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Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

Tanzania: Zanzibar Political Repression

Tanzania: Zanzibar Political Repression
Date distributed (ymd): 010208
Document reposted by APIC

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Region: Southern Africa / East Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +security/peace+
Summary Contents:
This posting contains several recent documents on the recent political repression in Zanzibar: (1) a statement from the Zanzibar Legal Services Centre, (2) a letter to Tanzanian President Mkapa from the Association of Concerned Africa Scholars (ACAS), (3) a statement from Human Rights Watch, and (4) excerpts from a background report on Religion in Zanzibar from Nathalie Arnold, of Friends of Pemba.

Additional on-line sources include:

Article 19, Zanzibar: Democracy on Shaky Foundations (April 2000)

Zanzibar News


IPP Media
[latest news includes report of peaceful rally by opposition parties in Dar es Salaam on Feb. 7]

Tanzanian Embassy in Washington

Civic United Front

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Professor Haroub Othman
Zanzibar Legal Services Centre
P.O. Box 3360
Zanzibar, Tanzania
tel & fax +255 54 33-784

Statement on the Killings by the Police in Zanzibar

January 29, 2001

In the course of the last week, the world witnessed massive killings, torture, harassment and other types of brutalities against innocent Tanzanians by the members of the Police Force in Dar es Salaam and on the islands of Unguja and Pemba. This scale and magnitude of killings has never been witnessed in this country since the Union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar in 1964 which gave birth to the United Republic of Tanzania. We in the Zanzibar Legal Services Centre (ZLSC) have been highly shocked by these killings and other atrocities by the members of the Police Force. In our view, had commonsense and wisdom prevailed all these would not have taken place. The actions by the Police have tarnished our good name and our pride of being an island of peace no longer holds.

The right to peaceful assembly and to hold processions, just like the right to join political parties and other voluntary organizations is recognized and guaranteed in the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania of 1977 as well as the Constitution of Zanzibar of 1984. There is no law in the United Republic which requires the citizen to seek and obtain police permit before holding processions. This legal position was underlined by the Chief Justice of the United Republic of Tanzania Hon. Mr. Justice Barnabas Samatta while addressing the Seminar of the new members of the Parliament in Dodoma in November last year. The Chief Justice was in fact reiterating a position adopted by Lugakingira, J. (as he then was) in the case of Rev. Christopher Mtikila v. Attorney-General of 1993.

What we have witnessed and which is unusual, is the fact that even before CUF could give notice of their procession to the police, which is what the law requires, various national leaders including senior police officers had already given strong statements against the intended procession and in fact prohibiting it. The issue of security including the guarantee that the procession will be peaceful is something that could have been discussed and agreed upon between the Police and the CUF leadership. Instead of engaging in such a dialogue, the two sides began accusations and counter-accusations and thus leading to anger, emotions and a highly charged atmosphere.

Zanzibar Legal Services Centre is particularly disappointed by these actions of the members of the Police Force which are against both the Constitution and the law. The Centre, in collaboration with the Legal Aid Committee of the University of Dar es Salaam, has been involved in long and serious training of the police of all ranks on the law and human rights in particular. It had been expected that the knowledge gained in these training programmes would be used in the course of dealing with citizens and their social problems.

It should be remembered that there is a problem in Zanzibar. It will be self-deceit to close our eyes on the problem or to believe that force can be a solution to the problem. All the efforts by the Commonwealth to resolve this problem did not bear fruits as there was no political will to deal squarely with it. We urge the leaders of CCM, CUF and the two governments - that of the United Republic and that of Zanzibar to sit together as patriots and without setting any conditions and sort out this problem once and for all.

Otherwise, this will be the beginning of the movement towards disorder, killings, torture and civil war. This is a route taken by many of our neighbours and other African countries. Angola, Burundi, Democratic Republic the Congo, Liberia, Rwanda, Somalia, etc. will no longer be examples for us to cite as we shall be in the same group!

As the Police Force, which is responsible to the atrocities which have taken place are under the Union government, we urge that government to institute an independent inquiry on what has happened so that those responsible are dealt with and in order to re-establish the confidence of the people on the government.

Professor Haroub Othman CHAIRMAN

Association of Concerned Africa Scholars (ACAS)

For an additional background commentary distributed by ACAS, see Karim F. Hirj, Tanzania: The Travails of a Donor Democracy (

February 5, 2001

President Benjamin William Mkapa,
United Republic of Tanzania
The State House
PO Box 9120
Dar Es Salaam

FAX 22-211-3425

Dear President Mkapa,

The Association of Concerned Africa Scholars writes today to condemn the killings of activists on the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba in late January and the ongoing suppression of peaceful citizens exercising their democratic rights. We support the call of our colleagues in the Legal Aid Committee of the Faculty of Law of the University of Dar Es Salaam (28 January 2001) for an end to police violence and repression.

As a national association of scholars in the United States, many of whom have had a long association with and respect for the United Republic of Tanzania, we are deeply concerned by these violations of fundamental human rights and the killings on the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba on Saturday 27 January 2001. We were equally appalled by the reports of arrests, harassment, torture, injury and incarceration of the leaders of political organizations exercising their rights to peaceful assembly on these islands and in Dar Es Salaam. We condemn these actions unequivocally and call for your government to immediately put a stop to such measures and to investigate the abuses of the police and other security forces.

