What should be done to resolve Zanzibar crisis

Wednesday November 18 2015

Voters in Zanzibar queue at a polling centre to

Voters in Zanzibar queue at a polling centre to await their turn to cast ballots. PHOTO | FILE      

By Nsajigwa Nsa’sam Mwasokwa

 Dar res Salaam. Since the re-introduction of multipartism elections in Zanzibar have always been controversial. Most of polls ended in chaos. In 1995 for instance, some media outlets announced that Civic United Front (CUF) has won the presidency before the same was refuted by the government.

This lead to chaos with many CUF ,members believing that their front man, Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad has had his victory snatched by the state. In 2000 similar situation prevailed but this time things went out of hand. Some people were killed and several others were injured as CUF members went to streets to contest what they believed to be the stolen victory. Some Tanzanians were forced to seek refuge in neighbouring Kenya after the situation deteriorated in the Isles. In 2005 chaos also characterised pre and post election. In all these three elections, margin of votes between the winner and the loser was very small. Complains that the election was not free and fair was rife.

The botched Kenya election of 2007 provided good lessons for Zanzibar. After noting what Kenya had done to resolve the internal strife, before 2010 polls, Zanzibaris agreed to a Government of National unity (GNU) model as a way of ironing out these perennial political differences.

Zanzibar constitution was amended and referendum was held in which people agreed to the formation of a GNU whatever the outcome of the election. The 2010 general Election was generally peaceful and CUF graciously accepted defeat. But, according to the constitutional requirements, the opposition party was given the post of First Vice President and several cabinet slots.

What happened in 2010 set a new path and many people believed that Zanzibar has found solution to its long period problem on political differences. But alas! This year things are much complicated in Zanzibar against hopes by many people that the GNU model was an assurance that elections would no longer destabilise political, social and economic situation in Zanzibar as a result of contested election results.

In the middle of vote tallying process Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) chairman, Jecha Salum Jecha announced the annulation the polls. He gave a number of reasons to back the decision. Among other things, he said there were a lot of discrepancies as far as election results, mainly from Pemba – a CUF stronghold, are concerned. Against preliminary reports from local and foreign observers who have the election process a clean bill of health, Mr Jecha said that the commission had received numerous complains over the election irregularities. He also said that ZEC members failed to reach consensus on a number of issues.


He said what happened does not reflect a free and fair election thus he annulled the process. He announced that another date will be set for fresh polls.

More complains

The decision by Mr Jecha did not please a number election stakeholders mainly CUF, whose presidential candidate, Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad had already called a press conference to announce that he has won the race. Maalim Seif said cancellation of the election was a plot by the state to deny him and CUF their deserving victory.

In his reaction after the announcement, Mr Hamad said there was no way the opposition party was going to participate in the fresh polls planned by ZEC he said as far as CUF was concerned, there was no any problems with neither the election nor its results,. He thus called ZEC to complete tallying and announce the remaining results and declare him a winner of presidential seat. While Maalim Seif contend the decision to repeat the election because there is no valid reason to do that, other people including local and foreign observers have been contending the move noting that because there were no serious flaws which were detected in the October 25 polls, repeating the exercise would amount to misuse of public funds.

They noted that election was costly affair associated with a lot of risks. They argued that there was no point of using all that money for something which many people agree that had no any serious irregularities meriting cancellation of the process.

More questions also arose from Mr Jecha decision. For instance people started to query the valid of the decision after it emerged that the decision to annul the election was not reached in a meeting which involved other ZEC Commissioners. CUF termed the decision as not of ZEC but personal decision by Mr Jecha. Other people started to question the validity of the decision basing on this ground.

Series of talks involving Maalim Seif on one hand and government leaders on the other has failed to provide a solution to the problem. Maalim Seif has so far met with former President Jakaya Kikwete. He has also met more than three times with Zanzibar President Dr Ali Mohammed Shein but todate nothing has been made public over what was discussed, let alone agreed, in these talks.

Last week Maalim Seif met with Chadema presidential candidate, former Prime Minister, Edward Lowassa and after their 90 minutes meeting they refrained from saying anything concerning their position on the Zanzibar election saga. Last Sunday Mr Lowassa addressed the press and what he said did not hint even on what has been the spirit of series of talks between Maalim Seif and other leaders. People have been left to guess as constitutional crisis takes root in Zanzibar.

Possible remedy

In order to find a possible remedy for the Zanzibar crisis at hand, one should trace the source of the crisis as well as look at different perspectives of the issue. First thing which needs clarification from ZEC and authorities is why ZEC decided to term Zanzibar election null and void while at the same time passing the Union election while the two polls were conducted at the same time and in the same arrangements?

In order to arrive at possible solution for Zanzibar crisis it is also better to take Pan Africanism perception. Pam Africanism aims at bringing together Africans for their common future and interests. It involves all aspects of life including human rights, social, democratic, rule of law and economic aspects of African life.

Africans weakness is historical. During colonialism African were forced to live in classes but unfortunately even after independence some people continued to be subjected under these classes after indep4endent governments failed to abolish them completely.

There were attempts to unite Africans in the past. Works by leaders such as Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, who tried to bring together East Africa, should be taken into consideration. The efforts failed and Mwalimu Nyerere termed the failure as one of big mistakes of his generation.

In 1995 proposals on forming a federal government was floated. A prominent politicians, Abdulrahman Babu had once commented about the Union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar. He said: “The current Union between Zanzibar and Tanganyika prevents a third nation to join.”

The state which Zanzibar have reached today necessitates look back on these ideologies. Since 1992 when plural politics system was re-introduced, opposition parties were given a freedom to operate in the country. But since then we have only been hearing cries from the opposition always crying that their victory has been stolen by the ruling elite.

On the other hand, fear by the government that if opposition is given an opportunity to run the government it will overturn the current structure of the two governments union, is forcing it to use all antics it can manage to cling to the power.

This notion forces the ruling party to make sure that in each election it must win the Union and Zanzibar presidency as well as win big number of MPs in the Parliament. This gives the ruling party assurance that the status quo on the Union structure will be maintained.

Therefore, under such circumstances, the solution lies with changing the Union system. There is a need to introduce a federal union which would allow another country or countries to join if they like. The system will also give the union members more freedom in managing their affairs instead of current situation where many Zanzibaris feel that Zanzibar interests are determined in the mainland.

In doing so we should also ask ourselves in pan Africanism can be used as a solution to this problem? If the answer is yes, then we should also try that to solve this problem.

Mr Mwasokwa is a political and social commentator who can be reached through jichojipya@outlook.com