Police fought to restore calm in Zanzibar yesterday with the government, Inspector General of Police (IGP) and US envoy warning that if unchecked, the riots could water down the peace achieved after the 2010 elections.
Mininter of Home Affairs, Dr Emanuel Nchimbi, the Inspector General of Police, Saidi Mwema, met with religious leaders, journalists, and tourist stakeholders at the force headquarter located at Ziwani areas-- to discuss best ways to calm the situation.
Dr Nchimbi said the government would do all in its power to protect lives of people and property and restore law to the area.
"We need to respect laws of the land. Zanzibar Dr Shein and the first Vice-President, Seif Hamad and second Vice-President, Ambassador Seif Iddi, have successfully led the country for the last one year and seven months. What do you want? What is the source of all chaos and fighting?” noted minister Mchimbi.
IGP Said Mwema said because of the tense situation, he was forced to stay in Zanzibar for a while to draw up, in collaboration with stakeholders, joint strategies to halt the conflict and prevent reoccurrence of the same in future.
The situation was tense yesterday as the rioting continued with two more churches and several houses being set on fire, and transport and communication infrastructures damaged.
Eye witnesses said rioters went to extent of burning a Catholic Church convent and houses which accommodate security guards of Mwalimu Nyerere Academy located at Bububu, Mjini-Magharibi.
Churches which were set on fire belong to St Michael and Roman Catholic church, located at Mpendae and Tomondo areas.
Reports said some journalists who were covering the fracas were injured, as riot police used tear gas to disperse demonstrators, mostly members of the Islamic revival movement group (UAMSHO).
This was happening while Home Affairs ministry officials and religious leaders met to discuss ways to end the chaos.
Rev Ambrose Mkenda of St Michael Church said groups of unidentified individuals invaded the church poured petrol on the structures and set alight the structures, reinforcing the fire with burning tyres.
"Before these events, we asked Madema police to provide us with security, only to be told that the issue was being worked on…but nothing had been done todate,” said Rev Mkenda.
Rioters are also reportedly destroyed transport and communication systems at Daraja Bovu, Amani and Mwanakwerekwe where Uamsho members burnt tyres and blocked roads with heavy objects (including pieces of logs, stones).
The situation forced the police force to use excessive force and equipment, to disperse rioters and assist innocent people out of the fracas.
In an official statement, US Ambassador, Ambassador Alfonso E. Lenhardt said yesterday, in the face of the unrest that occurred in Zanzibar on May 26-27, “I lend my voice to the many others who have called on all parties involved to work together to maintain calm on the island.”
“We recognise the importance of robust public debate and encourage all parties to proceed in a peaceful and democratic manner. We also encourage and support the prompt action of senior political leaders who responded and are working to address the issues that led to these unfortunate events. The situation that has occurred over the past two days risks tarnishing the image of Zanzibar's first peaceful and successful elections in 2010 that created the Government of National Unity.”
He explained that maintaining a peaceful environment in Zanzibar that allows for tourism and development is beneficial to all Zanzibari citizens and foreign visitors alike. Most importantly, he urged conflicting parties to exercise restraint and protect the lives and property of innocent people.