Nov 30, 2004

Zanzibar: CUF on Great Lakes Region conference

CUF welcomes the hosting of The International Conference of the Great Lakes Region and calls for preventive measures to avoid a potential conflict in Tanzania
Untitled Document

The Civic United Front (CUF), the principal opposition party in Tanzania, welcomes the hosting in our country of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region on peace, security, democracy, good governance and development. The decision to host such a crucial meeting in Tanzania is a further proof that our country enjoys great respect and recognition amongst the international community as a beacon of hope in a troubled region. This is something that all of us in Tanzania are proud of.

Our party missed the opportunity to be invited to attend this important gathering. Nonetheless, we feel obliged to draw the attention of the participants on the need to address not only armed conflicts in such troubled countries as Burundi and The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and post-genocide reconstruction in Rwanda, but also to tackle factors which could lead to potential conflicts in other countries such as the host Tanzania which though seen as peaceful from outside, yet every indication shows a brewing crisis is in the making.

An article in yesterday’s The Guardian (Wednesday, November 17, 2004) highlights one of the principal aims of the summit as to address “problems of deep ethnic divide and exclusionary policies that have led to endemic and complex instabilities, wars, widespread violence and poverty in the region”.

One of the major causes of instabilities, wars, violence and poverty in Africa has been bad governance administered by unpopular and despotic regimes that came into power through disrespect of the will of the people in free and fair elections. Such regimes can never be accountable to the people of their given countries so long as their mandate does not come from those peoples.

Tanzania is currently preparing itself for a third multi-party general election in October 2005. The previous two elections of 1995 and 2000 were chaotic and in Zanzibar were denounced as a “shambles’ by both the domestic and international observers. Following the tragedy of January 26 and 27, 2001 in which more than 65 innocent civilians lost their lives, a Political Accord, popularly known as Muafaka, was negotiated and signed between the two major political parties in the country, the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) and the opposition Civic United Front (CUF). The aim was to restore peace and stability through the leveling of the political playing field to allow for a free and fair competition.

It is sad to note that three years after the signing of the Accord, the government is still pulling its legs in the implementation. With the exception of the Constitutional Amendment, review of the electoral laws and partial reform of the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC), other areas of the Accord have not been implemented. Reform of the ZEC Secretariat, reform of the publicly owned media to give equitable coverage to all political parties, review of the Zanzibar laws which detract from the cause of democracy and human rights, judicial reforms, compensation for the victims of the gross human rights violations by the state organs, review of the recruitment policy and practice of the defense and security forces are all in limbo, just one year ahead of the general election.

On the Mainland Tanzania, the government is still reluctant to reform the National Electoral Commission (NEC) to make it impartial and independent; it still resists any move to review the electoral laws governing both the parliamentary elections and civic and local elections; it resorts to threats and intimidation against the opposition and moves are underway to disrupt the on-going process of registering citizens into the permanent voters’ register. In Tunduru and Tunduma many citizens have not been registered because of shortage of registration materials.

In the forthcoming civic elections many areas of the country have not received elections materials. Opposition party candidates in Handeni and other districts are being illegally blocked so those CCM candidates should not have any opponents during the elections. Most parts of the country have not received new guidelines for the conduct of the Civic elections and opposition candidates are prevented from contesting the elections.

Such a situation does not augur well for the future of Tanzania. If corrective measures are not taken well in time to contain the situation, there is a high likelihood that our country might degenerate into the same path as other troubled countries of the region. This should not be allowed to happen. The Great Lakes region needs a peaceful Tanzania to continue to serve as a stabilizing factor.

The situation in Zanzibar calls for even greater concern. While the coming 2005 election can superficially be viewed as a Tanzanian election, its geopolitical outcome will no doubt have far-reaching consequences for local, regional, and international relations. Firstly, the alternative to CUF being prevented to get into power in Zanzibar after three successful election victories is greater political instability in Tanzania, which may spill over into the Great Lakes Region. Secondly, a third stolen election and the banning of CUF to form a government will no doubt release tremendous frustration that could lead to outbursts of fundamentalist and fanatical activities as voices of desperation get on the rise. Unwittingly, CCM will create an opening it once only imagined but which may very well turn out to be a real ground for terrorists who will not fail to exploit the ensuing political chaos and frustration within the numerically larger Muslim community.

The October 2001 CCM-CUF Accord (Muafaka) and the desire of the people to bring peaceful changes to improve the quality of the lives of children, women and men, has created a good atmosphere to contest a free and fair election in October 2005. President Benjamin Mkapa has shown unusual courage and political maturity in his unwavering support of the CCM-CUF Accord which has been kept alive only because of his personal intervention and against the forces of reaction within some CCM quarters in Zanzibar.

The Accord has created an unprecedented opportunity to create a government of national unity in Zanzibar that will bring all parties under the umbrella of an already overdue and urgent reconciliation. CUF therefore, has always supported the idea of a Government of National Unity as it realizes that without the unity of the major elements that form Zanzibari society there will be no peace to concentrate on important issues of security and meaningful development.

The article in The Guardian stresses that the initiative to have this regional conference came “in recognition that the people of the region are so interlinked socially, economically, culturally and linguistically that instability generated by internal causes in one country could quickly spread to create a dynamic of conflicts in the entire region.”

Tanzania has always served as a stabilizing factor and a peace broker in the Great Lakes region, a status that needs to be preserved at all costs. The Civic United Front calls upon the participants of this international conference to see the need of promoting good governance and genuine democracy as the best means of cultivating and maintaining sustainable peace and prosperity in the region.

As the host of the conference, the government of President Benjamin Mkapa should set an example in ensuring peaceful, free, fair and credible elections in October 2005 for both Zanzibar and Mainland Tanzania. President Mkapa should meet with leaders of opposition parties to discuss the leveling of the political playing field in the 2005 General Elections. Tanzania should become a beacon of a true democratic system in the region.

After conflicts and wars that have plagued the region in the 1990’s, in Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Congo-Brazzaville, DR Congo, Rwanda, Sudan and Uganda and claimed more than four million people, we should work together to build good governance and genuine democracy as true and solid foundations of a peaceful Great Lakes region.