Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Tanzania: Group Files Case Challenging Zanzibar Union

Originally uploaded by DEMOSH.
TANZANIA: Group files case challenging Zanzibar union

ZANZIBAR, STONE TOWN, 24 Apr 2006 (IRIN) - Two days before the 42nd anniversary of the political union of Tanganyika and the isles of Zanzibar, forming the United Republic of Tanzania, a group of 10 people in the semi-autonomous island have filed a case in the Zanzibar High Court seeking to have the union quashed because, they say, "it is illegal".

The group wants the union nullified to pave the way for fresh discussions on the formation of a new union, "which will represent the interest of the majority, because the current union has been a mess".

The founders of Tanzania, Julius Nyerere (Tanganyika) and Abeid Amani Karume (Zanzibar) signed the original article of the union that brought into a single political entity Tanzania mainland and the two islands that make up Zanzibar: Pemba and Unguja, with Zanzibar enjoying semi-autonomous status. Zanzibar has its own president and national assembly but recognises the overall leadership of the president of the united republic.

"We have finalised the required legal procedures, and submitted our affidavits," Rashid Salum Addiy, the leader of the 10 Zanzibaris who filed the case, told a news conference on Monday in the Zanzibar capital, Stone Town.

Addiy's group began their opposition to the current union in June 2005 when they went to the high court demanding that Zanzibar's attorney general present the original articles of the union.

However, in a ruling in December 2005, the court said the attorney general's office did not have a copy of the original article of the union signed by Karume and Nyerere. However the attorney general's office responded that this lack of documentation did not imply the non-existence of the article of the union.

In their suit, Addiy's group have named five locally prominent persons on a list of people to be questioned on the "illegality" of the union. These include the UN Secretary-General, Zanzibar's attorney general, the secretary-general of the Zanzibar Revolutionary Council, the Speaker of the Zanzibar House of Representative, and the secretary of the ruling political party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM).

On Saturday, during the launch of a book titled "Zanzibar and the Union Question", a section of Zanzibaris said the union should be nullified as it was of little importance to Zanzibar's economic development.

The new book, edited by University of Dar es Salaam professors Chris Peter and Haroub Othman, is a compilation of papers about the union, written by renowned Tanzanian writers including Issa Shivji, the leader of opposition in Zanzibar House of Representatives, Abubakar Khamis Bakari, Haroub Othman, Mahadhi Juma, and Wolfgang Dourado, Zanzibar's first attorney-general after 1964 revolution, who was detained after questioning the union's formation.

The majority of the speakers at the book launch expressed displeasure with the union. The launch was organised by the Zanzibar Legal Services Centre, in collaboration with Zanzibar Law Society and the Zanzibar Press Club, to mark the 42nd anniversary of the union.

The deputy vice-chancellor of the Zanzibar University College, Mohamed Harith Khalfan, said Zanzibar lawyers had let down the public by not taking action against the union. He said lawyers had left all matters concerning the union to politicians, who often were not transparent.

Facilitators of the meeting, including Othman and Peter as well as lawyers Othman Masoud and Yahya Khamis described the union as problematic. While Masoud and Khamis said the problems facing the union originated from the country's constitutions, Othman said it was possible to make amendments to both the Zanzibar and union constitutions to resolve the existing mistrust and strengthen the union.

Othman also said Zanzibaris were to blame for not being firm in defending the interests of Zanzibar. "I beg to differ with those who think most of the union matters are forced into law, normally the required procedures including dialogue forums, such as parliament, in which Zanzibaris participate, are followed," he said.

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