EDITORIAL: Buhari, African leaders and the looming conflict over Zanzibar’s disputed election

Photo: politicoscope.com
The determination by Tanzania’s ruling party, the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), to hold onto power in Zanzibar, no matter the cost, is approaching recklessness and threatens to open up a new front of violent conflict and extremism in Africa. The Zanzibar Electoral Commission has set a date of March 20th for the rerun of the elections that were annulled in October last year after informal results showed that the opposition Civic United Front (CUF) had won decisively.
 
Zanzibar is a small nation, a tropical archipelago of islands in the Indian Ocean famed for its beauty and politically a semi-autonomous part of the United Republic of Tanzania, which has been ruled by the CCM since independence in 1962. Despite its size, the struggle for democracy in Zanzibar has much wider ramifications in a region economically rising but facing significant challenges of poverty, unemployment and religious fundamentalism.
 
The announcement of a rerun rode roughshod over the dialogue that the parties have been engaged in for the last three months to resolve the political impasse.
 
Since the elections were annulled, the leadership of the CUF has urged its supporters, including many young people who voted for the first time, to remain patient to avoid a repeat of the violence of 2000 when more than 60 people died in clashes after disputed elections. The CUF has decided that it will boycott new elections, which it sees as little more than an exercise in rigging.
 
Part of the fear of the CCM ruling party seems to be that an opposition victory in Zanzibar will be a first step towards the dissolution of the union with Tanganyika. But this is not sufficient justification for abridging the democratic rights of the Zanzibaris. If anything, it will further fuel their discontent.
 
The envoys and Ambassadors of a number of countries, including the UK and the US, have sent a strongly worded note to Tanzanian, President John Pombe Magufuli, saying they will not legitimize the election by sending international observers. However, they were not joined in their protest by a single African Ambassador.
 
President Muhammadu Buhari, as the leader of Africa’s largest democracy, should signal that Nigeria is prepared to stand up and be counted in favour of the democratic rights of the citizens of Zanzibar.
 
The elections were declared free and fair by every single international observer mission – the African Union, the Commonwealth, the European Union, the East African Community and the South African Development Community, as well as American and British observers. The count was concluded days before the annulment and it was clear the ruling party had been defeated. All that remained was the official ratification of a handful of results.
 
Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) Chairman, Zecha Salim Zecha, said he annulled the election because of “irregularities” but these charges have never been explained, let alone proven. Even if they were, it would be for an independent tribunal to determine whether the offences were so egregious that they merited the extreme action of cancelling an election.
 
Mr. Zecha, a political appointee of the ruling party, had neither the constitutional nor legal authority to cancel the election, and he took this drastic step without even consulting his fellow commissioners.
 
One man has been allowed to plunge Zanzibar into a political and constitutional crisis. The equivalent would have been if Professor Attahiru Jega had gone on television to unilaterally annul last year’s Nigerian elections while the results were still being announced, because of certain “irregularities” that he would not disclose.
 
If the new “election” does go ahead on March 20th, Zanzibaris are likely to go to the streets and conflict might ensue. The ruling party has already moved to stifle dissent by closing down radio stations and banning newspapers, by threats of violence, by beatings and arrests, and by a hugely increased security force presence on the streets.  
 
We find it hard to believe that President Magufuli, who has embarked on a robust public relations campaign, would sacrifice his image by endorsing a fake “election” that undermines democracy and the rule of law, and threatens to lead to widespread violence and has already been rejected by much of the international community.
 
PREMIUM TIMES calls on President Magufuli to exercise leadership and to get all parties to work towards a peaceful outcome. He has the wherewithal to bring the situation to a positive conclusion and he should do what is necessary to consolidate Tanzanian democracy.
 
Also, we call on President Buhari to rally African opinion against this abuse of the democratic process. We should not wait till the deed is done, as in Burundi, before sending out fire fighters.

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  • IZON Redeemer

    Buhari never won the 2015 presidential election after all. His ‘victory’ was nothing short of a criminal conspiracy likened to the Sicilian Mafia bound by oath of omerta calling to mind the gross electoral malpractices and irregularities that took place in the desert northern city-states of Bauchi, Kano, and Sokoto where polling stations swarm with underaged voters, the camera, it is said, cannot lie; they were caught in the act. This would have made enough evidence to have the victory of Muhammadu Buhari upturned had the incumbent President gone progressively to contest the results in the nation’s apex court in Abuja. Yet Buhari has foolishly been chasing Jonathan from pillar to post-with fake anti corruption stories. See that is why most African leaders often refuse to hand over power—Because of the fear of the incoming government-witch hunting them.

    Against all odds, Ijaw man Jonathan, allowed a Monster like Buhari to assume the reigns of power. All criminal behaviours involve the use of force, fraud, or stealth to obtain material or symbolic resources. Self-styled grandees chief Dr. Buhari who committed white collar crimes, like he did, appear more self-centered and indifferent to the sufferings of other people. The President did say Nigerians propensity for criminality has made it hard for them to be accepted abroad. Unlike the Mexican president who was out defending the need for the USA to grow her economy side by side with Mexican–who are even known as drug smugglers to the USA.

