10 March 2018

Tanzania: Blow to Lobby Seeking Secession of Zanzibar

A case filed at the East African Court of Justice by a lobby seeking separation of the isles from Tanzania Mainland on Wednesday kicked off to a false start after the court struck out two applications by the petitioners over failure to adhere to procedure.

The failure by their Kenyan counsel Japhet Chidzipha and the inability of their representative, Rashid Salum Adiy, to fluently speak in English prompted the court to agree with the government's plea to strike out the application, in which they pleaded with the court to consider hearing their main case in Zanzibar instead of Arusha, for what they termed security and cost reasons.

Principal Judge Monica Mugenyi, flanked by Justices Fakihi A. Jundu and Charles Nyawello, said she could not allow Mr Adiy to address the court in Kiswahili, as Article 46 of the EAC Treaty recognises English as the official language of the bloc.

"There's no room for interpretation," she ruled.

She denied the applicants' plea to adjourn the case to allow the Kenyan lawyer to get registered, saying he lacked the power of attorney and he was therefore unqualified to address the court.

The government side led by Alicia Mbuya, Principal State Attorney from the Attorney General's Chambers, had asked the court to strike out the application. Also representing the respondents were Deputy Attorney General for Zanzibar Mzee Ali Haji, Principal State Attorney from the Attorney General's Chambers in Tanzania Mainland Mark Mulwambo, Senior State attorney from the Attorney General's Chambers in Zanzibar Mbarouk Suleiman Othman, and Principal Legal Officer from the Union Vice-President's Office Gasper Shao.

Zanzibar secession

Justice Jundu noted that the applicants were neither prepared nor capable of stating the grounds for the application.

In their second application, they asked the EACJ to declare the Union between the Republic of Tanganyika and the People's Republic of Zanzibar non-existent, pending the court's decision on the main case they filed against the Attorney General of the United Republic of Tanzania and his counterpart in the People's Republic of Zanzibar.

Mr Adiy, head of the Zanzibar Rights of Freedom and Autonomy (Zarfa), a group not recognised by the Tanzanian authorities, had filed the main case.

In their seven prayers in the main case, the Zanzibar secession campaigners are appealing to the regional court to declare the Articles of Union between the Republic of Tanganyika and the People's Republic of Zanzibar null and void. They argue that the Articles of Union were not duly executed and sanctioned by both substantive and procedural law.

They ask the court to nullify the Articles of Union on grounds that they lack legal validity, legitimacy and mandate, as the two states did not carry out a referendum for their citizens to formulate them.

The petitioners also want the court to declare that the Articles of Union claimed to be signed on April 22, 1964, were not ratified three days later as alleged, contending that they were altered at the whims of any government without the sanction of its respective countries.

They further want the court to nullify the Union between the defunct Republic of Tanganyika and the People's Republic of Zanzibar, saying it was not adopted into local legislation of the two respective states for them to have force of law.

In their fifth prayer, they said the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar to be declared autonomous and sovereign as Zanzibaris have reluctantly accepted the 'political Union' as time rolled by.

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