Zanzibar’s main opposition party, Civic United Front (CUF) leader Seif Hamad spoke to The EastAfrican's Christopher Kidanka on the political future of the clove island.
How is the political climate in Zanzibar?
The situation has been delicate, especially after the 2015 election fiasco. In Zanzibar, every election has been chaotic.
How have the talks on reconciliation, Muafaka, faired?
CCM has never been interested in reconciliation. In 2001, President Benjamin Mkapa met with us to address Zanzibar’s problems and promised that the next election would be free and fair. But the 2005 election was even more chaotic.
I negotiated with Zanzibar’s President Karume on how to mend fences and he said that the talks should be more inclusive, so we took the matter to the House of Representatives and it was passed.
We conducted a referendum on whether to have Government of National Unity and got 66 per cent Yes votes so we amended the Constitution to allow the formation of GNU. Come 2010, we had a GNU with Dr Ali Mohammed Shein president. I became the first vice-president and CCM’s Seif Mohammed Iddi was the second vice-president
As we headed to the 2015 election, problems surfaced. CUF supporters were denied registration to vote and many people were brought in from the Mainland to register.
A group nicknamed Janjaweed came up to intimidate our supporters. We complained to President Jakaya Kikwete, who said he would work on it but didn’t.
What happened in 2015?
I won the presidential election but it was annulled. So, we had negotiations featuring former presidents Ali Hasan Mwinyi, Dr Salmin Amour and Amani Abeid Karume.
We had eight meetings and they insisted that the Zanzibar Electoral Commission chairman Jecha Salim Jecha was right to annul the election. When the negotiations were going on, Mr Jecha announced a rerun. At that point I withdrew from the negotiations and called a boycott of the rerun. Dr Ali Mohammed Shein was declared winner and sworn in.
What is the way forward?
We have opted for diplomatic means in the interest of the nation. The people, especially the youth would want to protest in the streets, but we have told them to stay calm. One day, they will get their rights.
The international community has sidelined Zanzibar causing a lot of losses. They have restricted travel to Zanzibar, and have been persuading President John Magufuli to resolve the matter, but he says he does not have the mandate to do so.
Have you talked to President Magufuli?
When he came to power, he called me. He said he would try to resolve the problem, but our patience is running out. My fear now is that terror groups such as Al-Shabaab may exploit the situation to radicalise our youth on the pretext that they want to restore democracy.
You enjoy very good relations with Chadema, and it has been said that you have proposed a merger in order to consolidate opposition. How far is this arrangement?
We have never proposed a merger. I do not believe in mergers but co-operation. We will co-operate with them in 2020 under Ukawa to unseat CCM. Our laws do not even allow mergers of parties. Even if we were to dissolve our parties and register a new one, I am sure it would not be registered.