By Salim Said Rashid
This Proposition occurs at a time when there is unprecedented debate on the future of Zanzibar and while the debate was short lived in parliament and in the media before it was discontinued by the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania, what started out as a simple question in June on whether or not Zanzibar is a state has generated into discussions, especially inside Zanzibar and amongst the Zanzibari public into all aspects of the Union including its desirability or not; its consolidation or abolition; whether or not it is necessary for Zanzibar in this millennium; which questions the very principle of the Union whilst some consider the issue to be one of structure with proposals being voiced for reforms in the Union structure with one, two or three governments.
Proposition Zanzibar 2015 seeks a two step solution and brotherly relations between the two partner countries of the Union within the existing framework of the East African Community. Zanzibar Vision 2015 is basically a Discussion Paper. Its main purpose is to stimulate discussions amongst those affected by this subject in addition to the other aforementioned aspects.
In examining the recent history of Zanzibar, specifically the 44 year period of the United Republic of Tanzania, we find that this period is dominated by political conflict and this has had negative consequences to both Zanzibar and Zanzibaris as a whole for no faction has escaped from suffering and has resulted in the removal from Zanzibar of essential powers that have been transferred to the Tanzania government under the guise of a Union. This transference of power to Tanganyika, particularly in economic and social Matters has meant the degeneration of the economy in Zanzibar to a situation where more then 70% of the one million Zanzibaris today live on under 1USD per day; for though it is nearly half a century since Zanzibar was included in a Union with Tanganyika, the latter did not utilize the powers given by Zanzibar to plan for the social and economic development of the Islands and there is no evidence of a single strategic economic or social project which the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania has implemented in the economic and social sphere of Zanzibar.
There are fundamental misconceptions about the Union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar and wild theories exist that unfortunately form the basis of policy decisions; for instance the notion that without it Zanzibar will be left not only politically unstable but economically weak and insufficient, and that without the massive deployment of Union armed forces in the islands there will be a civil war or clash between the supporters of the two main political parties in Zanzibar despite the fact that there has never been such a conflict or civil war between the people in the history of Zanzibar – even during the days of ZNP and ASP – and the fact that Zanzibar is recognized as a very peaceful country with a peaceful people whose preferred weapon is the pen and the ballot box and not the bullet.
It is an indisputable fact that the Isles of Unguja and Pemba – which throughout different periods in history have been inseparable twins, and whose people share a common history and a common destiny as Zanzibaris – have abundant economic resources that can be utilized for the sustainable development of their nation.
There is no question about the viability of the Zanzibar Islands. Kwame Nkrumah said, ‘seek ye political independence first, and the rest will follow’. Zanzibar is guaranteed a sound future provided its people are vigilant in the defence of their fundamental rights.
With imaginative planning in view of her problems, which are small scale, and a National Consensus and Agenda as well as patriotic and honest political leadership, Zanzibar could be transformed into a centre of excellence in a plan that would create for the islands a Freeport status, a regional commercial and IT centre and an economy that will adopt the United States Dollar – which is already the second currency of exchange in Zanzibar even for local transactions – as its primary currency to replace the local currency.
Mauritius which is similarly sized to Zanzibar is considered a good example in Africa in so far as economic and social development are concerned. When Zanzibar was a Freeport in the past it always achieved a booming economy and generated the resources which built the infrastructure that Zanzibaris enjoy to this very day.
In the words of John F. Kennedy, ‘think not what America can do for you but what you can do for America…’, – to paraphrase, we Zanzibaris must not think of what we can get from Zanzibar but what we can give to her for the common good of all our people.
A sovereign Zanzibar can once again become a prosperous island metropolis, can economically create Zanzibar Incorporated whose shareholders and beneficiaries would be all Zanzibaris, and become a moderating influence that seeks genuine friendship and co-operation with all its neighbours and indeed with all nations of the world.
The International Community would be well advised to intervene and pre-empt a potentially unstable political environment as there is grave public concern and unanimity in Zanzibar on the future direction of their country. If this problem is not solved, at least in terms of policy making before 2010, there is the possibility that the General Elections in Zanzibar will be contested over a single major issue – the Union with Tanganyika – and could therefore be considered a referendum on the matter.
This current debate over the Union has brought about national reconciliation in Zanzibar and has united every Zanzibari throughout Unguja and Pemba and across the political divide; it is an exercise that is very healthy, very democratic, and in accordance with both Constitutional as well as Fundamental Human Rights and should not be discontinued.
