Fractious Zanzibar holds key to Tanzanian election.

By David Fox

ZANZIBAR, Tanzania, Oct 27 (Reuters) – Tanzanians on Sunday hold their first election without founding father Julius Nyerere – and many say it could spell the end of the union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar that he considered one of his greatest achievements.

Nyerere, who died last year, brought mainland Tanganyika to independence in 1961 and three years later united it with the Zanzibar islands.

Although Benjamin Mkapa of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party is expected to be returned on Sunday as leader of the Tanzanian union, the opposition Civic United Front (CUF) is confident of winning the presidency in semi-autonomous Zanzibar.

The CUF also expects to win a majority in the Zanzibar House of Representatives and dent CCM’s majority on the mainland.

If that happens, analysts and diplomats believe the CUF will use its clout to seek greater independence for the islands.

Zanzibar is rich in tourist earnings as well as spice production, and many residents believe the mainland has used it as a cash cow over the years.

But talk of independence is treasonable and 18 CUF members have been held on treason charges for over three years.

The CUF believes it was cheated out of victory in Zanzibar in the last election in 1995 when Seif Shariff Hamad polled 49.8 percent of the vote against 50.2 for the CCM’s Salim Amour.

Many observers and monitors agreed the poll might have been rigged. But Commonwealth mediation persuaded the CUF to accept the result in exchange for reforms in the electoral commission and in voting rules this time around.

The CUF says those changes have not been forthcoming. It has already accused the CUF of stuffing voter registration lists by “importing” thousands of mainlanders and foreigners.

It is suspicious, too, of the huge numbers of extra military and police that authorities have deployed in Zanzibar to quell any potential trouble in the days ahead.

“There have been flaws in the system,” Hamad told reporters on Friday. “But even so we can win. It depends on the extent.”

Privately diplomats and analysts say recent events in Yugoslavia and Ivory Coast – where spontaneous popular rejections of rigged election results led to them being overturned – could well figure this time around.

“The place is no longer in a vacuum. People hear things going on in the rest of the world and it is bound to make them think,” said one European Union diplomat.

“If CCM wins narrowly and the electorate don’t believe it was fair, I think we can expect some sort of reaction.”

The CUF draws its support mainly from Muslims, many of Arab origin from the days when Zanzibar was a key slaving centre. At midday prayers on Friday it was clear it had loyal support.

“Every Muslim will vote for the CUF and therefore the CUF must win here,” said Abu Sheik, an elder at the main mosque in the old quarter of the main island.

On that basis it would win the majority of the 400,000 votes expected to be cast from a population of around 800,000.

But the CCM is still likely to sweep the election on the mainland, where around 10 million people are expected to vote.

Mkapa, a pupil of Nyerere’s, won praise abroad for a first term in which he followed stringent economic restructuring along lines suggested by international donors and aid groups.

The reforms won Tanzania massive debt relief but proved less popular among a population that enjoyed years of controlled prices under Nyerere’s failed brand of socialism, or “Ujamaa”.

Nevertheless, a fractured opposition on the mainland means the CCM, which only had to contest multi-party elections for the first time in 1995, has the apparatus to ensure victory.

Three candidates are standing against Mkapa for the union presidency, but none is expected to make a significant showing.

Zanzibar has only two candidates – Hamad and the CCM’s Amani Abeid Karume, the son of Zanzibar’s first president.

(Additional reporting by Wambui Chege in Dar es Salaam).


Zanzibar and Tanzania worlds apart.

By David Fox

ZANZIBAR, Tanzania, Oct 28 (Reuters) – They may only be separated by 40 kms (25 miles) of Indian Ocean, but Zanzibar and mainland Tanzania are worlds apart.

From religion to food, from culture to clothing, many Zanzibaris feel they have little in common with the mainland – and the feeling is often reciprocated.

“There is a way of life here, an island way of life, that you don’t find on the mainland,” says Mohammed Ali, a hotelier.

“You can see for yourself. Things here are done more relaxed, more easy.”

The islands of Pemba and Unguja (the official name for the main Zanzibar island) joined with mainland Tanganyika in 1964 to form the Union of Tanzania.

Zanzibar retained its own president and House of Representatives – for which elections are taking place on Sunday – but political and economic life is dominated by the mainland.

It was once the other way around.

Zanzibar was the Indian Ocean’s chief slavery centre until the trade was officially abolished by Britain in 1873.

