National interests must surpass party appeals

20Mar 2016
Guardian On Sunday
National interests must surpass party appeals

THERE is no doubt that Tanzania started with the right footing in building democracy since the early days of independence.

Peace and stability being enjoyed today obviously did not descend from outer space but rather was nurtured by the founding leaders who decided to put aside individual needs and gave priority to issues of national interest.

Democracy is the cornerstone of peace and tranquility in any country which is determined to attain higher levels of socio-economic development. Free and fair elections are the vehicle or desirable tool leading a nation in putting in office national leaders to promote stability and mutual understanding among its citizens.

Today the nation is witnessing rerun polls in Zanzibar after the previous October election results were nullified by chairman of the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC). Whether or not it was the right thing to do, we would not like to pass any judgment, bearing in mind that the actual reason(s) for nullification remain unclear to date.

Clerics, through their regional interfaith coalition, have been praying for a peaceful election in Zanzibar, knowing that understanding cultivates friendship that consolidates stability. We support the initiative by the clerics as any political friction in any part of the union affects the rest of it.

A lot has been said with regard to the legitimacy of the rerun polls, with some emerging reports about intimidation and sporadic incidents of bomb explosions. We believe that the authorities will not bury their heads in the sand about the situation but seriously work out a lasting solution to the satisfaction of all the concerned parties.

For example, the main opposition party in Zanzibar, the Civic United Front (CUF) that enthusiastically participated in last October election, has refused to take part in the rerun. But CCM has insisted on participating in today’s rerun poll on the ground that government operations would have not been possible without electing leaders in office.

We hope that the exercise will end peacefully so that life goes on. However, it is important to have all the outstanding issues addressed adequately for the country’s prosperity and stability.

Moreover, Zanzibar has for the past five years demonstrated exemplary leadership under a Government of National Unity (GNU) that really wiped out traces of hostility previously dominant in the Isles. We are all interested in seeing that cooperation is sustained and all seeds of acrimony destroyed.

The ‘medicine’ to end resentment might not be pleasing to everyone, but the nation has to take it to prove to the world that smooth handover of leadership seen in Tanzania since the first administration, both on the Mainland and in Zanzibar, was not a publicity stunt or gimmick, but rather the chosen path to sustain peace and stability for generations to come.

We always believe that negotiation is the best option in settling any kind of disagreement with bold mention of issues of controversy for acceptable and cross-cutting resolve.

Any attempt to inculcate disunity among the people of Zanzibar must be discouraged at any cost, as unity is strength. But one thing to remember is - no country has ever succeeded in suppressing differences of opinion by the barrel of the gun without finding a middle ground through negotiation.

We believe the people of Zanzibar and Tanzanians at large can achieve this for the nation to move forward and prosper.