Zanzibar’s political crisis worsens as home-made bombs are found

Riot police take positions outside the electoral results center in Stone Town, Zanzibar.
Riot police take positions outside the electoral results center in Stone Town, Zanzibar.
Image: AP
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The police have found two home-made explosive devices in Zanzibar over the last two days, adding to tensions in the semi-autonomous archipelago after officials annulled its elections, citing widespread fraud. Three suspects have reportedly been arrested.

No one was injured by the devices. Mkadam Khamis Mkadam, a Zanzibar police commander, confirmed to Reuters the discovery of the bombs and suggested that one of them was detonated by a mobile phone. “No one was killed or injured,” he said.

Another device was reportedly found near the offices of the Civic United United (CUF), the main opposition party, a local newspaper reported. Contrary to Reuters, the paper reported that both devices were detonated by a bomb disposal unit that carried out controlled explosions.

Zanzibar, which is part of Tanzania but has its own elections and government, was plunged into a political crisis on Wednesday (Oct. 28) after the chairman of the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) wrote off the election held last Sunday, saying that there had been “cheating” and “double voting” in some polling stations. “This election was unfair and did not adhere to the law and electoral process,” Jecha Salim Jecha said in a statement. The chairman called for the exercise to be repeated in 90 days time.

But CUF has rejected the call, arguing that the process had been free and fair and that this was just a maneuver by the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party to cheat its way into power. CUF’s Seif Sharif Hamad declared himself the victor on Monday. On Friday, he issued a three-day ultimatum for ZEC to complete the process of counting the votes and declaring the winner. “ZEC should continue proceeding with the releasing of the election results while working on the hitches,” he said. Meanwhile, a CCM spokesman said that the party agreed with ZEC’s decision. “There were lots of irregularities,” he said.

Nevertheless, CUF’s doubts were echoed by international observers who said the elections were credible, and urged ZEC to resume its work. “We call for this announcement to be recalled, and urge all parties to maintain a commitment to a transparent and peaceful democratic process,” the US Embassy said in a statement. ”We call on ZEC to resume the results tabulation process without delay,” the British government added.

In the past, Zanzibar’s elections have been marred by violence, and the two attempted bombings are a sign of how quickly that violence could erupt once again.