By Salma Said, Zanzibar
Zanzibar President Amani Abeid Karume says no eligible voter will be left out in the registration of voters in the Isles ahead of next year’s elections.
President Karume told reporters at Zanzibar Airport on Saturday evening that the elections would not be held if all eligible Zanzibaris would not be registered.
He was speaking after arriving from Dar es Salaam where earlier in the day he received an honorary doctorate degree from the Hubert Kairuki Memorial University in recognition of his role in the eradication of malaria in Zanzibar.
President Karume said Zanzibar would be reduced into a laughing stock if the elections went ahead despite some Zanzibaris having been denied their democratic right to register as voters.
Mr Karume made the remarks at a time when hundreds of supporters of the opposition Civic United Front in Pemba claim that they have been denied registration because they don’t hold Zanzibari residency identity cards.
CUF officials maintain that the authorities are using the exercise to update the permanent voter register to sabotage the party ahead of next year’s elections in which Zanzibaris will elect their president and members of the House of Representatives.
The Zanzibar Electoral Commission, on the other hand, has denied the accusation, saying no Zanzibari who has met all conditions has been denied registration.
However, President Karume’s promise is likely to prove significant, coming a few days after holding historic talks with CUF secretary-general Seif Shariff Hamad, during which the two men agreed to resolve their longstanding differences. President Karume made it clear on Saturday that his promise that all eligible Zanzibaris would be registered as voters was not a condition set during his meeting with Mr Seif, hitherto his fiercest critic. He said his reaching an agreement with Mr Seif to work together for the betterment of the lives of Zanzibaris did not mean that conditions were set during the meeting at State House.
President Karume said he had been praying for peaceful, free and fair elections next year.
“We want both the winners and losers to accept the results; this is possible only if the elections are free and fair,” said Mr Karume, who will not seek re-election after serving his second and final five-year term.
In another development, President Karume said he would appoint two CUF members to the House of Representatives once he received their names from the opposition party. Under an agreement reached several years ago, President Karume is supposed to appoint two CUF members to the House of Representatives, but he has not done so partly because of the party’s now-abandoned stance not to recognise him as President of Zanzibar following the disputed elections in 2000 and 2005.
President Karume commended Mr Hamad for his “bold” decision to publicly announce that CUF had decided to recognise his Government. “Zanzibaris are one people; we should not allow minor things to divide us. Whether one comes from Unguja, Pemba, Tumbatu, Kojani, Fundo and Uzi is irrelevant. The important thing is that all are Zanzibaris,” he said.
Meanwhile, CUF’s women’s wing has apologised to Mr Hamad after he was heckled when he announced that CUF had decided to recognise President Karume. The wing’s deputy executive secretary, Ms Zahra Ali Hamad, said yesterday that it was “regrettable” that Mr Hamad was heckled and shouted down by hundreds of women who attended the rally at Demokrasia grounds earlier this month.
“We apologise for our behaviour that day. We did not understand the message that was being put across; we’ve now understood, and we are sorry,” she said.
She said many CUF women supporters were bewildered when Mr Hamad made the announcement because “they were still thinking of the hardships they have endured under the CCM rule”. Ms Ali said CUF women members were proud to be among the agents of change in Zanzibar, and praised Mr Hamad for his “exemplary” leadership.
Mr Hamad accepted the apology, and said he had forgiven those who heckled him because “they didn’t know what my message meant”.
“I wasn’t angry; I was smiling even when people we screaming here because I knew no one among you is against me,” he said. Mr Hamad said it was not easy to meet President Karume and agree to end hostilities, adding that he was not surprised that some people became hysterical when he made the announcement.
CUF supporters protested angrily after Mr Hamad announced that the party had agreed to recognise President Karume’s government, prompting the public rally called a day after the State House meeting to end in chaos.
Source: The Citizen