Two issues have dominated debate in Zanzibar during the last few months – what is the precise status of Zanzibar in its relationship with the mainland and is President Kikwete going to intervene in the impasse reached between the two main parties – the ruling CCM party and the opposition Civic United Front (CUF) – on a possible power sharing government? The opposition thought that this matter had been agreed in principle after lengthy discussions between the parties. However, at the last minute the CCM in Zanzibar had insisted that, before such an agreement (Muafaka) could be put into effect, there had to be a referendum of the people. CUF was totally opposed to this idea.

What is Zanzibar’s status?

The whole issue of Zanzibar’s status was originally raised by a Deputy Minister in the Zanzibar Government speaking in the Zanzibar House of Assembly earlier this year who gave the impression that he considered Zanzibar to be a country in its own right while being part of the United Republic of Tanzania. This created some excitement in Zanzibar political circles.

Union Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda decided to make the position clear in a statement to the Union parliament in Dodoma. There was no way in which Zanzibar could become a sovereign state within the United Republic, he said because it had lost that status in 1964 when it became part of the Union.

Changing things now would break the Union. The PM said that during his tenure of office he would not make any moves to break up the precious and exemplary Union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar.

Heated debate

His remarks touched off heated debate in both the National Assembly in Dodoma and the Zanzibar House of Representatives.

A CUF MP demanded that Zanzibar be given its sovereignty so that it could join the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) (see Tanzanian Affairs No – Editor). On the OIC question the PM said he could not give a direct answer. “Maybe the water hasn’t boiled enough to make stiff porridge” he said. “It is true we (the Union government) made a promise 15 years ago to look into the possibilities of joining the OIC and we will now do it”. There was now no problem with the idea of Tanzania, as a sovereign state, joining the OIC.

In Zanzibar however the debate continued until eventually the House of Assembly Speaker ordered the suspension of debate on whether Zanzibar was a sovereign state, saying the issue was being dealt with jointly by the Union and Isles governments.

Meanwhile, a CCM MP recommended that the matter be taken to a constitutional court for clarification. He said Article 126 of the 1977 Union Constitution stated clearly that such matters would be solved by the constitutional court, while Article 4 of the 1984 Zanzibar Constitution identified Zanzibar as a state.

Another CCM MP noted that it was because the matter was very sensitive that CCM and CUF representatives had decided to come together for the sake of Zanzibar’s well-being. He said the current set-up reduced the Zanzibar President virtually to the level of an officer in local government because he had no authority in the Union Government. “I am ready to die for the sake of my country, Zanzibar. We did not come to this House to play but to represent the people” the protesting MP said and added that the Isles President Abeid Karume “should be given back his authority as the Vice President of the United Republic of Tanzania to paint a good image of our unity”.

On boards “Corruption” and “Is Zanzibar a Country?” Pupil “Oh teacher -tell them Zanzibar isn’t just a country, it’s a continent, and let them produce a reggae version of their national anthem if they want. Can we please get back to the lesson which is knawing at us !” – Kipanya

The Speakers of both the Assembly and the House eventually barred MP’s from debating the matter any further but some continued to defy the orders.

The Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, Dr Asha-Rose Migiro, who is Tanzanian, also entered the fray. She said the UN secretariat had no direct mandate to deal with the ‘statehood’ issue because the world body placed a premium on national unity and had no powers to interfere with the internal affairs of any country. “The UN recognises the United Republic of Tanzania as a single entity” she said.

The Union Prime Minster finally stated that it was now for the ruling CCM party, the two Union Government’s and Zanzibar’s Attorney Generals to make a definitive stand on the matter – Guardian.

Pembans protest

Unable to make any progress on either the Muafaka or the sovereignty issue, a group of 12 Pemban elders have presented a demand for their island to secede from the Union and from the other Zanzibar island Unguja. They also submitted a plea to the UNDP Director in Dar es Salaam saying that what they were demanding was what had happened in the Comoros recently.

The Government in its reaction compared the elders with ‘dangerous individuals’ like Colonel Mohamed Bacar, who was recently ousted from the Comorian island of Anjouan by Tanzanian-commanded African Union troops.

The elders also asked the US ambassador to Tanzania to send their message to President Bush, asking him to help them break away from the Union and Unguja. The elders claimed that Pemba had been economically marginalised by the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar on the grounds that it had been an opposition stronghold since the 1964 Revolution. The government said that these claims were ‘baseless and lacking credible evidence’. It said it was true that there were economic and social disparities between Pemba and Unguja, but that this was due to ‘geographical factors’. Unguja was the seat of government and it was only to be expected that it would have a higher level of development than Pemba.

The Inspector General of Police said that hatching a secessionist plot clearly amounted to treason “because it would be seeking to break a national government structure formed according to the country’s constitution. The attempt would be a threat to the sovereignty and security of the United Republic.”

The twelve elders, plus others who tried to join them later, said to be mostly CUF supporters, were arrested but it is understood that they have not been charged. Then it was revealed that CUF intended to move a private motion in the House of Representatives to impeach Zanzibar President Abeid Karume because he had ‘violated the constitutions of Tanzania and Zanzibar by marginalising and discriminating against the people of Pemba.’ -Tanzania Daima.

According to Karl Lyimo writing in the East African, there was once a ‘People’s Republic of Pemba’ which had its own national flag. But it only lasted a few days after the Zanzibar Revolution in January . A ‘Pemba Island State’ was established before 0, falling under Omani sovereignty around 0 before eventually becoming Zanzibar – Editor.

The collapse of the proposed ‘new’ Muafaka

Following a statement by President Kikwete that he was determined to solve the seemingly unending dispute on the governance of Zanzibar between the two main parties and following three controversial elections in the Isles, the Secretaries General of the CCM and CUF have been working diligently for the last two years to try and agree on a plan for power sharing. Eventually they appeared to have come up with an agreement in principle – a new Muafaka. As this had to have the approval of the parties it was taken to Dodoma to be discussed by the CCM’s top governing body.

After what must have been an intense debate the CCM announced that it could not approve the agreement until there had been a referendum of the people of Zanzibar. According to Zanzibar CCM sources, only in this way could the agreement by democratically authenticated.

CUF immediately made it clear that this idea was totally unacceptable and that it would not enter any further negotiations with the CCM negotiation team. A CUF spokesman said that if President Kikwete really wanted the negotiations to continue, then he should chair the meetings himself, otherwise he should forget it. CUF immediately began a campaign appealing to international sources to put pressure on Tanzania to finalise a power sharing agreement without further delay.

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