The political situation in Zanzibar is, as usual, much more tense than on the mainland. Although the remarkable Muafaka accord signed in October 10, 2001, set the stage for peaceful elections, rivalry between the two main parties, CCM and CUF, has reached a peak already, well ahead of the elections.
In the 1995 elections CCM won the presidentials by 51% against 49% for CUF. In 2000 CCM won by 67% to CUF’s 33%. Both elections were criticized by foreign observers and subsequent by-elections indicated that the 2000 parliamentary election had almost certainly been rigged. Subsequent riots resulted in the death of some 30 people.
CCM is clearly determined to hold on to the ruling position in Zanzibar which it has enjoyed since the sixties. It claims with some reason that it has given Zanzibar the same stability that it has achieved so successfully on the mainland . However, the October elections seem likely to be different. CCM Secretary General Philip Mangula, in an interview with the Guardian, has admitted that they would be a ‘tough game’ and that the results were unpredictable. Many observers believe that if the election were free and fair CUF would win.
A number of recent developments indicate that CCM may again be tempted to use irregular methods to try and ensure its re-election.
Registration of voters. Although this process began well in Pemba there have been numerous angry but isolated incidents in other parts of the Isles as CUF and CCM supporters clashed. Amongst incidents reported by the Guardian were the following:
December: The arrest of a group of 17 people in Dar es Salaam aboard a boat headed to Pemba allegedly going to register illegally. A Zanzibari or Mainlander must have resided in Pemba for not less than three years to be allowed to register as a voter. Some victims said they were going to Pemba merely for Christmas and New Year festivals.
January: Allegations of intimidation of CCM voters by CUF security agents (‘blue guards) in East Unguja… A registration centre set ablaze by unidentified people…. Police accused of intimidating CUF supporters.
March: CUF agents in Unguja North region accused of blocking Zanzibaris of Mainland origin from registering. A few grassroots leaders, commonly known as Shehas (appointed by the CCM government) said that Zanzibaris who traced their ancestry to the Mainland were being forced to show the graves of their grandfathers as proof of their residence on the Isles. They were also being asked to show their 1964 IDs which were obsolete …..an attack on a registration centre near the capital Stone Town…. A CUF claim that registration figures for the Unguja South Region had been doctored (Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) Chairman Yussuf Masauni said that such claims had no legal weight. “We stand firm by our statistics”……. 18 people arrested after violence between supporters of CCM and CUF….. more than 100 members of the Field Force Unit in full riot gear carried out an operation lasting several hours; three people reportedly injured and doors of two houses smashed by the officers…. two CUF candidates in the Kwamtipura area, in Zanzibar municipality arrested…..
April: The ZEC temporarily suspended voter registration in Mjini Magharibi after detecting irregularities…..Dozens of residents in North Unguja chased out of voters’ registration stations by Shehas on the grounds that they had originated in Pemba….. CUF complained that the ZEC had allowed establishment of registration centres near the camps of paramilitary forces…..The home of a CUF leader Abbas Muhunzi, was attacked and set ablaze….A crowd of some 400 CUF supporters, disgruntled over what they claimed to be voter registration fraud, attempted to break into a registration center…. hundreds of people protesting that they were not being allowed to register demonstrated in the Centre West Region ….. Shehas, boycotted a meeting called by the ZEC to discuss various anomalies in the voter register……Unidentified people used petrol to set three houses on fire plus a CUF branch office at Kianga in Unguja …. registration of voters stopped again because of irregularities.
