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Tuesday, 24 October, 2000, 13:24 GMT 14:24 UK
Zanzibar braces for trouble
Zanzibar town
Zanzibar's union with Tanzania remains controversial
By Ally Saleh in Zanzibar

Zanzibaris go to the polls on Sunday under tight security on the semi-autonomous Indian Ocean island after rival leaders pledged co-operation to stem acts of violence.

The island has been rocked by violence over the past nearly two months of campaigns and fears of more trouble remain high.

The 29 October general elections are the second under the multi-party system.

The first multi-party polls in 1995 were strongly disputed after the leader of the opposition Civic United Front (CUF), Seif Shariff Hamad claimed that incumbent Dr Salmin Amour had rigged the elections.

CUF's candidate, Seif Shariff Hamad
Hamad claims to have been rigged out in 1995
Mr Hamad, who is again vying for the presidency, led a popular protest and embarked on a diplomatic onslaught that led to suspension of donor aid on charges of human rights violations. 

These included what the opposition alleged were fabricated treason charges against its members.

Six of them are still held in detention pending trial.

Commonwealth intervention

The opposition legislators boycotted parliament for three and a half years.

A deal brokered by the former secretary general of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, to end the impasse in June last year has not moved an inch.

The Zanzibar Government declined to implement the deal despite pressure from the international community.

CCM's candidate, Amaan Karume
Karume has vowed to "foster a closer union"
The ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) candidate Amaan Karume is the son of the late Abeid Karume, the island's first president who was gunned down in 1972.

It was during the late Karume's reign that a political partnership between Zanzibar and mainland Tanganyika was sealed nearly 36 years ago to form the now united republic of Tanzania.

The architect of union was the late Julius Nyerere, who died last year.

But the union has continued to prove an enigma to most Tanzanians and thorny to Zanzibaris.


However, the CCM candidate, Amaan is keen to follow in his father's footsteps by promising to "foster a closer Union come what may."

On the other hand, the opposition leader has a different view of the union.

Labour campaign rally
Campaigns in mainland Tanzania have been peaceful
He says, "we want a union of three governments, nothing short of that, we want to be judges of our own destiny".

But as Zanzabaris count down to the polls, there have been claims of bogus voters imported from the mainland.

The claims raised by both the ruling CCM and the opposition CUF have been dismissed by the registrar of political parties who said none of the parties provided proof of the allegations.

While campaigning has been relatively calm and peaceful on mainland Tanzania, the island has suffered clashes between CUF and CCM supporters.

Both parties have been conducting threatening rallies and planning riots; raising fears of more violence that could only compound Zanzibar's already volatile political situation.


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See also:

15 Sep 00 | Africa
Tensions high in Zanzibar
22 Aug 00 | Africa
Election fever grips Tanzania
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