With the next presidential and parliamentary elections now only a year away, political activity is increasing, especially in Zanzibar, where the next contest could again be very close between the Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) the ruling party and the main opposition party, the Civic United Front (CUF), which has its stronghold in Zanzibar. Relations between the two parties are much better than they have been since the alleged rigging of the last two elections but, after the overwhelming success of CUF in the 17 by-elections held in Pemba on May 18 2003, many observers wonder whether CCM will this time allow the Zanzibar elections to be free and fair if it means CCM losing power in the isles.
There have been positive and negative developments during recent months. Among the positive ones:
THE MUAFAKA (CCM -CUF ACCORD)
The Sunday News (12th October) reported on a debate which had been relayed live on Television Zanzibar in which the leading participants were the cochairmen of the Muafaka Implementation Accord Committee, Omar Ramadhani Mapuri of CCM and Abubakar Khamis Bakari of CUF. The subject was the implementation of the agreement. The co-chairmen jointly explained that the programmes within the agreement that had not then been implemented needed a lot of money to ensure a successful conclusion. As examples they gave the compensation of people whose houses were demolished and those who lost their jobs, because of the political crisis of 2001, as among items whose implementation was stalled due to shortage of funds. Both however, despite the shortcomings, said that they were satisfied with the speed at which the programmes were moving ahead. They listed several areas which had already been implemented including the appointment of a new Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) which includes members from the ruling and opposition parties and withdrawal of court cases of a political nature. Restoration of normal political life and good governance were among the great achievements of the Muafaka.
Mwananchi reported recently that the ZEC had presented to the Zanzibar Government proposals for the smooth conduct of future elections. In a report containing lessons learned from the May 18, 2003 well conducted by-elections in Pemba, the ZEC advised the Government to bank all funds received from donors and Government sources in the ZEC accounts as soon as possible. It suggested that ZEC, rather than state agents, should be allowed to procure its equipment needs because, according to the report, late delivery of equipment could cause chaos in the registration of voters. The ZEC also wants changes in the electoral law to accommodate a Permanent Voters Register.
Other recent developments are as follows:
USING THE COURTS?
The London Observer in a recent article on Zanzibar quoted Juma Duni Haji, Deputy Secretary-General of CUF in Zanzibar, as being worried. Although he is reported to think that the Government will hold back from using violence again (in the next elections) they may instead, he says, use the courts to try to stop the opposition winning. “They know they cannot use force any more as people are so much more motivated and conscious of their rights” he said. “If they use force again there will be a lot of bloodshed, so they may use the courts as an alternative” ….For now, the situation remains calm but if the international community is concerned to avoid the potential terrorism dangers they claim to see then fair handling of the next elections ….must surely be the top priority. This is the best route to avoid further social and political instability, and any attendant alienation or radicalisation it might bring …… Some worry that an opposition victory could lead to a break-up of the Union with mainland Tanzania, and that the CUF opposition party could introduce Sharia law. Juma Duni Haji said that government politicians label the opposition party ‘Islamic’ because they want to create a connotation of Islamic and terrorism. Tanzanian law does not in fact allow religious political parties. But opposition politicians talk of renegotiating the Union agreement in terms that are sometimes reminiscent of British Conservatives’ views on renegotiating the UK’s position in the EU…… ‘
ZANZIBAR GOVERNMENT BANS OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER
The Government of Zanzibar banned the publication, distribution and sale of the popular weekly newspaper Dira in Tanzania with effect from November 28. Minister of State in the Zanzibar Chief Minister’s Office, Salim Juma Othman, said that the ban had to be imposed because Dira was creating enmity between the Government and its people by inciting them to break laws through reminding them of their bad history, promoting tribalism, religious segregation and publishing seditious information. The Government had shown a high degree of tolerance, he said, but the publishers of Dira had not changed their attitude. The newspaper had been telling lies that had threatened national unity. He accused the newspaper of not recognising the Government, misusing press freedom and fomenting tribal hatred between Isle and Mainland citizens. Othman pledged that the Government would continue to respect freedom of the press and cooperate with all media institutions which respected the laws of the land, safeguarded national interests, upheld democracy and recognised the right to privacy of an individual. Othman was also quoted as saying that the editorial board of Dira had failed to reform and abide by journalistic ethics despite being advised over seven times, including by the Tanzania Media Council.
