|April 17, 2002
New act offers hope on Zanzibari reconciliation
A Constitutional Amendment
Act was passed by the Zanzibari parliament on Pemba island on Tuesday, April
16, in what is seen as an important step towards the implementation of a
reconciliation agreement signed by the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) and
opposition Civic United Front (CUF) parties in October 2001.
accord, known in Tanzania by the Kiswahili word Muafaka ("agreement"), was
reached in an effort to bring an end to a long-standing political impasse on
the semi-autonomous island chain of Zanzibar.
The Zanzibari parliament
was sitting in Wete, on Pemba, the smaller of the two islands that make up the
Zanzibar archipelago, when the bill was discussed and passed.
passing of the 8th Constitutional Amendment Act will mean a review of the
judiciary and Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC), as well as the introduction
of a Director of Public Prosecution. The duties normally associated with such a
position have, until now, been fulfilled by the Attorney-General.
These changes were recommended as fundamental elements of the agreement that
brought the two parties together on 10 October 2001, after years of political
and social tensions on the islands - initially arising from the CCM's
widely-disputed 1995 general election victory in Zanzibar and exacerbated by
its winning the subsequent elections in October 2000 in controversial
circumstances. Talks between the two main parties followed bloody political
clashes in which over 20 CUF supporters were killed on Zanzibar by security
forces in January 2001, after a protest march declared illegal by the
government. CUF and CCM sources on Zanzibar said on April 16, that the bill had
been passed without substantive amendments to a draft proposed in the Muafaka.
When the bill was originally put to parliament in January, amendments had been
made without the consent of either party, resulting in further delays in the
Mohammed Aboud, a CCM negotiator for the
Muafaka and Zanzibar's Minister for Tourism and Trade, was more than happy with
the passing of the bill: "I think the issue is now to have free and fair
elections," he said. "There have been problems in our country but, through this
bill, we will rectify them. This is a new chapter that will create peace in our
country." October's reconciliation agreement provided for the ZEC to be
reformed in order to be "independent and impartial", and said it should
guarantee that "all future elections are transparent, credible and free of
controversy". The elections of 1995 and 2000 were marred by allegations of vote
rigging, intimidation and corruption. Ultimately, it was the failure to resolve
these issues that resulted in the political violence last year, according to
Analysts on the island believe the reform of the electoral
commission will be crucial to the successful implementation of the Muafaka and
Tuesday's passing of the constitutional amendment is being seen as an important
step in the reconciliation process.
Other details of the
implementation of the Muafaka are vague, however, as members of the Joint
Presidential Supervisory Commission charged with overseeing it say such
information cannot yet be made public. However, those involved say the
Commission - headed by Zanzibari President Amini Karume and comprising 10
representatives each from the CCM and CUF - seems to be working well, with
party divisions sublimated in the search for a coordinated response.
"So far we are moving very well, having good cooperation and working well
between the CCM and CUF," commissioner Asha Juma (CCM) told IRIN over the
weekend. "The spirit of goodwill is getting us on the move," she added. While
other parties are due to be invited into the agreement, Asha believes that the
most important aspect is the CCM-CUF relationship. "We [these two parties] are
the source of these problems so we should take the role of clarifying things,"
These feelings were echoed by Abubakar Bakary (CUF), one of
the co-chairmen of the Commission. "I think it is wrong to say that there are
CCM and CUF people on the Commission because, actually, we are working there as
a commission to the president and we forget our parties. That is the spirit and
our motto," he told IRIN.
Linked to the implementation of the Muafaka
was a recent conference to sensitise the media on their responsibilities in
reporting, and the ways in which they could encourage good governance and
transparency to help Zanzibar through the reconciliation.
Salim Salim, a veteran journalist on Zanzibar and conference participant, this
was a positive development. "Unlike previous seminars, people who belonged to
different political parties - even in the media themselves - were a little more
positive and there was some sort of tolerance in the exchange of ideas. People
were arguing rather than shouting," he said.
The seminar raised several
issues to be examined if the implementation of the Muafaka was to be thorough,
including the question of relations between the police and the media, according
"Some of the participants pointed out that is the police that
should hold a large proportion of the blame for the deteriorating political
situation in Zanzibar, and the press has been asked to look at the police force
and help them," he said.
"But at the same time, [they should] expose
any human rights abuses so that the police force can realise that they are
supposed to be there as a defence of the peace rather than suppressing,
oppressing and beating the people," Salim told IRIN.
feeling among those involved in the reconciliation process seems more positive
than before but much remains to be done to reestablish trust and mend
relations, he added. (IRIN)