What happened in Zanzibar this week casts doubt on the future of the 48-year-old union between Tanganyika and our brothers and sisters in the Indian archipelago.
Though some mad and visionless politicians may secretly or publicly defend what transpired in the Isles as part of their discomfort about the state of the union, the reality is that using religion as a means to fulfilling political ambitions should never be tolerated, let alone encouraged.
The people of Zanzibar should understand that the foundation on which peace in their country is built is stronger than the political lust of minority advocated today in mosques and at public rallies.
Those advocating violence may not understand how easily they could be manipulated by politicians whose ulterior motive is to divide Zanzibar along religious and racial lines.
In the short run they may see themselves as icons of the anti-union movement or sentiment, but in the long run they will come to regret tearing apart their beautiful country for personal gains.
If the people of Zanzibar feel that they have been muzzled and mistreated by the union government, they should take a peaceful and constructive path to debate our partnership and finally reach a lasting solution to what besets it.
But by torching churches and destroying properties belonging to Mainlanders is both thuggish and an act of terror, which can’t be tolerated at any cost. Today there are thousands of traders from Pemba and Unguja operating flourishing businesses in Dar es Salaam, Shinyanga, Mwanza and elsewhere peacefully, but at no time have the Mainlanders destroyed or put at risk their properties or torched their homes.
By subscribing to thuggish and violent demonstrations, those behind this ill-motive should understand that their acts of terror hurt Zanzibar and Tanzania as well. Zanzibar is globally known as a tourist paradise; hence, if peace and tranquility are not maintained in the Isles the first victim will be its economy.
What puzzles many is that the ringleader of the group that masterminded the deadly and bloody demonstration is adored and viewed as an icon of liberation by some people in the Isles, including prominent politicians from both the opposition camp and the ruling party.
It is important to take note of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere’s warning when there were anti-union undercurrents in Zanzibar in the early 1990s, when he said that, ‘outside the union’, there won’t be a united Zanzibar, but rather a divided country torn apart on racial and ethnic lines just before the 1964 revolution.
What is the logic behind torching churches? Did the Church plan and execute the United Republic of Tanzania? Was the union hatched in a church or mosque? The people of Zanzibar should stand above thuggish and cheap politics being conducted in God’s name by those who claim to be champions of democracy, human rights and freedom while in reality they are the pimps and stooges of foreigners bent on tearing Zanzibar apart.
The challenges facing the union cannot possibly be solved through violence being conducted under the veil of religion. Both religions which are dominant in the Isles, Islam and Christianity, preach peace. Hence, those using the pulpit to destroy peace are the devil’s agents, not God’s messengers as they would wish to portray themselves.
We strongly urge the government of Tanzania to seriously address the situation in Zanzibar, not just through legal means, but debating the burning issues which have caused discomfort among the people.
We fully understand that there are serious pending issues concerning our union, especially its structure, which both the Mainlanders and Zanzibaris are not happy with. These issues have been there for almost half a century now. We think it is time they were seriously addressed.
We shall rally behind any peaceful and constructive move to address union grievances between Zanzibar and Tanganyika, but we shall never support any brutal and terrorist moves disguised as an expression of grievances about the union as we witnessed early this week.
One of the best ways to solve this union riddle is to let the people freely air their views about what structure of the union they would like to have. Now that the Constitutional Review Commission has started its work to collect people’s views on the new constitution, the chance would seem godsend in view of what happened this week.
But, being our own worst enemies, we have slapped a ban on discussing the union during the constitutional review process. This again demonstrates our biggest enemy: fear. Fear is the opposite of faith and the strength of faithless people. It’s difficult to come up with a new constitution of Tanzania without discussing the kind of Tanzania the people want - the type of union they desire.
A new constitution which takes aboard the views of all sections of the people on the union will be able to protect it for the millennia to come. But if we decide to go the politically expedient way by brushing the union question under the rug we shall be leading our country by a short route to chaos.