We note that the Legal Aid Committee, which has been providing human rights training for members of the police force since 1997, expresses particular concern at the behavior of the police force and we call on the government to ensure that the commanders of this force are held accountable for the actions of their subordinates.

Mr. President, we look forward to hearing from you the actions that your government is taking to put a stop to these violations of human rights and we will be following these events closely in this country and working to make others aware of the reports from your country.


William Martin
Co-Chair, Association of Concerned Africa Scholars Fernand Braudel Center, Binghamton University
PO Box 6000, Binghamton, NY 13902-6000


Ambassador Charles R. Stith
United States Embassy
P.O. Box 9123
Dar es Salaam
Tel [255] (22) 2666010/1/2/3/4/5; Fax 2666701

His Excellency Mustafa Salim Nyang'anyi
Embassy of the United Republic of Tanzania
2139 R St. NW, Washington, DC 20008, USA.
Tel: (202) 884-1080 & (202) 939-6125
Fax: (202) 797-7408

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell
U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC, 20520
Fax: 202-261-8577

Human Rights Watch

Zanzibar: Violence Condemned, Tanzanian Security on the Rampage (

(New York, January 31, 2001) The Tanzanian police and army are using unrestrained force to shoot, injure, and kill people on Pemba and Zanzibar islands, Human Rights Watch charged today. Hundreds have reportedly been killed or injured.

Over the weekend of January 27-28, 2001, supporters of the opposition party the Civic United Front (CUF) planned a peaceful demonstration to protest last year's flawed elections. The CUF enjoys widespread support on the semi-autonomous islands of Zanzibar and Pemba. Before the rallies could get underway, the government reportedly responded by shooting indiscriminately into crowds and using clubs to beat demonstrators on Zanzibar and Pemba islands.

"The Tanzanian government is seeking to silence the political opposition through terror and violence," said Peter Takirambudde, executive director of the Africa division of Human Rights Watch. "The security forces must be held accountable for their brutality against unarmed people."

The president of Zanzibar, Amani Abeid Karume spoke on television on January 28, congratulating the police for their efforts and warning those involved in the demonstration that the government will punish all those who took part. He did not call on the police to end their rampage, nor did he state that security forces who have used unrestrained force would be held responsible for their actions. "The crackdown on Pemba and Zanzibar and the statement made by President Karume are unacceptable," said Peter Takirambudde.

Human Rights Watch also has received reports indicating that a police helicopter attacked several boats that were attempting to transport injured people to Mombasa, Kenya, to obtain medical care. At least one boat was sunk and an unknown number of people died.

According to credible information from local organizations, the government deployed hundreds of police. In addition to shooting unarmed civilians and beating people, security forces are reported to have blocked access to a hospital, denying the wounded medical care. Police are allegedly dragging people from their houses at night and from the hospital wards, and beating or jailing them in overcrowded police cells where conditions are now dismal. The security forces have forced people into their homes and harassed people found in the streets.

On January 26, 2001, the CUF chairman, Ibrahim Lipumba, was charged in capital city Dar-es-Salaam, with unlawful assembly and disturbing the peace along with fifteen other CUF members.

Human Rights Watch called on the president to punish the security force members who have attacked unarmed people. The government should permit the wounded to seek medical care, and should also give international humanitarian groups access to the wounded, especially those in jails.

Religion in Zanzibar

Nathalie Arnold (
Friends of Pemba*

[Excerpts only: full text, as well as other reports and updates, available from the author. For a Feb. 3 report, see by Nathalie Arnold and Bruce McKim, see:]

* The objectives of Friends of Pemba include 'make available reliable and responsibly collected information about Pemba in a timely manner to all concerned and interested people and institutions. Membership is open to Pembans, Zanzibaris, members of the Zanzibari diaspora, scholars, professionals, and private individuals. Co-founders Bruce McKim and Nathalie Arnold have conducted long-term anthropological fieldwork in Pemba.

For further information contact:
Nathalie Arnold, Indiana University, (812) 332-9758
Bruce Mckim, Yale University, (718) 933-5699

Approximately 97% of Zanzibar's population practices some form of Islam. Within the Muslim population is a majority of Sunnis, a smaller population of Ibadhis and a minority of Ismailis and Itthnasheriis. There are also small populations of Christians (mostly Goan Catholic Zanzibaris and immigrants from the mainland, both Catholic and Protestant), and Hindus. This presents on the one hand a certain homogeneity, in that the vast majority are Muslims, but it also suggests quite some diversity, even among Muslims, and within the non-Muslim minority. ... Zanzibar has been remarkable for its climate of religious tolerance. Religious minorities freely celebrate holidays specific to their denominations, and there have been no incidents of conflict or violence in which religion has played a role. The Muslim population, despite differences in observance and religious practice, has also maintained a markedly united, tolerant stance, which emphasizes similarity rather than difference between sects.

