We, Zanzibaris, are people who take pride in our heritage and identity. Even after more than half a century of being annexed to a giant Tanganyika and as tiny as our country is, we are still identifying ourselves with Zanzibariness. And it is not about colour of our skins, nor the origins of our ancentry. No. It is beyond all that separate others. Continue reading “Zanzibar and Child Molestation. Shame On Us!”
The main character of my unpublished novel, Katikati ya Theluji (In the Middle of the Snow) is an African young man who, in his early 30s, finds himself in the middle of Europe in search of what he was made to believe was a worldly paradise. Continue reading “‘In the Middle of the Snow’, Europe and Its Invisible Traps”
I will speak from a layman point of view as I am really one among them. You can not be blessed with a span of 40 years of life and being able NOT to do mistakes. That is abnormal.
Many people of my age have reached this line after having passed through a very rough road with many ups and downs. The first 40 years of our life are always the toughest because we use them to lay a foundation for our late adulthood.
For some of us, who believe in the Hereafter, reaching 40 is the last round before our departure to the Almighty God who will reward or punish us eternally according to how we lived our worldly life. Of course, life can end anytime once it starts, but anyone who is blessed to reach 40, in my upbringing, was made to understand how little time he has left with.
Life before 40 is, thefore, a time of trial and error for many of us. It is a time when we are busy seeking to establish a foundation with which our late adulthood life will start and that will determine our position at the old age. In trying to establish this foundation and prepare a position, we tend to do many mistakes, sometimes knowingly, but many a time innocently.
That is why we are reaching at this age with a lot of scars, holes and patches. During our childhood, we did childish things but are easily forgiven and even forgotten. That might go until we reach our late adolescence.
But the aftermath of our pre-forty – both positive and negative – tends to follow us even after crossing the time line, unless we are finished with them prior to knocking the door No. 40. Otherwise, we will soon find how sticky the mistakes are.
That is what makes a decade before 40 a time for decision. No matter how sticky the mistakes might seem, one is always brave enough to undo them at this age. Given tools and resources, a 30 year old young person is more likely to undo the wrong they did before than those who are 40 years and plus.
I speak from the experience of being 41 and having committed many wrongs that are now haunting me. I am not offering any details of those mistakes, but believe me that it is not doing them that makes me feeling bitter, but my inability to correct them – or to undo them.
I truly believe that doing wrong things is not the worst thing to be happening to a human being. But living in a situation whereby you – due to any reasons – can not stop the mistakes and are obliged to live with them for the rest of your life, it is the greatest tragedy.
This day some 55 years ago, my father was exactly in my current age – in his early 40s – and had just arrived in Unguja from Tanganyika, where he spent some trouble years of his adult life. Being born in 1922, some three decades after the official intervention of British in Zanzibar, my father never knew of anything different other than a country under colonial powers. He had decided to come back to be part of the new Zanzibar after more than 70 years of British administration. He was also tired of running away from his broken-heart, a love story which started after the death of his first wife.
But that dream did not last long. Just a month after the British left, Zanzibar was invaded and the new government was overthrown. On the aftermath of the events that started on 11th January 1964, he was arrested by the militia whom he recognized as being from Bara (as what people in the coast refer to Mainland) due to their appearance and tone. His decade experience in Mainland gave him enough knowledge to tap their features.
They crashed him at Kikwajuni Street where he was staying with his friend. The first thing to be asked was his name. “I am called Masanja!” It was his reply, but his Afro-Arab composition betrayed him, inspite of sounding a real Masanja from Mwanza. (By the way, contrary to my mother, I never heard him using our Kipemba dialect. His accent was always decorated with Kiunguja and Mainland tones).
However, his ‘brother-in-laws’ did not beat him deadly. Just gave him some kicks and punches before they sent him to Raha Leo makeshift detention, where once again his childhood friendship with Salim Ghafir betrayed him. Having seen his old friend escorted into the camp, Salim rushed to my father crying: “O, my brother Khelef, they have taken you too!”
Soon after the shockwaves ended, my father collected what was remained of him and headed to his home village in Pemba. There he re-established his life and earned the trust of his folks who made him their de facto leader.
