Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page


The CUF began planning in early January for a series of peaceful demonstrations on January 27, 2001 to protest the October 2000 election fraud, and notified the police of their march routes. The government had prevented political gatherings following the election. Ruling party and security officials immediately responded by announcing that the demonstrations were banned and by making preparations to suppress them.10

The Security Forces Deployed
In mid-January, an estimated 500 Tanzanian government police and army reinforcements along with armored vehicles and artillery were sent to Zanzibar, adding to the forces that had been deployed there since the elections.11 Most of these army and riot police brought in were non-Muslims primarily from the Tanzanian mainland, and were viewed by local people in Zanzibar as a kind of occupying force.

The police, under the Tanzanian Ministry of Home Affairs, have primary responsibility for maintaining law and order. In particular, the riot police, known as the Field Force Unit (FFU), are responsible for crowd control. However, in this case, FFU uniforms were reportedly issued to a number of regular police in Pemba, along with shields and teargas launchers, who lacked training in riot control.12 The army, the Tanzania People's Defense Force, which maintains two barracks in Pemba, is usually not deployed for internal security matters; however, in this case they provided support to the police. The Zanzibar government also armed and deployed its coastguard- the Anti-Smuggling Naval unit [Kikosi Maalum cha Kuzuia Magendo, KMKM]-that usually polices the coastal waters to prevent commercial smuggling to Kenya.

In addition to the state security forces, a number of civilian or ruling party militia groups were organized. In Zanzibar, there is a compulsory National Youth Service [Jeshi la Kugenja Uchumi, The Army for the Building of the Economy, (JKU)], which is a pre-requisite for government employment, and provides some military training. Many JKU members were put on standby, or were deployed to provide support and vehicles to police on January 27, 2001. The local ruling party militia [mgambo] and local administrators [sheha] also worked closely with the local government authorities, attacking civilians or serving as informants by leading police to the homes of opposition supporters.

Government Orders to Use Force
Several police officers who agreed to talk with Human Rights Watch confidentially reported that the police authorities encouraged them to use all force necessary to break up the demonstrations. High-ranking government officials made public statements warning that force would be used: "The government has prepared itself in every way to confront whatever occurs...any provocation will be met with all due forces of the state," said Tanzanian Prime Minister Frederick Sumaye.13 The Tanzanian vice-president at the time, the late Omar Ali Juma, told a press conference, "The government of the United Republic and Zanzibar has the means to deal with any situation, including this demonstration, so that citizens do not suffer."14

Several police officers who were involved told Human Rights Watch that the regional police authorities prepared their men in several meetings at different police stations. For example, three police officers told Human Rights Watch that two days before the January 27 demonstrations, the regional police commissioner for Unguja Urban-West, Khalid Idd Nuizan, reportedly made a speech to a large gathering of policemen in Zanzibar Town, during which he said they should use all force necessary to break up the demonstrations. The police were told that it was better for them to kill than to return with their weapons and bullets. Police commissioner Nuizan reportedly said, "Kill, bring back bodies, then we will know that you have done your job."15 Another police commander, who addressed some 200 police officers in a police mess in Pemba on January 26, 2001, reportedly told his men that he had received orders from his superiors to use any force necessary, including live ammunition, since the planned demonstration was banned.16 When he told the gathering to use restraint by first firing rubber bullets, several FFU riot police transferred from the mainland jeered, protesting that it would be interpreted as a sign of weakness if they did not use live ammunition.17 In another police station in Pemba, the police were reportedly given more explicit orders to use live ammunition against crowds numbering more than twenty18 In Pemba, the army and the local government administration at Wete sent an intimidating message to residents on January 26, 2001, by removing the police flag at the police station and replacing it with the army flag-suggesting an arbitrary institution of martial law. Army cars then drove through town, soldiers standing atop their vehicles with guns. The entire town was under police guard.19

The order given to the security forces appears to have been clear and direct: stop the demonstrations at any cost. In some cases, however, individual officers refused to follow such orders or avoided actively participating in suppressing the demonstrations; in other cases individuals used excessive force and went on a rampage. Several of those who did not follow orders to use force were arrested: For example, eight police officers in Zanzibar Town were detained on January 27, 2001 at Ziwani barracks.20 The relatively small number of police and security forces, compared to the size of the crowds they faced, may have contributed to the anxiety of the police, and led some to use live ammunition fearing that their, or others', lives were at risk, especially after one police officer was killed by demonstrators in Wete. However, according to testimony collected by Human Rights Watch, it is clear that in some cases police and other security forces made excessive use of lethal force, and were responsible for committing extrajudicial killings. Although in some areas police did fire warning shots in advance, in other areas, no warning was given to the crowds before they were fired upon.

An Intimidation Campaign Begins
In the days leading up to the demonstration, the authorities arrested several CUF leaders, including Juma Othman Juma, a Pemban organizer, who was detained without charge for a week. Police also sought another CUF leader in Chake Chake, Hamad Masoud, but he evaded arrest.

In the days preceding January 27, 2001, the official and only television station in Zanzibar, TVZ, ran film clips showing previous protest demonstrations that had been forcibly quelled by police. For the first time, official news media showed the films of the 1998 police shootings of worshippers outside the Mwembe Chai Mosque in Dar-es-Salaam, and of the violence that accompanied the 1964 Zanzibar revolution. The intent appears to have been to intimidate potential demonstrators to stay away and to signal that the authorities were ready and willing to use force to prevent the demonstrations.21 Although CUF leaders were probably aware of security force preparations and planning, they did little to warn supporters of the potential for violence and killings. They told demonstrators to prepare for tear gas, but encouraged women, the elderly and older children to attend the rallies.

According to one Zanzibar Town witness: "In the week prior to the demonstration there were armored vehicles and artillery on the streets. They were driving around and firing into the air to intimidate people."22 Remarks made by police and CCM ruling party officials to some Pemba residents also portended violence. For example, a man in Mtambwe was told by a police officer, "Don't go to the demonstration-you won't return."23 A former CCM member and retired senior civil servant told CUF members the week before the demonstration that they would be killed in Zanzibar.24 One CUF member of the House of Representatives was reportedly warned by a police officer friend that he should not stand in the front line, but march in the rear: "If you march in the front, you won't return."25

Shooting Worshippers at Mwembe Tanga Mosque on January 26, 2001
Apparently wary that the political opposition would organize support through the mosques, the government sought to ensure that no gatherings would take place outside the mosques after Friday prayers. On January 25, 2001, the Tanzanian vice-president at the time, the late Omar Ali Juma, called for Muslims to leave their mosques immediately following prayers, emphasizing that the demonstration planned for the next day had been banned: "I implore you, sheikhs, imams and all believers, pray and then disperse peacefully."26

Following Friday prayers at the Mwembe Tanga Mosque in Zanzibar Town on January 26, worshippers did gather outside the mosque in conversation, as was their custom following a service on their holy day. In responding, police who were on duty at the time told Human Rights Watch that a group of police officers were dispatched from Madema police station armed with rifles (contrary to routine practice) directly to Mwembe Tanga.27 Some twenty police arrived at the mosque and ordered those gathered there to freeze. They then shot dead the mosque's imam, Juma Mohamed Khamis, as he was in the process of unlocking his moped to leave. The police shot him directly in the face, killing him instantly. Two worshippers were shot by the police: Hamad Said was killed with a shot to the stomach, and Seif Juma was injured by two bullets in the leg and ankle as he attempted to flee.28

A witness who was present at the mosque testified that the shootings were unprovoked:

We were sitting and chatting outside, as normal, when all of a sudden police appeared. They did not give any order for us to leave or disperse. They came there and right away they started shooting, not using sticks or anything like that, but live weapons. They didn't shoot in the air. If they had shot in the air we would have run away. They were shooting at people this side and that side. My friend was shot and died...I know the one who gave the order-[police sergeant Mahmoud Juma] Mrema. He was the one who was in charge of the group that day. He didn't shoot, himself. He was giving orders such as, "Shoot him, shoot that one."29

A police officer who was on duty at Madema police station that day provided a similar account:

We went into the town around 11 or 12 o'clock, and everything was calm. Later, those who were trusted that they could do this thing were chosen; they were given weapons, and they went to town. The result was, when they returned, they had already killed, those two people ...Well, those policemen [who killed] claimed that there was disturbance, but honestly, there wasn't any disturbance.30

