April 12, 2004

Zanzibar to start flying its own flag abroad / Homosexuality outlawed

In its drive for greater autonomy in the Tanzania Union, the Zanzibar government announced that it would fly the Isles' flag at all its interests abroad instead of the Tanzania Union flag from the end of that year onwards. Zanzibar was also seeking to establish a quasi-military force "to reclaim its national anthem." as well as seeking to ensure her president receives a 21-gun salute when on state visit abroad. Although Zanzibaris have been at loggerheads on many political issues, to violent clashes, on the issue of autonomy from the Tanzania Union government they hold the same views. A CUF spokesman, Salim Bimani, praised the move, saying, "Let the CCM government act swiftly to win these semi-autonomous Islands their identity. This is the thing we are fighting for the interest of Zanzibar."

According to the Deputy Attorney General of Zanzibar, Omar Makungu, the Zanzibar flag would represent Zanzibar identity abroad in places and events that did not require Union representation such as sports, culture and trade. "To hoist the Zanzibar flag abroad doesn't mean a gradual detachment from the Union government," he said. Unlike the Zanzibar side, the Tanzania mainland has not asked to fly its own separate flag or play its own national anthem, a move that was dampened by the founding president, the late Julius Nyerere, just before the 1995 general election. Currently, Zanzibar has its own trade and quasi-diplomatic missions abroad in such places as South Africa, Dubai, Mombasa and Mauritius.

In the meantime is has also been announced that Zanzibar's parliament has passed a bill which outlaws homosexuality and lesbianism. The bill imposes stiff penalties which include up to 25 years imprisonment for those in gay relationships. The penalty for those in lesbian relationships will be a seven-year jail term. Both the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) and the Civic United Front (CUF) supported the bill. (The East African, Nairobi)

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