I took me long to figure out how his mother, my gradma Fatma, was wearing Afro-Shiraz Party’s (ASP) khangas and his son became one of 10-Section CCM leaders in 1980s as I do well remember to see CCM flag on our palm-leaves roof. He even adjusted my date of birth to resemble that of CCM, which has remained so forever. My father was not among those who invaded or helped the invasion of 1964. He never belonged to ASP nor to Umma Party. In fact, he and all his immediate relatives were supporters of the Zanzibar Nationalist Party (ZNP). Was it about adjustement? Was it about fear? Was it about self-reconcilliation? Was it a betrayal to his own principles? I still search for answers, some two decades after his departure.
But it is worthy sharing here that my father was far from hatred against an individual whom they had different political opinions. I still remember when he yelled at me after I spoke ill against my brother-in-law, Nassor Issa Al Mazrui, who joined CCM and abandoned CUF at the public meeting attended by the then-deputy chief minister who doubled as education minister, Omar Ramadhan Mapuri, during early years of 1990s.
My father, as many others of his generation, was brought up during colonial times and had seen some bitter events during ‘Zama za Siasa‘ (times of politics), but was taught political tolerance. He wanted the same thing to us. During his last days in the mid-90s, he was admitted at Chake Chake Hospital where coincidentally one of CCM cadre, Yussuf Alawi (alias Yussuf Panzi) was also admitted, but many of Yussuf’s relatives were not visiting him due to his tendency of insulting CUF leaders at his party’s public gatherings, commonly organized by the then-chief minister, the late Omar Ali Juma.
Inspite of knowing all that and also being a staunch supporter of CUF, my father was always asking me to help Yussuf for his needs, especially during night. That was a reason why, even after my father was allowed to go home where he died after some few weeks, Yussuf came to be my friend and a brother.
During 70s, my father had his best friend, Mr. Mohammed Fakih (Ami Mohammed of Kangani) whose whole family in Mkoani belonged to ASP. In every clove harvest season, my father and his family would camp at Ami Mohammed’s family where he would bake and sell Ajemi breads, which was our family trade. A week before their arrival, Ami Mohammed would gather his family members and instruct them not to display any political slogans or rhetorics during their guests’ stay. The same would be done by my father when Ami Mohammed and his family visited our home. I did not meet Ami Mohammed in person as when I was born, he was already too old to take troubles of traveling from Kangani to Pandani, but I grew up knowing his children who are still my brothers and sisters to date.
Now, Zanzibar has reached 55 years since her flag was raised for an independent nation but she has not been able to make her children live together in harmony and understanding ever since. The flag of independent Zanzibar stayed high just for one month before the invasion which was followed by annexation in just 100 days. As the independence of 10 December 1963 was not welcomed by ASP and Umma Party supporters, so was the overthrow of the government on 12 January 1964. Those who supported the ZNP/ZPPP coalition did not come in terms with it.
However, my father, who belonged to the overthrown coalition, and Ami Mohammed, who belonged to ASP, managed to maintain their friendship and taught their children to grow as brothers and sisters forever. May be, my father believed that Ami Mohammed was politically wrong to support the party and the government that have thrown away the independence of their nation. Perhaps, Ami Mohammed thought my father was wrong to support the coalition that was maintaining the ‘Arab’ sultanate.
But, I think, they both saw more and stronger reasons of being good friends to themselves and examplary to their children. Can this generation find more and stronger reasons to reconcile our divided Zanzibar? Happy Independence Day!
My last two articles on the government of national unity in Zanzibar have helped me – more than anyone else – to get more insights on the subject-matter. Readers have been both supportive and argumentative.
My first article was about the deadlock experienced now in Zanzibar and the call for some concessions from both sides of the political divide. On this, Tundu Lissu argued that there will never be any tangible political development in Zanzibar as long as the Dodoma’s invisible hand continues to dominate.
“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,” wrote Lissu.
The second article was going back and poiting finger of blame to Dr. Ali Mohamed Shein alone for the failure of the GNU. There were readers who sent me some academic writings resulted from deep researches on the topic before, during and after the collapse of the GNU.
Others shared their comments which raised my curiosity even more, for example the one that blames CUF leaders for failing to pursue their time in the short-lived government to demand more changes that would insure the life of GNU after 2015. Political insurance?
Thanks to all of them, however, that I can now elaborate some missing points in the explanation of how and why there is no GNU today in Zanzibar, and here will start with what I call as a Big Brother factor.
The Big Brother Factor
In many articles I wrote before, I walked on the actual footprints that my learned brother Tundu has also been standing all along (visit zanzibardaima.net under the column Kalamu ya Ghassani).
