14 January 2016

Tanzania: CUF Asks Pope to Intervene in Zanzibar Impasse

Dar es Salaam — The Civic United Front (CUF) has appealed to Pope Francis to intervene in the political impasse in Zanzibar.

CUF Secretary-General Seif Shariff Hamad says in his two-page letter to the pontiff that the crisis is threatening peace and religious tolerance in the isles.

The letter, dated November 25, 2015 and whose copy was made available to The Citizen yesterday, was written three weeks after the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) annulled results of the October 25 elections, saying the ballot was marred by "widespread irregularities". The move plunged Zanzibar into a political and constitutional crisis.

Mr Hamad, who was CUF's presidential candidate, has maintained that he won the vote against CCM's Ali Mohammed Shein, who was seeking re-election for a second and final five-year term.

"In this year's election, every election observer team had concluded that the election was peaceful, free and fair; but when it appeared that the ruling party was losing - and the results are widely known - ZEC chairman, appointed by the ruling party's president, abruptly and unconstitutionally annulled the election," the letter reads in part.

Mr Hamad further informed Pope Francis that CUF had been robbed of victory in every election since 1995.

"Even apologists of the ruling party now admit that the Civic United Front has won every election since the restoration of the multi-party system in 1995, but it has never been allowed to rule."

Mr Hamad, who is also the First Vice President of Zanzibar, went on to accuse the Union government of not according the Zanzibar situation the importance it deserves.

"Instead of taking corrective action against this illegality, the Union government has been supporting the Zanzibar state with its police and armed forces threatening dire action." According to Mr Hamad, the long tradition of religious tolerance in islands has begun to crack because of "political disempowerment and deprivation of our inalienable rights".

"Zanzibar is a predominantly Muslim country, so there isn't a religious divide at all, but failure by the people to achieve their democratic rights through the ballot after 20 years of elections may drive some discontented youths to extra-democratic paths of which our world is seeing too much of these days," Mr Hamad says in the letter.

He pleaded with head of Catholic Church to intervene, saying, "It is for these reasons that we appeal to Your Holiness to exercise your considerable moral influence over the Tanzanian government to arrest this sense of hopelessness and helplessness before it is too late."

CUF's Director of Communication, Mr Ismail Jussa, yesterday told The Citizen that the letter was sent to the Pope through the Vatican's embassy in Dar es Salaam. However, the party had yet to receive a response from the pontiff.

Meanwhile the political situation in Zanzibar is far from being unsolved. Dr Shein and CCM have been maintaining that the cancelled elections will be held afresh, while Mr Hamad, on the other hand, has bitterly opposed any attempt to hold a rerun. Dr Shein, Mr Hamad and former Zanzibar presidents Ali Hassan Mwinyi, Salmin Amour and Amani Abeid Karume have met under closed doors eight times to try to resolve the impasse, but the CUF leader said earlier this week that the meetings had "failed miserably".

He said Dr Shein was not committed to bringing the meetings, the first of which was held on November 9, to fruition.


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