Of Referendum and CCM: The frog’s kiss that will kill Muafaka

CUF supporters in a political company towards 2005 general elections in Zanzibar. These elections were again marred with intensive state organized terrorism and humal rights violation. Ultimately CUF could not recognise the results which announced Mr Amani Karume a winner for the Islands' presidential position

CUF supporters in a political campaign towards 2005 general elections in Zanzibar. These elections were again marred with intensive state organized terrorism and human rights violation. Ultimately CUF could not recognise the results which declared Mr. Amani Karume a winner for the Islands’ presidential position. Since then, and due to other two previous elections, Zanzibar has been trapped in what so known as Mpasuko wa Kisiasa

Major political decisions in the country’s history have been taken without subjecting them to a referendum. Examples are numerous but to mention a few: the unification of Tanganyika and Zanzibar in 1964, the abolition of multi-party system in 1965, the Arusha Declaration of 1967, the merger of TANU and ASP in 1977, the Union Constitution of 1977 and all major amendments, the Zanzibar Constitutions of 1979 and 1984, the re-introduction of multi-party system in 1992, the 11th Amendment of the Union Constitution in 1994 that removed the position of Zanzibar President from being automatically one of the Union Vice Presidents, Muafaka I of 1999 and Muafaka II of 2001.

An article by Ismail Jussa to the African Liberal Network Website after the fall of the 3rd Muafaka talks between the Civic United Front (CUF) and the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) in which CCM came with the new idea of a referendum.

The decision by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) to reject the power sharing agreement that was jointly negotiated by its team and that of the Civic United Front (CUF) is to say the least frustrating and disappointing.

It was an anti-climax of more than two years of tiring and exhausting work to find a lasting peace for the islands of Zanzibar which have been beleaguered with a political stand-off since the re-introduction of multi-party system in 1992.

Background

The third round of Muafaka talks between our party, the Civic United Front (CUF), and the ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), began on January 17, 2007 in Zanzibar after more than one year of informal consultations between advisors and assistants of President Jakaya Kikwete and some CUF officials. These informal consultations were initiated immediately after the Zanzibar elections of October 30, 2005.

The two sides reached an understanding that a formal dialogue will be instituted but only as a formality to create a ground for power sharing agreement in Zanzibar well before 2010. CUF had expressed fear from the beginning, actually by January 2006, that CCM hardliners in Zanzibar led by Mr. Amani Karume will not co-operate on the matter but President Kikwete assured us through his intermediaries that he knows how to handle the situation.

CUF was made to believe that this arrangement will come as soon as President Kikwete assumes CCM party chairmanship. When this was granted in June 2006, we were told to give the new Chairman another six months to consolidate his position before tough decisions can be made and implemented.

Come December 2006, we learnt that we had to settle with a dialogue that was earlier agreed to take three months to be concluded, only to realise that they would take 14 months.

There was a point in April last year, when the Secretaries General of CCM and CUF agreed to conclude the talks by August 15, 2007 but again this deadline would pass without a deal. When CUF appealed for international intervention to save the talks, President Kikwete issued a statement on August 14, 2007 in which he promised to monitor and guide the process personally to ensure its successful conclusion.

Yet again when our negotiating teams resumed their meetings in late August 2007, the CCM side asked for patience from CUF to allow the CCM national congress and party elections scheduled for November 2007 to pass before entering the final stage of the talks that will require tough decisions to be made.

We granted all the CCM’s requests because we wanted to build trust and confidence between our two parties. Finally, all remaining items on the agenda were discussed and concluded in the last meeting held in Bagamoyo on February 25 – 29, 2008.

Our two teams agreed then to submit the package to our respective decision making bodies for approval before signing at a date to be mutually agreed. This was supposed to be a mere formality since all decisions were only sealed after they have been submitted to and approved by the same bodies at different intervals.

We in CUF had our National Governing Council session on March 17, 2008 in Zanzibar which approved the package. Unfortunately, and to our great disappointment, the CCM’s National Executive Committee meeting in Butiama torpedoed the agreement but disguised their wicked decision with a sugar-coated concept of referendum ‘to let the people of Zanzibar decide on the new political dispensation’.

Even more disappointing was the fact that we learnt from the leaked CCM document submitted at Butiama – that the referendum proposal did not actually come from the floor but rather was part of the three recommendations made to the Central Committee and National Executive Committee by the CCM’s negotiating team in what they term to be ‘a ploy to outsmart CUF’. There is no way that such a document could have reached the conference hall without a green light from the party Chairman.

Why is CUF opposed to referendum?