Yes, Tanganyika rulers – who present themselves as the only rulers of the United Republic of Tanzania – do have a major role when it comes to the failure of Zanzibari politics. They are actually the ones who pull the strings!
But at the same time, the making of Maridhiano by the end of 2009 speaks of another side of the story. That of Zanzibaris’ role in their own political audacity. Many a time, Dodoma was heard complaining to be sidelined by their counterpart in Zanzibar during the negotiations that resulted into the GNU.
Therefore, when sitting down and talking as themselves, Zanzibaris are capable of going against the will of their de facto master in Mainland. They can challenge the status quo and emerge winners. That is how President Amani Karume and Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad were able to confront all odds and initiated the Maridhiano process.
They decided to be Zanzibaris who believed in Zanzibar.
Controversies and Conspiracies
What happened afterwards? This would be a question. Of course, there are controversies and conspiracies, but it is agreed that the Big Brother did not just sit down after having seen Zanzibaris are committed to turn the page of their history without his help. He played his cards too. How?
First, by pretending that he was for it. That he wanted to walk his talk of December 2005 in the Parliament when the newly elected Union president, Jakaya Kikwete, promised to do all he could to end the political deadlock in Zanzibar. He called it ‘mpasuko wa kisiasa‘ which he lamented to have affected the image of his country for far too long. I did not trust him and I wrote why there would be no way I could believe the president who uses racist rhetoric in healing national wounds.
Whereas Kikwete failed to do anything even after the long talks in Bagamoyo and Butiama – which was not any suprise at all – he rose on his toes to gather all the credits from the international community after Mr. Karume and Maalim Seif met. He even went further to appoint one of CUF’s members of Maridhiano Committee, Mr. Ismail Jussa, to parliament.
But, secondly and contrary to the first, when the government of national unity was about to happen, the anti-Maridhiano elements in Zanzibar were activated by Dodoma and rounded up the whole formation – from the debate in the House of Representatives to the in-door meetings at Kisiwandui.
As a result, these elements were enabled to have the upper hand on the whole process with just some few exceptions, where President Karume himself appeared to show the muscles, for example, by firing those who were openly opposed to Maridhiano or water down their strong opposition publicly. He is to be credited for displaying the no-nonsense mode when it came to the focal point.
This is why some of us are faulting Mr. Karume for not agreeing to stay a little longer to nurture the newly baby-born – the GNU – and instead letting in a person who is so weak to defend the Zanzibari spirit – a politician who does not believe in Zanzibar.
Had Mr. Karume accepted the challenge and he, himself, stayed to guide the path towards a strong institutionalized GNU, the anti-Maridhiano elements would have found it difficult even with the invisible hands of Dodoma.
The point here is: Yes, Dodoma strategists have their own formula when it comes to Zanzibar political set-up. They always want someone who will defend the status quo, i.e. the current structure of the Union which is – to be honest – a type of neocolonialism. The GNU, for them, was a tool against their domination.
But, when confronted with the actual Zanzibari forces that defy all odds, Dodoma holds back and calculates its next move. It is, therefore, up to those in power in Zanzibar to decide whether they really believe in Zanzibar.
For the time being, they don’t!
For others, Dr. Ali Mohamed Shein is an innocent leader who is being manipulated by his immediate circle. Many political destructions done during his time in office are associated to other people. The biggest destruction of all is disfunctionalizing of Maridhiano that enabled the formation of a government of national unity as a constitutional requirement from 2010 onwards.
But is Dr. Shein as innocent as he is potrayed? If you could associate him to some positive measures taken under his leadership, why keeping his hands off from other negative moves during his tenure?
Let us go a decade and half back to make this point clear.
After 2005 general elections, I was one among young Zanzibaris who came up with an ‘ignorant idea,’ which I was not suprised to see it instantly refused. I suggested that the opposition Civic United Front (CUF) should dismember itself and some of its fractions join the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM), where they would convince some basic reforms for Zanzibari politics while they are within the party.
This proposal was based on my personal analysis of what I saw as a ‘mistake’ in our politics since the re-introduction of multiparty democray in 1992. That the opposition had managed to absorb all the best cream of Zanzibari society and left CCM only with the opposite. As a result, CUF was still fighting against the very low brains which were ready to do anything just to stay in power, even if they could not move the nation forward. This did not add value to our struggle for a better Zanzibar.
