ZANZIBAR: Launch of Report on Human Rights Abuses


1st June 2001

ZANZIBAR: Launch of Report on Human Rights Abuses
Current situation inevitable result of union with Tanganyika

A new report on the background to the current violence and human rights abuses in Zanzibar was launched on 30th May 2001 in London, UK.

The report is one of a series of briefings by the Islamic Human Rights Commission regarding anti-Muslim violence and discrimination. Report author Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed outlined the deterioration of civil rights in Zanzibar – where over 90% of the population are Muslim – since its union with Tanganyika to form Tanzania in 1964:

“Since the union.the government has consistently attempted to suppress popular dissent against the unfavorable conditions of the prevailing regime. An ongoing programme of suppression in this respect has gradually intensified throughout the ensuing decades.with a series of unfair elections culminating in a particularly brutal crackdown in the wake of rigged elections at the end of 2000.

“Protesters were shot or beaten to death by police accompanied by militias. At least 100 Muslim supporters of the opposition were killed in the first phase of violence, while up to a 1,000 or so fled as police broke into homes, beating, arresting and detaining civilians.Several hundred Muslims remain missing, and hundreds continue to flee the escalating violence into Kenya. The government, .seems to have no qualms about using violent methods.There are reports of the appearance of mass graves in the aftermath of indiscriminate shootings by police forces. The crackdown.signifies that the future of Zanzibar is likely to be fraught with increasing political turmoil and related violence.”

When challenged about the implications of Christian-Muslim conflict, Ahmed responded:

“We are not suggesting there is some form of intrinsic hatred between communities whereby I am a Muslim and you are a Christian and we hate each other per se. Rather there has been a history of using the religion card by politicians in the post- colonial period which has played upon the colonial legacy of favoritism. This legacy has left much of East Africa with a disproportionately high amount of Christians the higher echelons of society, with Muslims increasingly excluded from mainstream processes. This alienation is one that has had and will continue to have serious consequences as we have seen in Zanzibar and the region generally.”

The Director of Research at IHRC also addressed the attendees made up of community activists, journalist and representatives of NGOs, INGOs and International organisations working in the field, including the British

“IHRC does not want to be alarmist, but the reports we are getting of the exclusion of and violence against Muslims in East Africa indicates that there is a potential for a balkanisation of the region. Without labouring
the analogy, Zanzibar in this context has the potential of a Kosova-type situation. We feel it is crucial that there is an acknowledgment of historical injustice in any process that attempts to address the current

The 24 page report entitled, Suppressing Dissent: The Crackdown on Muslims in Zanzibar was launched in conjunction with a report on police brutality in the Republic of Mauritius.

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