Uneasy calm as Zanzibar go to repeat election today

20Mar 2016
David Kisanga
Guardian On Sunday
Uneasy calm as Zanzibar go to repeat election today

AS Zanzibaris go to an election rerun today, people on Pemba island, an opposition Civic Union Front (CUF) stronghold, are divided on whether or not to take part in the exercise, with some saying they don’t have the time nor the will to do so.

ZANZIBAR residents shop at the famous Darajani market yesterday ahead of today's election rerun.

Some of those interviewed said they would abide by their leaders’ call to boycott the poll rerun, accusing the government of deliberately undermining their democratically made choice in last year’s October 25 general election.

An on-the-spot check by this paper in various areas of Pemba island witnessed the residents going about their normal activities, including open shops and other business transactions.

For all practical purposes the atmosphere in the island looked calm, with the people engrossed in their daily chores despite the presence heavily armed security units mounting patrols in vehicles and on foot to ensure nothing mars the rerun today.

A shopkeeper, Juma Ahmed, told this paper that residents in the area had decided to continue with their daily activities without going to vote.

He queried why anyone would take the trouble to go to polling station when their party’s candidate had withdrawn from the poll contest.

“I shall open my shop tomorrow (today) as usual because I don’t intent to go to vote because I already did so on October 25 last year,” he said.

Omar Jabir, a trader in Machomanne area, was puzzled why the government had decided to intensify security on the island when the majority of the residents had boycotted the election.

Jabir said that in recent weeks Pemba island had witnessed intense deployment of heavily armed soldiers and Field Force Unit personnel for no apparent reason.

According to him, the move had fuelled fear and a feeling of insecurity among the people, prompting some of them to flee from the island.

“No one owns a single fire arm amongst us here, but we don’t know why the government has decided to sent soldiers here. Let them proceed with their illegal election as we, the opposition members, will continue to keep quiet and see how it will all end,” he stressed.

He said Pemba island residents, who were mostly CUF supporters, had vowed to give the election a wide berth.
Nevertheless, some people expressed their willingness to go to vote today.

Mwinyi Omar from Chakechake said he was ready to vote in order to exercise his constitutionally sanctioned right to vote.
He urged all Pemba and Unguja residents to turn out in large numbers to vote for leaders of their choice.

Omar was puzzled why some people had decided to boycott the repeat election simply because the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) had nullified the previous (October) one.

“Pemba has been a safe place for anyone before and after the polls rerun. I wish to take this opportunity to urge the people to turn out today and vote without any fear of violence,” he stressed.

In another development, South Pemba Regional Police Commander Shekan Mohamed Shekan said the island was safe for any visitor, both foreign and local.

The RPC reassured would-be voters today of their safety, saying security forces were in position to tackle any violence that might erupt during today’s election.

“No one should worry about their security when voting. They should come out in numbers and exercise their democratic right peacefully,” he said.

Giving a briefing about the preparations for today’s voting, ZEC sub-branch official Ali Mohamed Dadi said all the voting equipment for the day were already in place.He said the residents had no reason to worry about their security but instead turn out to vote.