Accessibility links

Zanzibar Opposition Leader in Washington to Explain Political Situation

  • James Butty

FILE - The opposition Civic United Front (CUF), Zanzibar's Second Vice-President Seif Sharif Hamad speaks during a news conference in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, January 11, 2016.

FILE - The opposition Civic United Front (CUF), Zanzibar's Second Vice-President Seif Sharif Hamad speaks during a news conference in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, January 11, 2016.

The leader of Zanzibar’s opposition Civic United Front (CUF) party said strong opposition political parties and a truly independent electoral commissions are needed to be able to defeat incumbent presidents.

Seif Shariff Hamad also says Africans must ensure that the army and all other security forces are kept out of politics because too often they tend to support the ruling party.

Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania in East Africa consisting of two larger islands and many smaller ones in the Indian Ocean just off Tanzania's coastline.

In March this year, Zanzibar held a re-run of its October 2015 presidential election. But the CUF boycotted the re-run polls because it believed its candidate, Hamad, won the October 25th election last year.

Hamad is currently visiting Washington to meet with U.S. government officials about the political situation in Zanzibar.

Opposition: Too much power is in the hands of the ruling party

Hamad explained the situation in Zanzibar as he sees it. “First of all, the chairman of Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) had no power to nullify the election of October last year. So the results of October last year are still very, very legitimate results. Secondly, you found that in the constitution of Zanzibar and in the electoral laws of Zanzibar there is no section which says that there can be a re-run or another election on top of the first election. So all these steps were much illegal steps,” he said.

The Zanzibar electoral commission said it annulled the results on the grounds the election was marred by several irregularities.

The commission called fresh elections for March 20th this year, but the opposition boycotted them.

The ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party candidate Ali Mohamed Shein won the second round of voting with 91% of the votes cast.

Hamad claims to have support from around the world.

"The international community supported the democratic development of the country. They were convinced that the steps by Chama Cha Mapinduzi were steps that were undemocratic. If there is a process which is very open and democratic, they will support that process. Now, you find that when there is such problem, you have to meet these people who matter to remind them that the problem still is there and they could use their leverage to see to it that we get amicable solution to the problem,” he said.

Opposition says the second election was illegal

Hamad denied that by refusing to take part in the re-run election, his CUF party literally gave victory election to the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party.

“We didn’t take part because we knew that first it was illegal. We did not want to participate in an illegal process. It’s a matter of principle. Secondly, even if we participated, CCM nullified the election and called new election so as not to be defeated again. They had all arrangements in place to ensure that they would win,” Hamad said.

He said Zanzibaris are not happy with Tanzanian President John Magufuli’s administration despite his image around Africa as the champion of the fight against corruption.

“The perception people have, especially outside Tanzania is that he’s fighting corruption. But the same Magufuli, as leader of the country has refused to take his responsibility in Zanzibar. All the time when he is approached he says that he cannot act; his hands are tired which is not true. So, the people of Zanzibar what they want really is to see that Magufuli acts as a responsible leader of the United Republic of Tanzania,” he said.

Hamad agrees that too often African opposition parties are too splintered as everyone strives to be president.

But he said once opposition parties can discuss issues among themselves they might be able to come up with a suitable candidate as was the case in Tanzania when the opposition put forward a single candidate, Edward Lowassa, in last October’s presidential election.