Zanzibar President Dr Mohamed Shein faces a bit of the devil’s choice following this week’s sporadic chaos in the Indian Ocean’s archipelago. The sporadic chaos going on in the Isles threatens peace, not just in Zanzibar, but could also have serious repercussions across the United Republic if not contained in time.
Much as he would love to exercise patience over people who are out to cause chaos in the name of religion, it is imperative that he moves decisively—and timely too—in order to contain the situation in Zanzibar.
This is not the first time such unrest has threatened public safety in the Isles; similar public skirmishes swept across the Isles in 2001 when a police officer got killed; then the police themselves retaliated and literally mowed people at random.
As happened ten years ago, a police officer has been killed by a group of people under the umbrella of Islamic revival, or reawakening. While we uphold freedom of worship, we take great exception at any moves aimed at disrupting public peace under any excuse—including religion.
Those behind the killing of the Field Force Unit (FFU) soldier must face the full force of the law, and the government in Zanzibar must facilitate its law enforcement institutions in making sure that the law takes its course.
Zanzibar is literally a village where everybody knows everyone else; it beats the wits out of everyone that one Sheikh Farid Hadi Ahmed, the self-styled leader of ‘Uamsho’ could disappear into oblivion just like that. The Zanzibar police owe the public some explaining.
While his zealots accuse the government of ‘hiding’ Sheikh Farid, the Isles government on its part says the man has simply disappeared. The man must not only be tracked down but those behind his disappearance must also be brought to book.
For it is quite unlikely that Sheikh Farid is not without company. It is in the interest of the Isles government to pursue the issue more diligently than hitherto. However, the search for the elusive sheikh must not take precedence over the search for public peace and stability, both of which are threatened.
According to a government statement, public unrest that threatened peace in the Isles two days ago is being caused by a group of youth believed to be followers of Sheikh Farid, so the man must be sought and brought to account as a matter of urgency. We cannot possibly entertain personal armies in this country under any excuse.
The so-called Uamsho should not provide for crime because those youths causing trouble are nothing but criminals; and the police in Zanzibar should deal with them like they deal with all criminals. As things stand now, it could appear like the sheikh is holding the Zanzibar public to ransom – using unruly youths to cause chaos.
Those behind the street fights at Darajani, Michenzani, Mwembeladu, Magomeni and Amani are doing so using very lame excuses – the so-called ‘disappearance of their religious leader, for which they hold the government responsible. In the meantime, all law enforcement agencies say they do not know Sheikh Farid’s whereabouts.
In a small place like Zanzibar, that says a lot about the Isles police. As the old cliche goes, no stone should remain unturned in the search for this man. We trust that the authorities in Zanzibar have what it takes to track him down.
In the meantime, may peace prevail in Zanzibar.