Skip to main content

Zitto Kabwe’s Proposal for Transitional Power Sharing in Zanzibar – A Commendable Proposal

ACT – Wazalendo party leader Zitto Kabwe recently made a proposal for a transitional power-sharing formula in Zanzibar in order to avert the simmering tensions in the isles. Almost eight months after the unilateral decision to annul the 25 October General Elections in Zanzibar there has been no sound political plan to resolving the stalemate in Zanzibar. It was expected that the new Tanzanian President John Magufuli, as shown in his political goodwill in Tanzania, would delve into the crisis in Zanzibar but he instead chose not to ‘interfere’. His party CCM was at the centre of the political crisis – and understandably his decision not to wade in made perfect political sense. His earlier ambivalence on the situation in Zanzibar later changed when he addressed the elders on Dar es Salaam on February 2016 promising not to interfere in the reelection which was announced despite the efforts to reach an agreement between the two warring parties CCM and CUF. In a veiled threat, President Magufuli said he had a responsibility to ensure security and as Commander in Chief he would ensure peace in Zanzibar and any ‘choko choko’ [trouble] will be met with serious repercussions. The main opposition CUF announced that it would boycott the ‘illegal’ reelection – stressing that a legal election was held on 25 October 2015 – in which its presidential candidate Maalim Seif Shariff Hamad had won. Zanzibar’s electoral commission ZEC went on with the reelection on 20 March 2016. CCM’s Dr. Ali Mohammed Shein won 91.4% of the votes and the party clinched all the 54 seats in the House of Representatives.
Maalim Seif
Maalim Seif – CUF leader
A Checkered Political History in Zanzibar
Zanzibar’s political setup is mainly dominated by CCM and CUF who by virtue of their checkered history represent two conflicting and divergent political views. CCM, the successor of the Afro-Shirazi Party (ASP) prides itself as the custodians of the 1964 Zanzibar Revolution that overthrew the Arab Sultanate while CUF is a product of liberators and critics of CCM who broke out of the party in the late 1980s. CUF projects itself as liberal party that champions for a ‘balanced’ Union and Zanzibari nationalism. Its detractors say they advocate for a break of the Union. Zanzibar’s political culture is deeply embedded in this two political outfits – so much that it has become an aspect of identity, a source of tension and division in Zanzibar. The political DNA of Zanzibaris is defined along this two political parties – and children grow up with this identity from their formative years. This political schism is not only rooted in the 1964 Revolution but also in aspects such as the geographical divide – Pembans vs Ungujans as well as the Zanzibar and the Tanganyika divide [Tanganyika and Zanzibar Union discourse] . The race factor in Zanzibar has also metamorphosed into political identities. In short, Zanzibar is a deeply divided society characterised by the above mentioned identity formations. Politics has thus been a stage where these identities are played and as seen in the periods even before the 1964 Revolution, elections have been contested in these identities. Even during the era of one-party dictatorship in Tanzania Zanzibari identity has always played out both domestically and at the Union level. The reintroduction of multiparty politics in 1992 reinvigorated the identity lull in Zanzibar. All the elections from the first multiparty elections in 1995 to the 2015 elections have been between CUF and CCM with the latter winning all and the former contesting all save for the 2010 elections which were conducted after signing of the Maridhiano Agreement – a reconciliation agreement aimed at diffusion the tensions through an inclusive Government of National Unity (GNU).
The 2009 hand-shake agreement – Maridhiano Agreement between President Karume and Maalim Seif
Consociational Democracy through Power-Sharing
Arend Lijphart, the Dutch political scientist and a specialist in electoral systems, ethnicity and politics is famed for the erudite publication “Patterns of Democracy”. He is also widely acclaimed for the concept of consociational democracy. In this seminal conceptional analysis, Lijphart proposes ways in which segmented and divided societies manage to sustain democracy through power-sharing in what he called the Politics of Accommodation and Democracy in Plural Societies – which largely drew from case points in Europe. In his postulation, Lijphart believes that political culture and social structure are empirically related to political stability. Interestingly, he observes that when, on the other hand, a society is divided by sharp cleavages with no or very few overlapping memberships and loyalties – in other words, when political culture is deeply fragmented just as the example of Zanzibar – the pressure toward moderate middle – of the road attitudes become absent. In so doing, Lijphart identifies four characteristics of consociational democracies. A key one is the aspect of a grand coalitions (power-sharing).
Power Sharing and Peace-building
Peace-building is an important factor in conflict management. Power-sharing governments are common ingredients of peacemaking and peace-building efforts. Katia Papagianni observes that, power sharing guarantees the participation of representatives of significant groups in political decision making, and especially in the executive, but also in the legislature, judiciary, police and army. By dividing power among rival groups during the transition, power sharing reduces the danger that one party will become dominant and threaten the security of others. Liberia, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Nepal, Iraq and Afghanistan are examples of countries where power-sharing transitional governments were responsible for guiding the complex processes of demobilisation and re-integration of combatants, return of displaced persons, preparation of elections and the negotiation of new constitutions. As for Zanzibar, the Maridhiano Agreement between President Amani Karume (CCM) and Maalim Seif Shariff Hamad (CUF) in November, 2009 set the stage for a post-election Unity Government aimed at building peace after decades of inter-party animosity. Pursuant to Lijphart’s proposal, the GNU formed in 2010 went a long way at easing the tensions between the supporters of CCM and CUF.
Zitto Kabwe’s Proposal for a Transition Government in Zanzibar
ACT-Wazalandelo party leader Zitto Kabwe recently proposed a transitional government in Zanzibar. “CCM rejected the [25] October election results, CUF rejected the reelection [20 March 2016] election results, they should agree to form a transitional government and a fresh election to be called under a new electoral commission and whoever wins lead the country”. According to Mr. Kabwe the call for a transitional government will obviate the simmering tension is the isles. A transitional government is a government temporarily set up to prepare the way for a permanent government. Transitional governments work best in countries undergoing a transition into peace after periods of instability. Examples of countries that underwent periods of transition include Iraq, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Transitional governments are normally inclusive of the main parties to a conflict and in many cases involve constitutional reforms to increase political participation in the country. Zanzibar’s unity government, which worked between 2010 and 2015 is virtually dead with CCM controlling state power. Going by Lijphart’s proposal of consociational democracy, it was imperative – with all factors constant for Zanzibar to have an inclusive power sharing. Such is the division in Zanzibar that no single party can govern alone. We have witnessed the reemergence of enmity images between the supporters of CCM and CUF especially in Pemba island.  The gains made by the Maridhiano Agreement are now gone with an exclusive CCM government.
ACT Party Leader Zitto Kabwe
ACT Party Leader Zitto Kabwe
Building Peace during a Transitional Phase
Transitional phases offer unique opportunity to reflect on internal issues especially on the constitution. The annulment of the 2015 election and subsequent call for a fresh election unearthed the constitutional gaps in Zanzibar. It is evident that the annulment and the call for a fresh election were illegal and unconstitutional despite attempts by the ruling party CCM to justify the decision. It was further evident that the constitutional amendments in 2010 had envisaged the formation of a unity government to only include CCM and CUF as the main players. Dr. Shein, despite the constitutional demands [Article 9 (3) of the Zanzibar Constitution (2010 edition) which calls for a government of national unity] went on to form a monolithic government and didn’t name a First Vice President, who should come from the party that comes second in the election or with a second majority in the House of Representatives. These constitutional gaps and ambiguities that arose during the crisis could be debated during a transitional phase offering valuable lessons for the future.  


