About 30 people were killed and many other injured when security forced quelled protests of the main opposition party who were against rerun of election.
Dar/Zanzibar. President Benjamin Mkapa formed an inquiry that was led by retired Brigadier General Hashim Mbita into Zanzibar’s January 2001 chaos.
Findings of a probe team, led by Brigadier General Hashim Mbita, showed chaos led to the killings of 30 people, the destruction of properties and some residents being left with permanent deformities.
Mkapa says the chaos will remain a scar in his presidency, despite the fact that he was not present when it occurred.
Mkapa has expressed his regrets over the killings in his book entitled, ‘My Life, My Purpose’ that he launched on November 12, 2019.
“I still remember the killings of 21 people in Pemba, Zanzibar, on January 26 and 27, 2001. This incident will remain a scar in my presidency although I was not around when it occurred,” writes Mkapa in his book.
The unrest erupted following the 2000 General Election that brought Zanzibar’s Amani Abeid Karume to power.
The chaos intensified shortly after the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) announced that there would be a poll rerun in Urban West Region that had 16 constituencies. The then main opposition party Civic United Front (CUF) wanted the polls to be rerun in the entire country.
Some victims of the chaos, who talked to The Citizen recently, received Mkapa’s regrets with different perceptions. One person, who asked for anonymity because he is a public servant, said what Mkapa did he should have done it in the past years and not this time, which, he branded, was tantamount to reopening a sore.
“Reliving that awful incident is tantamount to giving pain again in the hearts of the affected community…but he can, again and again, ask for forgiveness so that those with hard hearts to forgive can see that this elder is truly asking for forgiveness. I believe they will forgive him,” said the public servant, whose wife was also injured in the incident.
Sharif Assa, whose son was inflicted with a permanent deformity as a result of the chaos, says he is not against the retired statesman’s forgiveness.
However, Assa suggests that Mkapa’s request for forgiveness would have an impact had he asked for it while in Zanzibar.
However, he says Mkapa still has a chance of going to Zanzibar and calling a public meeting to ask residents of Zanzibar for forgiveness in instead of doing that through his book.
Kigoma Urban MP Zitto Kabwe says Zanzibar’s January 2001 horrible killings were the first ever to occur in the country.
Although the Brig Gen Hashim Mbita inquiry confirmed that 35 people were killed in the chaos, CUF’s report claimed that over 60 residents were killed.
However, the government of President Mkapa paid compensations to the bereaved families.
How the situation was
The Citizen spoke to some residents of Zanzibar, who narrated how the situation was during the material day of the killings.
Hassan Hamad,57, says that after the polls were held there were some signs of a breach of peace, whereby some residents decided to do what they could to ensure peace was maintained.
He says the thing that the residents agreed through CUF was to stage demonstrations that aimed at mobilising people to maintain peace and call for an independent electoral body.
He explains that the demonstrations were supported by the residents, who were mobilised well as the aim had been good.
“Personally, I did not participate in the demonstrations that I still remember to date, especially after I saw the huge number of youths and women, who turned up on the day to demonstrate,” says Hamad.
Khamis Ali, 62, says during the day of the demonstrations he was in the area of Mfereji wa Wima on his way to work at a market.
At the area he met a huge group of demonstrators chanting for the country’s peace and demanding for the formation of an independent electoral body.
He remembers that all of a sudden a police van pulled over and riot police fired tear gas to disperse the demonstrators.
“I could not actually witness the whole incident, but I could see some youths lying on the ground bleeding while others limping and a huge group of the demonstrators dispersing,” says Ali. Naassor Mohamed,72, recounts that several people were killed and wounded residents in Unguja and Pemba.
He says it was an awful incident after people who had the good intentions of calling for the country’s peace and an independent electoral body, especially after the polls, being denied their rights by the National Electoral Commission (NEC0.
He says many Zanzibaris fled into the neighbouring Kenya for refuge after some demonstrators were shot at by hidden armed police or other armed police officers, who fired shots from their helicopter that was hovering around the area.
Hamad says many offices of CUF were invaded and things inside them were seized before the offices being destroyed.
Hamad maintains that an independent electoral body will help lay the foundation of running peaceful, free and fair elections and avoid what happened in 2001.
What to be done
In his book, Mkapa says to bring equality in the country’s multiparty political system it is important for an independent body is formed to supervise elections that involve all political parties.
“Forming an independent electoral commission to be accepted by all political parties will be a catalyst for bringing and promoting democracy in the country,” advises Mkapa
Mkapa cautions that the structure of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) has been among the issues against which voices have been raised.
Due to that, Mkapa suggests that the country’s authorities could remain with the authority of appointing the chairperson of that particular electoral body in which the opposing should transparently be involved.
“This move will help reduce complaints and as well political parties will restore confidence in that particular electoral body,” suggests Mkapa.
CUF was not the only party that gave its stand of not recognizing the results of the 2000 polls. The Tanzania Labour Party (TLP) presidential contender, Agustino Mrema, also wanted the polls to be rerun in the entire country for not being free and fair.
However, the polls were held, despite CUF’s boycott. Since then there had been the heat of chaos following CUF’s boycott, wanting the polls to be rerun and an independent electoral body ne formed.
After the sporadic clashes between the police and CUF, United Democratic Party (UDP)’s presidential contestant, John Cheyo, met reporters Thursday on October 13, 2000 at the Information Services Auditorium in Dar es Salaam, where he said the friction between the police and CUF could place the country in a bad situation.
Cheyo explained that the police’s action of beating up members and supporters of CUF could fuel chaos in the country.
Two days before CUF spoke to reporters, the police wounded five supporters of the party, who gathered in the area of Kilimahewa. The wounded victims were rushed to and hospitalised at Alrahman Hospital for treatment.
Ngangari and Ngunguri
There were a lot of things that emerged in the October 2000 polls including the instruction of the street Kiswahili words ngangari (stable) and ngunguri (more stable).
The Kiswahili words started to be used in the year 2000 when then Inspector General of Police (IGP) Omary Mahita told his junior officers not to agree to be subjected to harassment by some leaders, members of supporters of political parties.
On September 21, 2000, Mahita, when speaking to junior police officers in Dar es Salaam Region at the National Indoor Stadium, called upon the law enforcers to be ready to defend themselves during that period towards the General Election.
Mahita told the junior officers, “If you allow ants to move onto your legs, they may reach a bad place, where they are not supposed to.
“So, we need to be ready to protect ourselves,” said the retired IGP. Mahita said if CUF pretended to be more stable (ngangari), then the police were the most stable (ngunguri), a saying that has been in use to date.
However, the former Police Force boss in the country made a clarification in his statement by saying that he did not mean to threaten political parties, but said his force was performing drills.
He added that the final would be on October 29, 2000 (the voting day) while insisting that no black or brown ants that would scatter and move on the legs of the police. Seif Sharif Hmad, who vied for the presidency of Zanzibar on the CUF ticket, lauded Pemba’s police when he met reporters on September 23, 2000, saying the law enforcers were more aware of their duty than their colleagues in Unguja.