Fracas reigns at one of Zanzibar’s voter registration centre

23 09 2009

CONFRONTATION over the use of Zanzibar Identity Card (Zan-ID) as number-one condition for any Zanzibari to get registered for the next general elections continued here today, prompting the police to use tear gas at a voters’ registration centre in Tumbatu constituency, north of Unguja Island.

“The police used tear gas at the Uvivini registration centre. For security reasons, we ask people not to gather at registration centres. We ask people to observe election rules to avoid unnecessary conflicts,” the North Unguja Regional Police Commander Mselem Mtulia told the ‘Daily News’.

The updating of the Zanzibar Permanent Voters’ Register (PVR) which includes the registration of new voters resumed here yesterday with low turnout of people, but those without IDs turned up in big number at Uvivini centre thinking that they would be given the IDs. The exercise was halted last Friday to break for Idd- el- Fitr celebrations.

According to eye witnesses, few people were injured during the fracas, including Ms Tatu Ali Hajji who was hit by a stray stone. She was rushed to Mnazi Mmoja hospital for treatment. However, Mr Mtulia said the police were hunting for people behind yesterday’s morning fracas.

“It was calm in other parts of the Tumbatu and Mkwajuni constituencies with few people going for registration, probably because many still have no Ids,” he said.

People also saw police helicopter flying at low level around Tumbatu- Unguja and Kangani- Pemba, probably in efforts to keep security. A considerable number of security people were also deployed in all areas where registration was going on.

Some parts such as Jongowe in Tumbatu, an island with a population of about 14,000 people, followers of both CCM and CUF, opted to shun the registration exercise, leaving the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) officers idle for almost the whole day.

The voters’ registration also continued in Pemba Island’s constituencies of Ole and Mtambwe, the birth place of the CUF’s Secretary General, Mr Seif Shariff Hamad, with few people visiting the registration centres. At least by mid-day yesterday, Ole schools and Mtambwe had the lowest registration turnout.

“The turnout is low under calm environment in all centres of registration. Our (police) work is to make sure that people exercise their rights peacefully,” said the North Pemba Regional Police Commander (RPC) Yahya Hemed Rashid ‘Bugi’.

People in Pemba witnessed more use of tear gas and water cannons last week when security forces battled to disperse groups of youths who turned up to express their anger of having no IDs by blocking others with IDs from registering.

Meanwhile, Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) has expressed disappointment with the data of registered voters since the resuming of the voter registration exercise on September 12, this year.

“Despite insecurity in some areas, the exercise was relatively successful in Unguja’s ten Shehias (wards or ten-cells), we are disappointed with the data from Pemba,” said the two page ZEC press statement signed by its information officer, Mr Idrisa Jecha.

It noted that a total of 7,634 voters were registered in Unguja, only 852 were recorded in Pemba in the ongoing updating of the Permanent Voters’ Register (PVR) which includes registeration of new voters.

“ZEC appeals to all people who may miss registering as voters in this first phase, to be patient and tolerant as ZEC plans to have a second phase of voters’ registration. Once time approaches people will be informed of the arrangements to follow,” the statement added.

Meanwhile, ZEC has shown dismay with a section of media reports about voters registration. “Some articles are misleading and confusing readers. We ask journalists to give correct information instead of confusing the public,” reads part of the statement.

Source: Daily News


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