Zanzibari leaders in reconciliation talks

Zanzibar’s leaders are seeking a political solution to the stalemate resulting from the annulment of the results of the election in the archipelago last month.

The EastAfrican has learnt that  opposition leader Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad of the Civic United Front met with President Ali Mohamed Shein from Chama cha Mapinduzi but details of their talks were not disclosed.

Mr Hamad declared himself Zanzibar’s president-elect after the national electoral body, ZEC, annulled the results and announced that fresh polls would be held in January.

The annulment affected only the Zanzibar vote since the national presidential candidate, John Pombe Magufuli, was announced the winner, sparking off calls for cancellation of the results of the entire General Election.

On Thursday, the two Zanzibari rivals also attended a high-level meeting at State House with retired leaders — including former Tanzanian president Ali Hassan Mwinyi, former Zanzibari presidents Amani Karume and Salmin Amour, and former vice-president Dr Mohamed Gharib Bilal.

The prevailing political situation has elicited an intense debate on whether ZEC had the legal mandate to nullify the election results, with the international community maintaining that all observer missions had said in their reports that the election was free and fair. They pressed ZEC to announce the results and identify areas where irregularities were reported.

Former Zanzibar attorney-general Othman Masoud also joined the fray, arguing that the ZEC boss had no legal powers to nullify the elections.

EU ambassador Filberto Ceriani-Sebregondi told reporters on Thursday that there were still some questions on the legality of nullifying the election although the focus was on the political solution rather than the legal one.

He said consultations were ongoing on the Isles at political and community levels.

“The two contenders and other elders are consulting and we believe dialogue is the only way to solve the problem and come to a possible agreement on how to address possible irregularities and how to allow the government to be soon in place and a new president declared and sworn in,” said Mr Sebregondi.

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Earlier this week, Mr Hamad said he was drafting a list of his new Cabinet, which would start work as soon as he is declared the winner by the electoral commission.

The cabinet, he said, would include CCM members as stipulated in the amended Zanzibar Constitution that introduced the Government of National Unity in 2010.

CUF maintains that, besides winning the presidential poll, it also won many parliamentary and ward seats. It adds that it has increased its parliamentary strength in Unguja, a CCM stronghold, from four to nine seats and nine to 15 for the wards. Traditionally, CUF wins all the seats in Pemba and CCM the majority of positions in Unguja.

Despite the ongoing talks, the Zanzibar government issued a statement late Thursday showing the nullification of the election had been gazetted — meaning that a re-run of the election had officially started.

Meanwhile, contrary to earlier fears, Zanzibar’s tourism sector has remained resilient in the face of the political crisis, according to officials from the Tourism Commission of Zanzibar and the Zanzibar Association for Tourism Investors (Zati).