Those who defend this oppression

In the blink of an eye, Mr. Ali Juma Suleiman has gone to meet his Maker. No, better I should say that he was sent to meet his Maker through an assault committed by the armed groups that have already committed so much violence against supporters of the main opposition party, the Civic United Front. The late Ali Juma is already gone.

His accounting before his God started yesterday, and many of us believe that he died a martyr, because he was harmed. But he also died a martyr because he died defending justice and fairness for this country, which those who killed him absolutely do not want.

Even from his hospital bed, the day before his death, he continued to stand in defiance for his beliefs, saying “We must never give in to oppression.” I believe he was reciting CUF’s national anthem, which he had been singing for some years since he joined this party, whose members have suffered so much.

The late Ali Juma joins the many others who have been killed solely for their political beliefs, and those who died silently from beatings, from the era of the Janjaweed until today, the era of the Zombies, and those who were killed in the demonstrations of 26 and 27 January 2001, who were demanding their rights.

There are so many who died of sorrow and isolation after being beaten and tortured and disabled; those left crippled and lame, and others suffering psychological trauma from what happened to them and what they have been made to bear. All of these.

CUF has taken the names of thousands of victims, from the time of Janjaweed to the Zombies of today, who have suffred out oppression in broad daylight and many a times in the blanket of darkness. And the names and the evidence have been submitted to the Government as well as to the Parliament, but nothing has been done.

The Police Force has not ever even attempted to address these crimes. When questioned, they say that the oppressed should submit evidence. Yet thousands of cases are documented in their station logs, but not one has been investigated least to be charged.

We have heard the Police Force flatly deny that Zombies exist, say that they don’t know them, that they don’t believe they are real. People have continued to report to the police out of habit, but they know that the police have neither the ability nor the desire to arrest the perpetrators of these crimes against their fellow human beings.

I have been taking up the issue of Zombies, and recently I submitted the names of more than 350 CUF supporters who have reported being beaten and tortured and violated in other ways, but Minister of the Interior Ndani Mwigulu Nchemba has done nothing. This was at the National Parliament – Bunge.

Mwigulu attempted a reconciliation by issuing a statement when he wanted his budget to pass, but since getting his Ministerial allocations he hasn’t reached out to me, nor do I believe that he will reach out to me, for it is clear that the Zombies are supported by CCM, and that their existence benefits the party.

When we proposed that Parliament form commission to investigate this issue, to tell the truth, our proposal was lightly taken and dismissed, like a worthless burden, and the question was squashed. Moreover, neither the Government of Zanzibar nor the Union Government have ever issued any statement condemning these groups, who, by their actions make perfectly clear that people in this country have no protection or security.

The Zanzibari and Tanzanian Governments are happy to let this be said and seen. Secondly, these two governments’ silence is tantamount to saying that they condone the commission of these acts against certain people, whereas these acts are discriminatory, and aimed at specific members of society because of their political beliefs.

It is no different from the Government saying that not all the parties deserve its justice, and that to be a member of CUF is a crime, that being a member of CUF means being lost to justice, that it is unacceptable.

This is the meaning of the punishment, torture, beatings, and all of the oppression. It is no different from saying that a strong young man nursed on CCM mother’s milk has the right to do whatever he wills to a CUF supporter, and that no steps will be taken against him.

The respect given to the Zombies is, I can say, the same as that given to a militia that can do whatever it pleases, without consequence. It signals that they are above the law. The country has done everything possible to stop what was happening in Kibiti, but in Zanzibar, nothing is being done, and, more so, they are being protected, and the existence of these armed groups is being denied.
All along, CUF leaders have been telling their supporters not to be provoked, not to return the blows they are dealt, that is if not turning the other cheek to give the same cheek again and again, even as they know that their supporters are being injured, crippled, and now that they are being killed.

The Police Force, the Government of Zanzibar and the Union Government have seen CUF supporters as peaceful, and this has given Zombies confidence that what they do is acceptable, and that nothing will happen.

The unprecedented crowds who took part in the burial procession of this CUF leader Ali Juma Suleiman, accompanying him on foot to his grave, are a sign that CUF has enough people to return the blows, and even to take revenge, and, if not that, then at least to say, “Enough”.

Let us not pray for the day the oppressed says “Enough.” And I don’t think this day is far. I believe that even if the Zombies are supported and given resources, they do not outnumber the supporters of CUF, who have had enough of their repression.

People have been made to suffer since 1992, when multipartyism returned, people who wanted change, and since CUF was formed in 1995. Trumped up charges to put people in cells or in jail are in the many thousands. Let it be understood if those who are tired of being oppressed defend themselves, then let not the Police, which is unable to take any steps, or the Government of Zanzibar, or the Union Government, who remain silent – let them not turn around and blame the oppressed for raising an arm in their own defense or for returning a slap for a slap.

Let us pray this does not happen, but if the suffering continues, anything can happen.

By Ally Saleh,

Ally is a Member of political party; Civic United Front (CUF) and Member of Parliament (Representative for Malindi, Zanzibar)

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