Zanzibar’s strategic position on the East Coast of Africa, its rich cultures and history, warm beaches of the Indian Ocean and temperate climate of the island have all attracted economic and political wolves to scramble for this beautiful tourist island of Africa.
The prominence of Zanzibar dates back to first century when the first travelers visited the island and up to modern times when big tourist charter planes, cruise ships and speed boats are landing and anchoring to the island, bringing visitors from all corners of the world to enjoy the island’s natural beauty.
Several songs were composed to praise the island’s God-given glories, while the famous “Sounds of Wisdom” is one of Africa’s largest and most popular music festivals organized and taking place in Zanzibar every February.
“Sounds of Wisdom” and the Zanzibar Film Festival are a boiling pot of a diversity of traditional African music styles performed at open grounds of the Island’s famous Stone Town, while attracting music and film lovers across the globe.
Sipho Mabuse, a South Africa singer had as well, composed a famous song in praise of Zanzibar’s beauty. With a title “Zanzibar! Oh
Zanzibar: Beautiful Island of Africa”, Mabuse lyrics tell of the Island’s beauties as the Beautiful Island of Africa.
Tanzania’s famous musician, the late Freddy Kasheba, also composed a classical song to praise the twin island of Pemba, with a title “The Scent of Pemba.”
Zanzibar has always been hunted by many people of different nationalities as history could tell. These include the Egyptians, Arabs, Portuguese, Chinese, Indians, the British and probably countless others. All wanted to make the island a trading center, once in slaves, ivory, ebony, gold, spices and now – tourism.
The Island was valued as a “Jewel in the Crown,” by its strategic position. The British kept the sultan or the Arab ruler of Zanzibar in position to play a puppet role.
Britain was the first strong European nation to scramble for Zanzibar after Portuguese short-lived attempts to conquer the island failed. In 1899 the British navy bombarded Zanzibar’s sultan palace during the shortest war in history, which lasted for 45 minutes.
The British wanted to place in power a leader of their choice to succeed sultan Seyyid Barghash.
Britain did the same in 1963 in an election, which placed sultan Sayyid Sir Jamshid bin Abdullah Al Said GCMG to rule the island. He ruled Zanzibar from 1st July 1963 to 12th January 1964, just for five months.
On 10 December 1963, the islands gained independence from Britain in as a constitutional monarchy under Jamshid. This independence was short-lived and the sultan was overthrown by the Zanzibar Revolution to form the Republic of Zanzibar and Pemba.
The sultan fled to Oman and then to Portsmouth in the United Kingdom where he lives today as the Head of the Zanzibari Royal Family and as the Sovereign of the Order of the Brilliant Star of Zanzibar and the Most Illustrious Order of Independence of Zanzibar.
Few years ago, sultan Jamshid was quoted by the BBC Swahili service in London, castigating the current government of Zanzibar as a “Government of Rebels”.
In April 1964, Zanzibar merged with the Goliath mainland Tanganyika to form the present Tanzania, of which the island remains a semi-autonomous region.
Strong desire for power and dominance over Zanzibar has existed before, since the first century (AD) when Egyptians, Phoenicians from the Mediterranean, Persians (Iranians), Indians and Chinese visited this island for trade and settlement.
Today, the trend has not changed. The desire for power over Zanzibar is expressed by several states looking to benefit from its strategic position in Africa and still as the tourist destination and a free port.
Mainland Tanzania is towering over Zanzibar, while other world nations, including Oman – the island’s former master, are still looking with great desire at the island.
Political cronies from the ruling CCM party and the opposition Civic United Front (CUF) are fighting for power over this tourist paradise, posing a question: “Will Zanzibar, the Beautiful Island of Africa survive the ongoing political turbulence?