Zanzibar government has banned religious forums and lectures from debating political issues, stressing that it will arrest leaders of any group doing so in order to maintain order and strengthen national unity.
The minister of State, Second Vice President’s Office, Mohamed Aboud Mohamed said this yesterday during a meeting with religious leaders.
“The government will no longer tolerate such acts. We will not let religious groups use their sermons to debate political issues…they are encouraged to join the political platform instead of preaching politics behind religious curtains,” said Mohamed to applause from the clerics.
The meeting was also attended by the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Said Mwema.
He blamed the chaos in Zanzibar on a group of people who have been holding illegal assemblies behind religious curtain to debate politics without permission.
“Illegal assemblies are strictly prohibited. Any person conducting meetings or demonstrations without permit will be apprehended. We don’t want to let people threaten the country’s tranquility,” he noted.
He said the government efforts in fighting poverty will hardly be achieved without peace.
According to the minister, Zanzibar is well known worldwide for having talented Muslim leaders (Sheikhs) who work collaboratively with people from all walks of life without threatening the country’s peace.
He said the government will strengthen security at churches calling on Christians to be patient while the government finds permanent solution to the problem. He said police officers will conduct daily patrols at churches and other places within Zanzibar town.
A senior Muslim leader in Zanzibar, Sheikh Omar Jongo refuted the claims that Muslims in Zanzibar were involved in riots. He said, “On behalf of all Muslims I would like to make it clear that we didn’t insistigate the chaos because Muslims cannot attack a grocery and drink beers publicly.”
He said religious leaders have played a big role in strengthening peace in the Isles including formation of the Government of National Unity (GNU).
Meanwhile, Bishop Dr Magnus Mhiche of the Tanzania Assemblies of God said that sabotage against churches in Zanzibar started last year, but no legal action was taken against the culprits.
Bishop Michael Hafidh of the Anglican Church in Zanzibar said religious leaders from both Tanzania Mainland and Zanzibar are expected to meet today in Zanzibar to discuss the problems that led to the torching of the three churches and destruction of infrastructure.
The clerics have also requested the presence of Zanzibar President Dr Ali Mohamed Shein during their meeting.
On the other hand, the ruling party CCM issued a statement blaming the GNU especially the Ministry for Constitutional Affairs over irresponsibility in supervising its duties.
The statement which was signed by the party’s Deputy Secretary General in Zanzibar, Vuai Ali Vuai said that riots in the Isles started four months back, but no action was taken to contain the situation.
“The Ministry for Constitutional Affairs is to blame for the chaos because members of the revival Islamic movement group (UAMSHO) were using the forums to lecture on Union matters, but no action was taken to prohibit them”, said
He called on the responsible minister, Abubakar Khamis Bakari to resign following destruction of public properties and torching of churches.
Until yesterday afternoon the situation was calm and businesses continued as usual. Police were patrolling churches and filling stations while most of the roads which were blocked by rioters were free.