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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Of troubled Union and Isles deliberate effort to dump it

12th August 2012

Whispers this week had this to say: Whenever Tanzanians, and in particular those in leadership from the Mainland, discuss any touchy issue on Zanzibar or the isles in relation to the new constitution, one easily discerns the struggle they go through in their effort to select, with utmost care, words that would not injure their counterparts across the Indian Ocean channel!

The rumour mongers, however, said that what was unfortunate was that one did not notice such care when Zanzibaris handled the same issues, be it the man in the street at Mchamba Wima or their leaders in the House of Representatives.

For Zanzibaris, rumour mongers went on, not only calling a spade a spade, but are known to have gone overboard, sometimes to the point of using very uncouth language on Mainland leaders that include the founding father, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere.

They said nothing illustrated the foregoing assertion more clearly than the touchy issue relating to the re–flagging of the Iranian sea-going oil tankers with the Tanzanian flag.

It would be recalled that a few months ago, the United States threatened to take punitive action against the Tanzanian government after it transpired that Iranian oil tankers were using the Tanzanian flag.

The move by the United States was prompted by the fact that the UN had slapped sanctions against the Iranian government because of the latter’s alleged involvement in matters relating to development of nuclear weapons.

Of course, the Iranian government has always told the world that its involvement in nuclear power is purely for peaceful purposes, but the powers in the West would not listen to the story.

But whether or not the Iranian government has been telling the world the truth is their business, but re-flagging of their ships with the Tanzanian flag means Tanzania has been helping the Iranians to burst sanctions imposed by the international community.

And this explains the alacrity with which the Tanzania Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mr Bernard Membe (pictured), responded when he was confronted with the story.

It would be recalled that he told the local media that his government was totally in the dark on the matter! However, he went on to appeal to the international community to help his government in investigating those behind the issue which has left the Tanzanian government thoroughly embarrassed.

Interestingly, no sooner the culprit’s name came thick and first in the name of Zanzibar than some leaders in Zanzibar appeared not to regard the matter as something very serious!

They said the isles had the right to do what it was alleged to have done. Of course, as sovereign nation the isles is, they were damned right.

However, one wonders whether such right includes bursting sanctions imposed on a given country by an international institution whose covenant they are equally part to by virtue of being linked to the United Republic of Tanzania!

But while Zanzibar leaders appeared committed to take on the sky, their Mainland counterparts behaved differently even when Reuters laid bare who were behind the Tanzania flag project.

For example, winding up the debate on his ministry’s budget late on Monday, August 6th this year, Mr Membe told the august House in Dodoma that ‘a friendly country’ had submitted the report on the issue to the Zanzibar government.

And when Mr Membe was saying what he said, the international media was awash with reports that, that friendly country was the United States and the country involved was Zanzibar through its Dubai based company.

The question is, was it really necessary to hide the identity of the company or the country that had discovered those behind the re-flagging of Iranian oil tankers with Tanzanian flag?

More interesting was also the way the involvement of Zanzibar in the murky issue was handled, that some Dubai company involved in the incident would be dealt with and the isles government will establish another company, probably more credible!

As already noted by our hard working rumour mongers, Zanzibaris are very transparent on what they want, and going through their pronouncements over the Union, one thing is crystal clear: they are sick and tired of this animal that goes by the name of the Union.

Yes, they don’t want it and what is more, they don’t like even the Katiba Committee, one, because they were not consulted as per their new constitution and two, they are simply fed up of being linked to some project they were not consulted when those who formed it led their two respective nations.

The Zanzibaris are saying these despite bending the Katiba Committee’s rules by allowing them to say exactly what they have openly been saying about the Union to the Katiba team, something that their Mainland counterpart are not allowed to!

And again, this boils down to the same thing already touched at the beginning of this article by our rumour mongers, namely, efforts by the Mainlanders not to be seen as hurting Zanzibaris!

Yet this treatment of Zanzibaris with kid gloves may not take Mainland politicians very far for the simple reason that these people are not interested in the Union, and the best thing for the Mainland is to start thinking, and very seriously at that, in terms of Tanganyika without Zanzibar!

And once we start thinking about the poor, beloved Tanganyika, rumour mongers say, the man who will enjoy the last laugh with gusto is none other than the leader of the Democratic Party, Reverend Christopher Mtikila.

In the words of rumor mongers, Zanzibaris have only one thing in their mind, the severance of the Union. They want to be left alone so that they can become members of all organizations in the international community including Fifa, and of course, the OIC.

Indeed, how does one explain a people who are supposed to be part of the Union who go about writing off a team appointed by the head of state of the United Republic of Tanzania simply because they don’t want the Union even after they have been told, in black and white, that they can still express their dislike on the continued existence of the Union to the team?

And when all is said and done, is it true that the Union government was completely in the dark on re-flagging of Iranian ships with the Tanzanian flag or was it part of the strategy -- as noted by rumour mongers, of not to be seen to be mistreating Zanzibar?

What is, however, even more interesting is that while Mr Membe chose very polite language (in the Daily News story) on Zanzibar, true to his diplomatic docket, the number of blunt speakers on the Union from the Mainland is lately on the increase.

And behold when the Mainlanders finally get their own ‘Boris Yeltsin’ as once cautioned by one of the founding fathers of the Union, Mwalimu Nyerere!

What is very unfortunate about those who have been busy, as noted by Professor Issa Shivji (about some Zanzibaris going house to house in the isles ‘training’ their colleagues on the Union) the other day, is that they don’t seem to realize that once the push comes to shove, it would be extremely difficult to keep the cake and eat it! Yes, continued stay on the Mainland would not be automatic! How can it be when one has chosen another path, namely, that of total sovereignty?

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