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Zanzibari President Sworn In as Opposition Area Sealed Off


Amani Abeid Karume was sworn in as Zanzibar's president while opposition members and supporters continued to be detained by police in a Stone Town neighborhood. The neighborhood has been sealed since late Monday.

A 21-gun salute, military band, and diplomats from more than 30 countries worldwide were all part of the swearing-in of Amani Abeid Karume, the candidate for the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi and president of the semi-autonomous islands since 2000.

According to figures released Tuesday by the Zanzibar Electoral Commission, Mr. Karume captured 53 percent of the vote in the October 30 elections, while opposition Civic United Front candidate, Seif Sharif Hamad, got 46 percent.

Mr. Karume said that voters chose his party because they are impressed with its polices and that democracy is alive and well in the semi-autonomous islands. He urged the Civic United Front to accept the results and take their seats in parliament.

As the pomp and circumstance was taking place, heavily armed police continued to seal off hundreds of Civic United Front officials and supporters in a section of Stone Town called Mtendeni, where the party's headquarters is located.

Dejected, exhausted mostly young men sat amongst burned tires and other debris, the smell of teargas still lingering in the air. On Tuesday, VOA saw about a dozen police continually firing teargas canisters into the narrow, winding roads of Mtendeni.

Civic United Front Director of Elections Ayoub Bakari tells VOA he, his colleagues and supporters have been, in his words, kept under siege in Mtendeni since Monday, not being allowed to leave the area. He says most people have not had any food to eat and no humanitarian aid has been allowed into the area.

"So how can one nation celebrate on one end, while barring another end? It is quite unacceptable. It is against human rights, it is against international laws, this is totally unacceptable. The same people, the same citizen of the same country - some of them under siege and some of them are free to do their business."

A Civic United Front statement said it will continue to lead peaceful protests but will not cooperate, in its words, with a government that has taken power through illegal means and against the wishes of the Zanzibari people. The party has called for an independent investigation into the elections.

The ruling party says the opposition is fomenting the violence and is claiming election irregularities because it lost the elections.

Observer missions had been releasing their preliminary statements during the past couple of days and, with a couple of exceptions, have largely described the October 30th polls as generally free and fair.

The ruling party and its predecessors have ruled Tanzania for most than 40 years. The opposition accuses the Chama Cha Mapinduzi of massive rigging to win the 1995 and 2000 elections. International monitors and human-rights groups had reported serious election irregularities and arrests and unlawful detentions of opposition supporters.

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