According to Mwananchi, among the complaints of the Government against Dira were its claims that President Karume was not a Zanzibari. It had investigated his family in order to tarnish the image of Karume’s father, founder leader of Zanzibar, the late Sheikh Abeid Amani Karume. A few weeks earlier the High Court in Zanzibar had ordered Dira to compensate two children of President Karume, with Shs 660m/-for libel. Dira had earlier complained that the Government had declared Dira Managing Editor, Ali Mohamed Nabwa, as not being Tanzanian, but rather a Comore national. The Dira Editorial Board is chaired by Ismail Jussa Ladhu who is also the assistant to CUF Secretary General, Seif Hamad and also a member of the Presidential Commission for overseeing the implementation of the Muafaka.
The CCM party in the Urban West Region of Zanzibar welcomed the Government’s decision and said it would contribute to building national unity and tranquility in the Isles. It accused the paper of being not only a threat to peace and national unity, but as also having distorted the history of the Zanzibar revolution and subsequent establishment of the United Republic of Tanzania.
CUF Secretary General Seif Shariff Hamad, described the ban as contrary to freedom of expression as enshrined in the Zanzibar constitution. He said his party did not see any meaningful reason to warrant the ban. According to Section 18 of the Zanzibar Constitution, he said, every individual was entitled to freedom of expression without regard to national boundaries. He challenged the Isles’ Government to nurture a culture of tolerance when criticized, in order to strengthen democracy and the rule of law. If Zanzibar President Amani Karume wanted people to take him seriously as a believer in democracy and respect for the constitution, he should repeal the ban, he said. On December 4th the Guardian reported that the Zanzibar Government had threatened to take legal action against the editorial board if it attempted to publish the paper on the intern et. He said the newspaper was registered m Zanzibar, and the Isles formed part of the Union.
An editorial in Mwananchi called for both the Dira management and the Government to cool down and work together for the betterment of the nation.
According to Mwananchi and Mtanzania CUF Chairman Professor Ibrahim Lipumba has warned that if the Permanent Voters Register is not prepared in time before the 2005 general elections President Mkapa should prepare for trouble. Speaking to newly elected CUF leaders in Dar es Salaam Region Lipumba said his party would not again allow what he described as ‘vote stealing like in 1995 and vote robbing like in 2000.’ He called on the CUP leadership in Dar es Salaam to work hard because the party’s winning in Zanzibar depended very much on its strength in Dar Es Salaam.
According to Nipashe CUF Secretary General Seif Shariff Hamad, who also leads the party in Zanzibar, when closing a recent meeting in Dar es Salaam, said that CUP would get many seats in the 2005 general elections and nothing would deny it a win, not even ‘the hiring by CCM of fake voters from the mainland as had happened in the 2000 elections or the rigging of the elections as in 1995.’ Hamad called on CUP members to prepare to defend their 2005 win at all costs.
He said that Zanzibar President Karume was the main obstacle to implementation of the Muafaka and added that reconstitution of the High Court for Zanzibar, freedom for the media organs in the isles and establishment of a new Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) Secretariat had yet to be implemented in accordance with the Muafaka.
Early in December Seif Shariff raised the stakes again, according to Nipashe, by claiming that clandestine movements were underway to remove the post of President of Zanzibar from the list of elected posts. The Vice-President of Tanzania would then become the leader of Zanzibar instead of an elected Zanzibar President. Hamad and his followers vowed to fight the plan because, if successful, it would wipe out the state of Zanzibar, turning it into a region of Tanzania. Addressing a rally at Kibandamaiti grounds in Zanzibar West, Bamad said the proponents of the move wanted the plan to be effected before the 2005 elections. He said that highly placed intelligence officers working with the Union Government had hatched the deal as one way of saving the ruling CCM party from losing heavily in the elections.