The islands were ruled by a Sultan who owed allegiance to Oman and were the main base for Arab slavers to go raiding for human cargo on the African mainland.

The wealth the trade generated built Zanzibar into one of the most important ports in the Indian ocean – a key stopover for merchants taking goods from the exotic east to Europe.

Its nickname, the spice islands, was well deserved.

Arab influences still dominate the islands – from the ethnic makeup of the residents to the architecture, food and dress.

Zanzibar’s old “stone town” is a maze of narrow streets and alleys flanked by ancient buildings designed to allow maximum cooling in the hot, humid weather.

Huge doors with elaborate brass and glass inlays give testimony to eastern influences, veiled women gaze down from ornate wooden balconies and the sound of the muezzin calling the Muslim faithful to prayer drifts out from the spires of mosques five times a day.

On the mainland, it is still “Africa”, the majority of people living off the land in traditional adobe houses, pastoralists and nomadic herdsmen moving their cattle as the rains influence the grazing.

Zanzibaris frequently complain that too much of its wealth – chiefly from tourism and clove production – is spent developing the poorer mainland.

They argue too that mainland businessmen with close links to the union government are favoured during tenders and in being granted licences to operate.

“We feel we are being invaded,” said Ali Guladi, a fisherman repairing his nets as he waited for the tide to turn.

“Look there, you see that boat? Not one of those six people is from Zanzibar. They are from Dar es Salaam!”

But mainlanders – while agreeing on the differences – say the Zanzibaris simply couldn’t go it alone.

The islands have population of only about 800,000 comparedwith 29 million or so on the mainland.

“It would be a joke to have a country this size,” said Alphonse Madele, a businessmen involved in mobile telecoms. “They do not know how to represent themselves in Africa, in the world. They need us.”


Tanzania cancels vote in 16 Zanzibar constituencies.

By David Fox

ZANZIBAR, Tanzania, Oct 29 (Reuters) – Tanzanian election official cancelled the vote in 16 of 50 constituencies on the fractious islands of Zanzibar on Sunday after a chaotic day of voting in the country’s second multi-party elections since independence in 1961.

The Zanzibar electoral commission issued a statement carried on state radio and given to rival political parties saying a completely new vote would be carried out in 16 constituencies – chiefly in the Muslim-dominated opposition heartland of Zanzibar town.

The statement did not say why a fresh vote would take place, or when, but a senior ruling party official in Dar es Salaam said it would delay vote counting for the presidential races of both the Tanzanian union and semi-autonomous Zanzibar.

“We have been told of the cancellation and obviously it will delay things,” the official said. Officials from the election commission were not available to comment.

Although voting was largely well organised on mainland Tanzania, the picture was anything but smooth on the islands which make up Zanzibar.

Voting did not begin at many polling station until hours after the official start because ballot papers and voter registration lists had not arrived.

There was further confusion once voting started, with many people told they were not eligible to cast their ballot in a particular constituency and told to go elsewhere.

President Benjamin Mkapa is widely expected to be returned as leader of the overall Tanzanian Union – formed when mainland Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged in 1964. His Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party was also expected to dominate the union parliamentary elections.

But the opposition Civic United Front (CUF) was running the CCM very close in the battle for the presidency and house of representatives of Zanzibar, its Muslim stronghold.

In 1995 CUF’s Seif Sharif Hamad lost by less than two percent to the CCM’s Salim Amour in an election many observers said was seriously flawed.

Those allegations surfaced again on Sunday when voting did not begin at many polling station until hours after the official start.

“There is not a lot we could do,” one returning officer told Reuters. “People wanted to vote, but we didn’t have all the papers.”

Opposition leaders were quick to point out that the confusion appeared to affect their supporters the most. In Zanzibar’s close-knit 800,000 population, party affiliation is often public knowledge.

“We are not sure yet what action we will take,” said Ayub Bhakari, a senior CUF official, told Reuters. “In 1995 the results were rigged, this time it looks like the election itself is.”

Bhakari said the party had heard from some constituencies that polling stations had run out of ballot papers and that some boxes appeared to be stuffed before voting began.

State radio said one CUF party agent had “run off” with the ballot boxes from one constituency after a dispute with officials over the number of party agents allowed on the premises. By early evening he had still not been found and the vote was officially postponed.

Bhakari said the government had deliberately mishandled the election in the hope that confusion would favour the ruling party. CUF leader Hamad earlier told Reuters that the electoral commission had been “either grossly inefficient or purposely disruptive”.

