Zanzibar President Hussein Mwinyi appointed his opposition rival Seif Sharif Hamad as first vice president Sunday in a power-sharing deal likely to diffuse political tensions in the semi-autonomous archipelago with a troubled political history.
The move comes barely a day after the opposition party Alliance for Change and Transparency-ACT-Wazalendo announced it was joining the government of national unity in the wake of an election that observers say was marred by widespread irregularities, vote-rigging, and violence.
Zanzibar, which is part of the United Republic of Tanzania, has its own government.
“In accordance with section 9(3) of the Constitution of Zanzibar of 1984, which states: ‘The structure of the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar or any of its organs and the discharge of its functions shall be so effected as to take into account the need to promote national unity in the country and the overall goal of attaining democracy,’ Zanzibar’s president has appointed Seif Sharif Hamad to be the first Vice President of Zanzibar effectively today,” said a statement by the Zanzibar President’s Office.
Hamad’s appointment was widely seen by the opposition party as inevitable. The move has drawn widespread criticism, however, with his critics perceiving it as a betrayal of the victims of violence in the recently held election, given that Hamad had rejected the results.
“I understand the anger and criticism. It isn’t the decision we like, but it is a necessary one. It is exactly this sort of open critique we need in a democracy and to keep us politicians accountable,” said Zitto Kabwe, a senior ACT-Wazalendo party leader.
Hamad, 77, who was defeated by Mwinyi, 53, of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party, who garnered 76.3% of the vote in the Oct. 28 polls, previously described the election as a culmination of glaring flaws in the country’s electoral system.
Fatma Karume, a fearless human rights campaigner and political commentator, criticized the power-sharing deal.
“I hope I am wrong. But so far, my analysis of #Tanzania trajectory has been spot on,” she wrote on Twitter.
According to Karume, ACT- Wazalendo should learn from Kenya and how its Deputy President, William Ruto, has become irrelevant.
“Africa is littered with examples of power-sharing as a junior partner leading to political irrelevance in the long run,” she stressed.