Aboud Jumbe: Zanzibar's forgotten 'father of democracy' laid to rest

16Aug 2016
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Aboud Jumbe: Zanzibar's forgotten 'father of democracy' laid to rest
  • Warm tributes abound despite the former Isles president being largely shut out from the public glare since his resignation in murky circumstances in 1984

ABOUD Jumbe Mwinyi, the man widely hailed for helping to usher in democracy in Zanzibar, was buried yesterday in a quiet ceremony befitting the life of solitude and humility that he led for the past three decades.

The former Isles president Aboud Jumbe Mwinyi

The former Isles president and first vice president of the United Republic of Tanzania was laid to rest at his Migombani residence in Zanzibar as government and opposition leaders paid tribute to him as the 'father of democracy' in Zanzibar.

This was despite his being largely anonymous since his resignation from government in murky circumstances in 1984.

Jumbe died on Sunday at his Kigamboni home in Dar es Salaam where he spent most of the last 32 years of his life away from the public glare. He was 96 years old.

His coffin was not draped in the national flag and there was no gun carriage. The Zanzibar Revolutionary Government, which Jumbe led from 1972 to 1984, did not declare a national day of mourning although flags flew at half-mast since Sunday.

President John Magufuli and former president Jakaya Kikwete were conspicuous by their absence at the funeral, although both have issued condolence messages expressing their sadness.

The onus of leading scores of mourners at the burial was taken up by Zanzibar president Ali Mohamed Shein and Union vice president Samia Suluhu Hassan.

Also in attendance were Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa, former president Ali Hassan Mwinyi, former Zanzibar president Amani Abeid Karume, former vice president Dr Mohamed Gharib Bilal, and several other senior government leaders both past and present from both sides of the union.

Top opposition leaders, including the secretary general of the Civic United Front (CUF), Seif Sharif Hamad, were also there to pay their last respects.

In her eulogy read out at the funeral, vice president Suluhu described Jumbe as a man who fought for democracy and worked tirelessly to unite the people of Zanzibar.

"The late Aboud Jumbe is the father of democracy for Zanzibar. He is the person who restored the democratic electoral system and established the (Zanzibar) House of Representatives," Suluhu said.

She also credited the ex-Isles president for pioneering an important rural housing project in both Unguja and Pemba islands during his 12-year presidency.


Jumbe took over the reigns of government in Zanzibar following the assassination of the semi-autonomous island’s founding president, Abeid Karume, in 1972. He served as Zanzibar president until his rather unceremonious ouster in 1984.

He is credited with leading a drive to produce a new Zanzibar constitution in 1979, which among other things called for the president of Zanzibar to be “elected by the universal adult suffrage instead of being appointed by the (Zanzibar) Revolutionary Council,” according to scholars.

He also formed the parliamentary Zanzibar House of Representatives to promote popular participation and counteract the power of the Revolutionary Council.

Analysts said although House of Representatives members were not popularly elected under Zanzibar's 1979 constitution, they still played an important role in demanding the further democratisation of the islands.

Jumbe is also remembered for playing a key role in the 1977 merger of Zanzibar's Afro-Shirazi Party (ASP) and the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) to form Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM).

However, there are critics who say the dissolution of ASP to form CCM ultimately eroded Zanzibar’s political autonomy.

And then in 1984, Jumbe - a Makerere University graduate in education - unexpectedly resigned from the Isles presidency for reasons that were publicly disclosed.

Insiders say Jumbe was forced to resign by the then president, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, because he favoured the introduction of a three-government federal system of the union between Tanzanian mainland and Zanzibar, instead of the prevailing two-tier system advocated by the ruling CCM.

There are claims that he was then "banished" to Kigamboni in Dar es Salaam, placed under virtual house arrest, and ordered never to set foot in Zanzibar again after his 1984 resignation.

Journalists who previously sought to interview Jumbe failed in their attempt when security officials at his Kigamboni residence said a written permit from State House was required for members of the media to gain access to the former Zanzibar leader.

And thus the man who opened the doors to democracy in Zanzibar spent the final years of his life shut out from the public glare. He is survived by 13 children and 40 grandchildren.

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