As admitted, mine was such an ignorant idea. One of my seniors told me that it was both ‘strange and bad’ idea but it was good that I aired it, so that CUF members would know there were some people who think differently. Another senior politician went further to show me that there were still some very good brains in CCM with whom CUF could work together for the betterment of Zanzibar. “Calm down, young man,” he told me. “Politics is not an easy game!”
The Politics of Maridhiano
Then in 2009, just one year before President Amani Karume completed his constitutional mandate, he met with his main opponent, Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad of CUF, for what was known as Maridhiano, a Swahili word for political reconciliation (though I have to say maridhiano has much broader meaning than the word reconciliation).
Maridhiano politics had one mission – to build a strong bridge that connects two opposing sides which, otherwise, could not meet eye to eye. But it was not aimed at mixing these sides as my original ignorant idea was, for connecting and mixing are but two different terms.
The Maridhiano bridge managed to connect these two joints and one of its immediate results was constitutional ammendment that established a government of national unity. But, the building of this bridge was not completed yet. It was a process that should continue and, therefore, the contract works were to go on.
This is now the point. As a head of government and a top leader of the ruling party in Zanzibar, Mr. Karume made it his obligation to deliver a reconciled society to his nation. He made sure to hand over such government to his successor, who happened to be Dr. Shein – a politician who had no political base in the Islands, neither had he contested and won any political office though he was already a vice president of union government for almost a decade. Actually he was not even eligible to vote himself in the general elections. By the time he picked up his party nomination form, he was the most-hated candidate in Kisiwandui.
Given To Him Was a Maridhiano Spirit
Being a senior politician, though, Dr. Shein was expected to be defending the platform that brought him to power even if there were some elements in his party that were anti-Maridhiano. And for one good reason – he was a president of Maridhiano. Not of election. Not of ballots!
It was Maridhiano, if anything, that brought him to power, despite all opposition of the same people who became his immediate circle once he was sworn-in. But what he did, instead, was to work with them in killing the infant he was entrusted to nurture. He actually cut the umblicord of his own political legacy.
In a metaphorical narrative, Dr. Shein presented himself as a brother in the famous Swahili story, in which the siblings inherited a fortune and their sick mother from their late father and decided to build a three storey house. The ground part was to be taken by the elder brother, the second to be shared between his siblings and their mother and the third to be rented, so that the family could earn some money to take care of their ailing mother.
As an elder brother, he was the one who collected rental fees, but he was so stupid that he ended up throwing the money to senseless expenses and, as a result, their mother’s health began to detoriate due to lack of proper medication. When his siblings argued against his mishandling, he arrogantly told them: “If you you think you are grown enough to know better than I, then I have reached my decision. I am finding a place to move my part of the house (which is the ground floor) and you should hold your own floors!” With that, the brother destroyed his own floor and those of his siblings and their mother.
This is exactly what Dr. Shein has done. He inherited a treasure that was never given to any single leader since independence. Once Maalim Seif told me in 2011 interview at Amsterdam that he believed Dr. Shein knew he was a lucky guy who was blessed to lead the first government of national unity while being supported by both parties in Zanzibar and that he would never let this blessing go away! Mr. Karume had handed to him a united society, an ammended constitution and a Maridhiano spirit – enough tools to keep Zanzibar on the right track.
But few years later, he proved both leaders wrong. He chose to destroy each and everything that meant Maridhiano and turned his ear and eye to only those who were opposing it. He hardly listened to the voices that were encouraging him to follow the path of national unity. He, instead, listened to those that were showing him the threat the Maridhiano posed to their personal endings.
Coming to the end of his first five year mandate, it was clear that Zanzibari voters were not happy by the failure of their brother who mismanaged the fortune left by their father and who threatened the life of their mother. And he, upon knowing that, he decided to destroy their three-storey house claiming that he would move his ground floor to somewhere else. So he did.
While others look at Dr. Shein as a victim of manipulations from the like of Ambassador Seif Ali Iddi and his syndicate in Zanzibari politics, I refuse to see it that way. Zanzibar does not have a government of national unity today because the syndicate won against Dr. Shein’s wishes.
We do not have it because he is a leader who did not act on his legal and political position to assure the life of such system during his first five years.
He was a president who never believed in unity. He seems to enjoy the disunity that is now facing 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. Continue reading “Why a Government of National Unity is a Necessity for Zanzibar”