Zanzibar President Dr Ali Mohamed Shein said yesterday that the government is assessing the loss and damage to property caused by the recent rioting, before taking appropriate measures.
“We are conducting thorough assessment before taking necessary measures, including the possibility of compensation,” he said describing the riots as deliberate violation of laws.
Dr Shein who was addressing a press conference, also said unauthorized religious meetings and demonstrations were banned, describing them as a threat to the existing peace and national unity.
He warned religious leaders or their followers against organising such gatherings without permision from responsible government organs, stressing: “We will not allow peace and harmony created by the National Unity Government to be threatened by a few individuals who using a religious umbrella.”
Shein stressed: "There is no way we can tolerate these destructive acts…we will use all possible means to protect our peace and togetherness,” he added.
He explained the government would not suppress freedom of worship, but “from now-onwards, organisers of all demonstrations and gatherings must seek permits from the government.
“We will not allow unauthorised meetings and stringent measures will be taken against those who do the contrary,” he said.
He assured people from all faiths that the government will not restrict religious activities, as that right has been provided for in the Article 19 of the country’s Constitution.
He said the government would continue protecting the country’s security, and warned youths not to be used by groups of people who are all out to disrupt existing peace in Zanzibar.
He said the burning of churches impacted negatively on Zanzibar’s tourist sector, which supported almost 60 per cent of the population and contributed to the Isles’ foreign exchange earnings by 80 per cent.
On constitutional review, Dr Shein asked the people to be patient and air their comments when time is ripe, equating those giving their opinions (at this time) before the process started to be talking to the air, as their views will not be recorded.
Shein’s statement comes only a day after religious leaders in Tanzania condemned the attacks on churches and Christian structures, pressing the Zanzibar government to bring to book perpetrators of the acts, which threatened peace and unity. The leaders who met the minister of State in the Second Vice President’s Office, Mohamed Aboud on Wednesday, called on the Isles government to institute punitive actions against the pioneers of the burning of churches, convents in Zanzibar. Reading a statement, on behalf of the other leaders, Head of the Anglican Church, Bishop Valentine Mokiwa said the destructive acts posed a bigger threat to the security of their followers and the national unity.
“Our followers are living in fear, because of what happened to our churches some few days…there is also displeasure, on their part (followers) over government inaction and failure to take those responsible to court,” said Mokiwa. The burning of churches started long time ago, but the government did not act decisively to put a stop to the acts, he said.
“This is not the first time… 25 churches have been burned so far in different parts of Zanzibar, and the government is quiet, despite the initiatives taken to report the incidents to the police. We don’t know who should bear the blame…at times, it create an impression that these acts have government blessing,” said Valentine, who doubles as Chairman of President of African Churches. He said pioneers of the destruction were not hooligans or mentally-ill people, but individuals of sound mind who have a special agenda.
“And the government is duty-bound to extensively trace them and bring them to book – in order to restore public trust and confidence in the government,” said the cleric.