EU calls for renewal of government of national unity in Zanzibar

Monday November 28 2016

Election officials count votes at a polling

Election officials count votes at a polling station during polls rerun in Stone Town, Zanzibar on March 20, 2016. AFP PHOTO | DANIEL HAYDUK 

By The EastAfrican Team

The European Union has called on Tanzania to urge the government of Zanzibar to re-establish a government of national unity (GNU) on the isles.

The EU ambassador to Tanzania Van de Geer told The EastAfrican that Europe expects the stand-off between the Zanzibar government and the main opposition party, the Civic United Front (CUF), to be resolved soon. 

Mr de Geer said that the EU is in negotiations with President John Magufuli’s government hoping that he will initiate measures to resolve the crisis and eventually include CUF in the government.

The CCM government of Zanzibar ended the GNU after the March 20 election rerun, boycotted by CUF, gave it all 50 seats.

The European Union has maintained minimum contact with Zanzibar President Ali Mohammed Shein since its observer mission, led by Judith Sargentini, declared the re-run unacceptable.

But while CUF appears to be ready for dialogue, sources in CCM and the Zanzibar government say that the idea of a coalition government in the isles is buried, although it exists constitutionally.

“It’s too late to have any dialogue with CUF since the party does not even recognise the Zanzibar government. They should wait for the 2020 elections,” a CCM leader said in Zanzibar.

Last year, before the October 25 general election, Salmin Awadhi Salmin (now deceased), who was the CCM Chief Whip in the Zanzibar House of Representatives, threatened to table a private motion to press for the government’s support towards a referendum to ask Zanzibaris if they still wanted a coalition government.  

And in September, during a House session, Mohamed Said Mohamed, the CCM member of parliament for Mpendaye, led some backbenchers to demand the amendment of the Zanzibar Constitution to scrap the section that allows a coalition government. They failed.

Despite pressure from CCM cadres calling for the end of GNU, the government has remained hesitant to change its Constitution.   

Owing to history of colonialism and the 1964 Zanzibar revolution, elections in the isles have been tightly contested ever since the introduction of multiparty politics in 1992.

The 1995, 2000 and 2005 elections were all followed by post-election chaos, with CUF believing that CCM had rigged the vote.

In 1997, CUF activists were arrested and charged with sedition in the run-up to a by-election, and in 1999 the Commonwealth brokered the first attempt at reconciliation between CCM and CUF, commonly referred to as Muafaka I.

The failure of Muafaka I led to Muafaka II, which also failed, until after 2005 when then Tanzania president Jakaya Kikwete, who had just won office, facilitated the talks that laid the framework for the GNU.    

In July 2010, Zanzibaris approved the GNU by 68.7 per cent.