Oct 18, 2004

Zanzibar: 2005 Zanzibar election analysis

Untitled Document
The multiparty democracy in Tanzania is facing a third trial in October 2005. That is when the general elections will be held throughout the country for the third time since the introduction of multiparty democracy in 1992. Special elections will be held in the semi-autonomous islands of Zanzibar where the voters will elect the Zanzibar president and the members of the House of Representatives. It is these elections that have attracted a lot of attention within and outside the country following the dismal failure of the previous elections held in 1995 and 2000. It is widely believed that the 2005 Zanzibar elections will follow the way of the previous ones if necessary steps are not taken in a timely m! anner. The failure of the coming elections will serve to awaken deep resentments and sense of despair rampant among a large section of Zanzibaris and cause a great deal of unrest in Zanzibar.


The failure or success of the 2005 Zanzibar Elections for the most part rests in the hands of the CCM (ruling party) governments of Zanzibar and the United Republic of Tanzania (the Union government). It is those governments that have the responsibility of forming credible and able election commissions to plan, manage, and coordinate the entire election process. It is those governments that own and control all the security organs that are responsible for securing the election process. It is those governments that can serve a lot to create an atmosphere conducive to free and fair elections. But there doesn’t seem to be enough incentives, pressure, or reasons that can make the governments work diligently for fair and free elections in 2005.

The CCM governments botched up 1995 and 2000 Zanzibar elections and survived it. After the 1995 elections, which the Commonwealth observers called them “a shambles”, various donor countries (especially in the European Union) froze aid programs to Zanzibar, but the government of Salmin Amour survived the aid freeze. The sanctions appeared to be just a gesture of discontent and disappointment – they weren’t really meant to be observed strictly. The United Nations, for example, didn’t really stop its development programs through UNDP. In addition, Zanzibar continued to benefit from donor assistance offered to the United Republic of Tanzania with a Zanzibar component. Most donor countries resumed aid programs after the 1999 ! Commonwealth-brokered agreement between the main rival parties in Zanzibar, CCM and CUF, and they didn’t stop them even after failed elections of 2000.

As a matter of fact, it was business as usual, as if nothing happened, after the elections in Zanzibar were messed up again in 2000. Moreover, while everybody knew that the Tanzanian (Union) government was also culpable for the failure of elections in Zanzibar, no country imposed aid sanctions on the Union government, not even scolding Benjamin Mkapa, the president of the Union government, for election failures in Zanzibar in both 1995 and 2000. This kind of response from the international community has provided literally nothing to make the governments work any harder to ensure the integrity of the 2005 elections. The governments seem to think that they can get away with any number of messed-up elections in Zanzibar with absolutely no consequences that matter.

The government of Zanzibar has actually learnt that it can get away with anything. It crushed the Commonwealth-brokered agreement of 1999 with absolutely no consequences. It has been sabotaging the CCM-CUF accord of 2001 and willfully failing to live to its promises of executing fully all the articles of the accord. For example, the Zanzibar government has so far failed miserably to observe the accord timetable for the creation of the Permanent Voters Register, the nomination of the secretariat for the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC), and implementing the well needed reform of the judiciary. The Zanzibar government has been doing this defiantly. That is another evidence of lack of any sense of urgency on the part of the governments to work towards free and fai! r 2005 elections.

The act itself of messing up general elections doesn’t seem to be a big issue in Zanzibar. While everyone knows that the elections in 2005 were deliberately messed up by those who willfully delayed and even failed in some cases to deliver ballot boxes in various polling stations, no one, absolutely no one has so far been prosecuted for such a serious misconduct. That means similar and probably more sinister acts can be committed in the forthcoming elections as nothing has happened so far to discourage them. It seems that the governments are behind all this mess. They plan, manage, and control the elections. They own and run the security and the judiciary organs. They can literally do anything to mess up the elections to absolutely no consequences. In short, there are no incentives and reasons to make the governments conduct themselves in a different ! manner during the 2005 elections.


There are even more reasons that will make the governments play foul in the 2005 elections:

Nyerere’s Union Legacy

Benjamin Mkapa’s term of presidency ends just after the October 2005 elections. As an acknowledged disciple of Julius Nyerere (the first president of the United Republic of Tanzania), he has vowed to safeguard and maintain the Union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar. He really fears that he will be the president that “lost” Zanzibar. That is apparent if CUF wins presidential elections in Zanzibar in 2005. It has been an open policy of CUF to reform the Union government structure in a manner that seems suspicious to ardent Union supporters like Mkapa.

