Tanzania facing aid freeze over Zanzibar stalemate

Sunday February 7 2016

A citizen casts her ballot at a polling station

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

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.

The international community called for the resignation of ZEC chair Jecha Salum Jecha and for the results from October 2015 to be allowed. And despite direct intervention by President John Magufuli, the government has maintained that it is unconstitutional for him to tell ZEC what to do.

January Makamba, the Minister in the Vice President’s Office responsible for Union Affairs and Environment, told parliament early this week that the majority of ZEC members had endorsed the decision to hold the rerun, and that it is in accordance with the Constitution.

“The Zanzibar Constitution stipulates that not even the judiciary has powers to question or investigate any decision made by ZEC. It is important that we ensure that peace is maintained in Zanzibar, and the only way to do so it to abide by the laws which were passed by parliament,” Mr Makamba said.

Meanwhile, Zanzibar politics continues to be linked to race and religious affiliation. Most Pemba residents consider themselves descendants of Arab and Oman traders and support the CUF, while those in Unguja say they are descendants of slaves and mainly support CCM.

Expenditure review

Sources within the donor community said they plan to hold their Public Expenditure Review at the end of this month.

“During the assessment, human rights is a key component; there have been concerns over gross human-rights violations before and after the election in Zanzibar. Let’s wait and see what they will decide but it certainly on the table,” the source said.

The source further said that any aid suspension would impact both the mainland and the Isles. The Tanzania mainland contributes 4.5 per cent of the total Zanzibar budget, and direct financial support for projects comes from individual donors.

For the current financial year, donors committed $300 million in budget support (BS) from two multilateral organisations. The government had said it would not accept BS aid unless it is given unconditionally.

Budget support commitment for the 2014/15 financial year was Tsh922.2 billion ($457.4 million); disbursement was Tsh408 billion ($202.38 million) or 44 per cent of the total pledges.

Donors who have been reluctant to make BS commitments for 2015/16 because of the misunderstanding on the aid modality are Canada, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, the European Commission, Japan and Sweden.