Zanzibar electoral commission officials were not available for comment, but a member of an international observer team said they had a case to answer.


Violence erupts in Zanzibar after poll chaos.

By David Fox

ZANZIBAR, Tanzania, Oct 30 (Reuters) – Police opened fire on opposition activists on Tanzania’s troubled Zanzibar islands on Monday as authorities rejected opposition demands that chaotic weekend elections be scrapped.

Zanzibar’s election chief admitted that some election officials may have been involved in the theft of presidential ballot papers and were probably helped by the police.

But he agreed to hold a new vote in just 16 of Zanzibar’s 50 constituencies, raising concerns of a violent showdown with the main opposition party on the semi-autonomous islands.

The presidential and parliamentary elections went smoothly on the Tanzanian mainland, but Commonwealth observers described the polling in Zanzibar as a “shambles” which showed “colossal contempt for ordinary Zanzibari people and their aspirations for democracy”.

These were Tanzania’s second multi-party elections since independence in 1961. The last elections in 1995 were also marred by allegations of massive fraud and irregularities in Zanzibar, where the CUF has its power base.

Results for the rest of Tanzania are due on Thursday but the problems on Zanzibar could delay Saturday’s swearing-in ceremony for the president of the union.

Dozens of police officers in full riot gear fired tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition at protesters in Zanzibar’s historic Stonetown after they threw rocks at a police car on Monday morning.

Police then broke down the doors of nearby shops and dragged people outside, kicking them repeatedly and battering them with truncheons before forcing them into cars and driving away.

One old man was repeatedly beaten around the head and another was knocked senseless.

Journalists saw at least 15 people beaten and arrested but there were no reports of people being wounded by gunfire.

The violence came shortly after the opposition Civic United Front (CUF) said Sunday’s elections in Zanzibar should be annulled and a new ballot organised in all 50 constituencies.

The CUF said it wanted fresh elections formally agreed to this week and conducted within three to six months.

“Whatever happens, they (the election commission) will bear full responsibility,” it said.

The Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) admitted to serious irregularities in 16 constituencies but, while it agreed to a new round of voting in those constituencies within a week, it rejected the idea of a new ballot in the other 34.

“The rest of the constituencies went well, smoothly,” ZEC chairman Abdulrahman Mwinyi Jumbe told reporters.

He earlier told a meeting of international observers that the ZEC feared many ballots were stolen “for malicious means”.

He said officials who handled the ballot papers had been handed over to police for investigation and that some police officers would also be questioned.

“If anything happened, it must have happened in collaboration or connivance with the police.” he said, adding that he was “terribly sorry” for any mistakes made by the ZEC.

Reuters obtained a recording of the closed-doors meeting.

Observers called for the elections in Zanzibar to be held again “in their entirety”.

In protest at the fraud of 1995, foreign donors cut off lending to the Zanzibar isles, which lie just off the mainland and were once a centre of the Indian Ocean slave trade.

Foreign governments were dismayed by Sunday’s debacle.

U.S. Ambassador Reverend Charles Stith told Reuters in Dar es Salaam that the elections in Zanzibar had raised “a lot of questions that everyone wants answered”.

President Benjamin Mkapa is widely expected to be returned as leader of the overall Tanzanian Union – formed when mainland Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged in 1964. His CCM party was also expected to dominate the union parliament.

Residents of Zanzibar cast votes for the union president and parliament but also for their own president and a 50-member house of representatives.

While the Zanzibar electorate – around 450,000 voters out of a total of 10 million Tanzanian voters – was not expected to sway the national poll, it is crucial to the union’s future.

Mkapa has won wide support at home and abroad for tough economic reforms that have won massive debt relief.

The reforms came after Tanzania turned away from a home-grown form of socialism known as Ujamaa, devised by the nation’s founding father Julius Nyerere, who died last year.


Zanzibar readies to vote again in “charade” poll.

By David Fox

ZANZIBAR, Tanzania, Nov 4 (Reuters) – Tanzania’s fractious islands of Zanzibar go the polls on Sunday for the second time in a week for an election the opposition and independent observers have already dismissed as a charade.

Election officials cancelled the vote in 16 of Zanzibar’s 50 constituencies last Sunday after a day of chaos in which polling stations opened late or not at all, ballot papers were stolen or went missing and election officials vanished for hours on end.

