As one of the founders of Maridhiano, Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad, now the first vice president of Zanzibar, is laying down his vision and mission on the process of political reconciliation started in November 2009 by him and the then-president, Amani Karume. The speech was made in Pemba in the early days of January 2021.
Apart from big questions on “the HOW” and “the WHEN” about Zanzibar Reconciliation, another most important question is “the WHY” of what they call Maridhiano in Kiswahili. In this chat, I am joined by Ismail Jussa, one of the few politicians who has been a part of almost every political reconciliation between polarised parts in Zanzibar.
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!