As we mark Revolution Day: The meaning of revolution is changing

11Jan 2022
The Guardian
As we mark Revolution Day: The meaning of revolution is changing

FOR nearly a week now all sorts of public activities are going on as part of marking 58 years of the Zanzibar Revolution, on January 12, 1964. This event was crowned in glory as it became a fitting finale of an acrimonious path to independence which the key power stakeholders in the-

-British Protectorate of Zanzibar unquestionably mismanaged, trying to push through a minority government based on fabricating representative seats. The result: a predictable revolt which with more outward would have been avoided.

Yet perhaps this outcome was unavoidable in the sense that changing spirits to a more amenable outlook, of give and take on both sides, would have been impossible to think out at that time. The result is that a few far sighted individuals saw an opportunity to organise what appeared to be a class uprising, of the port lifters, petty traders and elements of the tiny public service loyal to the main nationalist group, Afro-Shirazi Party.  Still it was their momentary allies, Umma Party, whose links with global revolution furnished the tactic, and definitely to a regrettable efficiency when it was put to work; the scars lasted.

Just how far Zanzibar is now getting out of this psychological ramification cannot be said for certain, as there is willingness to move forward so long as those allied to the overthrown party in 1964 don’t seek what the Chinese call hegemony. It is a point that the other side has taken decades to grasp, as their overly expressed sentiments don’t make them guardians of the gains of January 1964, thus they will have wide participatory rights, influencing decisions in many areas, not to change the structure of things. This has been the formula since the multiparty system was restored in 1992 and trudged on with pits and bumps.

Yet there are ways in which this situation can be eclipsed for what in traditional legal language would be called ‘a new commonwealth,’ where animosities of the past are put aside, permanently. Wishes to that end have been there aplenty but not really a workable formula, partly due to insufficient political will and again on the lack of substance proposed as to what can be done to attain widespread goodwill. Looking over the shoulder, one finds that the model that nearly everyone aspires to is a fully democratic model, but those who make such appeals focus on legal or constitutional restraints on power, not its basic conditions.

Without overstretching the argument, current changes in the sixth phase Union government and eighth phase Zanzibar government – coming into office virtually in synchrony by an edict of divinity – show the most promising start yet in that direction. The Zanzibar plan for a 70 storey luxury hotel/apartment block looks like it will duplicate Dubai on East African shores, and gradually the spirit of being in the same community would spread. With broader economic changes, it adds to changing the psychic environment.