MYSTERY still surrounds the recent move by Zanzibar President Amani Abeid Karume and CUF’s Secretary General Seif Sharif Hamad to put aside their political differences in a move both have described as aimed at promoting peace, stability and unity in Zanzibar.
No one has yet given a clue on what would follow next, sparking off dozens of speculations, including the formation of a government of national unity next year, with Mr Hamad, popularly known as Maalim Seif, taking over as vice-president or prime minister”
Speculation is rife that there would be reforms on the Zanzibar constitution come next year and that the registration of voters will start fresh to have in place a credible register that would ensure free, fair and transparent elections.
Both Karume and Hamad have been carefully selecting words to tell their followers in the past public rallies. While Hamad continues to tell his supporters to hope for the “bright future,” Karume said “I and Hamad have agreed to promote peace, stability, and unity among Zanzibaris instead of continuing with unnecessary conflicts. We have no other agenda.”
Other senior leaders from both CCM and CUF have also remained reluctant to give details on what would be the next step after the Karume-Hamad meeting.
However, Mr Saleh Ramadhani Feruzi (CCM deputy Secretary General- Zanzibar), Mr Juma Duni Haji (CUF deputy Secretary General) have led other leaders at lower levels to show support of the new move, as they insist on praying for Zanzibar not to go back to the ‘old days of conflicts.’
For many Zanzibaris or Tanzanians, the major issue at stake is peace, stability and smooth democracy. The view about the formation of a government of national unity in Zanzibar is not new. Arguably CUF had it for quite long and it is included in its manifesto, while in the ruling party- CCM, idea was openly suggested by Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, the Father of the Nation, a few months before the second multiparty elections in Tanzania.
There were mixed feeling after Nyerere’s statement. Some Zanzibaris supported the idea while and others, including the then president Salmin Amour Juma, openly opposed the idea, arguing that two parties with different ideologies could not work together. Nyerere’s idea was also backed literary by some development partners who unsuccessfully encouraged the formation of the government.
However, Dr Salmin later held talks with Hamad after meeting Mwalimu Nyerere about what has not been revealed to date, but also sparked speculations similar to the current rumours including possible formation of the government of national unity.
Some historians argue that ‘history repeats it self.’ President Karume has met Hamad behind curtains; in the same way Mwalimu Nyerere and Dr Salmin met with Hamad. Many journalists have interpreted Karume’s words of unity and solidarity with the opposition to mean a ‘government of national unity! It is hard to see the basis for their argument.
Delay or failures
For years since the first general elections in 1995, different people from within Tanzania and abroad have been trying to find some way out of the political problems in Zanzibar but both government and CCM party leaders in Zanzibar have been blamed for the delay.
On November 5, this year, Karume and Hamad met and announced that they have decided to ignore their political differences ‘in the best interests of Zanzibar’’. But yet they have on different occasion avoided giving details of their meeting.
The Karume-Hamad meeting was made furtive even to top CCM leaders, including President Jakaya Kikwete, according to senior CUF official Ismail Jussa Ladhu who says there has been no external push for the meeting.
According to him, it was Maalim Seif and Karume’s own initiative to meet after failure of the internationally backed Muafaka One (a Commonwealth initiative of 1999), Muafaka Two (President Mkapa 2001) and the stalling of Muafaka 3 talks initiated by President Jakaya Kikwete — in 2008.
The issue of recognising Karume as a legitimate president had been avoided by the CUF for four years as a political weapon in protest against the 2005 general election results. But it became clear to CUF that without resolving the issue of recognising Karume, probably Zanzibar would remain in needless tension indefinitely.
Could there be more be going on behind the scenes?
Several supporting statements have come from within Tanzania and internationally which includes the United States, EU, UN and individual countries, issued statements seen by some people as a drive to push both Karume and Hamad to a meaningful commitment in uniting Zanzibar a head of the 2010 elections.
While the majority of the people are eagerly awaiting the the next steps in building a new Zanzibar , It seems clear that many people, particularly Zanzibaris, who have not been registered in the voter register because of lack of Zan IDs, are uneasy about the effect of the political rivals’ meeting.
Although there have been glaring discrepancies about the number of people who have not been registered, which deprives a cross-section of their democratic right to vote. This is more evident in the CUF stronghold of Pemba.
President Karume and other senior ministers have repeatedly said that all eligible Zanzibaris must be registered. The immediate idea suggested by many is for the president to act against some few dishonest officials who have been causing problems in the registration process.
CUF should also ask their supporters to go for registration after the recognition of the Karume administration. CUF leaders have remained silent about whether to ask their members and supporters to register or to continue with the boycott.
The voter registration discrepancies, especially in Pemba, are a nagging issue. It must be solved if the present goodwill between the government and the Opposition is to stand on firmer ground. CUF Director of Information and Publicity Salum Bimani talks about massive cheating in favour of the ruling party, alleging that the exercise has involved underage Zanzibaris and non-citizens.
He said that CUF will make an evaluation during its next National Council meeting scheduled for next week (December 7-8). “Preparations for elections, including voter registration may be among the items on the agenda. We hope that President Karume will effect some changes soon. Already some CUF members are advising the party to boycott the next general elections,’’ added Bimani.
What next or what follows? Probably what follows in the near future will be in the form of positive actions of goodwill, followed by series of dialogues to resolve disputes, particularly over the voter registration process in an effort to put in place a credible register book before the 2010 general elections. Probably, what would follow next is the search for a legal backing for the formation of government of national unity as speculated by a section of the media!
It is still difficult to see how answers to those questions could be found in a short time before the general elections, with the demand for the credible register book, and free, fair, and transparent elections. Or could CUF members agree to some ambiguous form of words from their leaders to wait beyond?
Top CUF leaders Prof Ibrahim Lipumba, Mr Machano Khamis, Mr Seif Sharif Hamad, Mr Juma Duni Haji, and Ismail Jussa have been advocating for patience among members and supporters.
Last week, the CCM Vice Chairman (Mainland), Mr Pius Msekwa was quoted by BBC as saying that the formation of a government of national unity in Zanzibar may not be bad idea, but ‘’will require constitutional amendments’’. The idea is not a new one. It has been toyed with for a long time with proponents saying it could be the ultimate solution to centuries of tense political situation in Zanzibar.
There have emerged conflicting views about such a government in Zanzibar. There are still the diehards; the ‘revolution’ supporters who still refuse to see reason and cling to the past. There are also reformists who wish to see change in the isles in accordance with true democratic governance. Time will tell whether – and when — the two sides will reach a compromise.