THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
In a paper published in Oxford University Press’s African Affairs in August 2005 Ben Rawlence gave the background to the unhappy history of elections in Zanzibar. Extracts:
The 2000 elections were cancelled and then re-run but were subsequently boycotted by the opposition. In the 1995 elections the official margin between the CCM and CUF was only 0.4%.
Before that, the last elections held on the islands under a British mandate in 1963 precipitated a revolution. British gerrymandering ensured a victory for the Zanzibar National Party (ZNP) in alliance with another party. Despite forming a government, these twp parties only commanded 46% of the national vote, whereas the Afro-Shirazi Party (ASP) won 54%. The ZNP with its roots among Zanzibar’s elite, left the constitutional monarchy unchanged and the Sultan on his throne. After only a month, the Government and the Sultan were overthrown in the bloody revolution of January 1 1964. The ‘Revolutionary (now CCM) Government’ of Zanzibar has ruled ever since.
Zanzibar’s first President, Abeid Karume, agreed to the establishment of a Union between Zanzibar and the mainland of Tanzania creating the new state called Tanzania in 1964. The second President, Aboud Jumbe, supervised the union between the mainland’s Tanzanian African National Union (TANU) party and the ASP, forming the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM – the Party of the Revolution) in 1977.
Some observers see the current political division between CCM and the CUF as nothing more than a reincarnation of the old 1963 divisions. However, although these historical associations undoubtedly have some relevance to older voters, well over half the voters were born since the Revolution and around 45% are under 30. Rawlence goes on: In fact, the current divisions between the two parties are more rooted in events that have taken place since 1964. In the 1963 elections, the ASP won 44% of the vote in the northern island of Pemba but only two seats. At the elections in 2000 and by-elections in Pemba of 2003, CCM’s own official figures put their share of the vote at around 15%. On Unguja island, the south and central regions have remained faithful to CCM but Zanzibar town and parts of the north that were always oriented towards the mainland, have now become either CUF seats or marginal seats. CUF officials claim that of the 32 seats on Unguja, they now have a majority of potential voters in 13. CCM denies this but some CCM officials are said to privately accept the figures. It was after CCM appeared to be losing the supposedly safe CCM seat of Rahaleo in the 2000 elections that police were ordered to seize ballot boxes and the election was cancelled.
In all previous elections in Tanzania the emphasis has been on personalities rather than polices. This election might be different.
President Karume claims to have done much during his first term. He refers to the Chake Chake Road in Pemba linking Mkoani port with the rest of the towns and villages in the area; improved water supplies; achievement of Millennium Development Goals in education – every child who is at the age of going to school goes to school. Karume has also eased political tensions with the result that international donors have resumed aid. He plans to complete the construction of the Michenzani flats – work stopped during the First Phase Government under his father.
CUF, which is a member party of ‘Liberal International’, is proposing some radical new polices, especially in its Zanzibar stronghold. These include privatisation of the clove industry and the other state-run organisations including those concerned with oil, insurance, tourism, together with lots of public housing and the state farms which were established after the 1964 revolution.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN THIS TIME IN ZANIBAR?
CCM has admitted that holding on to power in Zanzibar is going to be difficult but there is a lot at stake for both parties and it is this factor which creates the political tension for which Zanzibar is renowned.
Acccording to Rawlence, CCM is divided about the causes of its woes. Presidents Karume and Mkapa say that the opposition is fuelled by troublemakers who are intent on power at any cost. In recent speeches, they have both called the opposition, ‘people of violence’. They have suggested that CUF is motivated variously by Islamic fundamentalism, Zanzibari nationalist secessionism and foreign intervention from the Gulf States as well as Britain. However, according to Dr Mohamed Bilal, former CCM Chief Minister, who recently challenged incumbent President Karume for the 2005 CCM presidential nomination, the President has failed to deliver on CCM’s promises to the people. Bilal was persuaded to withdraw his challenge by President Mkapa at the last minute before the final vote at the National Executive Committee of CCM in Dodoma on 3rd May.
Rawlence quotes CUF Zanzibar Presidential candidate, Seif Shariff Hamad, as saying that CCM is guilty of corruption and economic mismanagement; discrimination against people of Arab or Pemban ethnicity; ceding too much sovereignty to the Union government over energy, customs duties, and security; and politicization of the security forces and civil service as well as abuse of human rights.
In October 2001, following the violent January riots, CCM and CUF signed a historic agreement, called ‘Muafaka’ (see earlier issues of Tanzanian Affairs – Editor) which provided a framework for ensuring free and fair elections in 2005. Since then a constitutional amendment has been passed, the electoral laws have been reviewed and the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) has been overhauled. ZEC has just completed a nationwide computerized registration process to create a permanent voters’ register.
However, other Muafaka provisions including a reform of the judiciary have not been implemented according to CUF, the police and security organs are still heavily politicized and compensation promised to the victims of the shootings of January 2001 has not been paid. The Muafaka Committee has started meeting again on a regular basis which is encouraging news.
Many observers believe that a government of national unity is the only solution for Zanzibar but CCM has said that it is opposed to this.
According to Rawlence the voter registration exercise this year passed off relatively peacefully in Pemba. Registration was accurate and the number of voters was consistently about 85% of the number estimated by the 2002 census. Rawlence reports however that the process in Unguja was less calm. In the South and North, there were few reports of disturbances but in the Urban West Region, including the isles’ capital and the district containing by far the largest number of voters in the country and the most marginal seats — there were reports of Zanzibar security forces, dubbed Janjaweed, setting fire to homes, chasing people into the bush, separating parents from their children, and, according to several victims who spoke to ‘Zanzibar Watch’, systematically beating up and raping CUF supporters. A CCM election agent was found dead on April 23 in an apparent act of retaliation. On April 29 police in Zanzibar town raided CUF meeting places beating people who were sitting on verandas or watching television. And on April 24 a small bomb went off at the CCM maskani (a meeting place for party members): no one was injured.
The ZEC statistics for registration in Unguja are much less consistent than those for Pemba. Registration ranges from 50% of the estimated population to over 200% in some areas. This is viewed by the opposition as part of a government tactic to shrink the opposition vote in marginal areas and raises serious questions about the accuracy of the Unguja voters’ register.
ZEC has made some changes to the administration of elections, to ballot boxes, and to the protocols for counting votes as agreed under Muafaka. The West district, which now holds almost half of Zanzibar’s population, has grown from 3 constituencies to 9. The number of seats in Pemba has been reduced by 3, and the constituencies of Mkokotoni and Tumbatu in North Unguja have been merged.
According to ‘Zanzibar Watch No 5’ the flurry of signing of codes of conduct, co-operation with opposition parties and the u-turn by President Mkapa regarding the use of state organs during the elections are all positive signs that the head of state is taking his responsibilities seriously. Howeer, the paper goes on to say: ‘The disruptions and delays at the Electoral Commission, the build-up of security forces in Pemba and the deploying of the army in Unguja all point towards a government planning to stay in office at all costs, not a government at ease with its citizens’.
There have beena number of isolated cases of violence in recent weeks. Examples: According to Zanzibar Watch a group of ‘Janjaweed’ invaded Forodhani in Stone Town and beat people who were checking their names in the register. On August 6 three houses belonging to CUF members were set on fire. The fires were said to have been started by ‘Janjaweed’ CCM militia. On August 7, according to the Guardian, six people were injured after some 15 unknown armed youths attacked them in political-related violence. Four houses were set ablaze at Kwa Ali Masha. Unidentified people stoned one house belonging to a CCM supporter.
At the beginning of August the ZEC displayed the electoral roll for verification by political parties and the public but numerous flaws were found by CUF which presented a list of 7,400 people from Urban West region whom it believed had been denied registration. ZEC said they believed the names to be fake, put there for political purposes by CUF.
International donors (who are financing the reform of the ZEC) met in Zanzibar on August 11th to discus the progress of the Permanent Voter’s Register in the wake of the violence and criticisms.
CUF finally issued an ultimatum to CCM that they would not accept the results of an election in Zanzibar unless the problems with the voters register were rectified. Without a credible voters register, they would be preparing for mass action.
The nomination process for candidates for House of Representatives seats started on August 1 with internal primary elections within CCM. According to ‘Zanzibar Watch’ there has been fierce competition within CCM in Zanzibar between two camps – the supporters of Karume and of former President Salmin Amour. There have been some shock results in the primaries with three Zanzibar ministers losing their seats. However, the final decision on candidates is made by the CCM Central Committee.
As an example of the fluidity of the candidate selection process two CUF MP’s have defected to join CCM. A CUF party spokesman said that one had lost in the CUF primary elections and that the other was among those who had been expelled from the party in 1997 but allowed back conditionally.
An illustration of the enthusiasm of voters in Zanzibar in August well before the October election. This photograph shows some of the supporters of CUF’s Seif Sharriff Hamad as he went to collect his forms to register at the Electoral
Commission as a candidate for the Zanzibar presidency.
FREE AND FAIR?
According to Rawlence, whether or not there is a change of government is a complex equation affected by many related factors.
How far was the Zanzibar government prepared to go to secure victory? The killings of 2001 were an embarrassment for CCM. The Karume administration had since benefited from the resumption of aid and had earned a certain status from the Muafaka agreement. Rehabilitation with the donors has been hard won and could be easily lost. However, for CCM the suspension of aid due to election fraud might be a price worth paying to stay in power. How far will the Union government support the Zanzibar administration in retaining power? An opposition victory in Zanzibar would be a sign of CCM’s vulnerability and would provide CUF with a platform to demonstrate an alternative programme of government with a view to winning on the mainland in five years time.
The true test of CUF’s claim of mass support, according to Rawlence, would be the reaction of the people to the result of the election, and even their ability to withstand intimidation prior to the poll. CUF is fond of proclaiming ‘people’s power’ at public rallies but in neither 1995 nor 2000 did it feel confident enough to call for mass action against the CCM government. The examples of Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgystan together with CUF’s increased support, may have changed that calculation this time.
There was some pessimism about the chances of a free and fair election in Zanzibar also in the report of a ‘Fact Finding Mission’ of the East African Law Society, quoted in the Sunday Observer on July 17. The report said that there were complaints of voter disenfranchisement, electoral gerrymandering through vote-loading, and voter intimidation through state-and party-sponsored violence. Mission members were said to have been made aware of the intimidating presence of police and para-military officers, and members of other security organs in and around many registration centres. The institution of the Shehas, civic leaders appointed by Regional Commissioners on the advice of the DC’s, was said to have had a negative impact on the voter registration exercise. Regrettably, some of the denials of registration were resolved through offering bribes.
However, Zanzibar president, Amani Karume, has been quoted repeatedly as assuring the public that his Government would conduct free, fair, and peaceful elections. CUF’s Seif Sharriff Hamad was quoted as saying that if the elections were not free and fair and CUF lost there would be a Ukraine style peaceful demonstration and that all the party’s leaders, including himself, would be in the front line.
STOP PRESS – On August 15 there was an important new development. For the first time, President Mkapa said that there was a need for political parties to explore further the possibility of forming a government of national unity in Zanzibar as proposed in the Muafaka. He added that CCM and CUF would review the Muafaka on August 19 ahead of the official start of election campaigns on August 21. He directed CCM and its government to ensure that this year’s elections did not result in violence of the kind that rocked the Isles in 2001. He commended several political parties for signing the election ‘Code of Conduct’.