By TZ Business News Staff.
Zanzibar marked 52 years of independence from Arab domination on January 12, 2016, but the celebrations were conducted amid thick clouds of both prosperity and power struggle.
In his ceremonial speech at Amani Stadium in Zanzibar, the Isles President Dr. Ali Mohamed Shein said the Zanzibar people’s per capital income had increased from $866 in 2013 to $939 in 2014, adding that the overall national economy had registered relatively good annual growth of 7% in 2015.
The positive economic outlook for the archipelago was attribed to good performance of two sectors: tourism and industry. The Zanzibar President has continued to be President after the Zanzibar Electoral Commission cancelled a hotly contested election in October last year.
Dr. Shein said economic development was continuing in high gear in the isles, adding that rural electrification and construction of schools was in progress in both the larger island of Unguja, and the smaller island of Pemba.
The Zanzibar President praised the recently retired Tanzania Union President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete for successfully implementing the plan to remove oil and gas from Union matters. Zanzibar is now legally free to extract oil and gas for its independent use, he said.
The positive economic outlook is however clouded with conflict. Dr. Shein also said during the celebrations on Tuesday that a re-run of the vote for a new leader of the islands, would go ahead despite calls by the opposition to scrap the elections re-run plan. But the Zanzibar leader did not announce the date to be set by the electoral commission. The election re-run is however expected to take place in February, 2016.
Although no formal date for a new poll has been announced the presidential contestant in the annulled October elections Seif Sharif Hamad said he understood it could be on Feb. 28, the British news agency, Reuters, has reported. . The Zanzibar electoral commission had initially said it would hold a re-run within 90 days after the annulment in October.
Tanzania has been one of Africa’s most politically stable nations but Zanzibar has been a hotbed of opposition to central government, with strong secessionist and Islamist voices. Votes on the islands are usually closely fought and often disputed.
The main opposition Civic United Front (CUF) party said in early January, 2016, that violence could erupt on the archipelago if the government holds fresh elections.after the October vote was annulled on grounds of fraud.
CUF said it won the poll and said dialogue to form a government of all parties should be held rather than a new vote. But the ruling CCM party supported both the annulment and the re-run.
“The election will be repeated,” Shein told the ceremony to mark 52 years since the African majority on the Indian Ocean islands overthrew their Arab rulers in 1964. “The government will take action against anyone who tries to disturb the peace.”
Security was tighter than usual around the Zanzibar’s president January 12. Dr. Shein is member of the ruling CCM party. His term was extended after the elections were cancelled.
The opposition Civic United Front (CUF) has in the meantime said the election cancellation was unconstitutional, Reuters has reported.
Tanzania’s new president, John Magufuli, also a member of CCM, has promised to work with leaders from both sides of the conflict in Zanzibar to resolve the impasse. He attended the ceremony in Zanzibar also attendended by all retired Tanzania Presidents who include second phase President Ali Hassan Mwinyi, third phase government President Benjamin Mkapa and forth phase President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete.
A day before the celebrations, Hamad, the main opposition leader in the archipelago warned that violence could erupt if the government holds an election re-run.
Tanzania held national presidential and parliamentary elections on Oct. 25, which included a vote for the president of Zanzibar and members of its house of representatives. The election commission annulled the Zanzibar presidential vote citing “gross violations”. The opposition Civic United Front (CUF) rejected this cancellation, saying it won the poll.
“A re-vote is not a solution to the on-going crisis and is not acceptable,” Zanzibar’s Second Vice-President Seif Sharrif Hamad, CUF’s presidential candidate, told a news conference.
“Any decision to hold fresh elections would lead to violence,” said Hamad, calling for talks and proposing a coalition government for Zanzibar that included Tanzania’s ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party but under CUF leadership.