Posted Saturday, June 2 2012 at 17:19 Zanzibar is once again in the headlines for the wrong reasons. The recent flare-ups in Unguja show an ugly face that signals more, perhaps uglier, incidents both in Zanzibar and in Tanganyika, what we now call the Tanzanian mainland. Periodic eruptions have shaken Zanzibar ever since the islands were occupied by Omani Arabs in the 18th century. In more recent times, upheavals accompanied botched elections in the late 1950s and the early 1960s. The year 1964 saw the mother of all eruptions when a ragged force of unshod urban riffraff stormed and captured the hated centres of the Sultan's power, put hundreds of Arabs to the sword, forced the Sultan to flee the islands, and proclaimed the People's Republic of Zanzibar whose basic philosophy was a hotchpotch of egalitarianism blended with doses of confused Black Consciousness. But that "revolution" brought to power elements of revolutionary Marxists who, given the state of world politics - it was the height of the Cold War - attracted American and other Western countries' attention. They did not want another Cuba on the East African coast, and Zanzibar looked very much like that. So, when the Union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar was consummated some four months after the "revolution," the Western powers heaved a sigh of relief, for Tanganyika was considered a safe bet, a moderating influence. Indeed, it is likely that the Union was entered into at the behest of the Americans. Another explosion came eight years later, when the strongman who had ruled Zanzibar since the "revolution," and who was now vice president of the Union and president of Zanzibar, was assassinated by a young man who apparently had a blood score to settle on account of the killing of his father by the regime, whose brutality had been more than amply documented. For some years after that there was an eerie calm as Zanzibar's second president opened the political space, sent Zanzibaris to study at the Dar es Salaam University and built cordial relations with the Union president. However, the cordiality ended in 1984 when the second president was adjudged to have conspired to break the Union and was sent packing. With multiparty politics, new spaces were created for dissension, and this led to new episodes of violence as the different political expressions clashed, very often informed by ancient grudges. People were killed, property was destroyed and refugees, that rare species in Tanzania, were generated. Zanzibar became peaceful when a secretive power-sharing arrangement was brokered internally two years ago… This current violence seems to be speaking to anti-Union sentiments with strong Islamist overtones, but it is strange that marauding youth would attack churches and clobber Tanganyikans in Zanzibar, which has lived with Christians for more than a century, and seeing that there are many more Zanzibaris on the mainland than there are Tanganyikans on the Isles. There is reason to fear reprisals, making an already bad situation even worse. Some elements in Zanzibar seem to think they are marginalised by mainlanders, while many Tanganyikans believe Zanzibaris are freeloaders - depending on the mainland for everything, wanting to pay for nothing. Both may be wrong, but these sentiments cannot be swept under the mat. What is particularly worrisome is the invisibility of the leaders of Zanzibar and the Union, whose silence has given the impression of either connivance with the perpetrators of the violence, or fear of ruffling political or religious feathers. Unfortunately, we have not come to the level of producing leaders who know that it is when the situation gets really bad that leadership is really needed; in times of ease and facility, even I can be a leader.