It is very sad to witness the erosion of the supremacy of the Zanzibar House of Representatives which is the only forum at which the Zanzibari electorate is represented constitutionally and is the depository of Zanzibar sovereignty, its decisions are thus not only important but they matter in so far as Zanzibar domestic and foreign interests are concerned. Indeed a declaration by the House of Representatives on the Union – which would automatically receive global recognition according to international practice which considers all countries equal irrespective of size – will attract the support of all Zanzibaris if it intends to seek greater autonomy for Zanzibar and political parties that champion this cause will be endorsed by the electorate and enjoy a landslide victory during the forthcoming polls in 2010.
There is just cause for concern amongst Zanzibaris who understandably feel their nation has been swallowed by the Union as is the case currently for all intents and purposes with the current form and structure where the Government of Tanganyika and the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania are one and the same, and the Tanganyika parliament which is at the same time the Union parliament has unlimited control over socio-economic matters that are essential to the development of our nation. There have been recommendations by two separate government appointed commissions, headed by Nyalali and Kisanga respectively, for a three tier structure of governance for Tanzania, namely a government of Zanzibar, a government of Tanganyika and a Union Government. These proposals have never been implemented.
Certainly there are many other worries, some of which are worth specific mention, that are causing friction between the Union and Zanzibar.
The Constitution of the Union is a document that is designed to give legal respectability to the strategic decision Tanganyika has made to annex Zanzibar and subjugate her people and derives its validity from the Articles of the Union. International law as well as the treaty practice of common law countries requires that an International Treaty between two sovereign states – as is the case between Zanzibar and Tanganyika – be ratified by the legislative bodies of both. The Articles of the Union specifically stipulated that ratification would be carried out by the Revolutionary Council which, at the time, was the legislative body in Zanzibar; this would have involved the issuance of a Presidential Decree which should have been published in the Zanzibar Government’s official Gazette. There is no evidence that the Revolutionary Council ever met to discuss the Articles nor was a Presidential Decree issued, in fact the notice which stated that the Revolutionary Council had met and approved the Articles of the Union was published in the Tanganyika Gazette and signed by P. R. Nines Fifoot in his capacity as the Acting Solicitor-General of Tanganyika.
The Articles of the Union at the same time made no provision for addition in the number of Union Matters or gradual erosion of Zanzibar sovereignty and lay down a specific procedure for a Union constitution which was to be decided upon by a Constituency Assembly that was to be elected within twelve months which it is assumed and implied, was to have equal membership between the two equal states. This procedure was ignored and instead a TANU – ASP Party Committee of political appointees that had been created by Mwalimu Nyerere to rubberstamp the merger of the two parties in 1977 was tasked with drafting the permanent Union constitution which was adopted by the Tanzania National Assembly at a time when the Assembly itself was an extension of the Party under a dictatorial one-party system where Party Authority was Supreme over Executive, Legislature and Judiciary; a system that gave absolute power and corrupted the leadership of the United Republic and of Zanzibar and permitted during its early phases the creation of death and despair amongst the people under the protective umbrella of Tanzania.
Since the introduction of limited democracy there have been three General Elections all of which have not resulted in the free expression of the mandate of the people of Zanzibar. The time has come for an examination and correction of malpractices at the polls if Zanzibar is to enjoy stability and progress. It is essential that the laws, regulations and systems governing the electoral process in Zanzibar are fundamentally reformed to provide for a free and fair and transparent election in 2010 with international supervision by the United Nations as has happened in the past in many nations such as the Balkans, Kosovo, Haiti, East Timor and which should also happen in Zanzibar so as to secure the free expression of Zanzibaris on the future of their country and choice of governance.
In this respect it is important to investigate carefully the role of Union forces – which are constituted primarily of Mainland Tanzania soldiers – and other security personnel in Zanzibar. There is a commonly voiced opinion among Zanzibaris today that Zanzibar is a nation under occupation, and when asked to produce evidence, they cite the numerous Union military bases densely scattered throughout the Islands.
