore not prone to a military coup; Zanzibar had ceased to exist as an independent state in April 1964 following a merger with the then Tanganyika. Another defence counsel said the case was time-barred due to the prosecution’s failure to facilitate its hearing for over two years. The defence team also objected to an application for an adjournment to enable the new Attorney General to study the file.
However, the case was then adjourned by the presiding Deputy Chief Judge Garba Tumaka who hails from Nigeria.
President Amour had earlier made a conciliatory gesture. On January 12 he had announced that former Zanzibar Sultan Jainshid bin Abdallah bin Khalifa, who was overthrown in the revolution of 1964 and is now in exile in Britain, was free to return to the country (but not as King).
When the case resumed on February 27 the prosecution accepted the defence argument that the charge sheet was faulty and promised to rectify it before the next session. The defence also succeeded in having two assessors whom they described as CCM zealots replaced. There was a lengthy debate on whether Zanzibar was a sovereign state and it was revealed, according to the Guardian, that the alleged treason took place between October 30 and November 28 1999.
When the hearing was resumed again on April 3, Judge Tumaka, in a 60-minute address, rejected the defence argument that there was no case to answer. He said that Zanzibar was constitutionally a state and therefore the treason charges stood. The trial was to commence on May 2. Bail application was refused because treason charges were not ‘bailable’.
After this judgement Seif Hamad and 11 others were charged with stealing a police firearm and causing grievous bodily harm to four police officers as they were trying to contain riots at a CUF rally. The case was expected to be in court on May 18.
CUF Secretary General Seif Hamad was quoted in the Swahili press on April 3 as saying that his party would meet ‘force with force’. In the next elections it would be ‘an eye for an eye’ if CCM insisted on the current electoral commission running the elections in the same manner as in 1995. On April 18 he explained that his earlier statement did not relate to bloodshed as some people were thinking. It meant that CUF would not tolerate the injustice it suffered in the 1995 elections. Meanwhile parts of the press were complaining about CUF supporters behaving like hooligans after a reporter was beaten up.
Tension on the streets increased further when the police engaged in an operation described by Minister of State Ali Ameir Mohamed as designed to ‘teach a lesson’ to people and politicians who refused to obey the police. The police were looking for weapons. Amongst the people arrested briefly was Mohamed Dedes, a member of the Inter-Party Commission set up under the Commonwealth-brokered agreement, who is also a CUF Central Committee member. At one or two CUF branches flags were reported to have been tom down and files destroyed and at one time the police fired into the air. Several people were said to have been injured. Isles Police Chief Khalid Nuizani stated that 60 people had been arrested altogether but they were young hooligans who had taken part in the disturbances. He said that there had been no special selection of suspects as claimed by CUF.
In their strongest statement yet, the EU Heads of Mission in Dar es Salaam issued a statement on April 6 which was quoted in the Guardian and said that ‘Resolution of the conflicting situation in Zanzibar is a moral and political responsibility of the Union government. If the current situation in Zanzibar continues, this will have a negative impact on the international community’s perception of human rights, good governance and democracy in Tanzania’. In the same statement, issued by the Embassy of France, the EU expressed dismay at the outcome of the most recent development in the treason trial ‘We call upon the government of Zanzibar to immediately drop the charges and release the accused’. They expressed concern at the indications of failure of the Zanzibar government to prepare the way for a peaceful and fair election later this year; these included harassment of the opposition party, arbitrary and heavy -handed policing and the unwillingness to implement the Commonwealth-brokered agreement, particularly the rejection of the proposed reform of the Zanzibar Electoral Commission. They went on: ‘Considering both the issue of the treason trial and the issue of the agreement, the EU representatives are all of the opinion that there is a serious risk of further deterioration of the human rights and democracy situation in Zanzibar. We therefore appeal to all parties to show moderation and responsibility in resolving their differences -the government of the United Republic has a key role with regard to respect for human rights, governance and democracy, as well as responsibility for the police force in Zanzibar’ .
Amnesty International sent out a report on April 12 under the heading ‘Widespread arbitrary beatings and arrests of opposition supporters’ .
The press freedom watchdog Article 19 in a 30-page report entitled ‘Democracy on shaky foundations’ which was quoted in the East African, warned that Zanzibar’s democracy was in danger.
President Mkapa, in a nationwide broadcast on April 10, called on the people not to heed politicians bent on creating conflicts in society. He said there was a hidden agenda among those who talked of violence and bloodshed and that leaders who threatened to shed blood would not be tolerated in Zanzibar. He was quoted in the East African as saying that the political problem in Zanzibar had had a negative effect on business, especially ferry boat operators and business between the mainland and Zanzibar, as fear spread to both islanders and mainlanders. He cautioned politicians against defaming their country and asked them to protect the national image and achievements.
Zanzibar ministers stepped up their attacks on foreign involvement in the issue. Minister of State Ali Juma Shamhuna accused Dr Anafu of double standards. He had said one thing to CUF and another thing to Dr. Amour which made implementation of the accord difficult. Government spokesman Hafidh Ali was quoted in The East African as saying that as far as the trial was concerned it was a matter for the court. “Aren’t the people calling for the government to intervene the same people who call for independence of the courts? Why can’t they let the process go on freely and fairly in an independent court? If they want the case dropped they should talk to the concerned organs and not to the government”.
Zanzibar Minister of State Mohammed Ramia said that CUF was always running to foreign embassies to feed them with lies. He said the problems of Zanzibar would not be solved by the Accord, the media or by the embassies alone. Deputy Chief Minister Omar Mapuri was quoted as saying that the problems of Zanzibar were that it was a young democracy and foreign embassies were interfering in the island’s internal affairs.
CCM Secretary General Phillip Mangula issued a strongly worded statement on April 20 (quoted in the Guardian) -following a CCM Central Committee meeting in Zanzibar attended by President Mkapa -in which he accused the international community of being biased in favour of CUF. He warned western countries that they would have to share the blame if the ongoing unrest in the Isles ended in bloodshed. When CUF supporters issued statements like ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ and mobilised their supporters to buy machetes, not a single word was uttered by the international community. This made CUF arrogant and endangered the understanding reached between the two parties. The Secretary General showed video tapes in which CUF leaders were telling the people that they were afraid neither of the police nor the judiciary.
Meanwhile, in spite of the political problems, Zanzibar’s success in tourism continues. Tourism is now by far the fastest growing sector of the economy -100,000 tourists are expected to bring in $72 million this year compared with less than $2 million five years ago -East African.