The constituencies – mainly in the crowded historic Stonetown of Zanzibar – include 42 percent of the islands’ over 400,000 registered voters and contain seats the opposition Civic United Front (CUF) were certain to win.

But the CUF, disgusted at the way the election has been conducted, decided on Monday to boycott the re-vote and the election as a whole.

“The process is a charade,” senior party official Ismael Jussa told Reuters. “Nobody believes this is a proper election. They whole thing needs to be done again.”

Despite mounting criticism and the real threat of opposition supporters taking to the streets to protest, the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party refuses to back down.

“It is just 16 constituncies,” said Phillip Mangula, the party’s secretary general. “The rest of the election was fine apart from one or two small problems, so why should the whole vote be taken again.”

Tanzania was formed when mainland Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged in 1964, but the Zanzibar islands of Pemba and Unguja retain a strong Arab and Muslim influence and culturally its residents have little in common with mainlanders.

Last Sunday’s elections were for a president and parliament of the Tanzanian union as well as a separate election for a president and house of representatives of Zanzibar.

Results in so far show Mkapa and the CCM are easily winning the union vote, but the CUF was widely expected to challenge strongly in Zanzibar, having lost narrowly in 1995 in an election international observers said was desperately flawed.

Following that election, international donors cut off aid to Zanzibar and it was clear this week that the latest ballot had done little to change their minds.

On Friday the United States called on the Tanzanian government to look into the “failures of the electoral process on Zanzibar” and to prosecute anyone found responsible.

Observer groups from the Commonwealth and Organisation of African Unity have pulled out ahead of Sunday’s ballot, saying the whole process in Zanzibar was fatally compromised and any result should not be allowed to stand.

A straw poll conducted in Stonetown on Saturday suggested that the CUF’s boycott call will be widely followed.

“No way, impossible, I won’t vote,” said trader Ali Yussuf Abeid, who runs a curio shop. “They have stolen the election … we should cut off their hands.”

But rumours are rife that the government has shipped in thousands of Zanzibaris working in government institutions or studying at colleges on the mainland with the blunt message: “Make sure CCM gets in or you lose your positions”.

The CUF says it will not be “held responsible” if popular protests erupt when results are announced on Monday.

But authorities have shown already they are prepared to deal ruthlessly with dissent. On Monday police fired live ammunition, tear gas and rubber bullets at protestors and brutally beat at least 15 people in full view of journalists.


Sleepy Tanzanian town wakes up for Clinton visit.

By David Fox

ARUSHA, Tanzania Aug 27 (Reuters) – When U.S. President Bill Clinton arrives in the sleepy northern Tanzanian town of Arusha on Monday, he will see a place very different from what most residents and visitors are used to.

The dusty Tanzanian town has been given a big facelift and in record time ahead of Clinton’s visit, prompting one local newspaper columnist to urge to him to extend his itinerary to other towns in need of development.

Workers were washing the streets on Sunday and tying bunting along every route Clinton will drive during his carefully orchestrated visit, scheduled to last just five hours.

Normally pot-holed roads have been hastily resurfaced, street signs have sprouted like mushrooms and lampposts given a fresh coat of paint.

Garbage usually strewn throughout the town has been swept away, urchins and beggars ordered out of sight and even the packs of stray cats and dogs have vanished.

“It is like a Potemkin village,” said one Western diplomat referring to the mobile model town that Count Potemkin carted across Russia to impress Catherine the Great during her tour of her empire in the last century.

Arusha’s 150,000 residents are used to international guests but Clinton is the most powerful western leader to visit.

Arusha houses the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the United Nations court established to try the chief perpetrators of Rwanda’s 1994 genocide and also headquarters of the East African Community, a fledgling regional group modelled on the European Union.

For the last two years, it has also hosted peace talks aimed at ending neighbouring Burundi’s long-running civil war and an imminent deal is the reason for the U.S. president’s visit.

Most Americans visiting Arusha are tourists on safari.

If Clinton had more time, he could go game-viewing in the nearby Serengeti or Ngorongoro crater, trek up Mount Kilimanjaro which at 5,895 metres (19,340 feet) is Africa’s tallest mountain or visit Olduvai Gorge, where scientists Louis and Mary Leaky first unearthed the remains of humanity’s earliest ancestors.

Like other tourists, he could spent the night in a manyata, a collection of rudimentary huts that the Maasai people build as they follow their herds in search of grazing.

Instead of indulging his noted taste for fast food, the U.S. president could enjoy a bowl of fermented milk and blood drawn from the neck of a living cow. As an especially favoured guest, he might even be offered the services of the wife of an elder for the night.

