Religious leaders of the Christian community residing in Zanzibar will continue facing harassments and other malpractices and even deaths if Tanzania government will not make clear the issue of union in the current constitutional review process, a human rights activist has observed.
Sylvester Omoche told The Guardian in an exclusive interview early this week in Dar es Salaam that the government should allow public discussion of union matters which seemingly has a hidden agenda that makes some people within the Revolutionary government of Zanzibar not be happy with certain aspects.
However, he said that the hidden agendas about the union is the reason for people of Zanzibar to be furious and resort to react against Christians negatively as a way to start to get their voices heard for they are afraid of proclaiming their demands in public.
In view of this, he has suggested that both governments should sit at a table for discussion to find a solution that would restore peace and harmony in order to avert any further threats in the Isles.
Omoche has linked the last week’s killing of a Roman Catholic priest in Zanzibar, Father Evarist Mushi and subsequent torching of a church that followed two days later as tied to a political agenda, and an indication that there is heated controversy on the issue of union between the two countries.
Omoche, a lawyer in a private company based in Arusha, has predicted that if the government will not be open on the issue of the union, there be more sabotage acts and even violence which against Christians.
His appeal comes at a time when peace loving Tanzanians are still under shock by the killing in Zanzibar, where the police has sent a team of experts to investigate and search for people likely to have been involved in the murder of Padre Mushi.
Last week’s tragic incident and that of Padre Ambrose Mkenda who was shot and narrowly escaped death on Christmas Day last year in Zanzibar lead to worries as in both incidences the Isles police have been incapable of arresting any suspects.
The secret behind the series of religious skirmishes in the Isles is entirely connected with the issue of the union, since a few individuals within the revolutionary government want it to be separated and each state revert to its original status.
Coupled by the activist’s call, before the killing of a priest in Zanzibar last week, the head of Catholic Church in Tanzania, Cardinal Polycarp Pengo received a letter from unknown people he identifies with a renowned Zanzibar Islamic revival group having a threatening message.
“Through our efforts we have managed to torch their churches and our great efforts were seen when we managed to stop Catholics during their overnight prayers although we narrowly missed Padre Ambrose Mkenda of Mpendae Church.”
The message further continued, “This is not the end of our struggle. We shall make sure that every church leader here in Zanzibar fails to conduct their religious mission in the Island. Our beloved Muslims are behind bars (in prisons) although are doing well. One day they will be out and join us, by the power of Allah.”
The message which seemed to be long further stated that, “Our most loving thing is that our friends in government and outside have assured us that this is the end of attending union celebrations and our youths who are in Somalia undergoing training have assured us that before the celebrations to mark the birth of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), there will emerge another celebration.”
With this message, Cardinal Pengo was quoted by the media early this week as saying that the government did not take with any seriousness the matter even after he reported it to the security organs.
He said that due to lack of seriousness emanating from the security department in Zanzibar, that is why such a letter had been distributed smoothly and passed through and wondered how a copy of it had reached him as top leader of the Catholic Church in the country, emphasizing that if quick actions were be taken on time, there would have been no bloodshed.
The slain Catholic priest was laid to rest on Wednesday this week with religious leaders dismissing a statement by the government that the priest’s death was as a result of God’s will.
Speaking on behalf of the government, shortly after the priest was buried at Matope area on the outskirts of Zanzibar municipality, the Minister for State in the Second Vice-President’s Office, Mohammed Aboud said what happened was God’s will which no one can ever question.
At this point, hundreds of distraught mourners booed, an indication that they disagreed with the minister’s sentiments. Religious leaders who attended the burial ceremony had to calm down the multitude of mourners who shouted, “Is it God’s will that assigned the killer to gun down the priest?”
Bishop Augustino Mushi of the Catholic Diocese Zanzibar who was seated beside Zanzibar’s President Mohammed Shein stood up in anger and grabbed the microphone and said, “let me say this, the statement that the death of the priest is God’s will can’t be true,” insisting that it was an outright murder and we cannot entertain such criminality.
The burial of a slain Priest Evarist Mushi was attended by a number of religious, government and political leaders including Home Affairs Minister Dr. Emmanuel Nchimbi. Others were CHADEMA Secretary General Dr. Wilibrod Slaa and NCCR-Mageuzi Chairman James Mbatia, both of whom urged the government to take serious measures to forestall sectarian violence.