African Press International (API)

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Tanzania: Zanzibar renews bid for independence

Posted by African Press International on August 22, 2010

-East African Business Week – Uganda, August 17, 2010 Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) The Zanzibar House of Representative’s emergency session began last week to discuss constitutional changes to enable the formation of ‘Government of national unity’ of the two rival parties of Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) and the Civic United Front (CUF). However, it is turning out that the political rivalry that bedeviled Zanzibar for 15 years, is bound to shift battle lines to the Union of Tanzania, because the amendment proposals virtually seek ‘independence’ for Zanzibar from Tanzania. The Union was created in 1964 between Tanganyika and Zanzibar to form Tanzania.

The Zanzibar Minister for Constitutional Affairs and Good Governance, Mr Ramadhan Abdallah Shaaban, tabled amendments that amount to abolishing the Union by proposing that Zanzibar should be recognized as ‘a country’ whose territorial boundaries shall be those of pre-Union era, not being part of the Union of Tanzania.

Legal experts from the Law School of the University of Dar es Salaam argue that the move will contravene the 1964 Union agreement that led to the merger. This is legally regarded as a violation of the Union constitution.

They argue that any amendment must have two-thirds of Tanzania Mainland MPs, and two-thirds of Zanzibar MPs elected to the Tanzania Union Parliament – both of which could be difficult to garner, thus posing a permanent political tussle.

The move translates into shifting battle lines from Zanzibar to Dodoma in order to keep the peace in the Isles.

The proposed constitutional changes are bound to pour cold water on the high expectations that Zanzibaris have built since the positive July 31 2010 referendum, that a long lasting ground for global support, acceptance and turning the Isles into an investment destination, had come to stay.

Zanzibar is also seeking co ownership of petroleum reserves from the Union Government claiming it was taking the step as a tit for tat with Tanzania mainland that it claims doesn’t share the proceeds from minerals with the Isles, although part of 4.5% of the Tanzania Union revenue Zanzibar gets annually comes from minerals earnings.

Zanzibar is also seeking freedom to join international organizations, a mandate that is now the preserve of the Union government through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

It has on many occasions raised the issue including becoming a member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) which has been vehemently objected by the Union Government. Zanzibar is a virtual Islamic state as even the Union police are assigned to enforce the Islamic observance of fasting during Ramadhan.

The development may revive anti-Union sentiments that once emerged in the Union Parliament by 50 mainland MPs who sought a three-tier government of the federation, that of Tanganyika, and Zanzibar. The attempts were dampened by Mwalimu Julius Nyerere. To date there only two – the government of Zanzibar and Union of Tanzania.

If Zanzibar succeeds to separate, and seeks to be a member of the East African Community (EAC), it will adversely affect thousands of ordinary Zanzibaris who now live on Tanzania mainland.

They may have to choose to either become Tanganyikans or move their businesses to the small islands of Unguja and Pemba because the EAC Common Market rules will apply.

Their movement to Tanzania mainland will have to be by passport, not simple IDs.

While Zanzibar tries to resolve one problem, it is creating many more which can only worsen and prolong the desired achievements of economic and social developments and discourage investments in the Spice Islands.

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