The multitudes of Union military personnel from these bases that can be frequently sighted chanting and performing military exercises and maneuvers in all parts of Zanzibar have been likened by many to occupational forces practicing ‘classic occupational tactics’ to instill fear in those they occupy with their use of force and threat of use of force; certainly the absence of an external enemy and the use to which these troops were put in Pemba in 2001 – when tens of innocent unarmed people were gunned down at a peaceful demonstration protesting the results of the General Elections of year 2000 resulting in Zanzibari refugees escaping from state violence to the relative safety of the Kenyan coast – makes one question the motive for their enormous deployment and the inescapable conclusion is that the Tanzanian armed forces are located in Zanzibar, apart from intimidating the civilian population, but also to prevent and suppress a potential rebellion by a people that suffer from severe economic and social hardship.
The fact of the matter cannot be ignored that a period of over a month of fierce public debate has elapsed and not a single Zanzibari has publicly expressed pro-Union sentiments in the media or elsewhere. This indicates that there is unanimity on the platform of total freedom for Zanzibar. The Union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar was created at the behest of the Western powers, principally the United States of America and Great Britain, who feared that Zanzibar would become ‘the Cuba of Africa’ and export Communist revolution to the continent.
This occurred during the period of the Cold War when East and West wanted to annihilate each other in a senseless arms race and a scenario where international relations were dominated by the East-West dispute. It can therefore be said that the Union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar has largely served its purpose in so far as Western ideological and strategic considerations are concerned. Zanzibar was suppressed as a nation that experimented with communism but is now no longer a threat or menace to Western interests. Having served its purpose the Union should be dissolved and sovereignty returned to Zanzibar after a period of negotiations with the involvement of independent international mediators to ensure a smooth transition in accordance with the wishes of the overwhelming majority of Zanzibaris who wish to see restored in the region the fourth missing state in the future East African Federation with Tanganyika, Uganda and Kenya within the existing framework of the East Africa Community.
Zanzibar, with the assistance of the International Community, must strive to achieve a National Consensus that will allow the negotiation of an amicable settlement with Tanganyika and the restoration of sovereignty and freedom in which situation Zanzibar can prepare for her future as a secular Republic, a Parliamentary Democracy, a society that adheres to the principles of Good Governance and respect for Fundamental Human Rights where meritocracy and needs prevail over nepotism and ideological and political considerations as is the case where a state offers opportunities to one group and blocks opportunities to another section.
Equally, due to the economic and social situation in the islands whose people suffer needlessly from abject poverty, the two major political parties in Zanzibar should be encouraged to agree on a coalition and bring about a Government of National Unity that will create and promote political consensus and conditions suitable for political, economic and social progress in Zanzibar without which she will continue to be unstable politically and without a National Agenda.
The issue of the restoration of Zanzibar sovereignty has to be considered within the framework of Zanzibar membership of the United Nations for Zanzibar has neither been suspended nor expelled from that organization nor does the United Nations Charter provision for the withdrawal of a member; in any case, there has never been a communication from the Zanzibar Government to the United Nations Secretariat in New York in which Zanzibar requested a change in her status of membership. As a result, should a disagreement occur during negotiations between Zanzibar and the Union the matter may be referred to the International Court of Justice in The Hague under Article 94 of the UN Charter by either or both of the parties involved as a dispute between states.
The Zanzibar Government as well as the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania are both on record as having declared that the future of Zanzibar will depend on the wishes of the people of Zanzibar. Mwalimu Nyerere when asked by Colin Legum of the London Observer in 1968 as to whether he will accept it if it is the decision of Zanzibar to secede from the Union replied that he will not use force if is the wish of the Zanzibari people. Accordingly, the only universal political mechanism that is used to ascertain the wishes of the people in similar situations is via the route of a referendum. Impediments and denial of freedom of speech or the use of political intrigues and the involvement of armed security forces and a campaign of misinformation and threats are not instruments that will promote democracy and the evolution of a consensus before the matter is put to the Zanzibari public.
It is to be sincerely hoped that no idea will be excluded; for what can be more fundamental in the history of Zanzibar than the Revolution which occurred in 1964 as an acceptable method of political change in the Islands and was never challenged?
It is also to be hoped that eventually the wishes of the Zanzibari people which should be freely expressed through an acceptable and universal mechanism will prevail over the wishes of those who wish to subjugate her.
There is no reason why Zanzibar cannot become a model of prosperity and progress in this region and transform herself from an underdeveloped to a developed Zanzibar. Zanzibar Vision 2015 can undoubtedly be achieved if all Zanzibaris are prepared to forget their superficial differences and cooperate as a united people sharing a common culture, common language and common religion for the sake of the present and coming generations.