President Jakaya Kikwete yesterday warned leaders of Zanzibar Islamic Revival Forum, the group accused of masterminding chaos in Unguja early this week, saying his government would use force to deter any threats and violence resulting from the faction’s operations in the Isles.
“Much as the government doesn’t relish taking severe action against its own citizens, nothing will stop the state from using force to contain those who are out to disrupt peace in our country,” warned the President in his monthly address to the nation.
“I ask the leaders and members of Uamsho Forum to go back to their core business and shun their political agenda, as well as avoid statements that may divide Tanzanians along religious lines,” the President said.
The head of state noted that Tanzanians have always lived like brothers, irrespective of their differences in race, ethnicity, religion and origin.
“What has gone so wrong that these are happening now? I call on those with views about the union, its structure or its administrative nature to utilise the opportunity provided during the collection of views on the new constitution. There is no need for rioting in order to deliver such views,” Kikwete stressed.
President Kikwete, who was speaking out for the first time since the three-day long riots, which caused mayhem in Zanzibar municipality, said the group, calling itself Uamsho (Revival) was formed for the propagation of Islam, but of late its leaders had deviated from its primary objective to indulge in politics.
He told the nation that in the past the faction’s leaders used to strongly criticise the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar, however their criticisms became irrelevant after formation of the Government of National Unity towards the end of 2010.
Surprisingly, the President said, the criticisms resurfaced recently after the union constitutional review process was kick-started. He said this time around they have been harping on the union, uttering abusive words against the union founders and current leaders. The president said it was unacceptable for someone with divergent views on the union to exploit the situation to pillage and torch houses of worship, adding that this would never be tolerated.
“I concur with Zanzibar President, who is also chairman of the Revolutionary Council, Dr. Ali Mohamed Shein, for his strong warning against people who hide behind the façade of religion to foment terror and insecurity in the country.
“Christianity did not come to Zanzibar via the union. It was there for some centuries before the union ever came into existence, nor did it originate from the Mainland. As Dr Shein pointed out, the spread of Christianity and Islam to the Mainland originated from Zanzibar,” the President said, adding:
“The Anglican church in Zanzibar was built in 1873 while that of the Roman Catholic was built in 1893. These remain the oldest churches in the country.”
The President sympathised with all the people who were in any way affected by the riots, saying the Union and Zanzibar governments would double efforts to ensure the safety of the people and their property. He praised the police force for containing the skirmishes in time and urged them to always be on alert.
President Kikwete’s statement came a day after the leader of the Uamsho group, Sheikh Farid Hadi Ahmed, defied the order by President Shein, vowing to carry on with the anti-union campaign until the government gave in.
Zanzibar President Shein has issued orders for the immediate ban on public rallies meant to discuss the fate of the union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar.
Sheikh Ahmed’s fresh threats came on the same day that Zanzibar-based senior clerics issued a joint statement expressing fear among their believers about their personal safety and that of their property. The leaders were from the Catholic, Anglican and Pentecostal church.
They were Bishop Augustino Shayo of Zanzibar Catholic Diocese, Bishop Michael Hafidh of the Anglican Church and Deputy Chairman of the Union of Pentecostal Churches Pastor Timothy Philemon.
Earlier in the week head of Tanzania Anglican Church Bishop Valentino Mokiwa lamented that it was unbecoming for Christians in Zanzibar to be relegated to second class status, noting that 23 church building had been set ablaze in the Isles since 2001.