We actually saw in 2000, how Mkapa reacts when he sees the Union in danger. Back then a big rift had emerged between Salmin Amour (the then outgoing president of Zanzibar) and the rest of CCM bigwigs both in Zanzibar and the Tanzania Mainland. Salmin Amour was very bitter as many of his initiatives had been crashed to ground by his party counterparts mainly in the Tanzania Mainland. He was exceptionally bitter in the infamous “matchbox incident”, in which he said those attempting to stop Zanzibar from joining the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) were “shaking the matchbox” in vain. He meant to say that no one could stop him from making Zanzibar join OIC. He was devastated when the! Tanzania Mainland CCM and government leaders stopped him. He vowed to make changes to the structure of the Union to prevent similar embarrassments in the future. For that reason, he planned to have his ardent supporter and Chief Minister, Dr. Mohammed Gharib Bilal, as the Zanzibar presidential candidate in the 2000 elections. Dr. Bilal won 44 out of 74 (60%) votes cast by the members of a special committee of CCM in Zanzibar. Abdisalaam Issa Khatib was second with 13 (18%) votes. Amani Abeid Karume was third with 9 (12%) votes.

The final Zanzibar presidential candidate was to be decided by the CCM central committee in the Tanzania Mainland. Salmin Amour actually wanted to send only one name, that of Dr. Bilal, to the central committee to ensure his nomination. He failed to do that. He was devastated when Mkapa and other CCM leaders crashed Salmin Amour’s choice and nominated Abeid Amani Karume instead, the third winner, as the 2000 CCM’s presidential candidate for Zanzibar.

That is a clear example of what Mkapa can do to prevent any possible shake-up of the Union status quo in a bid to safeguard the Nyerere’s Union legacy. It is the same reason that will make him disallow a possibility of the Union shake-up under his watch as he leaves the Tanzanian presidency in 2005. He will do whatever it takes, to prevent CUF from getting in power in Zanzibar, even allowing the Zanzibar government to play it foul in the 2005 elections. As a matter of fact, it is widely believed that Nyerere in 1995 blessed Salmin Amour’s wrongful snatching off of the presidency from Seif Sharif Hamad, the CUF’s candidate. Mkapa, the respectful disciple of Nyerere, might just do the same as his teacher in 2005.

Fear of the Unknown: Different ruling parties on either side of the Union

The constitutional amendments of 1992 that ended the one-party system and allowed for the multiparty democracy in Tanzania were proposed and handled by CCM that has ruled on both sides of the Union – Zanzibar and Mainland Tanzania – since the adoption of the multiparty system. It has been fairly easy for the two governments, of the same party, to conduct their activities on both sides of the Union under the multiparty system. Unfortunately the system has not yet been tested in the case where two rival parties, like CCM and CUF, have formed governments on either side of the Union. There seems to be some fear that that scenario might cause havoc to the ! Union and its structure.

As mentioned earlier, CUF has been outspoken on the flawed nature and inequity that exists in the Union between Zanzibar and Mainland Tanzania. It has been complaining on the reluctance of the Union leaders to address concerns raised on both sides of the Union. There is certainly a fear of a rocky relationship between the two sides of the Union when two different parties (like CUF and CCM) form governments on either side of the Union. Such a fear might be an additional reason for the existing governments to work against a change in status quo.

There is a huge distrust between CUF and CCM that the latter has vehemently been campaigning against the suggested formation of the government of national unity (GNU) after the next Zanzibar elections. The Chief Minister, Shamsi Vuai Nahodha, the Minister of State, Constitutional Affairs and Good Governance, Ahmed Hassan Diria, and the Deputy Secretary General of CCM, Zanzibar, Saleh Ramadhan Feruzi, have openly opposed the formation of GNU. Rational minds would think that such a government would be a very good starting point to weed out any animosity between the parties and their respective supporters. Surprisingly, that doesn’t seem to jive in the minds of CCM leaders. It’s the same fear of the unknown that is in play here. CCM doesn’t want to venture a situation where two parties with differing opi! nions on Union matters are in power in Zanzibar. The CCM/CUF combo in Zanzibar against CCM in the Mainland Tanzania seems to be a situation with just too many unknowns.

Fear of Revenge and Retribution

After the elections of 1995 and 2000 we have seen in Zanzibar two terms of human rights abuse. Salmin Amour started it and Abeid Amani Karume and Benjamin Mkapa made it even worse by letting their security organs kill and maim scores of people on January 26-27, 2001 in various places in Zanzibar.

Salmin Amour was notorious at abusing anyone who opposed his government. He jailed the 1995 and 2000 CUF presidential candidate, Seif Sharif Hamad, for more than a year for no credible reasons. He also wrongfully charged 18 CUF leaders and supporters for treason and detained them for 3 years. His government conducted an intimidation campaign against supporters of the opposition party. They were wrongfully dismissed from their jobs, irrationally transferred or demoted, and denied training opportunities. Many of them were detained for days and months for unsubstantiated charges. Houses of CUF supporters were demolished for no good reasons.

