BLOG POSTS

Why a Government of National Unity is a Necessity for Zanzibar

Politically, there are just two peoples in Zanzibar: those who believe in an independent nation and those who believe in the dependent one. Both do have their reasons and, like them or not, they are not weak.

The thing is, no matter how small in geographical size the country is, Zanzibar has been so big to be contained by either side of this political divide. Not anytime in the history of the Indian Ocean Island state when one faction of political ideology was successful in getting the country forward.

This historical fact is almost a century old now and seems to be remaining  forever, unless Zanzibaris are able to change the existing political map – which is not foreseeable in the near future.

There are many factors, both real and artificial, that makes each side of the bridge resistant to the idea of crossing it. For those who believe in an independent Zanzibar, they are stuck to the moment when their country was a great nation in the region that attracted many people to come and many ideas to blossom which resulted into the 19th century renaissance.

But a series of events afterwards – from British colonialism to annexation to Tanganyika – reduced the Great Empire into a tiny controlled estate. For the Zanzibari nationalists, this is a much bitter reality to swallow. How they wished it to be otherwise!

For the darlings of dependence, the story is vice versa. Before 1964, there was no independent nation called Zanzibar. What was there, for them, was an Arab sultanate that was ruled by some distant foreigners. The action taken by a close big brother – which they call revolution – enabled to change the axis of power. The distant foreigner was kicked out and the ‘natives’ came into the throne. Ever since, the power of the big brother has been both prominent and dominant, but it is a reasonable price to pay. For them!

This divide is known to almost everyone who is following political developments in Zanzibar. Some few efforts were made by the wise leaders to have these two camps living and working together for a better Zanzibar, but getting those who believe in independence and those who believe in dependence (the state of relying on or being controlled by someone else) trust each other is not easy. The efforts came to its climax after the July 2010 Referendum that paved the way for constitutional reforms which made government of national unity an obligation for the running of the country. But, then, it too lived for just five years (2010 – 2015) as it did not dwell well with the real power that governs.

The darlings of dependence had made it clear even before 2010 general elections, that they would not allow the unity government to function as it was threatening their interests. They were and, still are, afraid. They do have fear. For them, this type of government is the last step before their opponents achieve their dream of an independent Zanzibar. They cannot  stomach such moment in their lifetime.

It was unfortunate for them that the head of government by that time, Mr. Amani Karume, was determined to see it happens and so it did. However, as Mr. Karume was leaving the office after completing his constitutional mandate in 2010, they soon managed to do what they had vowed – to stop the government of national unity by any means necessary!

But if the truth is to be said, apart from ‘being enabled’ to stay in power, the darlings of dependence have not achieved anything more in running of the country. And they can not! The maximum they can alone do is to be there, but not to move the nation forward as their counterparts in Indian Ocean do. 

But similar can be argued against the lovers of independence (freedom from being governed or ruled by another country). Though, mathematically one could argue, the majority of Zanzibaris belong to this side of the divide, but practically, as long as they stick to their fantansy of Zanzibari Dream, they will never be allowed to come to power to implement their vision towards that greatness. Both internal and external forces are strong enough to stop such dream becoming true. At least in a near forseeable future!

Internally, they have been faced with harsh treatments from their opponents – the big brother and his nice guys on the islands. Externally, the so-called international community is more satisfied with a Zanzibar under occupation than a free and independent one. The West, which is what meant here by international community, is not to be trusted when it comes to Zanzibar position in the geopolitical map. They have proven so at least in the last 100 years. 

Therefore, none gets the whole in the current Zanzibar political scenario. On one hand, though the darlings of dependence have all physical powers to stay in the government, but they lack legal and political legitimacy amongst Zanzibaris and, above all, the brain to move the country to its prosperity. On the other hand, the lovers of independence have the mass support with them, hence a strong political base, but lack the machinery to come to power. 

For either side to get what the other possess, there must be a compromise from both sides, which will include some great concessions. The government of national unity gives every side something to stand for, one which transforms into self-satisfaction and that is a driving force for any nation to prosper. 

Advertisements

5 thoughts on “Why a Government of National Unity is a Necessity for Zanzibar”

  1. The problem with this argument is it ignores the real centre of power in Zanzibari politics: Tanganyika. For the government of national unity to truly exist in Zanzibar, the Union Question must first be resolved. That’s to say, as long as Zanzibar continues to exist in its neo-colonial status vis a vis Tanganyika, any talk of a government of national unity will remain a dangerous fantasy. The focus of political struggle must shift. Dar Es Salaam is the locus of power in Zanzibari politics. That’s where the focus must shift.

    1. Thanks my learned brother. Though, the argument is for this center of power to be contained through compromise. It did not allow the 2010 GNU to live longer as it threatened its interests as it saw it.

      1. The problem with this argument is it ignores the real centre of power in Zanzibari politics: Tanganyika. For the government of national unity to truly exist in Zanzibar, the Union Question must first be resolved. That’s to say, as long as Zanzibar continues to exist in its neo-colonial status vis a vis Tanganyika, any talk of a government of national unity will remain a dangerous fantasy. The focus of political struggle must shift. Dar Es Salaam is the locus of power in Zanzibari politics. That’s where the focus must shift.

        The locus of power must be changed if there’s to be any hope for Zanzibar. Dar Es Salaam has been very strong, that’s why Zanzibar has been very weak.

        A democratic Dar, which essentially means re-ordering the political power map away from what it’s been since independence, will open up the political space for the Zanzibari people to address the fundamental issues facing their nation.

        That’s impossible in the current circumstances where one faction, the ‘Dependents’ rely on the power of Dar Es Salaam to keep the other faction, the ‘Independents’ from power. As a consequence, Dar Es Salaam keeps both factions, and the entire Zanzibari nation, in subjugation.

        What’s needed is transformation of the type that happened in Indonesia in ’97/’98. The toppling of the Soeharto Dictatorship and the democratisation of the Indonesian politics, created the political space necessary for an independent Timor L’Este to be born.

        And I’d not be misunderstood to be underestimating the immense contribution and the enormous sacrifices of the Timorese people in their struggle for national liberation. I’m only arguing that if the power of the Dar ‘Centre’ is not broken, the prospects of Zanzibari ‘Periphery’ will remain very dim indeed.

  2. Taken holistically it will be naive of us to believe that what is holding zanzibars much craved autonomy of its
    governance is the Dar administration. As the writer pointed out and correctly so, zanzibar has for long past years never enjoyed true independence to self rulership. The real masters of all this mess todate remain our erstwhile British colonialists and their allies.The authorities in Dar are mere middle men delegating the dictates of their British masters. It’s worth reminding ourselves that “Good bye independence” was their solemn promise at the short lived Dec 63 independence farewell to colonialism. And that promise has lived and grown subtly in strength to this day.
    So to suggest that GNU is the only way to go may not in the long term give us the hope that we have been long dreaming for. It might bring some temporary relief but as long as the evil hand of the west remains given the influence of play at our political grounds, which it has in a firm grip to the current leadership in tanganyika and by proxy to zanzibar, achievability of that hope through democratic means remains doomed….

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.