Zanzibar — A DAY after the President of Zanzibar, Dr Ali Mohamed Shein, banned public gatherings aimed at discussing union matters, the leaders of an Islamic awakening movement (Uamsho) led by Sheikh Farid Hadi Ahmed have vowed to disobey the order to their last breath.
Addressing a press conference outside Mbuyuni Mosque in Unguja yesterday, Sheikh Ahmed who was flanked by fellow leaders said the organisation's activities would not be shaken by the President's speech.
"We are in fact more vigilant and vibrant than ever before and have already planned to hold a huge public rally at Lumumba grounds on Sunday and we will not stop until we have achieved our mission," he said.
Recently President of Zanzibar, Dr Ali Mohamed Shein banned public gatherings that are bent on discussing the future of the Union. He has called on Zanzibaris to wait for the Constitutional Review Commission which is entrusted with such activity. The president's remarks came in a wake of the recent chaos that are connected to a move by some religious activists who are keen on mobilizing people to protest and hold public rallies to discuss Union matters.
"The Constitutional Review Act, 2011, has stated clearly that all matters related to the future of the country should be included in the new constitution and should be coordinated by the Constitutional Review Commission.
"The government is therefore serious on this and we will not allow anyone else to assume the commission's roles," he said. He noted that Zanzibaris will be free to discuss matters that are seen as challenges in the Union when the right time comes.
"What is ongoing now is of no help to the nation because people are discussing issues that no one records and the outcome is chaos. The recent chaotic situation has tarnished the reputation of Zanzibar and the definition of what we are," he said.
However, Sheikh Ahmed said clearly that the objective of their campaign was to push for a referendum on the 48-year old union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar. "We want Zanzibaris to be asked whether they want the union before we move to the process of contributing our views on the writing of the new Union Constitution," he said.
Commenting on the government's warning over the move by Uamsho to engage in active politics, Sheikh Ahmed noted that the Constitution of Zanzibar gave all Zanzibaris the right to discuss freely on the matters related to their country regardless of their religious affiliations.
"Despite being Muslims, we are Zanzibaris and it is from this fact that we cannot stop practising our constitutional right just because we are working under a religious organisation," he said. When asked over whether the Uamsho actions did not contravene aspects of the Constitutional Review Commission as per the Constitutional Review Act 2011, Sheikh Ahmed said that the campaigns being carried out by the organization had nothing to do with the process of constitutional review.
"We do not believe in the constitutional review, we are campaigning for sovereignty of Zanzibar," he said. In another development, the organisation reiterated that it was not responsible for last weekend's riots in which at least two churches and several business properties were burned.
"Islam is a religion of peace. The Holy Quran implores believers to live in peace and harmony with non-Muslims. Such acts are highly regretted," he said. Sheikh Ahmed claimed that Uamsho had names of some of the suspects behind the burning of the churches and business premises and promised to share the list with police if "asked for questioning."
Meanwhile, residents in Unguja town have called for the restoration of peace in the Isles as chaos was not healthy for the economy and people's welfare. Several people interviewed by the 'Daily News on Saturday' noted that Zanzibaris were tired with the rather lengthy spell of insecurity and all they wanted was for peace and stability to be restored.
"If the government continues with the current trend of talking through the media on the one hand and the Sheikhs on the other, we will not achieve anything meaningful for our country. Let the government engage those behind the move in a dialogue and come up with a lasting solution," said a taxi driver at Forodhani area who preferred anonymity.