Zanzibar solution needs people not parties

06Feb 2016
Francis Semwaza
The Guardian
Zanzibar solution needs people not parties

A long lasting solution to the age old Zanzibar government versus opposition conflict is yet around the corner.

From a narrow perspective, the situation in Zanzibar is erroneously limited to election politics, ignoring wider contextual circumstances revolving around the politics in question.
But focusing on the election politics alone seems to be a trap capturing the ruling and the opposition parties, as well as scholars and analysts despite their fair knowledge of the country’s pre and post-independence political history.
It is this oversimplification of the persistent Zanzibar problem that has deterred permanent solution to the Isle’s problem.
The most disturbing is the parties’ attempts and approaches to make the peace processes be organized along vertical lines and reflect on the clientele and patronizing politics than the horizontal ones whereby the people will have a greater say in determining the fate of their country.
Instead of trickling the problem of power struggles to the people themselves by educating them properly and long enough through both short term approaches like campaigns and incooperating such content into school curriculum, the authorities and their political rivals have largely and for a long time been polarizing them along party lines.
Since 1990s rebirth of multiparty politics in Tanzania, the polarization in Zanzibar has been taking the form of two sides namely Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) and the Civic United Front (CUF) whose strong rivalry among themselves has created the sense of a patented participation monopoly in the Isles’ politics.
However, such an approach not only denies the people of their right to discuss the crucial affairs affecting the welfare of their country, but keeps the political parties right over the very people who made them.
No wonder that using their sketchy political knowledge and with unknown motives, some politicians whose dwarf parties hardly garnered a vote in the elections are demanding their share in negotiations between the mainstream CCM and CUF political parties.
But the problem also rests on the people of Zanzibar themselves for not demanding such right despite their otherwise high political consciousness, albeit debatable, compared to their compatriots in the Mainland.
In that vein, the people of Zanzibar might want to make calls to their beloved political parties to ‘revive Zanzibar’ into popular decision making, apparently defusing the prevailing elite-centred party approach for peaceful solution.
Should the parties and the apparent elites be well intentioned to serve the people, such demands need to be supplemented by the parties themselves to make deliberate efforts to devolve the political transactions in the country.
This decentralized approach to the Zanzibar peace brokering process would likely rebuild strong people-centred and harmonious relations, laying the foundation for lasting peace.
Should the willingness exist and the means mobilized, the architects of such long-run mass civic education approach might want to largely focus on the internal governing, trickling down resource control and access to the people in the Isle’s communities so that the people can slowly but surely find better ways to renegotiate their place in the Union with Tanganyika.
As Frederick Jjuko and Godfrey Muriuki quoted one respondent during their research in Zanzibar, the union tensions are mostly “economic…”, and once it is solved and the people of both sides can reap the benefits of uniting, the internal politics within Zanzibar and its place in the Union with Tanganyika will return to normalcy. It is a situation that calls for intensive research, before running for quick solutions to otherwise Zanzibar deep-seated problems.
Although resolving the election problems as proximate events threatening peace appears to be an absolute must, the process should not end up there as it used to be the case with the formation of the 2010 much-nailed Government of National Unity (GMU) which saw the party bigwigs, CCM and CUF forming a government despite CUF’s obvious surrender to the sketchy deal. At issue is its most influential leader Maalim Seif Shariff Hamad, occupying the position of First Vice President but assuming the second position in filling the presidential gap in the absence of the president and failure to discharge presidential duties in ordinary circumstances or in the event of death.
In fact, under Zanzibar’s current GMU arrangement, the First Vice President who is from the opposition assumes the third position in command while the Second Vice President who is a loyal member of the ruling party, CCM, is second in command.
No wonder that this arrangement is nowhere near serving the people of Zanzibar any better for it obviously and mischievously allows CCM and its politicking to prevail and temporarily silenced CUF with the half a slice of political bread until after the elections.
Should the process continue to ignore raising awareness so that the people’s input in the peace attempts becomes substantial and determinative, there will always be drama in Isle’s politics no matter the time, party or the nature and number of elites that would be involved.
It is such ignorance that has made the human suffering in the Congo DRC to continue although the situation there is quite different from Zanzibar’s both in territorial magnitude and the federal arrangements.
But overall, the parties, the elites and whoever is involved in the Zanzibar conflict in whatever capacity might want to rethink the role of the people in the peace brokering process so that the Isle’s politics organically evolves from down-up rather than top-down trend.

*Francis Semwaza is a Dar es Salaam-based Political Strategist and Development Communication Specialist. For comments: E-mail: [email protected]; Phone: +255 71 646 6 044.