More than 30 CUF supporters in Pemba and Unguja were killed by police and paramilitary units while taking part in the country-wide demonstrations organized by CUF to protest against the botched up 2000 elections. Several people, especially in Pemba were beaten and badly injured. Some of them claimed to have been sexually abused and their properties stolen by police and other security officers. The actions were widely condemned by various countries and human rights organizations, such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

In all these abuses, the opposition party, CUF, and its leaders bore the brunt of it all. CCM fears that CUF leaders and supporters might decide to revenge all what has been meted onto them under CCM government’s watch. As a matter of fact, all CCM leaders involved, such as Salmin Amour and Amani Karume, fear that CUF’s government might charge them for human rights abuses committed under their watch. That gives the CCM governments another reason to prevent free and fair elections in Zanzibar that might put CUF in power.

The Guise of the Global War on Terror

Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Zanzibari, who for the most part resided in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, is a top Al Qaeda suspect that was apprehended in Pakistan in late July 2004. He’s suspected of playing a big role in the 1998 United States embassy bombing in Dar es Salaam.

Notwithstanding the fact that no existence of Al Qaeda cells has so far been established in Zanzibar and numerous testimonies of those who knew Ghailani claiming that he was actually a loner – with no close local friends – some people with hidden agendas and ulterior motives have been trying to link Zanzibar with terrorism. And that has been fairly easy to do, as Zanzibar happens to be the birth place (not a place of residence) of Ghailani, and it is a place with over 96% Muslims. You would think a “terrorist” link would really fit Dar es Salaam, where the embassy bombing was planned and executed. But nobody seems to be interested in Dar es Salaam. Zanzibar is where they wish to use the guise of terror to further t! heir own interests. That’s why two years ago, the Minister for Home Affairs, in the Union government, Mohamed Seif Khatib, was swift to say that there were terrorists in Zanzibar without giving any evidence. His remarks dealt a heavy blow to the already ailing tourism industry in Zanzibar.

While the Ghailani saga was a windfall to those who like Zanzibar to be blacklisted as a terrorist haven, CCM itself has been in the habit of issuing unsubstantiated terrorism accusations against CUF. For one thing CCM leaders have been branding CUF as an Islamist party. They only stopped when CUF lashed back with accusing CCM of being a Christian party. CCM has gone as far as wrongly accusing CUF of smuggling weapons into the country for terrorism acts. They simply like to give CUF a bad name in an unfair mudslinging campaign.

Unfortunately, some countries and international organizations have been buying wholesale all these claims of terrorist links against Zanzibar and CUF. It’s generally feared that the ruling party, CCM, and its governments, may use those cooked up terrorist links to justify playing foul in the 2005 election to stop CUF from getting in power in Zanzibar. They will claim that that would be the only way to stop turning Zanzibar into a terrorist haven. Again unfortunately, there might be some countries and organizations that may trust them.


The life standard of Zanzibaris has continued to deteriorate day after day. The analysis (http://www.tzdac.or.tz/Znz/Country%20Analysis.doc) performed by the Economic Research Bureau of the University of Dar es Salaam, reported in April 2003 by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs of the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar, provides alarming economic data for Zanzibar.

While the United Republic of Tanzania (URT) with a per capita GDP of US$600 (2003 estimates) is listed as one of the poorest countries in the world – (actually a country with the second lowest per capita GDP in the world) – Zanzibar’s per capita GDP of US$220 (2003 estimates) is close to three times lower than that of URT! 61% of Zanzibaris are without basic livelihood needs. It’s even worse in the Pemba Island where the poverty rate is 64%.

The above-cited report has the following additional disturbing figures for Zanzibar:

Low life-expectancy at 48 years.
High infant mortality rate at 83 per 1000 live births.
High under 5 mortality rate at 114.3 per 1000 births.
High maternal mortality rate at 337 per 100,000. (406 per 100,000 in Pemba).
High rate of malnutrition: about 35% of children under the age of 5 are stunted.
6% prevalence of HIV/AIDS.
Very high illiteracy rate of 40% with 60% of all illiterates being women.
Only 67% enrolment rate for primary education with alarming rates of dropouts. (e.g. 64.6% Grade 7 dropout rate in 1997 in the Micheweni district in Pemba!)

In the October 10, 2004 press conference, the CUF Secretary General, Seif Sharif Hamad, issued a chilling assessment of Zanzibar under President Amani Abeid Karume. He gave accounts of deteriorating security conditions in Zanzibar where acts of armed robbery, that were extremely rare up to just a few years ago, have increased exponentially.