In view of recent suggestions that religion, particularly Islam, has been a radicalized political factor in Zanzibar, I think it important in this report to devote some consideration to this issue The ruling party of Zanzibar (CCM) has frequently suggested that opposition to it is framed in religious terms, and that the CUF is a 'Muslim' party with radical elements, funded by Islamic fundamentalists. ...

Islam in Zanzibar:

Zanzibari Islam, compared to that of some Islamic countries (some member-states of the Organization of Islamic Countries), and compared to conservative Christianity in some European countries (Spain and Ireland, for example), is markedly moderate. It takes the form of a general social orientation, rather than a specifically mandated, or regulated religious practice as such. It is not, as it is in some other countries, opposed in any way to 'Westernization,' technology, or to public, secular education. Most importantly in this context, Islam in Zanzibar is fully supportive of the generalized Western discourse of 'human rights' and 'democracy.'

This can be seen most clearly in the realm of gender relations. In Zanzibar, both boys and girls receive state education, at least to the primary level. There is a drop-off of girls in the secondary levels, but this appears to be less due to explicit parental preference for male education than to the fact that girls, as they do across Africa (and across the Western world), have responsibilities in the home which make it less likely for them to have the time requisite to devote to their education as they get older. Nonetheless, girls are represented at the secondary level, and it very common, at least in urban areas, for girls who do not continue in the higher standards to seek vocational training, particularly in secretarial, accounting, and computer studies.

Women are not markedly discouraged from seeking employment outside the home, and, as the economy has become increasingly service-based, many find it necessary to do so. Women can be seen in government offices, in schools, as teachers and headmistresses, and, increasingly, in private enterprise, where they often sell food, make clothes, or weave baskets and mats to supplement their income. Women are also represented in elected office. ...

The Civic United Front

During the campaigning in both the 1995 Elections, and these most recent elections held in October 2000, CCM members claimed that the CUF is funded by 'Arabs,' and has the aim of returning slavery and the Sultanate to the Isles. While such claims can be seen simply as part of heated campaign sloganning, they have influenced both the internal Tanzanian media, and the Western media, to the extent that it behooves us here to review the specific history of the CUF as a political party, and to examine the religious constitution of its members.

When the Tanzanian Government made moves towards multi-party democracy in 1992, the CUF was formed on the Tanzanian mainland by lawyers, activists, and politicians from various communities, including Zanzibar. It was not based in any religious ideology, but rather was framed as the coming together of oppositional elements in Tanzania, with the aim of supporting one another in the attempt to present the long-term ruling party with a coherent, broad-based opposition. Its members emphasized the word "Civic" in the party's name to stress the fact that it was neither regional, religious, nor even united ideologically in any way other than its members desire to challenge the state in a concerted manner, to reform the constitution, and to review the state of the Union (something that even some CCM members have thought a worthwhile goal). As other parties formed on the Tanzanian mainland, aimed at specific community and regional issues, support for the CUF came primarily from the Tanzanian coast's urban areas, and from Zanzibar. This is partly the result of geographical proximity and the relative ease of communication and travel in this area.

While CUF, in the years since 1992, has acquired its strongest support on Zanzibar, but it is by no means limited to Zanzibar in its appeal. Campaigning in the year 2000, as well as Election 2000 results show that CUF has acquired substantial support in areas as far away from the coast as Mwanza and Bukoba, Julius Nyerere's home area and once a CCM stronghold. Since Zanzibar's population is overwhelmingly Muslim, ... any party with substantial support in Zanzibar might well be called a "Party of Muslims." But to represent the CUF in this manner is to oversimplify the case in a potentially very misleading way. A look at its leadership is also instructive. It may be significantly Muslim, but it is not exclusively so, and at least two members of its Executive Committee are Christians from mainland Tanzania. CUF leaders consistently stress that their party seeks support from all Tanzanians for the benefit of all Tanzanians, and has not made anti-Christian statements. ...

Video footage of the October 12 CUF meeting in Kilima Hewa also offers interesting evidence. CUF had filed official notice and sought permission to hold the meeting at Kibanda-Maiti. When they arrived at Kibanda-Maiti they were turned away by police, who denied them permission for the meeting, although the correct paperwork had been filed. CUF members then decided to hold the meeting in front of one of their offices. The video footage of the meeting shows police arriving, and shooting without notice into the crowd of CUF supporters, who were seated. Police fired at CUF supporters, shooting six men in the leg. On October 28th, two of the men were still in the hospital, one of them having received bullets in each leg. After shooting, police can be seen to run away. As the shots are being fired, the video footage shows CUF leaders exhorting their audience to calm and ordering them all to stay seated, and not to respond with violence. This stands in striking contrast to claims that CUF is responsible for violence in Zanzibar, and that the Islam of its members is responsible for radicalization of the population. In fact it seems instead that it is the religious faith of most Zanzibaris that has enabled them to maintain peace in their society, even as it becomes increasingly policed and militarized. ...

This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC). APIC provides accessible information and analysis in order to promote U.S. and international policies toward Africa that advance economic, political and social justice and the full spectrum of human rights.

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