(eTN) – A further outbreak of sectarian violence was reported late yesterday from the Spice Island of Zanzibar, leaving tourism stakeholders exasperated once again. Security forces fired live rounds into the air to control the riotous crowds, which were burning tires and throwing stones, while storming the offices of the ruling CCM party.
Also yesterday the island’s President Ali Mohamed Shein fired one minister who persistently echoed calls by outlawed separatist group Uamsho for the island to break away from the union with the mainland. Meanwhile in Dar es Salaam radical Muslim cleric Ponda Issa got arrested alongside some 120 supporters, after he had incited his followers to burn several Christian churches in Tanzania’s commercial capital city last week. This is a mirror image of what happened a few months ago in Zanzibar, where sectarian violence was fanned by radical clerics resulting in wide spread riots and church burnings too.
Tourism stakeholders have voiced serious concern, back then and more so now, over the spread of such radical ideologies that threaten the hitherto peaceful fabric of coexistence and mutual respect between religions in the United Republic of Tanzania. This could have a serious impact on Zanzibar’s tourist arrivals, should radicals continue to disturb the peace or, like earlier in the year, when radical factions, including a government minister, threatened non Muslims with arrests if found eating during the fasting month of Ramadan or against women tourists wearing skimpy bikinis and threats of outright violence, burnings of thebars and the restaurants.
Regular sources in Arusha expressed his dismay overnight that ‘… this should happen when we host a UNWTO Conference in Arusha and the Pan African Ornithological Convention. We in Tanzania are not like that, it is a very small minority which is so radical and violent, and they have a lot on their agenda. The majority in Zanzibar wants to remain in the union and on the mainland it is never an issue at all that we stay united with the islands as one country. We should be careful, with all the other issues here on conservation, poaching, asking CITES again to sell ivory and those many projects like highways through the parks and all not to kill the goose. We want more tourists, not less, we want people to find jobs in tourism and not lose them when the visitors stay away scared over murders in Dar and church burnings in Zanzibar. This is not what Tanzania does and stands for’.
As true as that is, and as much as it actually reflects on mainstream opinion by tourism stakeholders, these growing number of violent incidents must be contained and peace kept at all times, to keep locals and visitors safe. Dar and other towns need additional police deployment patrolling incident hotspots, the installation of CCTV equipment and formation of a rapid response unit, the roll out of a dedicated tourism police and regular dialogue between the tourism industry and government to reverse such negative publicity and restore confidence in the country as a safe and desirable tourism destination.