The clove trade and the transit trade, the main sources of revenue in Zanzibar, have but died! The tourism trade is also endangered by frequent armed robbery incidents on tourists. The government coffers are so dry that it fails to pay in time the salaries of its very small number of employees. In some months, the salaries are delayed for more than 20 days!

Water, sanitation, energy, transportation, health, and educational services are very poor. For example, in some parts of Zanzibar water only comes out of the taps in late night. People have to stay awake to fetch water! Chake Chake town in Pemba gets running water only on Fridays! Most roads are in bad shapes. Hospitals with dilapidated buildings have no facilities, medicine and other essential supplies, and face acute shortage of qualified doctors. Impoverished patients are forced to pay for all the medical supplies and medicine needed for their treatment. No wonder there is a sharp increase in infant and maternal mortality rates.


The people of Zanzibar have done nothing wrong to remain with this heavy yoke of life hardships. They wish for a better life for themselves and their children. Specifically they wish and pray for the following simple things:

A new government in Zanzibar, with new people and new ideas to give them true economic and social development.
The institution of true multiparty democracy where politicians fairly and peacefully compete on the basis of the services they offer to the people.
Respect for the peoples’ right to choose the president and the government they like in fair and free elections.

Those things shouldn’t be too much to ask for as they embody the very rights proclaimed in both constitutions of Zanzibar and the United Republic of Tanzania.

As the saying goes, “A good day is signaled by the daybreak!” The daybreak hasn’t been that good. The following recent activities of the CCM government of Zanzibar do not send good signs for the forthcoming elections:

Amani Abeid Karume, the President of Zanzibar, has recently chosen Ahmed Hassan Diria, a known human rights violator, the Minister of State, Constitutional Affairs and Good Governance. CUF has already protested the nomination. Diria, as the Wete District Commissioner soon after the 1964 Zanzibar revolution, was notorious at flogging people in public.
CCM party stalwarts have been chosen as officers of the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC).
The Zanzibar government has been frustrating the efforts of creating the permanent voters register. The voter register is very much overdue and there are fears that it may not be ready when needed for the October 2005 elections.
The Zanzibar government is alleged to be employing new military and paramilitary recruits and stationing them in strategic areas to deliberately change the demography of various election ridings.
The Zanzibar government has designated election registration and voting centers in military barracks and paramilitary camps contrary to previous agreements between CCM and CUF. CUF has already expressed concerns on that and urged its supporters not to use the centers.


The people of Zanzibar have been fatigued by the deteriorating political, social and economic conditions. After the failed 1995 elections, they hoped 2000 elections would be better, but they weren’t. If 2005 elections will go in the same way as the previous ones, the fatigue factor will sink in and put the people in a hopelessness state.

Hopelessness breeds violence. We’ve seen that in Palestine and Iraq. As the Swahili saying goes, “Aliyetota, hajui kutota!” (Once wet, can’t be wetted anymore!). When people have lost hope they can resort to anything for better of for worse. Unfair 2005 elections may result in chaos of unknown proportions in Zanzibar. Many people are of that opinion. In fact CUF leaders are on record saying publicly that if the elections are messed up again this time the people won’t tolerate it. Every Zanzibari, and every peace-loving person needs to bear that in mind. We’re headed for a rocky time in the 2005 elections and its aftermath. We should be prepared.


The situation is not that hopeless. There is a period of about one year to try to do something to prevent a possibility of unrest in Zanzibar and even loss of human life. Listed below are a couple of actions that may be taken NOW to prevent tragedy in the October 2005 Zanzibar elections:

I fully agree with the request made to the UN Secretary General by the CUF Members of Parliament, for the UN intervention to ensure free and fair 2005 Zanzibar elections. The UN should serve as an independent election supervisor (not monitor or observer) to ensure the integrity of the elections.
The International community should help chart out legal assurances to CCM and Zanzibar government leaders and supporters against retribution for the wrongs they have committed. This should ideally be in the peace and reconciliation format of South Africa.
The International community should exert pressure on the Zanzibar and the Union government to make them respect the integrity of the elections and allow independent election supervision.
The people of Zanzibar and Tanzania in general should exert every necessary pressure on the government to play fair in a multiparty democracy. Frequent nation-wide demonstrations and similar peaceful actions are needed to call for the following:

Fair election campaigns and voter registration unhindered by government bodies especially police and regional and district commissioners.
Fair use of the public media for all the political parties.
Fair creation and handling of the permanent voters registers on both sides of the Union.
Fair selection of officers of the Zanzibar Electoral Commission and the Tanzania Electoral Commission.
Fair dissemination of civic education to all the voters.
Better planning of the elections to prevent the quagmire of the previous elections.
On the election day the people should be vigilant and be fully prepared to exercise their right to vote in the manner they wish.