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Tanzania facing aid freeze over Zanzibar stalemate

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A citizen casts her ballot at a polling station in Zanzibar for the Tanzanian presidential elections on October 25, 2015 as others queue outside. Results from the Isles were cancelled. AFP PHOTO | TONY KARUMBA 

By ERIC KABENDERA

Posted  Sunday, February 7   2016 at  10:15

In Summary

  • Diplomats say they were concerned about the nullification by ZEC without having provided evidence to substantiate the claim that irregularities had taken place.
  • Tanzania has previously faced the risk of having development assistance suspended due to political situations or scandals.
  • In 1998, the European Union froze development aid worth about $10 million to the Isles for three years, in protest against alleged gross human-rights violations following the controversial 1995 election in which Salmin Amour (CCM) won the Isles presidency by a narrow margin.

Despite threats by the donor community to suspend aid, there are indications that the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) will proceed with the rerun of the presidential election next month.

Foreign diplomats have criticised the ZEC for nullifying the October 25 election and announcing a rerun even though the Vienna Convention prohibits diplomats from engaging in local politics.

Hanne-Marie Kaarstad, the Norwegian ambassador to Tanzania, visited the Civic United Front (CUF) offices in Zanzibar and held talks with party officials. The previous week, Ms Kaarstad along with 16 ambassadors and high commissioners issued a joint statement on the rerun of the Zanzibar elections that had been judged as credible by observers.

The diplomats said they were concerned about the nullification by ZEC without having provided evidence to substantiate the claim that irregularities had taken place.

“We regret that an election rerun was announced while dialogue between parties was still ongoing,” the statement said. “For the benefit of all Tanzanians, we reaffirm our belief that the current political impasse in Zanzibar would be best addressed through a mutually acceptable and negotiated solution.”

And just two days after Ms Kaarstad’s visit, Minister for Foreign Affairs Augustine Mahiga was quoted as saying that the government will now vet all activities that the diplomatic corps plans to hold with leaders of political parties, as was indicated in a circular the minister said was issued last month.

Tanzania has previously faced the risk of having development assistance suspended due to political situations or scandals.

In 1998, the European Union froze development aid worth about $10 million to the Isles for three years, in protest against alleged gross human-rights violations following the controversial 1995 election in which Salmin Amour (CCM) won the Isles presidency by a narrow margin.

The board of the Millennium Challenge Corporation has withheld funding to Tanzania, citing the Zanzibar crisis as one factor.

Nick Branson, a senior researcher at the London-based Africa Research Institute, said the comments made by the ambassadors showed their commitment to a negotiated solution to the Zanzibar impasse.

He said other donors may be considering reducing their grants.

“Where Tanzania could pay a political cost is if travel advisories are issued by Western nations. Western nations could advise their citizens against travelling to Zanzibar, resulting in lost income for the exchequer and the people of Zanzibar. This will only compound the economic difficulties facing the Isles,” Mr Branson said.

No resolution

Attempts by the international community to resolve the matter have been unsuccessful so far, as former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan, who led the Commonwealth’s mission, was not taken seriously as a mediator despite the organisation’s having helped the CUF and CCM reach an agreement after the 1995 and 2000 elections.

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