Candidate selection bombshell. It has been the tradition in Tanzania to allow an incumbent president to stand for his second term unopposed so that there was considerable surprise when former Zanzibar Chief Minister, Dr. Mohamed Gharib Bilal, announced that he intended to stand against incumbent President Abeid Karume. Bilal contested the presidency in the 2000 elections but was not chosen as presidential candidate because of pressure from mainland CCM supporters who have the majority on the CCM Central Committee. For several months there had been rumours of a split within CCM between supporters of president Karume and those of former President Salmin Amour. It was well known that Amour was not pleased when he was not allowed to stand for a third term in 2000. Dr. Bilal said that his move was aimed at consolidating democracy within the party. He was referring to the fact that incumbent President Karume did not receive majority support in candidate selection in Zanzibar in 2000 and was selected largely under pressure from mainland party members. On March 25 Bilal was quoted in the Guardian as saying that the Zanzibar government had been ‘shunning retired leaders’. It was indisputable that there were in-house problems within CCM. “There are some ministers as well as other government leaders who panic whenever they see former President Dr Amour. They cannot even say hello to him for reasons best known to themselves…. We need to be free and close to the retired leaders to get wisdom from their age and experience, he said. Zanzibaris should build a culture of tolerance and learn to accept criticism. “My decision to challenge president Amani Karume was not engineered by Dr Salmin. I was advised to contest by CCM supporters in the Isles and the mainland” he said.
Boundary changes bombshell. On February 15 the ZEC dropped a bombshell when it announced that the number of constituencies in Pemba (a CCM stronghold) would be reduced by three and that in Unguja (where CCM is stronger) there would be 32, rather than the present 29. The constituencies closed down in Pemba (according to the Guardian) were Wingwi, Utaani and Vitongoji and the new constituencies in Unguja were Fuoni and Magogoni, born out of the Mwera constituency, the birthplace of Chief Minister Shamsi Vuai Nahodha. Magomeni had been sub-divided into two constituencies – Sebuleni and Mpendaye following the closing down of the Mikunguni constituency.
The two ZEC members of CUF, Nasor Seif Amour and Usi Khamis Haji, strongly objected to the changes and called on the ZEC to abide by Cap. 120 of the Zanzibar Constitution, which stipulated that the number of constituencies would only be reduced on the basis of the size of the population and its growth rate, the means of transport available and administrative boundaries. The party had argued that if the Constitution was the guiding document per se, then Unguja, where several constituencies had a small population should be the first to be affected by any such plan.
Hamad Bombshell. Zanzibar was plunged into a crisis on April 15 when an Assistant Returning Officer and a Sheha stated that CUF Secretary-General Seif Shariff Hamad, who many expect to be elected as President of Zanzibar if the elections are free and fair, had been barred from registering in the permanent voters’ register. He would thus not be eligible to stand for the presidency. Hamad told the Guardian that he had been barred because he did not qualify to vote in the area. To register, voters have to be Zanzibari and to have lived at the place where they want to vote for at least 36 consecutive months. Hamad has been spending a lot of time overseas recruiting international support for a free and fair election. He said he had filed an objection to the banning and would follow up the matter until he was allowed to register. “This incident proves our oft-repeated complaints that ZEC is siding with CCM,” he said.
CUF National Chairman Ibrahim Lipumba immediately called upon the ZEC to register its Secretary-General or risk plunging the Isles into turmoil. Addressing what the Guardian described as a ‘mammoth gathering’ at Jangwani grounds in Dar es Salaam on April 17, Lipumba said the incident could also provoke the party to take President Mkapa to the International Court of Justice at The Hague to face charges related to the deaths of over 20 people on January 26 and 27, 2001 following political violence on the Isles. Mainland CUF supporters, especially the youth, Prof Lipumba said, were ready to go to Zanzibar to press the government to register the CUF leader. He said the incident was proof that CCM wanted to retain power by hook or by crook. “We want the international community to save Zanzibar from witnessing another massacre,” he said. Hamad alleged that he and another 32,000 people had been barred from registering. He said it was amazing that the Shehas had usurped the powers of ZEC contrary to the electoral laws.
STOP PRESS. As this issue of TA went to press it was announced that Hamad would be allowed to register, thus bringing to an end the weeklong controversy regarding his eligibility. A jovial Hamad was quoted in the Guardian as saying: “I won my appeal and have finally registered. I advise other people who have had similar problems to appeal against ZEC’s decision.” The hearings of Hamad’s appeal were heard in camera.