November 29, 2012

Uamsho, Zanzibar and the Mainland (by Thembi Mutch)

Thembi Mutch has a very good article on Uamsho and the increasingly restive political climate in Zanzibar. She helpfully avoids using the phrase "Islamist" to characterize Uamsho's reform efforts. Uamsho needs to be understood on its own terms and in terms of its own goals: autonomy for Zanzibar,  addressing corruption and drug use, and the failure of tourism to translate into quality of life improvement for ordinary Zanzibaris. The anti-mainlander rhetoric, however, is xenophobic and counter-productive to Uamsho's goals, but it has a long history in Zanzibar's political discourse. I also disagree with the idea that "forgetting" the past is somehow a solution to the problems plaguing the island. On the contrary, what is needed is a skillful and honest look at the past, so islanders can move forward productively out of that knowledge. There is a need not for more ignorance about the past but for more sagacity. Battles over a bloody history need not turn Zanzibari politics into a blame game; I would argue that ignorance about the past has contributed to, rather than alleviated, this blame game.


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