Again in early December Mwananchi reported that Seif Hamad had accused the Zanzibar Government of recruiting more personnel from the mainland to join the Zanzibar Anti-smuggling Unit, the Prisons Service, the National Service and the National Volunteer Service (KVZ) in preparation for a showdown with the opposition in 2005. Seif Hamad told journalists that there would not be a Muafaka III. He had been informed, he said, that the plan was to employ 500 youths every six months between now and October 2005. According to the Muafaka II agreement no police or army personnel from the mainland would be deployed in Zanzibar during Zanzibar elections.
THREE CCM ELDERS WANT TO CLOSE DOWN CUF
Concern amongst some CCM members about the next elections was exemplified when Nipashe reported that three CCM ‘stalwarts’ had sought the deletion of CUF from the list of officially recognised political parties. In their application, they claimed that CUF was a ‘terrorist party’ and that some CUF members had uttered dangerous political utterances which could threaten the constitutional fabric and hence jeopardise the security of the state. But the Judge in the case said that the application ‘failed miserably for lack of merit’ and it was dismissed with costs. Principal State Attorney Donald Chidowu pointed out that CCM-CUF political relations had improved in the correct direction, leave alone the fact that CUF had not contravened any of the provisions of the law on political parties.
NEW ZANZIBAR PARTY SPLITTING?
One of the two new parties established late last year in Zanzibar, SAFINA, (which, according to Mtanzania advocates the breaking up of the Union between the mainland and Zanzibar) is rumoured to have split. It has not yet obtained permanent registration. According to sources in Zanzibar, quoted in Mwananchi, some top leaders from SAFINA have formed another party called HIDAYA.
They said SAFINA leaders from Zanzibar North district including Abu Amour, the brother of former Zanzibar President Salmin Amour, allegedly received money from the ruling CCM and left the party to form HIDAYA. SAFINA Publicity Secretary Omar Awesu Dadi confirmed the reports of the split saying those who had left the party received bribes from CCM.
‘UNNECESSARY TERROR WARNINGS’
Kirsty Hughes writing in the London Observer (September 21) said that the threat to Zanzibar’s idyllic peace came from within the Isles (the political situation) not from terrorism….. She went on: ‘US and British warnings of high risks of terrorism are threatening …. Zanzibar’s economy….. How real is this threat? The website for the Foreign and Commonwealth office describes all of Tanzania including Zanzibar as being at high risk from global terror, citing the May bomb attacks in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia as evidence that the terror threat remains real. Why terror attacks in Saudi Arabia should indicate a terrorist threat in Tanzania is not obvious. Throwing a general warning over not only the Middle East but East Africa too surely suggests an approach that is either too casual or too general. Tanzania is, after all, despite being one of the poorest countries in the world, also a remarkably stable society, and one where tensions between the Christian majority and large Muslim minority are mostly few and far between. And in Zanzibar, it is local rather than international politics that have been destabilising in recent years. The Zanzibar islands, unlike the mainland, are predominantly Muslim but Zanzibar has long been a cosmopolitan crossroads, mixing African, Arab, Indian and other cultures….. Zanzibar is perhaps being unfairly penalised not only for its Muslim population and by the general international nervousness over security, but also for its location -a relatively short distance south down the coast from Mombassa in Kenya -where terrorists last year bombed a hotel and attempted to shoot down an Israeli plane. Tanzania too has seen terrorist attacks with the bombing of the US embassy in Dar es Salaam in 1998 -but that was the mainland and not Zanzibar. ……Unnecessary or over strong terror warnings have the potential to create not only economic problems but also political resentment. The US and UK warnings have certainly impacted on the economy in Zanzibar. Tourism fell sharply in the first three months of last year, and while numbers are rising again, American and British tourists are few. All hotels, whether local or foreign, have had to pay more attention to security; the FBI has been in to provide advice on security, and even small hotels often have armed guards at night. And travelling across the island police road checks seem to pop up every 10 kilometres. Many see the terror warnings as unfair and damaging, yet there is little anti-American -or anti-British -feeling evident. The fall-off in tourists is a cause of complaint, but while tourists are welcome, the activities of some of the foreign investors chasing the tourist dollar are not always equally so….. ‘