Why CCM should shun racists for the sake of democracy in Zanzibar
BY FATMA A. KARUME
16th January 2016
I am a product of Zanzibar. I am the result of thousands of monsoon winds that swept people in dhows from all over the world to these tiny islands nestled in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean on the east side of the African continent.
As the Indian Ocean merchants traded, the Swahili language emerged and with it the Swahili people with their culture. I am proud to be called a Swahili. I am a mixture of all those races that had the courage and strength to cross the Indian Ocean and the African continent and settle in Zanzibar.
At the age of 10, my great grandmother, Bi Amani, was kidnapped from her village in Central Africa by slavers and survived the walk across the continent and the dhow journey from Bagamoyo to Zanzibar; my great-great grandfather came as a trader from Kutch Province in India; my great, great, great grandfather sailed into Zanzibar from Muscat with the aid of the ever present monsoon winds, not long after the arrival of Seyyid Said bin Sultan, the Lion of Oman; and further still, my great, great, great, great, great ….great grandfather sailed into Zanzibar from Persia.
I am no different from thousands of ‘Waswahili’. We are people of the coast, a people whose genetic make-up is a mixture of Bantu, Arab, Persian and Indian. We have lived on the Swahili coast and in Zanzibar for centuries. We are a testament to the history of the East African coast - and yet on Sunday, members of the CCM youth league had the audacity to tell us that we are not welcome in Zanzibar.
On Sunday, January 10, 2016, two days before celebration of the 52nd anniversary of the Zanzibar Revolution, at a CCM public rally attended by the Vice-Chairman of the party, Ali Mohammed Shein, members of the CCM youth wing carried two placards.
Both placards informed the country and the world at large that people of mixed race, who they referred to in a derogatory manner as ‘machotara,’, are not welcomed in Zanzibar because we are apparently servants of the Sultan, while, according to their views, Zanzibar is for Africans only.
The pictures of the placards were picked by the social media whereby on Tuesday, January 12, 2016, they went viral. Everyone with Internet connection knew that the CCM youth wing had finally shown its true colours. On Tuesday evening, Daniel Chongolo, the CCM Acting Head of Publicity and Ideology, had the decency and honour to issue an unreserved apology on behalf of CCM for the discriminatory placards displayed by the CCM youth league.
On the front page of the ‘Daily News’ of Thursday, January 14, 2016, the general public was informed that “CCM is working to identify and eventually take appropriate action on people behind the discriminatory poster displayed by one of its members in Zanzibar early this week,” and Nape Nnauye, the CCM Secretary for Ideology and Publicity, was quoted as stating, “I would like to reiterate that CCM is against all forms of segregation, and this is known all over the world. It is unfortunate that the party is taking the blame for wrongs committed by just a small number of our supporters.”
On Thursday, January 13, 2016 Shaka Hamdu Shaka, UVCCM Acting Secretary General, issued a press statement on behalf of the party. It is notable that the press statement was devoid of an apology from UVCCM but instead accused the opposition of fomenting racial hatred and assured the general public that CCM, with the help of TCRA and the police, would take strong legal measures against all those involved.
So, we shall no doubt soon see another waive of arrests instigated by CCM against members of the opposition, for daring to bring to our attention the despicable conduct of members of UVCCM, whilst the real culprits remain at large waiting for another occasion to display their hateful banners. Shaka’s statement asked CCM members of mixed race to remain patient. Patient for what, I wonder?
And what of the mixed race citizens of this country who are not members of CCM - are they the ‘traitors’ referred to in the message?
Apparently, UVCCM believes that patience and commanding the police to deal with the opposition is the cure for this evil. We have seen too many members of the opposition arrested during the election period and Shaka did not stop UVCCM members from publishing racially hateful statements. Which brings me to an idea that may be rather novel for UVCCM: perhaps the police should try arresting errant members of CCM, it may bring an end to this type of illegal conduct.
