Can ruling party CCM get rid its party Militia A Lesson of 2005 election was a lesson how CCM afraid to get rid it militia .History is a good lesson .A new wave of violence has flared in Zanzibar where the ruling party (CCM) sponsored militia are terrorizing opposition sympathizers during CUf Meeting in Makunduchi in Zanzibar. They have been running a campaign of burning down houses and property belonging to people from the island of Pemba, considered to be the opposition stronghold. They have inflicted bodily harm and injuries to a number of people, including the father of the opposition Member of the Zanzibar's House of Representative, Mr. Burhan Muhunzi.Take a look at some pictures from a new wave of violence in Zanzibar, where CCM sponsored militia common known (Janjaweed) are terrorizing opposition sympathizers in order to scare them from registering in the permanent voters register.
Amajor feature of the political crisis in Burundi is the violent activities of a youth militia allied to the ruling party. Similar party militias exist in Tanzania, and their involvement in the political scene ahead of elections in October is worrying.The ongoing political crisis in Burundi, which has been triggered by President Pierre Nkurunziza`s insistence on contesting for a third term, is an unfortunate development but not an unexpected one. Those who care about Burundi were quite aware from mid-2014 that the President was determined to continue. It is alleged that preparations included training and arming the Imbonerakure militia, which is a paramilitary force formed within and from the ruling National Council for the Defense of Democracy – Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) youth wing. The current crisis has brought about a mass exodus of Burundians, mostly women and children, who have crossed borders into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Tanzania in search of safe havens. Nevertheless, some of those fleeing have not been so lucky since a cholera outbreak has thus far resulted in close to 30 deaths.
The Imbonerakure have been repeatedly mentioned, both by fleeing refugees and analysts as a driving force behind such a relatively huge exodus. Reportedly, their role has mainly been intimidation and targeted violence against anyone who seems to oppose the third term bid by the president It is also known that the scope of their violence has included clashes with opposition parties such as National Forces of Liberation (FNL), whose youth have repeatedly retaliated with equal measure of force and violence.
Reports about the controversial role of the Imbonerakure in the current political crisis in Burundi are spreading at a time when Tanzania is fumbling in resolving its already alarming party militias drive. The country will hold a general election in October and already, there is evidence that party militias, especially those from the leading opposition party, Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo/Party of Democracy and Development, have been significantly strengthened. Also, there is significant and reliable evidence of serious past clashes led by such militias and no reason to suggest that such experiences won’t be repeated on even a bigger scale.
This article is intended to draw parallels between Tanzania and Burundi along the party militia lines and use the attention that Imbonerakure is receiving to highlight the potential for an impending crisis in Tanzania.
ORIGINS OF IMBONERAKURE
For a country with a troubled past such as Burundi, the presence of party militias may not be so difficult to understand. The 12-year civil war that ended in 2005 and ushered in a shaky political settlement based on ethnic configurations meant that political suspicions and uncertainties would persist for a long time. Those that had fought in the civil war and made their names through it saw what coercive power could achieve. The process of transitioning into standard political parties from rebel outfits had power loss implications for such civil war actors. For CNDD-FDD, finding a way to retain some fall back power in terms of a relatively loose militia was important. This happens to be the environment within which the Imbonerakure, loosely translated as those who see far, emerged.
There are conflicting analyses about when the Imbonerakure was established. Some sources indicate that the group emerged in 2010 while others show that it was operational from at least 2007/2008. A more plausible explanation about the origin of the Imbonerakure militia holds that the group may have been formed during the war in the mid-1990s and assumed a different identity during the transition into the post-conflict period. The transition meant that membership was open to civilians and, as a result, its membership today is considered to be a mixture of ex-combatants as well as civilians.
On the other hand there have been observations that “imbonerakure is not a unitary actor” since regional branches operate relatively independently. Imbonerakure militia is known to have close ties with the national police and there is evidence that ad hoc cooperation between the two, especially against opposition parties and protesting civilians, isn’t rare.
FORCE BEHIND EXODUS OF CIVILIANS
The Imbonerakure militia has been at the centre of the ongoing crisis in Burundi, especially in compelling citizens to flee the country to the extent that the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, described the group as “the root of many people`s fears.” Fleeing Burundians, either in Burundi or Tanzania, have repeatedly mentioned intimidation and verbal abuse by Imbonerakure militia members. A youth refugee at a transit camp in Rwanda summed it all by saying, “they (Imbonerakure) had started attacking one person at a time, especially at night. You can`t hit a bird that has already seen you, it will fly away.”
The role that Imbonerakure is playing in the current Burundi crisis is a clear testimony of what can befall a country when party militias are groomed and allowed to flourish. This is often done through doubling the role of the party youth wing so that it serves a dual purpose of recruiters/mobilizers as well as party guards/militias. This is slowly becoming the trend in East Africa if one looks at Tanzania, another member of East African Community (EAC).
PARTY MILITIAS IN TANZANIA
The irony of the regional response to the crisis in Burundi is seen in the role that Tanzania is performing. As the current chairperson of the EAC, President Jakaya Kikwete and his government (Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of East African Cooperation) have been coordinating the response. The official position of his government has been that term limits and provisions of the Arusha accords must be respected and upheld. Nevertheless, the EAC has been more cautious, preferring to call for long postponement of elections in Burundi, cessation of violence and creation of a conducive environment for refugees to return rather than tackling the difficult question of whether Nkurunziza should contest or withdraw his bid.A recent communiqué issued by the EAC states that the space provided by the postponement of the elections will be used for consultations on the way forward.
As President Kikwete leads the regional response to the Burundi crisis, the response to the party militias’ drive in his own country seems to have stalled. As I wrote in a previous article, party militias in Tanzania have ushered in a unique pattern of violence especially during elections. I also highlighted the contradictory response from the government especially the Inspector General of Police (IGP) as well as the Registrar of Political Parties and emphasized the possibility of this year’s election being the most competitive since the re-introduction of the multiparty system in 1992. Basically, if there is anything that the current regime in Tanzania should learn from Burundi as it leads the regional response, it must be the urgency of resolving the party militias question.
The incumbent Registrar of Political Parties, Judge Francis Mutungi, has shown verbal commitment to addressing the matter. It was reported in May that political parties would be required to amend their constitutions and revoke clauses that provide for the establishment of party militias. The report hinted at ongoing consultations by the registrar of political parties with the ruling party especially its national leadership which includes President Kikwete.Such changes to the parties’ constitutions were expected to be preceded by the amendment of the Political Parties Act (1992). But now that the last parliamentary session before elections is being held and there is no move to amend the Act, it is very clear that party militias won`t go away anytime soon.
In the meantime, it appears that the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties has issued guidelines that are supported by the police force.] Despite the ongoing discourse on party militias in Tanzania, one can still hardly tell whether the official direction is pointing towards banishing them or enacting a regulatory framework (principles and guidelines).
JUSTICE AND EQUALITY
While the party militias question remains a security issue, the environment that fuelled their emergence specifically in opposition parties is one of mistreatment, violent oppression and double standards as reflected in government organs practices especially the police force. As such, the process of resolving the party militias’ rush must promote a bigger debate that is aimed at understanding and addressing underlying concerns of mistrust and an uneven political field. Leading opposition parties will be willing to fully cooperate and support the effort to resolve the matter in question if assured of an impartial approach and commitment to do away with restrictions and practices that made it necessary to establish party militias. For this to happen, the ruling party (Chama Cha Mapinduzi/Party of Revolution) needs to do away with denial statements often released through its youth wing (Umoja wa Vijana wa CCM/The Union of the Youth of the Party of Revolution) and show its commitment to change.