According to the Chairman of the Civic United Front (CUF) Professor Ibrahim Lipumba, quoted in Mtanzania and other media outlets, negotiations which have been going on between his party and CCM for the last eighteen months have reached a blind alley. He told the press that there was a very slim chance of a successful conclusion to the talks, which were due to end on August 15, unless there was international arbitration. Lipumba attributed the impasse to a lack of political will in the Zanzibar branch of the ruling CCM party. “It seems that President Kikwete (who had said at his inauguration that he was determined to solve the impasse in Zanzibar) has given in to hardliners who have been resisting any changes or amicable solutions,” Lipumba said. Warning that the political situation in Zanzibar was very volatile he reminded people of what was happening in Darfur.
A few days later, and as this issue of TA went to press, all Zanzibar MP’s in the National Assembly in Dodoma, except one who was left behind to look after parliamentary matters, went to Zanzibar to join Zanzibar-based MP’s in going to their constituencies to discuss what to do next.
President Kikwete was quoted a few days earlier as saying that the possibility of power sharing was ‘on the table’ and CCM Secretary General Yusuf Makamba, said he was shocked by Lipumba’s statement since the talks were still going on.
Mtanzania then reported that sources within CUF had said that the party had been approaching foreign diplomatic missions in Dar es Salaam, urging them to intervene and save the tottering negotiations. Then Lipumba turned to religious leaders and even Prime Minister Edward Lowassa, pleading with them to use their good offices. He also called on the CCM Vice Chairman John Malecela, Archbishop Cardinal Polycarp Pengo, Mufti Issa bin Simba and retired Bishop Elinaza Sendoro.
Prominent lawyer, Prof Issa Shivji, said CUF should not be gunning just for coalition government in Zanzibar as the problem was much wider and needed public debate. “They should be talking of the national interest of Zanzibar and not just of CUF,” he said – Mwananchi.
President Kikwete then intervened on August 14 and gave some details about the talks. He said that they would come to an amicable conclusion. “The talks are still on the right track. It is true that they have stalled but I would like to assure the public that the parties concerned will resolve the impasse over the differences in a friendly manner.”
The peace talks are popularly known as Muafaka and have been characterised by heated exchanges even outside the secret venues where they have been held.
President Kikwete said the joint negotiation committee had held 12 meetings since the talks started in January this year. “There has been encouraging progress in the talks because there are a number of issues on which agreement has been reached” he said.
The President explained that agreement had been reached on three of the five items on the agenda – equity and rights in politics, issues relating to how the Zanzibar government conducted its affairs, ways to strengthen political understanding in the Isles, and the need for free and fair elections. There was partial agreement on the issue of the 2005 Zanzibar elections. One of the items on which headway was yet to be made was in connection with the modalities of creating conditions that would allow political parties in Zanzibar, specifically CUF and CCM, to work together in a peaceful and calm environment. “Negotiations on this particular item have taken long to conclude and the two parties are yet to agree. I think it is because of the sensitive nature of the issue in question” the President said. “But I think we have not reached a stage where we could justifiably say that the talks have collapsed. We definitely need to negotiate more in order to resolve the matter, with each party working hard enough on its arguments to make the other see sense in reaching an amicable conclusion.”