(eTN) – At least thirty rioters were charged yesterday in courts of law in Zanzibar, following their arrest over the weekend, when mobs incited by sectarian talk stormed two Christian churches and burned them down. More are expected to appear in court today, and though several were granted bail, investigations continue into the promoters of the uncharacteristic violence perpetrated against other religions.
On other parts of the islands, sporadic riots erupted yesterday again, with much of the police and security force securing the court buildings and surrounds, and notably, another church was burned down near Mpendae, before security forces were deployed to arrest and disburse the mobs.
Level-headed leaders from the mainland and also from Zanzibar have condemned the sectarian violence, saying it is not what Tanzania stands for and have attributed it solely to the radical group known as Uamsho, which has been preaching separation from the mainland and the establishment of its own state of Zanzibar, ostensibly then ruled by them to establish a radical regime.
Across the East African Community the outbreak of violence was condemned, and while in Kenya’s capital, the even more radical Al Shabaab terror group appears to have detonated a bomb in a shop along Moi Avenue. The mood everywhere is determined to root out extremism of any form and have the peaceful coexistence of religions in Tanzania and elsewhere in Eastern Africa reaffirmed.
Zanzibar was long suffering from political divisions, but the present government of unity which has brought the long-time opposition on board, had taken much of the previous sting out of day-to-day politics and given hope that radicals could be contained.
Tanzania’s Home Affairs Minister Emmanuel Nchimbi, now on Zanzibar to resolve the issue through talks, has been clear when he said that no violence would be tolerated in order to protect ordinary people and their possessions and more important prevent an economic meltdown should tourism cut and run, leaving Zanzibar’s much fancied resorts empty, as has been painted as a worst case scenario by sections of stakeholders yesterday when in touch with this correspondent.
“Everyone has a great role in maintaining peace and stability. We need peace for ourselves and for visitors, including tourists who contribute to the economy,” he said before adding, “Let us work together and avoid mixing Islam with criminality. I believe Islam does not allow to attack bars, restaurants, and non-believers. Let us hunt for the criminals.”
The response from senior private sector tourism sources was muted though, as they are continuing to monitor the situation, with added concerns now that the violence has spread to other parts of the island yesterday, making excursions by tourists to the island’s attractions somewhat more difficult in terms of security. It is understood that resort owners and managers are in frequent contact among themselves and with security organizations and are advising tourists to either stay within their resorts or else exercise utmost caution when venturing out.
The Executive Director of the Zanzibar Tourism Commission also echoed the concerns and advice to the people of Zanzibar when he called on them to help bring the criminals to book and work hand in hand to keep tourism a thriving business from which the island would benefit.