The huge entourage that precedes and follows the visit of a U.S. president has already made its presence felt.

Hundreds of U.S. State Department officials from Washington and embassies in neighbouring states have been sent to Arusha to make sure the visit goes off without a hitch.

Burly security men with short-cropped hair and sunglasses stood around hotel lobbies talking furtively into walkie-talkies. And American-accented greetings of “Hi” or “Good morning sir” outnumber the traditional Kiswahili “Jambo”.

Few residents begrudge Clinton the inconvenience.

Taxi drivers report record business, the town is virtually sold out of telephone cards, overflowing hotels have forced journalists to sleep in tents and even prostitutes say they are busier than ever.

“There a lot of visitors and they pay well,” said Mary, dressed in a skimpy cocktail dress at a hotel bar.

“I knew Bill would be coming to Arusha when I suddenly noticed the management of the conference centre scrubbing the car park, painting the kerb stones and shampooing the flowerbed,” wrote one columnist in the Arusha Times.

“The security hut was painted snow-white…in the afternoon the surrounding fence had fresh maroon-coloured paint and in the evening the lights were working.”

He then quotes a Kiswahili proverb – “Mgeni Njoo Mwenyeji Apone”, meaning, “Welcome visitor, so the host can thrive!”

Clinton appeals for peace on Africa tour.

By David Fox

ARUSHA, Tanzania, Aug 28 (Reuters) – U.S. President Bill Clinton on Monday made an impassioned appeal for peace in Burundi before witnessing the signing of an agreement many people fear is doomed from the start.

Clinton, in Tanzania on the second leg of an African tour, addresed members of 19 delegations to the Burundi peace talks, as well as a host of regional leaders summoned to add momentum to a process that has already taken over two years.

“I do think it is absolutely certain that if you let this moment slip away it will dig the well of bitterness deeper and pile the mountain of grievances higher,” Clinton told the delegates.

But hopes that mediator Nelson Mandela had hammered out an agreement acceptable to all sides were dashed when six hardline Tutsi groups refused to sign the deal.

“There are important questions that have to be deeply debated and there is not enough time. You cannot force an agreement,” Mathias Hitimana, a spokesman for the dissenters, said earlier.

Mandela had hoped Clinton’s arrival would add momentum to the peace talks and it appeared to have had some effect with the original group of 10 Tutsi parties who earlier said they wouldn’t sign being whittled down to six at the end.

Mandela’s team at first thought 14 delegations had signed the agreement but later realised that only 13 were backing it.

Clinton agreed to attend as a mark of respect to Mandela even though officials admit privately that he is probably associating himself with an exercise doomed to failure.

Clinton appealed on Monday for all sides in the conflict to make peace.

“I urge you to work with each other to seize the opportunity that exists right now. If you choose peace the United States and the world community will be there to help you make it pay off.”

“Now if you don’t do it, what is the price?” Clinton asked. “The gulf between you won’t narrow but the gulf between Burundi and the rest if the world, I assure you, will grow wider…more lives will be lost.”

At least 200,000 people have died in Burundi since 1993 in a civil war that pits the Tutsi minority which controls the government and military against rebels who draw on the majority Hutu population for suppport.

The peace talks here were largely overshadowed by Clinton’s visit with the whole of Arusha focused on putting on a good show for the U.S. president.

Firemen hosed dust from the streets ahead of the presidential cavalcade and schools closed to allow children to line the route with Tanzanian flags and the Stars and Stripes.

Clinton was met at the airport by Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa and given a traditional welcome by dozens of dancers wearing grass skirts.

A dais was set up for officials against a backdrop of Mount Kilimanjaro – Africa’s highest mountain – but the 5,895 metres (19,340 feet) snow-capped peak refused to show itself from behind a hazy, cloudy African sky.

Thousands of people were lined up along the 75 km (50 miles) route from the airport to Arusha, all keen to catch a glimpse of Clinton and his daughter Chelsea.

“We want to see him,” said Frederick Malonge, who closed his small shop for the day. “We want him to be our president. Yes! Why not?”.

Clinton was due to leave Arusha at midnight (2100 GMT) for Egypt, after which he will return to Washington.



About FoxFromZim

I am a journalist from Zimbabwe, currently based in Singapore. I report chiefly on international affairs, specialising in politics, war and natural disasters when not playing golf badly.
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