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Zanzibari Politicians Challenge Tanzania's 42-year-old Union

A group of Zanzibari opposition figures has filed a lawsuit seeking to dissolve Tanzania’s four-decade-old union. The plaintiffs say they are undertaking the effort as concerned Zanzibari citizens – and not in their capacity as opposition leaders. The legal action comes just two days before the 42nd anniversary of the merger that created Tanzania from the Zanizbar islands and the mainland, then known as Tanganyika. Many of Zanzibar's overwhelmingly Muslim population complain the current union structure favors residents of the much-larger mainland.

One of the plaintiffs is Rashid Ahmed Rashid – deputy secretary general of Tanzania’s opposition party, the National League for Democracy. He told English to Africa reporter Ashenafi Abedje the lawsuit “reflects the sentiments of a majority of Zanzibaris.” Rashid argues the 42-year-old union lacks legitimacy. “The union itself is not existing now because there is no such document signed between Julius Nyerere and Abeid Karume. It was organizedand formed by a group of people for their own interests.”

Zanzibari government spokesman Enzi Talib views the issue differently. “To rectify the act for the union between the Republic of Tanganyika and the Peoples Republic of Zanzibar….there was a legal agreement between the two governments. And in accordance with this act, it basically shows the legal base of agreement between the two countries.” Talib admits the existence of issues that concern many Zanzibaris. But he says the Tanzanian government “has already started taking steps to address the issues and streamline things within the union establishment.”