The crack Field Force Unit (FFU) yesterday used teargas and water cannisters to disperse members of the self-styled Islamic revival sect, Uamsho, who had gathered for a public rally ostensibly to rail at the Union government for its perceived failure in organizing rescue operations in the wake of last Wednesday’s MV Skagit ferry disaster.
But as the FFU used teargas and water canisters hopes of finding more people alive were ruled out yesterday after the divers failed for the second day to locate the ill-fated ferry.
The FFU moved in at the Mbuyuni mosque where growing numbers of sect adherents had gathered in readiness for the rally at around 5:30 pm, bringing Zanzibar town commuter services to a halt. In the ensuing mayhem, would-be demonstrators ran for cover away from streets overcast with tear gas.
A trader at the main Darajani Market, Makame Tah, said he and his colleagues were forced to close for fear of deteriorating security to both human life and property. “I am on my home … at Amani Magogoni … on foot …. There’s no public transport as a result of this chaos,” he said.
Uamsho Secretary Abdalla Said sect members had gathered at the mosque specifically for conducting prayers in honour of the dead, having started arriving at the venue since twelve noon in readiness for ‘Alasiri’ (afternoon) prayers.
However, Abdallah Said narrated that as the sect’s leader, Amiri Farid Hadi, led his faithful followers in prayer, the FFU cracked down on the milling crowds. The Uamsho sect, covertly supported by some Isles government officials, is agitating for separation from the Union government – with others calling for a three-tier government to give the Isles autonomy from the Mainland.
On the eve of today’s demonstrations, Uamsho had circulated a number of glossy pamphlets agitating against the 1964 Union between the mainland Tanganyika and Zanzibar.
Efforts to elicit comments from the regional police commander, Mjini Magharibi Unguja, Azizi Juma , failed as all stand telephone lines remained busy – and mobile phones unanswered.
The first serious demonstrations occurred on May 26, this year when a number of churches were burnt down.
Hopes of finding more people alive were ruled out yesterday after the divers failed for the second day to locate the ill-fated ferry.
After facing rough seas accompanied with strong winds on Friday, the divers failed to locate the ferry, saying it might have sunken deeper into the sea, possibly some 100 metres down.
Divers deployed to search for more bodies -- and perhaps survivors believed to have been trapped into the wreckage of the ill-fated ferry could not go beyond 50 metres under the rough waters.
The Zanzibar government announced yesterday that the divers failed to locate the ferry’s wreckage after an identification raft deployed on the accident scene also disappeared.
More than 80 people still missing after the ill-fated ferry sank near Zanzibar's main island.
At least 68 people are known to have died in the disaster and about 145 have been rescued.
The MV Skagit ferry had left the city of Dar es Salaam on mainland Tanzania on Wednesday with over 290 people on board.