TANZANIA: IRIN Focus on the union [19991028]

TANZANIA: IRIN Focus on the union [19991028]

TANZANIA: IRIN Focus on the union

NAIROBI, 28 October (IRIN) - As mourning continues in Tanzania over the death of former Tanzanian president and "father of the nation" Julius Nyerere, many are questioning the future of the union between the mainland and the islands of Pemba and Zanzibar.

Speaking at Nyerere's funeral on Saturday, President Benjamin Mkapa warned that anyone "dreaming about breaking the unity of Tanzania, generating insecurity or stirring up tensions...will be dealt with ruthlessly and their activities curtailed". He added that the government would do "all in its power to protect Nyerere's legacy of love, unity and harmony" but would not tolerate anyone causing insecurity on the basis of tribe or religion.

Nyerere, who led the country to independence from Britain in 1961 and achieved the union of mainland Tanganyika with Pemba and Unguja [Zanzibar] in 1964, died in London from leukaemia on 14 October.

Many analysts contacted by IRIN believe Mkapa's fears could well be his own and not a reflection of the current reality on the ground. They believe there are no threats "yet" to the union.

"There is no danger at the moment that the union could disintegrate," Dr Sengondo Mvungi, a lecturer at Dar es Salaam University and legal adviser to the opposition National Convention for Construction and Reform party said. "The truth is that it [the union] could be more consolidated than ever. The majority of people, between 85-90 percent, endorse the union both on the mainland and the islands," he told IRIN. He added that political squabbles on the mainland and in Zanzibar "are often the voices of the elite".

However, he cautioned that the present structure of the union may be "ill-suited" to make it "flourish" in the future. "The Kisanga commission [set up by the government to gather views on possible amendments to the constitution and the union] will give an insight as to how the people want the union and the constitution to be," he said. But for the time being, there was no party with the strength to dislodge the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), he stressed.

Norway's Ambassador to Tanzania Nils-Johan Jorgensen observed that Tanzanians are "very proud of the unity, sense of stability and peace, and it would not be politically easy to change this dramatically". "I haven't seen anything that would disturb that stability and the continuity of the Nyerere legacy," he told IRIN.

"Anyone trying to break this would be terribly unpopular," he added. "There is something very strong which is the sense of peace and unity." But he noted that although the CCM was powerful in both the mainland and Zanzibar, it was "not very clear" what would happen in the latter which would "have to solve its internal political dilemma".

Zanzibar has a strong opposition party, the Civic United Front (CUF), which is campaigning to prevent the island's President Salmin Amour of the CUF from running for a third term. Eighteen CUF supporters are currently imprisoned, and Commonwealth Secretary-General Chief Emeka Anyaoku has launched an initiative to mediate between the two parties.

Jorgensen pointed out that Tanzania's democracy is young. "The fact that only one party has been in power for a long time, does not mean it is undemocratic, although the presence of an opposition to check on the government's performance is equally desirable," he said.

A regional analyst and lecturer at the University of Nairobi's Institute of Diplomacy, Professor Moustafa Hassuni, said Mkapa was afraid "the ghosts of unity may resurface". "The rifts and divisions which may have existed in CCM or in the union were somehow smoothed and the risk of them erupting during Nyerere's time was minimal," he told IRIN. "Now, the situation could be unclear without the unifying factor or an agent of the calibre of Nyerere."

Another regional analyst added there was possibility of Tanzanians "rediscovering their own identity" and "maybe favouring a breakaway". "It is too early to know but there may be a problem in the future," the analyst said. Some observers have suggested that Islamic fundamentalism may surface in the islands of Pemba and Zanzibar, posing a potentially serious threat to the union.


[ Feedback: UN IRIN-CEA Tel: +254 2 622123 Fax: +254 2 622129 ]

Item: irin-english-1867

[This item is delivered in the "irin-english" service of the UN's IRIN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations. For further information, free subscriptions, or to change your keywords, contact e-mail: or Web: . If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer.]

Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1999

Subscriber: Keyword: IRIN

Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D

Previous Menu Home Page What's New Search Country Specific