Popular posts from this blog

Speculating Magufuli’s absence at Uhuru Kenyatta’s Inauguration

29 November 2017 As I drove on the Thika Superhighway on the weekend before Uhuru Kenyatta’s inauguration on Tuesday, the road was decorated with flags of different countries. At the foot-bridge next to National Youth Service (NYS) Headquarters, the Tanzanian flag flew sublimely. Other flags including the Nairobi City Council flag decorated the Thika Superhighway that headed towards Kasarani, the venue of the inaguration. The Office of the Government Spokesman in Tanzania, had on 24 November issued a press statement saying that President John Magufuli would attend Mr. Kenyatta’s swearing in on 28 November. Days before Mr. Kenyatta’s inauguration, NASA leader Raila Odinga, a close friend to Mr. Magufuli flew to Zanzibar, where it is reported that the two met. Mr. Odinga’s trip to Zanzibar which came a few days after he jetted back to Nairobi from an overseas trip sparked debated and controversy. On the inauguration day, Tanzania’s State-House issued a press release saying that Vice Presi…

Comment: The Politics of Party Defection in Tanzania

Political party defection is a sign of unstable party democracy and/or jockeying for political positions. Defections happen from ruling party to the opposition and from the opposition to the ruling party. In African fledgling democracies, party defections are not about ideology or philosophic underpinnings. Party switching in many African states is largely driven by ethno-demographic and religious factors. These factors have also informed political party formation. Party switching is also a strategic political manoeuvring. Despite Tanzania boasting of national parties, political party strength is largely regional. We're now witnessing a surge in party defections from across the parties.
The defection of former PM Edward Lowassa from CCM to Chadema in 2015 was monumental, especially it coming just before a general election. The election season several high-profile defections. Defections from a dominant ruling party like CCM to the opposition is always huge. CCM's single party d…