March 25, 2008


Zanzibar flag  Zanzibar Map

(2002 Tanzanian Census)

Status: Occupied territory
Population: 982,000 people
Areas: 2.462 km2
Language: Kiswahili, English
Religion: Islam
Ethnic Groups: Wtumbatu, Wahdimu, Wapemba


UNPO REPRESENTATION: Zanzibar Democratic Alternative, Civic United Front

Zanzibar became a member of the UNPO in 1991, and is represented by the Zanzibar Democratic Alternative (ZADA), in co-operation with the Civic United Front (CUF).



Zanzibar is the name given to the two coral islands Unguja and Pemba in the Indian Ocean located 35 kilometres off the coast of East Africa. The tropical islands cover some 2462 km².


A 2002 Tanzania census estimates the population to number 982 000. After about three centuries of integration between natives, Arabs and the Shirazi immigrants, three major ethnic groups emerged. The Watumbatu and Wahadimu who correspondingly inhabited the northern and southern parts of Zanzibar island and Wapemba who occupied Pemba island.

They all categorically regarded themselves as Shirazis and considered to be the indigenous people of Zanzibar and Pemba islands. Blatantly, they deny having major African roots and though they accept that some of the earlier ancestors came from the mainland, they object to the claim that they must be Bantus or Africans.


Main exports include: Cloves, seaweed, coconut, copra. The most important economic activities can be found in the fishing and agriculture sectors. Agriculture (including fishing) makes up for more than 55% of GDP. Food crops are also important (rice, sugar, coconut), tropical fruits (bananas, citrus fruits), spices (cloves, vanilla, ginger), and fisheries (lobster, crab). The most important foreign exchange earner is the tourism industry. The Zanzibar people are searching for ways to increase the income they earn from this sector. However, the tensed situation on the islands has a detrimental influence on these efforts.


The original settlers of the islands were Bantu-speaking Africans. From the 10th century Persians arrived. But it was the incomers from Arabia, particularly Omanis, whose influence would be the strongest.

The Arabs established trading colonies and in 1832 the Omani sultan moved his capital from Muscat to Zanzibar, by now a major centre for the slave trade. Zanzibar later became an independent sultanate.

The slave trade was abolished in 1873 and, in 1890, the British declared Zanzibar a protectorate. In 1963 the islands regained independence, but upheaval lay around the corner.

In January 1964, the Afro-Shirazi Party (ASP) overthrew the coalition government of the Zanzibar Nationalist Party and Pemba Peoples Party. It proclaimed the Peoples Republic of Zanzibar and consolidated ties with the mainland. A republic was established, and in April the presidents of Zanzibar and Tanganyika signed an act of union, uniting the two states into the present United Republic of Tanzania. All political parties were subsequently banned and the ASP merged with Tanganyika’s only political party to form Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM).

During the planned general and presidential elections of 1990, Zanzibar launched a campaign to boycott the elections. This was done in order to show the international community that the majority of the people backed the Zanzibar demand for a referendum with regard to the union with Tanganyika.

Under international pressure, Zanzibar for the first time held elections in 1995 in which the Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party came to power. UNPO was invited to monitor the elections in Zanzibar. The UNPO mission found that a number of serious irregularities occurred with respect to the election process and the counting of the votes, especially in relation to the Zanzibar presidential election.

The unexplained delay of four days in announcing the results of the vote for the Zanzibar president - an alleged victory for the incumbent President Salmin Amour of the ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) by a margin of 0.4 percent - and the serious discrepancies found by international observers in the counting and compilation of the votes, lends support to the opposition parties’ denunciation of the process and of the declared result. Following these elections, arrests and unlawful detentions repressed many people who voted for the opposition CUF.

The CCM won further elections in 2000. The main opposition party Civic United Front did not recognize the result and reported on gross human rights violations and repressive measures against the opposition by Zanzibar police during the pre-election campaign.

In January 2001, the police used massive force to disperse a peaceful demonstration by the Zanzibar population against the rigged results of the elections. On May 10, the European Union urged for dialogue as it warned against the danger of religious extremism as a means of expressing discontent against the government. The UNHCR, Kenya and Tanzania are in a dialogue to discuss the return of the Zanzibar refugees in Kenya to their homeland.

There is no stable political climate in Zanzibar based on respect for fundamental democratic values and human rights. There has been no lasting attempt of reconciliation between CCM and CUF leaders and followers. Instead, the divide between them has increased the polarisation of the support for both parties’, the Muslims supporting the CUF and the Christians supporting the CCM.

Although Zanzibar is part of Tanzania, it elects its own president who is head of government for matters internal to the island. Zanzibar has its own cabinet, known as the Revolutionary Council, and a 50-seat house of representatives. Suffrage is universal and elections are held every five years.

Tanzania is gearing up for important transition elections later in 2005. But developments in Zanzibar ahead of the polls point to the possibility of further outbreak of violence of the scale witnessed in the aftermath of the 2000 elections. The opposition on the semi-autonomous islands vows it will not be cheated a third time after being robbed of power by fraud and bloody repression at 1995 and 2000 polls.



Ninety percent of the population is Muslim, while the remainder are Christian, Hindus, or practice traditional animistic religions.


The official language is Kiswahili. Other languages spoken are Kiunguja (a form of Swahili), English and Arabic.