Monday, 13 January 2014


To truly appreciate Zanzibar’s achievements fifty years from the Revolution that took place on January 12, 1964, we need to go back in history and take a momentary glance at the Isles. As it is with all island nations, Zanzibar is a colourful patchwork of people from all corners of the world brought together by the monsoons that blew them in and out of the island with seasonal and harmonious precision. Until the 1780s, when the Omanis took over Kilwa, and promptly diverted the East African trade to Zanzibar, Kilwa was East Africa’s most prominent trading port.  As the trade route for goods, such as ivory and slaves between East Africa and the Middle and Far East through Zanzibar grew, so Kilwa’s prominence as a trading port waned. By the 19th Century, Zanzibar had become the gateway for trade, including that of slaves between East Africa and the rest of the world

Sultanate influence :Zanzibar first fell under the influence of the Sultanate of Oman in the 17th Century but it was not until 1840, that the Sultan of Oman Seyyid Said Al Busaidy, also known as the Lion of Oman, decided to move the capital of the Sultanate of Oman from Muscat to Stone Town, Zanzibar.During this period of history, Oman was in economic decline and Zanzibar’s economy had grown exponentially due to the successful introduction of labour intensive clove plantations, which were supported by the free labour from the burgeoning East African slave trade. So it is that slave labour and the clove plantations became happy bedfellows.Although, in the popular imagination, Zanzibar is inextricably associated with cloves, plantations of this crop are a relatively recent phenomenon in the Isles, certainly more recent than the immigration of the Omani Arabs. For it was not until about 1810, that an Omani landowner in Zanzibar named Saleh bin Haramil al-Abray, introduced the clove tree and cultivated the first clove plantation at his estate in Beit al Mtoni.
In 1828, during Seyyid Said’s first visit to Zanzibar, he confiscated Saleh’s Beit al Mtoni estate and all his other land holdings on Zanzibar and promptly imprisoned him, on the pretext that he had violated the Moresby Treaty of 1822, which prohibited the Sultan’s subjects from selling slaves to Europeans.The reality, however, was that having spent his life surviving political intrigues and challenges to his power in Oman, Seyyid Said had no intention of allowing Saleh’s wealth and power in Zanzibar to become a threat to his own power.As with the clove plantations, Zanzibar is also inextricably associated with the East African Slave Trade. Scholars estimate that by 1860s when the East African slave trade was at its peak, there were over 20,000 slaves sold and bought annually in the slave market in Zanzibar. It should be noted that most of the slaves sold in the Isles slave markets were bought by the Omani landowners to work on their large and extremely profitable clove plantations on Unguja and Pemba. efore 1847, only between a third to one half of the slaves sold in the Zanzibar slave markets were exported. In fact, after the signing of the Hamerton Treaty in 1847, exports of slaves from Zanzibar to Arabia and Asia was prohibited.
Therefore, in principle, the Zanzibar slave trade after 1847 was mainly for domestic consumption, with some slaves being bought by Omanis with interests along the Swahili Coast and further afield to Somalia. In 1873, the slave markets in Zanzibar were finally closed as a result of pressure from the British but slavery as such was not abolished and those Africans who were enslaved and working on clove plantations continued to be slaves and were only emancipated with the abolition of slavery in 1897.So it is that a people subjugated through the East African Slave Trade came to live side by side with a people who were generally viewed as the exploiters of Africans and beneficiaries of the trade, thus creating a combustible mixture which needed but a small spark to explode.Most unfortunately, the underlying resentments and social inequalities caused by the immoral and unforgivable act of enslavement were not addressed.In December 1963 as the British flag went down for the last time on the Protectorate of Zanzibar, the Sultan’s flag continued to fly, for all to take note that the Isles were and remained a monarchy ruled by an Omani royal family.
 On January 12, 1964, the powder keg filled with almost two centuries of resentment and inequality exploded and Sultan Seyyid Jemshid, the reigning monarch was deposed. Zanzibar was immediately declared a republic.When I was invited to write about what I think Zanzibar has achieved in the 50 years after the Revolution, I did not want to discuss tangible achievements such as road infrastructure, infant mortality, education, for these are matters that can be computed, but I wanted to discuss the purpose of the Revolution and whether we have truly achieved the republic declared on January 12, 1964 fifty years from the Revolution. When Zanzibar was declared a republic, it was to signify that the supreme power of the state of Zanzibar no longer resided in the Sultan but instead resided in the people.
This declaration was an irreversible turning point because for the first time in Zanzibar’s modern history, its people became aware that state power could and did reside in them and not in either a colonial power or a monarch.Possibilities never before imagined opened up and the people began to believe that they were the masters of their destiny. I think it is this belief that has made Zanzibaris so politically astute and so protective of their independence.After 50 years since the end of the sultanate, have we achieved a true republic in Zanzibar? If the answer is yes, then the possibilities for the next 50 years are limitless. However, if we have failed, then we have a duty to ensure that we make the republic a reality. Modern republics such as France and the United States of America, are legitimised by a Constitution, which separates the power of the state into 3 arms, the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary and each arm checks and balances the other. In addition, a republic requires members of the executive and legislative arms of the state to be appointed by popular suffrage. s with all social upheavals caused by revolutions, the dust takes some time to settle and so it was with Zanzibar. For the first 16 years after the Revolution, Zanzibar was governed by the Revolutionary Council, which was not voted into office and laws were passed by way of decrees pronounced by the Revolutionary Council.
As time passed and the New Republic gained confidence, the Revolutionary Council released its grip on power and in 1979 Zanzibar passed a Constitution, which established the House of Representatives together with the President of Zanzibar as the Legislative arm of government.
As Zanzibar was a single party state, all members of the House of Representatives were members of CCM and so was the President and it was not until 1992, that multipartysm within the context of a republic was introduced and we started taking fresh and tentative steps in rediscovering the ideal which was the republic.Unfortunately, with the introduction of multiparty democracy, the old insecurities and resentments, which culminated in the Revolution reared their heads again and instead of looking to the future, and embracing what was an important stage in achieving a republic we looked to the past, recreating the social divisions which had long ceased to exist.
We became prisoners rather than students of our history and consequently, the fruitless years of political impasse began with endless accusations and recriminations between CCM and CUF.With insults being hurled back and forth between these two opposing political parties, so new resentments were borne and these resentments led to acts of injustices,which were so easily justified by those committing them. So for 16 years after the introduction of the multiparty system, Zanzibaris lived in a state of political insecurity where only mistrust and resentment flourished and the ideal of a republic took the back seat and for a time was almost forgotten.Thankfully, a great ideal cannot be ignored for long and the CCM/CUF Mwafaka breathed new life into the 1964 call for a republic in which Zanzibar’s sovereignty resides in the people represented by administrators elected through popular suffrage.
Unhindered growth
The Mwafaka was but a step in the right direction because the republic which was announced on January 12, 1964 will only be cemented if Zanzibar’s multiparty democracy continues to grow unhindered, rule of law becomes the currency of exchange in our relations with those who we have voted into power and are running the Executive, the Legislature checks the Executive and not those who have voted it into power, the Judiciary is staffed by people who merit the appointments and its independence from the Executive is fiercely protected. It is my hope that the next 16 years will be a time when we live these ideals so that they enter the very fabric of our beings and replace the resentments, insecurities, and inequities of the past. Ms Karume was called to the Bar in the Middle Temple, and is an advocate of the High Courts of Tanzania and Zanzibar. She is presently a litigation partner with IMMMA Advocates in Dar es Salaam.

Brief biography:  Born June 15, 1969 in Tanzania
Admitted, 1994, Tanzania .
Middle Temple, Temple, London, Degree of the Utter Bar, 1998
Inns of Court School of Law, Postgraduate Diploma in Professional Legal Skills, 1998
London School of Economics, LL.M, 1997
Universite de Strasbourg, Diplome de Sciences Juridiques, 1991
University of Sussex, LL.B (Hons), 1992
Work experience :
Merger between Karume & Co and IMMMA 2007
Founder of Karume & Co, Advocates 2004
Junior Partner, Mkono & Company, Advocates 2000 until 2003
Pupil, 5 Raymond Building, Gray’s Inn, London 1998
Of the Middle Temple, Barrister since 1998
Associate, Mkono & Company, Advocates, 1996
Advocate, High Court of Zanzibar since 1994
Apprenticed as State Attorney, Attorney General’s Chambers, Zanzibar, 1993
Apprenticed as State Attorney, Attorney General’s Chambers, Dar es Salaam, 1992
Bar Council of England and Wales
Law Society of Zanzibar 
Tanganyika Law Society email:

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