After several delays voter registration for what will be highly competitive general elections in Zanzibar in October began on November 29 and went well. However, a number of incidents of violence gave cause to fear what might happen when the elections themselves take place.
There was trouble at various registration centres in Pemba, the stronghold of the CUF party. One registration centre had to be temporarily closed after a number of registration forms were burnt following a dispute between CCM and CUF members over registration of would-be voters suspected to be under age. Two people were injured. The Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) ordered members of the Isles’ armed KMKM coastguards to leave four registration centres following complaints by CUF that the soldiers were not permanent residents of the area.
A car belonging to an MP was damaged when a petrol bomb was thrown at a registration centre and an official of ZEC was beaten up.
Paramilitary police fired into a crowd outside another registration office and killed a 16-year-old boy and seriously wounded two men. Uhuru reported that trouble had started after people objected to JKU (National Service) and KMKM guards coming to register their names while carrying arms. It was alleged that these people were shipped in from the other main island, Unguja, and so were not eligible. Police managed to get the bullet that was lodged in his chest of the boy and began trying to match it with four firearms that were used to control the crowd at the scene. The owners of the firearms were being questioned by the police to establish who shot the fatal bullet and whether this was done in ‘self defence.’ They four were alleged to be the Director of the Temeke Municipal Council in Dar es Salaam, two police inspectors and a militiaman. According to Majira, the boy was finally laid to rest following five days of argument between the parties. The coffin was draped with the CUF flag and the ceremony was attended by opposition leaders.
The ZEC later suspended voter registration at eight polling stations. It said it had taken the step due to security risks and blamed political parties for instigating violence and intimidating people who were going to register. As for the troops from Unguja who registered in Pemba, ZEC said that they were eligible to vote as they had been officially transferred from Unguja to Pemba. Meanwhile five people appeared in Chake Chake court on charges of assaulting an election official.
Next it was announced that the commander of the militia force (volunteers), Major Suleiman, had been stabbed to death by unknown people. He was stabbed as he was walking to a mosque at 8 pm. Suleiman’s funeral was attended by Zanzibar’s Chief Minister and the Home Affairs Minister. Meanwhile, the Minister said that the island’s security would be in the hands of the police and not the KMKM coast guards nor the JKU national service volunteers. He said more police would be transferred to Pemba without registering as voters. While deployed at the registration centres they would be unarmed.
The publicity secretary of CCM (Zanzibar), Vuai Ali Vuai, said the violence in Pemba was being instigated by CUF with the help of their ‘Blue Guards.’ Vuai said the guards were intimidating people who they suspected of being unqualified. He called upon ZEC not to allow this unlawful interference by CUF who were seeking an excuse to run to various foreign donor agencies. Meanwhile, Chief Minister Nahodha said that the Government would not tolerate trouble mongers. He advised ZEC to suspend registration in places that were fraught with violence – Mwananchi and other Swahili papers.
A coalition government?
Many people are beginning to express growing concern about what might happen following the elections in Zanzibar in October. Some believe that a coalition government might be the only solution. This view, reported in the Express, has been given by Prof. Haroub Othman of the University of Dar es Salaam who said that neither CCM nor CUF, nor any other party stood a chance of winning a landslide victory. “Even if CUF won the elections by 100%, the party would not be able to rule because institutions like the police force and civil service are controlled by CCM,” he said. In such a scenario, the state institutions would end up opposing the Government by staging strikes for better pay and making other demands. He reminded the workshop that, before the first multiparty elections, he had proposed a government of national unity in Zanzibar, but the idea was never given due attention, despite support from the late Mwalimu Nyerere.
CUF and CCM have totally different policies on this issue. CUF welcomes the idea but Zanzibar President Abeid Karume has made it clear that he is against such a solution.