Controversy surrounding Zanzibar election turmoil is still lingering five decades after independence, but while the end is beyond the horizon lack of unity among the Isles’ people is an obvious culprit.
The 2015 general elections can be regarded as unprecedented and perhaps highest disputed election in post-revolutionary Zanzibar, since it is the first time the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) through its chairperson Jecha Salum Jecha, has annulled the results, citing irreconcilable inconsistencies even after winners at the constituency level had been declared.
Worse still is that the police force has been of late holding some opposition leaders in a remand prison without charging them.
Paradoxically as it may sound, it is the same police force that says it has no knowledge of the alleged political related violence by members of an organized criminal group locally known as “zombies” on individuals belonging to political opposition.
Anyone familiar with Zanzibar’s political peculiarities would logically attribute both the violence and the police inaction as being masterminded by members of the ruling party as a way to punish nonconformists for not playing significant role in the 1964 revolution, a politics that despite its irrelevance is yet to faded.
Talking to the people of Pemba in particular, the police’s choose and pick strategy in Zanzibar is nothing new but a manifestation of state power in an island whose residents had been continually discriminated with regards to development and provision of social services.
Such developments come amid Tanzania’s Home Affairs Deputy Minister Charles Kitwanga telling the nation he would increase the number of his troops on the Islands to maintain security during March 20 disputed election.
But mere increase in the number of officers and equipment may not guarantee better security given the history of police operations in Zanzibar where it allegedly favoured the rulers at the detriment of the public, a fact currently demonstrated by letting the “zombies” free to maim and harass.
No wonder even Pemba’s dilapidated infrastructure, general poor quality of services, the people’s distrust in the country’s authorities especially security forces, as well as their unwavering support for the main opposition party, Civic United Front (CUF), is a product of the age old vengeful politics that has made them severely tormented throughout the post-revolutionary era.
Speaking of Pemba and opposition strongholds in Unguja brings the question of suspicious politics to the extent that the fate of participatory politics and the position of members of opposition parties remain bleak, a situation that compromises Zanzibar’s social, political and economic fronts.
While things looked promising with the formation of the Government of National Unity (GNU) in the second phase of President Amani Karume and the first phase of Ali Mohamed Shein, such hope is no more as the incumbent Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) would not compromise as CUF did in 2010 when it accepted a quarter piece of bread to save peace and bring relief to the people of Zanzibar who had seen their compatriots slain by the police in the post-2000 general elections mayhem.
Events suggest that the political manipulations that have been going on in Zanzibar are engineered by CCM for the benefit of the party’s elite in the mainland and their political imbeds in Zanzibar.
That being the case, even having installed Dr Shein the first ever president from Pemba as Chairman of the Revolutionary Council of Zanzibar, and his isle-homeboy General Secretary of CUF Seif Shariff Hamad participating as one of the First Vice President has not succeeded to rectify the situation.
Perhaps, it is time for Zanzibaris and all well-wishers to rethink the GNU political arrangement that has inadequately addressed the Pemba question for it is in all respects a more superficial structure that does not trickle down to the electorate rather than focusing at the presidential and the ministerial level.
The situation has come to disapprove the belief that people would witness the development of their region after having their representatives elected to high posts such as having the president and vice president from among their own.
It would further alarm the people of Pemba specifically to demand fair representation in other positions, including regional and district commissioners, at the local grassroots level as well as permanent secretary and other technoctraticl positions in the running of the government.
This will guarantee better representation than the current sketchy deal under the GNU that has disadvantaged the people of Pemba.
Perhaps it is time for the people of Pemba to talk politics in substantive terms by bringing about development-based representation as this would likely help it relieve the decades of politically inflicted economic and social stagnation.
Political parties and the civil society might also want to sensitize the people of Pemba to demand having their own people appointed to lead their local government institutions unlike at present where most such district and regional commissioners hail from Unguja.
As an irony, no Pemba native has neither been appointed to hold such positions in his/her own Island, nor even leading a region or a district in Unguja, a situation that reflects lack of fairness and reciprocity even within Zanzibar itself.
Fairness and developmental representation may help to calm down the historically based vengeful politics in Unguja and Pemba Islands, as well as induce the people to think more critically about the future of their country as a unified nation.
The bogus polarized politics between members of the ruling party and the opposition triggered by the historical roots which are losing touch given the youth populated nation with little attachment to the alleged sufferings experienced by their ancestors, a united and prosperous Zanzibar is a possibility should the people demand it as such.
Had this been the time of the famous socialist philosopher and advocate Karl Marx, Zanzibaris would have been urged to unite and forget their political differences, for, by doing so, “… they have nothing to lose but their chains.”
NB: This article is republished from The Guardian of 27th Feb. 2016. It was written by Francis Semwaza, a Dar es Salaam-based Political Strategist and Development Communication Specialist. For comments: E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Phone: +255 71 646 6 044.