CUF is a people’s party with strong human rights credentials and have always advocated citizen’s participation in affairs that affect their destiny. However, given the results of the past three elections, the people of Zanzibar have already spoken of their desire to be governed by the two parties that dominate the isles political scene. Holding a referendum on the subject is a waste of time and our scarce resources that could best be utilised to alleviate poverty facing majority of Zanzibaris.

The following are some of the reasons as to why CUF is opposed to the CCM’s proposal to hold a referendum on the power sharing agreement in Zanzibar:

The concept of referendum was not part of the draft memorandum of understanding agreed between CCM and CUF negotiating teams. CCM had 14 moths to table such a proposal but chose not to do so because of an ulterior motive aimed at ‘outsmarting CUF’. To say the least, this amounts to negotiating in bad faith. In fact, it is a well calculated scheme to delay the signing and implementation of the draft memorandum.

The Zanzibar political impasse is primarily an impasse emanating from unfair and incredible electoral processes of 1995, 2000 and 2005. Under such conditions, it is inconceivable that one can solve an electoral problem with another sort of electoral process.

Both CCM and CUF agree in the draft memorandum of understanding that there is a crisis of confidence in Zanzibar especially with institutions charged with the conduct and supervision of elections, notably the electoral commission, the voters’ register, defence and security forces and the publicly owned media. The draft memorandum spells out several measures to be taken to reform the various institutions. How can a free and fair referendum be conducted in such conditions?

There is no law providing for a referendum in the statute books of Zanzibar and Tanzania. There will be a need for a constitutional amendment first before a referendum can be held.

If a constitution was to be amended and a referendum idea introduced, will that referendum be advisory or binding? If binding what one will make of the current requirement that a constitutional amendment can only be secured through a parliamentary vote with two thirds majority approval?

Major political decisions in the country’s history have been taken without subjecting them to a referendum. Examples are numerous but to mention a few: the unification of Tanganyika and Zanzibar in 1964, the abolition of multi-party system in 1965, the Arusha Declaration of 1967, the merger of TANU and ASP in 1977, the Union Constitution of 1977 and all major amendments, the Zanzibar Constitutions of 1979 and 1984, the re-introduction of multi-party system in 1992, the 11th Amendment of the Union Constitution in 1994 that removed the position of Zanzibar President from being automatically one of the Union Vice Presidents, Muafaka I of 1999 and Muafaka II of 2001.

If referendum is to be agreed, with all necessary pre-requisites to be put in place, it will be the surest way not to have any meaningful reforms before the 2010 which means preparing the ground for the fourth confrontational and tense elections since Zanzibar re-introduced multi-party system. A Way Forward President Jakaya Kikwete’s deliberate mishandling of the outcome of his party’s Central Committee and National Executive Committee which were supposed to endorse a package aimed at ending the political crisis in Zanzibar and creating an enabling environment for a peaceful, free and fair election in 2010 calls into question his very integrity and credibility as someone who wished to see a new chapter of reconciliation is opening in the islands. By raising the issue of referendum and recommending it to be part of CC and NEC’s deliberations, the CCM team and President Kikwete knew quite well that they were creating a ground for a new stalemate in the peace process. It is a frog’s kiss that will send Muafaka to the graveyard. Despite the mishandling, CCM can still correct the situation by agreeing to one of the following options: Since CCM says that their National Executive Committee (NEC) endorsed the draft memorandum in principle, they should agree to sign the pact immediately and pave the way for its implementation. CUF is willing to consider the ‘minor amendments’ that CCM says were requested by their National Executive Committee (NEC) provided they are submitted in writing and in a comprehensive manner to CUF for our consideration and then discussed at a high level meeting involving the principals i.e. Hon. Amani Karume and Mr. Seif Sharif Hamad through the facilitation of President Jakaya Kikwete.

CUF appeals to all peace loving Tanzanians and friends of Tanzania to intervene and help save the process by ensuring that the critical step, that is the current accord, in ending the political impasse in Zanzibar is signed and implemented.

A free and fair election in Zanzibar is an important and critical step in the democratisation process of Tanzania as a whole because in Zanzibar, CUF – a democratic opposition – has won the past three elections and can win the coming elections. It is a litmus test of whether CCM is committed to the democratisation process or it is simply playacting in a process to hoodwink the international community, donor governments and their electorate that Tanzania is part of the expanding democratic community of nations and deserves their financial support.

In 2001 Zanzibar experienced bloodshed perpetrated by government security forces that was proportionately larger than what has taken place in Kenya recently. Zanzibar and Tanzania as a whole deserves better. Prevention is better than cure. Let us all strive to help Tanzania forestall another catastrophe in Africa.

The author is Head of International Relations of the Civic United Front (CUF). He was a member of CUF Negotiating Team.

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