October 30, 2005

Violence erupts in Tanzania’s Zanzibar election

ZANZIBAR (Reuters) - Rival supporters threw stones and
fought each other outside several polling stations when voting
began on Sunday in a volatile leadership election in Tanzania's
Zanzibar islands.

Reuters correspondents saw young opposition supporters hurl
stones, kick and beat sympathisers of the ruling Chama Cha
Mapinduzi (CCM or "Party of the Revolution" in Swahili) in the
Stone Town area. Soldiers and riot police rushed to the scene.

Opposition supporters accused the government of illegally
busing people in from rural areas to boost its vote in Stone
Town, a traditional stronghold of the Civic United Front (CUF)

"They want to corrupt this election like they did the last
one," opposition supporter Rashid Mohamed said as scuffles
broke out around him.

"We have already chased away 100 people who should not be
voting in this area and we will continue to fight if they

Past poll violence in the islands has sullied Tanzania's
reputation as a model of stability in Africa.

CCM, which rules Tanzania at national level as well as
Zanzibar, says it represents stability and accuses the
opposition of having a secret separatist agenda.

But charging it was cheated of victory by fraud in 1995 and
2000, the opposition is confident this time it will break a
government hegemony on semi-autonomous Zanzibar that dates back
to an African revolt against Arab rule in 1964.

The opposition says the government plans fraud, possibly
through planned use of the army to move ballot materials.

Tanzania had intended to hold a national election on the
same day as Zanzibar, but the death of a senior opposition
candidate for the vice-presidency forced its postponement,
meaning attention is now squarely focused on the local poll.

The islands joined mainland Tanganyika to form Tanzania in
1964 but retain their own parliament and local presidency.

Incumbent President Amani Abeid Karume, son of Zanzibar's
first post-independence leader, is being challenged by
opposition leader Seif Sharif Hamad.

Home to 1 million of Tanzania's 35 million people, Zanzibar
is famous for its tourist and spice trades but remains one of
the East African nation's poorest regions.