26 November 2009

Tanzania: Ministers' Stance On Zanzibar Coalition Govt Draws Criticism

Intellectuals and political analysts have expressed regrets over statements by two ministers from the Zanzibar Revolutionary Government that the isles have no room for a coalition government.

Speaking at different occasions, the Zanzibar deputy chief minister, Mr Ali Shamhuna, and the state minister in the Vice President's Office (Union), Mr Mohammed Seif Khatib, opposed the idea of setting up a coalition government.

A long time minister in the isles government, described Mr Shamhuna as a political opportunist who had no right to air comments which will continue to divide Zanzibaris at the time when President Amani Karume has given a stand on the issue.

"This is not a mere political fault, but a clear manifestation of the selfish character of Mr Shamhuna's side. This kind of attitude has no place at this time when people are seeking solutions to long-standing problems," said the minister who did not want his name mentioned.

Mr Shamhuna told an interviewer on Zenji FM that Zanzibar neither needs a coalition government nor a government of national unity.

The most important thing is for Zanzibaris to promote the culture of accepting defeat after election results are announced, he said.

"If we build that culture we will be able to work with any president that is elected," he said.

Mr Khatib, who has also been named as a Zanzibar presidential aspirant, said in Pemba earlier this week that CCM did not need to merge with any other party to ensure unity among Zanzibaris.

Their comments appeared to pour cold water on the prospects of forming a government of national unity in the isles following the recently improved relations with the opposition Civic United Front (CUF).

Though Zanzibar President Karume and CUF secretary general Seif Shariff Hamad have not categorically stated that forming a unity government was one of the issues they agreed upon at their landmark meeting, many people have praised both men.

Further, they called on them to form a coalition government as a solution to the long political standoff in the isles.

Speaking at a public rally last Sunday, President Karume emphasised on unity while insisting that there was nothing which could not be discussed.

During a radio dialogue programme aired by Zenj FM of Zanzibar last weekend, Mr Shamhuna confessed that there are some people who have been dropping his name as a potential presidential candidate. "If such thoughts exist, I welcome them and will act when the time comes," he said.

But a minister who refused to be named said Mr Shamhuna cannot speak on behalf of all Zanzibaris on this issue. If he wants to comment on such sensitive issues he should make it clear that he is doing so on his own behalf, said the minister.

A businessman in Zanzibar, Mr Amour Said Mansoor, said leaders who raise controversial issues that breed more divisions among Zanzibaris should not be tolerated. Instead, he suggested, they should be counted as enemies of all Zanzibaris who do not wish peace and unity for the isles.

"The government of national unity is a good alternative, and we urge President Karume to seriously consider it. We are fully behind him," he said.

For his part, a senior lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam, Prof Mwesiga Baregu, said it is unfortunate that Messrs Shamhuna and Khatib came out with such statements.

However, he also blamed both President Karume and Maalim Seif Shariff Hamad for being too secretive.

He said there is need for the two to be transparent on what was discussed because many people are still in the dark as to what exactly has been agreed upon between them.

"Lack of transparency on their talks gives room to speculations such as those raised by Messrs Shamhuna and Khatib which can only be resolved by bringing into the open details of their agreement," he said.

He said Zanzibar is locked in a very serious situation in which two political parties enjoy an equally shared support of the people. He wondered whether statements by Messrs Shamhuna and Khatib represented the official position of the isles government.

Speaking to The Citizen, the CUF communications director, Mr Ismail Bimani, refrained from making any comments on the statements.

The Zanzibar Anglican Church secretary, Mr Jacob Mwakingili, said the two leaders have done a good thing for the isles by deciding to meet and bury their differences on their own volition.

He said it was important that they are supported instead of being discouraged by statements that could deter furtherance of the peace process.

He said the talks held between the two can bring a sustainable political future for the isles although their details remain a mystery.

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