Five eyewitnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch specifically identified Sergeant Mahmoud Juma `Mrema' as the commanding officer at the scene, and alleged that he ordered the shooting of the imam.31 Following the killings, scores of worshippers were rounded up and arrested.32 Mwembe Tanga mosque was known to be a place of worship used by many opposition supporters because it is located next to a CUF regional office. After the shooting, police arrested twenty-seven people outside the mosque and inside the nearby CUF office. Police kept the body of Hamad Said for three days before officially informing his family of the death.33

Human Rights Watch interviews with several eyewitnesses, victims, and police officers contradict the official government response that characterized the shootings as accidental. Laurean Tibasana, police commissioner in the Tanzanian capital, Dar-es-Salaam, announced:

In Mtendeni, due to bad luck on January 26, 2001, after Friday afternoon prayers, a police patrol car containing seven police officers on their usual patrol duty were surrounded by a group of people coming out of the mosque and throwing stones at the police. The police fired bullets in the air, whereupon the people dispersed. The patrol car continued on its rounds after the people dispersed without knowing that anyone had been injured. Later, a report was received at the station that a person had died as a result of the bullets that were fired into the air.34

In Zanzibar, the shootings were covered by the state media, and widely understood by local people to be intended to deter them from participating in the January 27, 2001 demonstrations. Others speculated that the incident was intended to provoke a violent response from Muslims, in order to discredit CUF.

10 For other reports that document the January 2001 violence in Zanzibar: See, International Federation for Human Rights and Legal and Human Rights Centre, "Zanzibar: Wave of Violence," June 1, 2001, available at and Amnesty International, "Tanzania: Human Rights Concerns Relating to Demonstrations in Zanzibar on January 27, 2001, January 28, 2002, available at\TANZANIA.

11 According to the Tanzanian Constitution, matters of defense and internal security fall under the authority of the Union government. See Issa Shivji, Tanzania: The Legal Foundations of the Union, 1990. Also, Human Rights Watch interview, Wete, August 3, 2001.

12 Human Rights Watch interview with police officer, Chake Chake, August 15, 2001.

13 "Waislamu watawanyike baada ya swala ya Ijumaa-Omar" Nipashe, January 26, 2001.

14 Ibid.

15 Human Rights Watch interviews with serving police officer, Zanzibar Town, August 8, 2001, and two former policemen of Pemban origin, fired after the demonstration Zanzibar Town, August 1, 2001.

16 Human Rights Watch interview with police officer, Unguja, August 15, 2001.

17 Human Rights Watch interview with police officer, Unguja, August 15, 2001.

18 Human Rights Watch interview with police officer, Chake Chake, August 17, 2001.

19 Human Rights Watch interviews, Dar es Salaam, July 31, 2001, and Pemba, August, 2001.

20 Human Rights Watch interview with police officer, Unguja, August 15, 2001.

21 They also showed footage of massacres in Rwanda and Tiennamen Square, as well as rallies led by Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany. Human Rights Watch interviews, Zanzibar, August, 2001.

22 Human Rights Watch interview, Zanzibar Town, August 1, 2001.

23 Human Rights Watch interview, Wete, August 6, 2001.

24 Human Rights Watch interview, Dar es Salaam, August 1, 2001.

25 Human Rights Watch interview, Wete, August 3, 2001.

26 "Waislamu watawanyike baada ya swala ya Ijumaa - Omar" Nipashe, January 26, 2001.

27 Human Rights Watch interviews with policemen, Zanzibar Town, August 1, 2001.

28 Human Rights Watch interviews with witnesses and victim shot by police, Zanzibar Town, August 1 and 8, 2001.

29 Human Rights Watch interview, Zanzibar Town, August 1, 2001.

30 Human Rights Watch interview, Zanzibar, August 1, 2001.

31 Human Rights Watch interviews with witnesses and victim shot by police, Zanzibar Town, August 1 and 8, 2001.

32 Human Rights Watch interviews, Zanzibar Town , Zanzibar, August 9, 2001.

33 Human Rights Watch interview, Zanzibar Town, August 9, 2001.

34 Taarifa ya Jeshi La Polisi Kuhusu Matukio ya Mandhamano Haramu ya Chama cha CUF terehe 27.01.01, Laurean Tibasana, National Police Commissioner for Operations and Training, Dar-es-Salaam, January 28, 2001.

Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page