Saturday, 8 May 2010

Mkapa's Position on Zanzibar Unity Vote

Referendum planned for Zanzibar later this year, should be given a chance as it might prove to be a solution to perennial instability that has haunted the Indian Ocean archipelago for years, former President Benjamin Mkapa said yesterday.

He said for a long time Zanzibar has been embracing the winner takes all policy, but the system has resulted into political instability.

He said it was encouraging that Zanzibar leaders have agreed to try the other model and they should not only be supported, but also be given a chance as the agreed system might prove to be useful in stabilising the Isles.

"And the good thing is that they have agreed to put the option through the people... let us give the referendum a chance," he said.

Retired President Mkapa made the remarks when reacting to a question during a press conference he jointly addressed with two other commissioners for Blair Commission for Africa, which has been re-launched to review progress of recommendations contained in a report that the team published five years ago.

He was asked on his comments over whether the tendency of establishing coalition governments was setting a bad precedent for Africa's governance.

He was referring to recent development in the Zanzibar political arena where two political rivals, Chama Cha Mapinduzi and the opposition Civic United Front have agreed to transform a political system and include in the Zanzibar Constitution an option for a coalition government as an answer to political misunderstandings.

The changes were triggered by the surprise meeting between Zanzibar President, Mr Amani Abeid Karume and his long time political rival, Mr Seif Shariff Hamad at the Zanzibar State House in November last year.

The meeting was followed by public pronouncements by both leaders that they have found a lasting solution to Zanzibar's political problems.

Later a private motion was tabled in the House of Representatives by the leader of official Opposition in the House, Mr Abubakary Khamis (CUF), seeking the changing the constitution through a referendum so that coalition government could be formed in Zanzibar.

The private motion was anonymously endorsed by the House culminating into drafting of a bill on referendum which has already been passed and signed by the President.

Preparations were now underway for the organisation of the referendum before the October General Election.

Mr Mkapa said since the winner takes all system has not worked well, there was a need to give the agreed system a chance to see if it would help solve problems.

On the trend of setting coalition governments in Africa, Mr Mkapa said all depends on prevailing situations.

Giving an example of Kenya, where he was involved in negotiations after the 2007/08 post polls violence, he said the situation necessitated the formation of such a government.

Chipping in, another commissioner who addressed the press conference, Ms Anna Tibaijuka, the UN-Habitat chief, said democratic institutions in Africa were to blame for such developments.

She said failure by democratic institutions to determine a winner after elections, ushered in all sorts of political problems.

"We have copied western democracies and in many instances we lack constitutional legitimacy on what to do especially when the institutions fail to determine and name the winner after elections," she said.

For his party, Ethiopia Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who also sits in the commission, said he was not comfortable for any kind of democratic recipes "every case should be judged on its own merit."

He said coalition governments could be part of the solution in some instances, but that does not mean that it should be applied in every case.

Meanwhile, Mr Mkapa reiterated yesterday that aid was another major factor which impedes Africa's development.

Reacting to question on why Africa was still poor despite its abundant natural resources, he said: "Most of us think that it is other people's responsibility to develop our continent."

He said it was dejecting that more than 50 years since most of African countries attained independence, they have continued to looking for aid as a way of emancipation.
"We chased away colonialists knowing that they will not give us independence. How come then that now we are returning to hem asking for aid?" he posed, adding: "We need to accept that change is our responsibility. Extraordinary dependence is not only a shock, it is disgraceful...we should get on our feet and think for ourselves."

According to former British ambassador to Ethiopia, Mr Myles Wickstead, the commission had been revived to assess progress made in the implementation of the recommendations contained in its report.

"We think that five years after the recommendations were made and five years before the millennium development goals target time, it is appropriate that we review progress made," he said.

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