    • Maria

      Hahahahahahahahahaha…Buhari rigged out the commander in chief of armed forces… the feat he could not do against OBJ and Yaradua…your ijaw brother indeed is an ineffectual buffoon…with all the resources he expended and all the power he wielded …He is the biggest m0r0n…for losing to a man who had lost same election three times to sitting presidents like your ijaw mumu .

  • Uchechukwu Anslem

    Premium Times: Questions Arising

    People have been telling me. It is today I believe it. They say Hijab is compulsory dress in Premium Times.
    I have no doubt about that again. See now! Zanzibar is a Muslim island, What concern us with Zanzibar?
    How many of us have ever gone to Zanzibar before? How can Zanzibar be the issue in Nigeria today?
    So, it means Premium Times is using style to support President Buhari in Nigeria by changing topic.
    Nigeria is falling into the gutter. NLC people are still fighting like mad all over the 36 states now.
    Nigerians have no electricity and they are now to pay double money for darkness on top of it.
    What has Zanzibar got to do with our crises in Nigeria, you Mujahedeens of Premium Times?

    • Otile

      Believe me Tanzanian girls are nice and sweet. They are caring. If you mix with them long enough you will be tempted to marry one. Allah, God bless Tanzanian people.

    • Reyhana

      Not everybody who likes peace or has Islamic background is a mujahedeen. I am a Tanzanian or I should say a zanzibari who has many friends form all over African including Nigeria. Where we are we consider ourselves “African” simple. unless someone ask you where in Africa are you from? Just because Nigeria has problems of it’s own it doesn’t mean it cannot support other African nations where justice is not being served. This is called democracy my friend.

  • Rehema

    I am Tanzanian. We had Nigeria former president Goodluck Jonathan who have mediated Zanzibar election since 1995 I believe. He was involved leading the talks on this one I believe before announcement of re run 20th March.
    Magufuli had tried to talk to both political parties leaders without success. CUF wants to be declared winner, CCM Zanzibar wants a rerun as ZEC have stated.
    ZEC is independent to make decision without government influence, there is only little Magufuli can do without jeopardising the Zanzibar and Tanzania Union and practising democracy in Tz.
    Consequences for rerun are huge for Tz. The donors are likely to suspend all the aid worth billion of dollars to a poor country of Tz.
    Any party whether it is CUF or CCM can cause violence if forcefully pushed out of this election.
    We love our friends Zanzibaris and Magufuli is unsure how to resolve this while maintaining peace, democracy and union between the 2 nations since 1961.
    God help us!

    • osric

      It is simple, let the results stand except there are proven cases of gross irregularities. Even in such a case the proper procedures must be followed. If the NEC chair lacks the authority to order a cancellation he must reverse his decision, accept his error and allow the correct procedure. This business of messing up the elections in Zanzibar when ever CCM sense it might lose, has been with us for decade.

    • Otile

      Ndugu wa penzi, habari ya kazi? You see wherever unity and indivisibility are emphasized over justice and fairness look closely, one group is oppressing another, the oppressing group is parasitic and contributing little or nothing to the union. The oppressive group will always use force to enforce unity and rob the oppressed blind. Ndugu, kwa heri.

  • Reyhana

    @ Rehema:
    Magufuli did not try at all. he was and still is mute regarding this issue. Magufuli’s only
    statement regarding Zanzibar was the statement during his presidential speech
    when he said “I will make sure Zanzibar issue is being resolved peacefully”
    where is the peace???? According to some people he does not have the right to interfere with ZEC. Then why is he
    interfering by sending troops to kill, beat, and abuse zanzibaris?

    We are not asking for much. We want peace, we want freedom and we want our country just like everybody else. If the Union is not serving us well, then why have it? Zanzibaris have been in prison in their own country for a long time now, while the Tanganyikans are enjoying their freedom. where is the democracy????

    Unsure how to resolve this issue????? that is hilarious. First of all there would be no issue if the ruling party (CCM) was fair. The solution is to give Zanzibar to the person that was chosen by the majority of zanzibaris

    (Maalim Seif) period. they have done this since 1995. Enough is enough.

  • Reyhana

    If ZEC was independent to make decisions, then why did Kikwete and Mkapa played a big role
    in the nullification of October 25 election? When they realized that CCM had lost the election, Kikwete and Mkapa flew to Zanzibar right away, following that was the nullification of the whole election. For those who don’t know both of these guys are former Tanzanian presidents who have promised to solve the Zanzibar issue during their election campaigns. They have served their terms and did nothing to Zanzibar or the Zanzibari people. ZEC is under
    CCM and we all know it. Seriously this Union is like an elephant sitting on our chests. It is suffocating us. We need
    a breath of fresh air, we need to see the light, we need our FREEDOM.

    • Otile

      Ndugu, God bless you. Believe me, I feel your pain. We Igbo people of West Africa are in the same predicament. We are surrounded by ravaging wolves. We are trampled underfoot by our cruel oppressors. Our tormentors continually mouth peace, but there is no peace in the land. Our oppressors hide under the cover of unity to cage us into a prison, tormenting and mocking us. Knowing the good people of Shrikishi Shola Africa our brothers in Zanzibar may not be hated by Tanganyikans as Nigerians hate Igbo. May God bring real peace to Africa.

      • reyhana

        Amen