Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page


In the week after the demonstrations, Tanzanian officials blamed CUF supporters for the violence and publicly praised the police and security forces for a job well done. Zanzibar President Aman Karume congratulated the police on their good work in restoring order to the islands and accused CUF leaders of being responsible for the deaths, warning that the government had a "long arm" and would arrest them even if they fled the country.198 Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa also publicly congratulated security officers, and on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) program "Hardtalk," aired on January 31, 2001, blamed the deaths on opposition leaders, and criticized foreign diplomatic missions for listening to the opposition.199 The government blamed CUF supporters for causing the mayhem and accused them of carrying dangerous weapons such as knives, machetes, acid, and arrows, which threatened the lives of the security forces. Speaking at a press conference, the state minister in the Prime Minister's Office responsible for information and politics, Omari Mapuri, said that CUF demonstrators had covered their faces "ninja style" with black masks that provoked the security forces into reacting. He also accused demonstrators of having tried to attack police stations in Micheweni and Wete in order to steal guns and ammunition.200

At a meeting for police officers in Zanzibar town on February 1, 2001, a police commander congratulated his officers and announced the promotions of four officers; these were officers who are said to have ordered beatings and shootings.201 Police officers who were present at the February 1 meeting told Human Rights Watch that the police commander assured his forces: "I will take full responsibility for these actions; no policeman will suffer any bad consequences."202 To date, that position has prevailed; no state official has been held accountable for the gross human rights abuses that were committed prior to, during and in the aftermath of the January 27 protests. However, at least twenty police officers who refused orders to shoot into crowds or beat prisoners were detained on January 27, 2001. They were held for over two weeks at the FFU base in Ziwani, outside Zanzibar town. Eight of them were later dismissed from the police.203

On January 30, 2001, President Mkapa announced promotions for fourteen senior police officers, including Venance Tossi, the head of the FFU riot police; Omary Ali Omary, Zanzibar's director of criminal investigation; and three officers from the Ziwani police station in Zanzibar town. All of these officers are likely to have been involved in the official response to the CUF demonstrations,204 but the government denied that their promotions were connected with their actions in Zanzibar.205

During the past year, more than 2,200 Pembans who fled as refugees to Kenya have returned home. About one hundred others, however, remain as refugees. The Zanzibari refugees were initially housed in a refugee camp at Shimoni, south of Mombasa, in Kenya but many were later transferred to the Daadab and Kakuma camps in northeastern Kenya, near the Somalia border. At least one hundred of the refugees then crossed into Somalia in search of better living conditions, and another one hundred or so have remained in Kenya. However, the great majority returned to Pemba. Zanzibar Minister of State Salum Juma Othman had earlier threatened that all returning refugees would be arrested when they got to Pemba, stating: "These are not refugees. They are criminals and we will charge them."206 However, with involvement of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), most of the refugees were able to return home without encountering problems from the government, which agreed to grant them an amnesty against prosecution.

Since mid-February, 2001, the political atmosphere in Zanzibar has been tense but generally calm. There have been isolated cases of arrests and beatings, and in one instance police manning a roadblock used machetes to forcibly shave the beards of dozens of Pemban men.207 But although police have maintained a highly visible presence throughout Zanzibar, they have generally shown restraint. The CUF and other opposition parties challenged the ban on demonstrations and in April organized a large and well-attended peaceful rally in Zanzibar Town.208 Earlier, in March, the CUF and CCM entered into talks aimed at defusing political tension, resulting in the October 10, 2001, agreement.

Despite this political rapprochement, none of those responsible for the extrajudicial executions and other killings, assaults and ill treatment of demonstrators and detainees, and for the destruction of property at the time of the January 27 protests, have been brought to justice. In fact, some security officials whom local people say were responsible for killings and other gross abuses were subsequently transferred to the Tanzanian mainland or to other towns in Zanzibar. In some cases, this may have been motivated by fear that they could be subject to retaliation; at least one police officer, Ali Makame also known as Ali Kijeshi ["Ali the soldier"], was reported to have been killed in his home in Jang'ombe, Unguja in February 2001 because of the role he played at the time of the demonstrations.209

In January 2002, in a meeting with Human Rights Watch, Tanzanian Ministry of Home Affairs' officials and police representatives claimed that the police response to the January 27, 2001, demonstrations had been a necessary one, because the protests had been encouraged by Islamist fundamentalists with ties to Osama bin Laden, who were seeking to undermine the Tanzanian government. Ministry of Home Affairs Permanent Secretary Bernard Mchomvu told Human Rights Watch: "The best way to think about the demonstration is that it was an attempted coup d'etat to take over the island of Pemba, which is part of Tanzania, and the police did the very best that they could to see that they were not successful. He said that the situation had arisen because people were "combining politics with religion," an explosive mix that could undermine the security of the state. He went on: "The government has the discretion to use its forces as needed. The people who died were the ones who wanted to take over a police station, they were killed for trying to take control of state power. This was a well supervised rebellion with help from outside...You must manage the reckless or there will be no country to manage."210

In response to questions about human rights violations by the police, Permanent Secretary Mchomvu, to whose ministry the police department reports, stated:

There were only a few police facing thousands and thousands of rioters coming from all areas, armed with machetes. The law enforcement officials simply had to protect themselves. The demonstrators arrived with these machetes shouting "slaughter them, slaughter them"....We used rubber bullets and teargas, as much as we had. There were twenty-three people killed, all others died from natural causes. These twenty-three included the policeman killed. If we had been intent on killing, then thousands would have died. The troops actually used very few real bullets, mostly teargas. They showed as much restraint as they could. But in the end, police are used to maintain control over such a situation ...The [independent] commission [of inquiry]'s report will be made public, and we will see the truth of what happened. The force that was used by the police was the best they could do to control the situation. It was a dangerous situation for them.211

198 Mwinyi Sadallah, "Karume apongeza polisi," Nipashe, January 29, 2001.

199 "Mkapa blames press for distorting facts on killings," The Guardian, February 1, 2001.

200 International Federation for Human Rights and Legal and Human Rights Centre, "Zanzibar: Wave of Violence," June 1, 2001, available at , p.19.

201 Human Rights Watch interview with police officer, Zanzibar Town, August 9, 2001.

202 Human Rights Watch interviews with police officers, Zanzibar Town, August 1 and 9, 2001.

203 Human Rights Watch interviews, Zanzibar Town, August 1 and 9, 2001.

204 "Police Promoted," The Guardian, Dar es Salaam, January 31, 2001; "Mkapa awapandisha vyeo polisi," Nipashe, January 31, 2001.

205 Human Rights Watch interview with Bernard Mchomvu, permanent secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, January 30, 2002.

206 Mwinyi Sadallah, "Pemban refugees in Mombasa face arrest on return-Minister," The Guardian, February 9, 2001.

207 Human Rights Watch interviews, Pemba, August, 2001.

208 Wambui Chege, "Tanzanian Opposition Wakes Up, Demands Change," Reuters, April 9, 2001.

209 Human Rights Watch interview, Wete, August 14, 2001.

210 Human Rights Watch interview with Bernard Mchomvu, permanent secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, January 30, 2002.

211 Ibid.

Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page