Zanzibar. Today, Zanzibar is celebrating its 53rd Revolution Anniversary, an event that in principle could have united all islanders, but the political situation on the ground remains tense.
This time last year, the situation was tenser, as Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) chairman Jecha Salim Jecha had single-handledly annulled the results of the Presidential and House of Representatives elections three months earlier in October 2015 and the future was uncertain.
While Mr Jecha’s move was welcomed by the ruling party CCM, the main opposition outfit, CUF, backed by the international community rejected the move as undemocratic.
Talks between CCM and CUF leaders, Dr Ali Mohammed Shein and Mr Seif Sharif Hamad respectively, failed as the two leaders could not to reach a consensus and the General Election was repeated in March last year. But, CUF as earlier announced boycotted it. According to a commentary published by the Washington based Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) two days before the rerun of the polls, the October 25, 2015 General Election was annulled “in what was widely seen as a move by elements within the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) to prevent an imminent opposition victory.”
“The October 2015 election was a missed opportunity as it might have enabled the CCM gracefully to relinquish its 50-year-long control over Zanzibar by agreeing to participate in the on-going Government of National Unity, albeit one headed by CUF leader Seif Sharif Hamad. With nearly half the vote and members of the House of Representatives, the CCM would have continued to exert considerable influence and would have been well placed to negotiate guarantees from CUF about the personal and business interests of its leaders. Instead, the Zanzibar CCM decided to hang onto power,” reads part of the commentary.
Dr Shein easily secured the second term in office in March last year. However, no large-scale violence has been reported except a few incidents associated with the so-called zombies intensified between October 2015 and March last year. Last weekend, Dr Shein and Mr Hamad engaged in a war of words.
Addressing a political rally in Dimani Constituency on Sunday Mr Hamad told his supporters the plans to safeguard their 2015 victory were in good pace and they would likely celebrate their victory soon.
“I don’t think that I am going to fail, and the moment I will see indications that I’m going to fail, then I will come out in public and inform you so that you can go out and demand your rights and victory of the 2015 election in the way you see fit,” he noted.
On Monday, addressing a rally in Pemba Island, Dr Shein countered Mr Hamad statements and told the islanders not to listen to cheap propaganda.
“Don’t listen to the opposition. I am already in power and there will be no other President for the time I am in office. There are leaders currently going around the streets, saying they will soon become Presidents and say I am not a legitimate leader. Do not listen to them,” stressed Dr Shein.
In a December interview with this paper, Mr Hamad also suggested that the genuine results of the 2015 General Election would soon be upheld, but he couldn’t reveal his plans to see it happen.
Even with securing the helm of Zanzibar, the dust is also yet to settle within CCM and the party is till “investigating” the eventualities between the October, 2015 and March, 2016 elections. On the nullification of the October election, the CSIS commentary noted that: “It remains unclear whether the ZEC acted simply on the instructions of President Ali Mohamed Shein and hardliners in the Zanzibar CCM or with the agreement of the Union Government.”
The CCM National Executive Committee met last month at the State House and, among other issues, they received an analysis of the political situation in Zanzibar and how the party fared in the last elections. However, the report was deemed shallow and a new task force was formed to make a fresh analysis.
The then outgoing CCM Secretary of Ideology and Publicity, Mr Nape Nnauye, declined to give details of the report to journalists or name members of the task force. But rumour has it that some CCM bigwigs in Zanzibar are blamed for lowering their guard during the 2015 elections, something that allowed the opposition to trade a massive blow, which had to deal with by annulling the polls.
Zanzibar has had a history of troubled elections since the reestablishment of multiparty elections in 1995 (except for 2010 when the isles experienced its only peaceful election). However, none of the elections were annulled. Although the 2015 annulment favoured the ruling party, it appears even CCM bigwigs are not happy with how things unfolded.