Before CCM can deal with the racism in its party, it needs to commence by accepting some simple truths. First and foremost, on Sunday, January 10, 2016, there were two racist placards displayed by members of the CCM youth wing and not one as claimed by CCM. Secondly, these placards were displayed in front of the Vice-Chairman of CCM and other prominent members of CCM, and we did not hear a word of condemnation from them, either at the public rally or afterwards.
Thirdly, please do not patronise us all by telling us that you will ‘work’ on identifying the members responsible for the placards because their pictures are all over the social media. In fact, I have them on my phone; if you wish to see them I can ‘Whats Up’ them to you at no cost. Fourthly, this is not the first time that CCM members have made racist comments. CCM displays a black board called ‘Sauti ya Kisonge’ outside a CCM maskani situated in Michenzani, in Zanzibar, which has recently taken to displaying racist comments aimed at Arabs and people of mixed race and, of course, Wapemba.
The people who originate from the island of Pemba have suffered the worst excesses of racism at the hands of CCM. Fortunately, there are people who have kept records of this hateful propaganda. I have never heard official condemnation for this behaviour from CCM.
Finally, there are high-ranking members of CCM who make racist and anti-Islamic comments during public rallies. Again this is on record. None of these people have ever been sanctioned by CCM. Instead they are rewarded with high-ranking posts within the party and the government.
So, I am not convinced that the blame on CCM is unfortunate. I would argue that it is well placed, and until CCM has the courage to cut this cancer out from its midst, instead of putting the blame on the opposition, it is unlikely that the party will be dissociated with this hateful behaviour.
During April and June 1994, the Interahamwe and their allied militias in Rwanda murdered about 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The Rwandan genocide was planned and prepared by very evil human beings who used the written word in the form of a newspaper, including ‘Kangura’ and the spoken word in the form of ‘Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines,’ to publish and disseminate racist and hateful propaganda. Tutsis were referred to as cockroaches and moderate Hutus who had married Tutsis were called traitors. Racism became part of the culture of Rwanda.
Are we any different from Rwanda before the genocide, when the police allow members of CCM to consistently publish racist and inflammatory comments on public blackboards and placards and make hate speeches during public rallies with impunity? When a prominent member of CCM can refer to Zanzibaris as problematic simply because 95 per cent of the population professes the Islamic religion? Fortunately, there are people who find this conduct unacceptable, but they dare not speak out for fear of personal attacks that will be unleashed on them by the Grand Old Party.
I am not going to quote Mwalimu’s famous speech on racism because you all know it, and therefore ignorance is not an excuse for this atrocious behaviour. Suffice it to say that when members of CCM make anti-Islamic comments, thousands of Zanzibaris and I are repelled because more than 95 per cent of our population profess the Muslim religion.
When members of CCM make racist comments against Wapemba, thousands of other Zanzibaris and I are repelled because we have close relatives who are Wapemba. When members of CCM make racist comments against Arabs, thousands of other Zanzibaris and I are repelled because we have Arab relatives. When members of CCM make racist comments against people of mixed race, CCM has lost Zanzibar because our fathers and mothers are Africans and they too are repelled.
This commentary is my footprint in the sands of time so that, long after I am gone, my children and their children will know the truth rather than the legend of CCM. They will know how CCM allowed racism and religious fervour to invade it. The story is yet to end, either the racist elements within CCM will destroy the party and our country or CCM will have the courage to stop the rot that has invaded it.
I suggest that CCM takes a good look at itself and starts cleaning up the racist fringes of the party for everyone’s sake, and, most of all, for the sake of democracy in Zanzibar because, believe it or not, we need to have a strong and viable CCM as a counterbalance to CUF. A CCM that remains in power with the aid of the gun is of no use to anyone, especially Zanzibar.
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 Senior Litigation Partner with IMMMA Advocates in Dar es Salaam. Email: Karume@immma.co.tz
SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN