During his recent official visit to London recently President Kikwete was asked what was happening about the continuing tensions between the parties in Zanzibar as he had said that he was determined to resolve the problem. He replied that things were moving and that we would soon hear what was happening.
Almost immediately afterwards, on January 17, Assah Mwambene, writing in the Daily News, reported that talks between the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) and the opposition Civic United Front (CUF), aimed at ending decades of political impasse in Zanzibar, had started and the two parties were calling for public support. A joint communiqué signed by Civic United Front (CUF) Secretary General, Seif Shariff Hamad and the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) Secretary General Yussuf Makamba said the two parties were determined to bring about mutual understanding. “We have started our negotiations and appeal to our respective parties to be patient and have confidence in us that these talks will meet their expectations” the statement said.
However, there was some surprise a few days later when Makamba was reported to have spoken in an entirely different way according to Majira. At a CCM rally in Zanzibar two CUF leaders who had defected to CCM, Tambwe Hizza and Ali Shamte, castigated CUF leaders in general and Seif Shariff Hamad in particular, calling them cheating and dishonest. Makamba was reported in Tanzania Daima to have said that as long as he was in command of CCM the opposition should forget about winning any election, adding that the Union and Zanzibar governments “belong to CCM”. He pointed at the RC and DC, telling them to make sure that CCM always wins.
Then Tanzania Daima went further. It quoted a CUF MP from Pemba as saying that he doubted if CCM was serious about seeking a solution to the political impasse in Zanzibar. CCM leaders were just buying time. The MP criticicised certain CCM leaders who were given to attacking CUF all the time. The Pemba MP however said the only person in the team he had faith in was veteran CCM leader Kingunge Ngombale-Mwiru whom he described as ‘honest and sensible’. He said the CCM team at the negotiations had been composed in such a way as to fail, so that the party could then “go to the donor community and throw the blame on CUF.”
STOP PRESS: As this issue of TA went to the printers, Rai published an interview with Ismail Jussa, the Personal Assistant to the CUF Secretary General, who is a member of the negotiating team. He said that the talks were likely to be concluded at the end of April. He declined to go into details or to comment on the possibility of power sharing, but said everything would be laid on the table. Jussa lauded President Kikwete, saying he had played a crucial role in ending the political polarisation that had been going on for ten years.
Meanwhile, Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Don McKinnon, has explained why his organisation could not take steps against the Zanzibar government over the 2000 elections and the shooting of marchers in Pemba in 2001. Addressing students at the University of Dar es Salaam, he said the problem his office faced was how to separate the Union government of Tanzania from that of Zanzibar. He said another reason for lack of action was because the talks going on at that time between CCM and CUF looked like they were going to lead to a national consensus. “It is true that the 2000 elections were not entirely free and fair, yet it did not produce an authoritarian government that was not willing to listen and negotiate, he said – Majira.