Friday, May 16, 2008

Can Pan-Africanism withhold the Lure of Secession?

The issue of the Zanzibar Accord, or Mwafaka/Muafaka as it is known in Kiswahili, has taken a serious twist after 12 Pemba elders were recently detained after calling for the secession of their island. It is claimed – although there is a serious debate on the constitutionality/legality of this claim – that their call is tantamount to treason. According to Media reports, the whereabouts of the detainees remains a mystery. It is also reported that 10,000 Pemba residents who also signed the secession petition will also surrender themselves to the police. This is a heroic way of protesting and supporting the detainees.

Some political commentators have called for a serious consideration of the issues raised by the Pemba elders. Professor Issa G. Shivji, the author of a recent book on Pan Africanism or Pragmatism? Lessons of Tanganyika-Zanzibar Union, was quoted by the Media as saying these issues are legitimate or something to that effect. By the way, this is how his timely controversial book, which I haven’t yet finished reading, starts to describes the historical nature of the Pemba unrest:

The other major difference between Unguja and Pemba was that while Pemba had 80 percent of clove trees and produced around 80 percent of clove crop, it received very little by way of services and development. Shirazi [“original inhabitants of the islands who trace their origins to Shiraz in Iran” – Shivji 2008: 12] leaders, even during colonial times, often complained of lack of services…Infrastructure development was concentrated in the Zanzibar City which was the political hub and seat of the Government. It is interesting to note that the rise of the rich peasantry in Pemba, composed both of Arab and Shirazis, provided the potential for the development of clove agriculture on a capitalist basis but was constantly stunted by the state controlled by the landed ruling class backed by imperialism. The extreme uneven development between the two islands and fairly integrated ethnic class structure considerably informed the politics of Pemba. Developments, as we shall see, after the revolution further exacerbated this cleavage in a protracted period of political strife which continues to this day (Shivji 2008: 18).

Helen Kijo-Bisimba, the Executive Director of Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC), also believes that it is important to listen to the concerns of the Pemba elders. In a bold, albeit legally calculated interview, she had this to say:

Legally speaking to demand secession is treasonous, but we must go beyond those legal technicalities by addressing the real causes of such demands (The Citizen 14 May 2008)

The resurfacing of the nagging Pemba Question in relation to the Zanzibar Question is another wake cup call to rethink our troubled Zanzibar-Tanganyika union. More significantly, it is a wake up call to rethink our African Identity/Identities in the context of the Pan-African call for African Unity. But as I asked somewhere else in regard to contradictory approaches to various secessions: African unity at what Cost?


Baha, Bernard May 20, 2008 at 8:34 AM  


Bila shaka umesikia majibu ya Rais ah sorry! Mh. Rais Dr. Abeid Aman Karume (Ph.D) ktk mazungumzo yake na waandishi wa habari amesema kwamba ameshindwa kupata Wapemba kwa sababu CCM haikupata ushindi Pemba hivyo inakuwa vigumu kwake kupata watu kutoka huko kwa minajili ya kuwapatia Uwaziri, lakini hakueleza juu ya kada nyinginezo kama Makatibu katika idara mbalimbali za serikali nk nao wanapatikana mpaka CCM ipigiwe kura? amedai hakuna suala la Pemba kujitenga Zanzibar itabakia kama ilivyo na suala la maendeleo serikali inajitahidi kadri ya uwezo wake kupeleka maendeleo huko!

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