By Erick Kabendera
Nigeria’s former president Goodluck Jonathan is stepping in to help resolve the political deadlock in Zanzibar after the electoral commission annulled the October 25 election results.
The EastAfrican has learnt that Mr Jonathan was picked to head a Commonwealth-led mediation team. But he is likely to have his work cut out referring the tug-of-war between the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi and the Zanzibar main opposition party, Civic United Front (CUF).
CUF accuses CCM of rigging elections since 1995 and wants more autonomy from the mainland, while CCM accuses CUF of promoting radicalisation on the Isles.
Sources say Mr Jonathan’s choice was also informed by his experience with Islamic radicalisation and extremist violence in Nigeria.
Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) chairman Jecha Salum Jecha nullified the election results following claims of irregularities. But international observers disputed the decision, saying both the voting and counting processes were held in an atmosphere of peace.
A re-run: The ZEC has announced a re-run after 90 days. The international community — including the United States and Britain — has criticised the decision, calling on ZEC to continue with the tallying process of the results and to identify the areas where irregularities were reported.
CUF secretary-general Seif Sharrif Hamad met several religious leaders and key political figures on the mainland. CCM’s central committee held a two-day closed door meeting last week to discuss ways to end the crisis but gave no statement after the meeting.
However, sources told The EastAfrican that another round of talks will be held next week under the chairmanship of Mr Jonathan who is expected to bring all the parties together to find a lasting solution.
Mr Hamad has asked his supporters to remain calm as mediation efforts continue. Despite wide anticipation of violence and political tension, Zanzibar has remained calm although tour operators complained of reduced number of tourists visiting the islands.
There are also reports of food shortages as transporters from the mainland reduce their trips.