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Sunday, March 3, 2024
LONDON, May 27 1996 (IPS) - The methods being used by Western govern- ments to pressure Tanzania into intervening to end a protracted political crisis on Zanzibar, were criticised here this week as being ippropriate and likely to fail.
Zanzibari intellectual Dr Abdulrahman Mohamed Babu, an exiled former Tanzanian economics minister who teaches at London University, said threats by the West to impose “aid sanctions” on Dar es Salaam represented “imperialism of the worst sort”.
“Aid sanctions against Tanzania by the West is not the right way to solve the crisis in Zanzibar,” he told IPS in an interview.
Rather than lobbying Western countries to force political reforms on the island through denial of “aid” to the Union Government, opposition politicians should mobilise the people of both Zanzibar and mainland Tanzania to press for such intervention.
Babu was among leaders of the 1963 Zanzibar revolution which paved the way for a merger the following year of Zanzibar with Tanganyika to form the United Republic of Tanzania.
He said sustained internal pressure could break the political impasse which erupted immediately after last October’s general elections narrowly won by Dr Salmin Amour and his Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party. Opposition claims that the elections were rigged were supported by international observers.
Located in the Indian Ocean 22 miles from Tanganiyika, Zanzibar and its sister island Pemba have 571,000 people, mainly Moslem with a minority practicing Christianity.
Since the elections, the main opposition Civic United Front (CUF), which many observers believe were the actual winners, has refused to participate in the multi-party parliament. A “campaign of non-co-operation” against President Amour’s Government has all but brought government business to a halt.
“I do not support sanctions, because at the end of the day it is the people who will suffer, not the leaders,” said Babu. “The opposition politicians should raise the awareness of the people so they can solve their own problems. The big powers have no business there.”
CUF has refused to recognise President Amour’s authority. Its leaders have boycotted parliamentary seminars and prevented the setting-up of parliamentary committees. The hamstrung government’s response has been to systematically harass CUF Members of Parliament (MP’s) and supporters, activists say.
Amnesty International says many opposition supporters have been either intimidated or incarcerated on trumped-up charges. They have been accused of “sabotage” and of having “secessionist tendencies”.
CUF officials say Amour is pursuing a scorched-earth policy against its supporters, who are mainly descendants of Arabs based on Pemba. It claims that at least 600 of its supporters have been arrested by security forces while many in Pemba have had their properties burnt down or otherwise destroyed for just having voted for the CUF in the elections.
The clampdown has extended to journalists and human rights activists, many of whom have been harassed by the security forces. One prominent journalists who writes for the international media, Salim Said Salim, has been proscribed from writing from the islands.
Residents found in possession of “Majira”, a newspaper from the mainland, risk instant imprisonment, accroding to reports reaching here.
During a brief stopover in London, while on a mission to lobby European Union (EU) governments, CUF leader Seif Shariff Hamad said it was only a matter of time before “aid” sanctions were imposed to force the mainland CCM government into ending its silence and inaction on the troubles in Zanzibar.
Hamad, who believes he was robbed of the presidency, has already persuaded several European countries — Denmark, Norway and Sweden among them — to cut-off all bilateral aid to Zanzibar until there is an end to human rights abuses and restoration of democratic reforms.
“We have offered two proposals to solve the crisis, and they have been rejected,” said Hamad.
“The first is that Dr Salmin and his government should relinquish power and the real winner installed. The second is that the present government resigns and be replaced by an Interim government, headed by a neutral person, formed by both parties pending fresh elections within four months.”
If the government continues to refuse to take either course, he added, then “aid” sanction must be imposed by the international community on the “senior” CCM government on the mainland. The CUF leader says that such action would not amount to imperialism.
Ahmed Rajab, Zanzibar-born editor of the London-based newsletter Africa Analysis, says only internaitonal pressure of the kind being sought by Hamad could force the intervention of Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa.
Many observers are surprised that President Mkapa has allowed this potentially explosive situation to simmer for so long — despite fears it could lead to “the second Zanzibari revolution”.
Mkapa has been praised for his role in healing a rift between President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Kenya’s President Daniel arap Moi which smoothed the path towards the resuscitation of the old East African Community.
However, accodring to Rajab, Mkapa owes his selection as CCM presidential candidate to Amour. “It would be a kind of betrayal to move against his friend,” were he to intervene too vigorously. In recent speeches, the president has lambasted “opposition terrorists” and praised the Amour Government.
Some analysts believe the mainland CCM Government could move against Amour in the summer when President Mkapa is confirmed as CCM Chairman — for which he is the sole candidate. But Rajab is not so sure. He said: “Mkapa may be more confident then, but I think that only sanctions, or threat of sanctions, can do the trick.”
Clive Thompson, a spokesperson for the British Foreign Office, refused to be drawn on the question of whether London and its EU partners were considering anti-Tanzania “aid” sanctions. “Britain has made its concern known to the governments of Zanzibar and Tanzania and we are monitoring developments,” he said.
Diplomatic sources report that the Tanzanian foreign minister, Col. Jakaya Kikwete, who is also on a tour of European capitals, has been warned by the EU that “aid” sanctions could be deployed against his Government if the situation in Zanzibar continues to deteriorate.
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