Zanzibar’s main opposition party, Civic United Front (CUF), has said it will co-operate with the Mainland’s Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema) to unseat Chama cha Mapinduzi in the next election.
Seif Sharif Hamad, a five-time presidential contender, told The EastAfrican that the party is in talks with Chadema to co-operate under Ukawa, an alliance for a new constitution, in the 2020 elections.
There have been rumours that CUF and Chadema were discussing a merger, but Mr Hamad said the talks were on co-operation.
“I don’t believe in mergers but co-operation. Our laws do not even allow mergers of parties. We will co-operate in 2020 under Ukawa to unseat CCM. Even if we were to dissolve our parties and register a new one, I am sure it would not get registered,” he said.
For the past 17 years, CCM and CUF have engaged in a political duel that has often left the semi-autonomous island sidelined by the international community.
The latest standoff emanated from the 2015 general elections after the Zanzibar Electoral Commission nullified Ali Mohamed Shein’s election and called a presidential rerun in 2016, which the CCM candidate won after a CUF boycott.
Mr Hamad says that his party will use diplomatic means to end the stalemate with Dar es Salaam and forge ahead to win the next election.
Riots have characterised the aftermath of past elections, where many people have lost lives, but now Mr Hamad is promising the youth a lasting solution through peaceful means.
“The people, especially the youth, would want to protest in the streets, but we keep telling them to stay calm. The international community has sidelined Zanzibar: They have restricted travel to Zanzibar and have been persuading President John Magufuli to resolve the matter, but he keeps saying he does not have the mandate to do so,” he said.
But he also fears that the disenchanted youth are warming up to terrorist groups that have been on a radicalisation mission on the islands.
“Zanzibar is very tense. Though it appears peaceful on the surface, it is actually very turbulent underneath. If this situation is not resolved soon, the youth will regard me as irrelevant and terror groups such as Al-Shabaab are likely to exploit this situation to recruit them on the promise of restoration of democracy in Zanzibar,” he said.
“Some Tanzanians have been arrested on allegations of trying to join Al Shabaab and some of them were Zanzibaris.”
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