- Aug 2, 2010
Seif Sharif Hamad, The First Vice President of Zanzibar
Speech delivered at the UNPO 20th Anniversary at
The Hague, February 11, 2011
May I begin by conveying my gratitude to the President and the General Secretary of UNPO for inviting me to participate in this conference which is one of the events held to mark the 20th anniversary of the founding of UNPO in 1991.
In a matter of twenty years, UNPO which had a humble beginning, has grown to a respected international organization and has scored a number of achievements. The main objective of this august organization is to bring together the nations and peoples who have no representation in the formal international fora and organizations and use their collective strength and voice to help each other to achieve their goals. A number of its members have already gained independence. Such former members of UNPO which are now full independent countries include Estonia and East Timor.
Zanzibar, which was represented at UNPO founding conference in 1991, and became its member in 1992, and which has consistently remained a committed member of the organization, is a special case.
Zanzibar gained its independence from the British Colonial Power in December 1963. One month later there was a bloody revolution and the government was overthrown in January, 1964. In April, 1964 the People's Republic of Zanzibar was united with the then Republic of Tanganyika to form a United Republic which later was called the United Republic of Tanzania. Zanzibar remained with exclusive powers on matters that were not under the jurisdiction of the Union Government. Zanzibar retained its own executive, its own legislature and its own judiciary.
Hence Zanzibar has remained with some measure of autonomy. Even in the colonial times, Zanzibar enjoyed a special status within the British Colonial Empire. Zanzibar was not considered as a colony per se but as a British Protectorate and retained the Sultan as the Head of State.
Zanzibar was administered from the Foreign Office rather than from Colonial Office. It was much later when its affairs were transferred to the British Colonial Office.
Definitely there were people in Zanzibar who were completely opposed to the Tanzanian Union. But the majority of Zanzibaris saw the union as a "fait accompli" and their demands centered on having a just union that would see the two states that formed the union as equal partners with equal rights and equal obligations.
Let me now tell you few facts about Zanzibar.
Zanzibar is a semi autonomous Islands state located on the East African coast about 32 nautical miles from mainland East Africa close to Tanzania. It was a stepping stone to the east, central and southern part of Africa 2000 years before the birth of Christ. Zanzibar is comprised of two major Islands, Unguja and Pemba, and several other smaller islands. Its population is estimated to be1.3 million people.
It has a long history of cultural interaction as people from the Orient, the Persian Gulf, , and from other parts of the world met, mingled and intermarried with the local people to produce a cultural "poti-pouri".
Portugal is the first colonial power to occupy Zanzibar in 1650's. The Portuguese were succeeded by the Al Busaidy dynasty from Oman, whereby in 1832 Sultan Seyyid Said bin Sultan shifted his capital from Muscat to Zanzibar. The British came to be the last colonial power, when, as pointed out above, they made Zanzibar a British Protectorate in 1890.
British colonialism ended on 10th December, 1963 when Zanzibar gained its independence and became a fully fledged member of the United Nations. Hence Zanzibar nation and people were represented in the United Nations. But this representation was short lived, lasting from 16th December, 1963 to 26th April, 1964. For when Zanzibar was united with Tanganyika in April, 1964, it lost its seat in the United Nations.
Both Tanganyika and Zanzibar had one seat under the name of United Republic of Tanzania.
For centuries Zanzibar had been a peaceful place and its people who had different origins lived in unity and harmony. However that peace and tranquility that was a hallmark of Zanzibar was indented when political parties were established in the late 1950s and early 1960s to fight for independence. The main political parties then were the Zanzibar Nationalist Party (ZNP) which was associated with the land owning class and Zanzibaris of Arab origin (which also attracted many other people of different origins, especially in Pemba), and the Afro-Shirazi Party (ASP) which was associated with the down-trodden and people of African and Shirazi origins. The Shirazis claim their origins from a town in Persia ( the present day Iran) that is called Shirazi, while the so-called Africans are those who were deemed to have moved from mainland Africa in the then recent past.
The competition between these parties was very bitter and severe. This led to hatred and mistrust that lasted for more than half a century.
Before Zanzibar's independence, four elections were held and all of them, except the first one in 1959, were marked by violence and bloodshed. When Zanzibar gained independence in December1963, the followers of the ZNP were happy while those of the ASP felt cheated and were angry. Thus only one month after, the new government led by the ZNP was over-thrown by followers of the ASP.
The new Revolutionary Government banned all the political parties, except the Afro-Shirazi Party which had take over power. Zanzibar was declared a one-party state whose stated objectives included the building up of national unity and bringing to an end divisions based on race, political leanings and creed. Under such circumstances, Zanzibaris had no choice but to join the Afro-Shirazi Party, especially if they wanted to receive many opportunities and benefits associated with the state. The era of one-party state lasted from 1964 to 1992, a period of twenty eight years. During this era there appeared to be a faced of national unity. However the truth is that the political divisions did not die, but they only hibernated.
The fact is that from the pre-independence time, the population in the islands was divided in the middle.
After the re-introduction of multiparty in 1992 the political divisions surfaced. The re-introduction of multi-partism in Tanzania led to coming up of more than fifteen new political parties. However, in Zanzibar the new political party which attracted huge support and which seemed to be a formidable challenge to the ruling CCM was the Civic United Front (CUF). CCM was formed in 1977 when the two political parties in the United Republic decided to merge. Those two parties were Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) of the Mainland and the Afro-Shirazi Party (ASP) of Zanzibar. The merger gave birth to Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) or the Revolutionary Party. Thus now the stiff and bitter competetion was between CCM and CUF.
All the elections held thereafter in 1995, 2000, 2005 were bitterly fought and hence they became very controversial. In all these elections CUF believed that it had won them, but the Zanzibar Election Commission (ZEC)
had deliberately rigged the elections in favour of the ruling CCM. So CUF rejected the results as officially announced by ZEC, and so did not recognize the Presidents and the governments so they formed as legitimate.
The position of CUF was that the elections were by no means free and fair and the results were doctored in favour of the ruling CCM. The position of CUF was supported by the local and international observers.
Pre-, during and post- election times were the most volatile periods in Zanzibar. Zanzibaris witnessed violence and drastic human rights violations. Thus for almost half a century Zanzibar experienced political and social strife and did not enjoy real peace and tranquility.
Efforts to reconcile the two rival parties were embarked upon by both local and international dignitaries and organizations, including the Commonwealth. But such attempts did not bring about the required results.
Here I would like to note that UNPO on at least two occasions brought fact-finding missions to Zanzibar so as to investigate the situation and offered to mediate between the rival parties. However, the ruling party, CCM, did not accept UNPO as a mediator on the ground that it was biased in favour of CUF. I would like to express our gratitude to UNPO for the firm support it granted to CUF during the very difficult times.
UNPO helped in raising the international awareness on the plight facing the people of Zanzibar.
(ATTECHED is the FINAL SPEECH of S.S. Hamad)
View attachment THE ROAD TO POLITICAL RECONCILIATION.docx