March 31, 2014

CUF Rally, Kibanda Maiti

Last week I attended a CUF rally in Kibanda Maiti, an open area in Ngambo where CUF has a strong presence. My attendance at the rally caused a bit of a stir in my neighborhood in Stone Town. A couple folks have taken to greeting me with the CUF rallying cry, "Haki sawa kwa wote!" (Equal rights for all). Some people wanted to know why I had gone (I told them I just wanted to listen), and whether I had understood what was happening.

Suprisingly I had. Although some of the back and forth between the speakers and the crowd was lost on me, I did clearly understand the purpose of the rally. In the first place, the rally was held as a result of Kikwete's speech rejecting "serikali tatu" and essentially firmly stating that the union was not going to change. There is some discrepancy between the current Tanzanian constitution, which says that Tanzania is one nation, and the current Zanzibar constitution, which says Tanzania is two nations, Tanganyika and Zanzibar. This discrepancy was the point of debate and a part of the reason for the 'serikali tatu' proposal. The previous chair of the Constitutional Convention, former Tanzanian Prime Minister Joseph Warioba, had proposed the three-tier government as a way to preserve the union. Warioba spent months collecting public opinions on the governmental structure, and claimed that 61% of those surveyed wanted a tri-governmental structure. Kikwete's speech essentially plunged this process into chaos, and the Convention that is now proceeding to vote on sections of the Constitution is essentially dominated by CCM, since the opposition parties have dropped out in protest.

The union is undoubtedly the MOST important and controversial constitutional issue, so when Kikwete gave his speech saying "serikali tatu haiwezekani", it essentially short-circuited Warioba's painstaking process of collecting public opinions and submitting drafts for approval by the constitutional convention. Warioba, who is far from being a CUF partisan or even pro-Zanzibar, nevertheless made this profound statement: "The citizens of Zanzibar have lost a right to lead themselves; equally, the Zanzibar House of Representatives (by appearing in the union parliament) are legislating on matters that do not concern them."

Wairoba sees clearly that the current union structure is not sustainable and has essentially resulted in CCM establishing itself in Zanzibar by dint of force and fraud. There is nothing to be gained from the purely pragmatic perspective of political stability, by continuing to deny Zanzibar a place within the union as a nation with its own autonomous government and an extensive degree of self-rule.

The leader of CUF, and current Vice President of Zanzibar, Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad was well aware of this context as he stepped up to the podium to speak at the rally. At first he seemed overly formal and a bit stiff, but he quickly warmed to the crowd. In an hour long speech, he touched on the history of the union, the efforts of Warioba to preserve 'serikali tatu', and the need for Zanzibaris to assert their rights within the constitutional process. At the end of his speech, he asked the crowd for permission to read a letter he was sending to "ndugu yangu, rafiki yangu" Rais Kikwete. To the cheers of the jubilant crowd, he announced that in response to Kikwete's hijacking of the democratic process, he was calling for a popular referendum on the union. This way, the union can be voted up or down by popular plebiscite.

This is CCM's worst nighmare. A referendum on the union would almost certainly favor CUF; CCM is perceived as a mainland party. But such a referendum, if it ever did emerge (an unlikely possibility) also has a worrying potential to erupt into violence, as have previous elections which were narrowly won by CCM. These narrow electoral victories, however, were only achieved through fraud and violence, and CCM's current dominance in Zanzibar is completely unsustainable.

But CUF has its own challenges. How far is it willing to go to stand up for Zanzibar autonomy? And what will it do in the event of the union actually breaking? The mainland currently provides Zanzibar's security. How will it deal with the significant popuation of mainlanders who would continue to remain on the island. What would its relationship be with mainland Tanganyika? (for a relationship of some kind is unavoidable).

The rally ended with the reading of Maalim Seif's letter to Kikwete. Time will tell what the outcome of these negotiations will be. To be continued....

By the way, I have posted pictures of the rally on my Instagram account. You can follow me: @nmathews81. On twitter, I am @AzanianSea. Karibu.


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