MINISTERIAL STATEMENT SEEKS TO REASSURE THE TOURISM INDUSTRY
Tanzanias recently appointed Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism Khamis Kagesheki, yesterday issued his media statement to the situation on Zanzibar, where violence swept the old Stone Town on Friday and Saturday while other parts of the island came under siege on Monday, as suspects were produced in court and charged.
The statement, read out by Deputy Minister Lazaro Nyalandu, said in part: This was just an isolated incident that has been brought under control by government. There is peace in Zanzibar as we speak. There were no reports of destruction of hotels or attacks on tourists.
That part of the statement raised more than a few eyebrows as far from being isolated the same radical group was last year blamed for firebombing bars and restaurants as they oppose the selling of alcohol. The brought under control bit of the statement also evaded elegantly that it took security forces two days to quiet down the rioters in the old Stone Town and then faced another outbreak at a different part of the island as they were guarding the law courts en masse. Sections of stakeholders also mentioned to this correspondent that it was their direct action and communication amongst each other to keep the tourists in the resorts and bring back excursions already on the road when the news of the riots spread, nor did the statement admit that three churches were burnt, though indeed no tourism facility on this occasion.
Zanzibar, as has the entire Tanzania, were long an accepted role model for different religions living peacefully side by side in the spirit of tolerance and mutual respect and the burning of churches, intended by the radicals to set one religion against another, was widely condemned though Christian church leaders called for calm and urged their supporters not to be tempted by retaliation.
At least one senior stakeholder from Zanzibar in regular contact with this correspondent spoke of the sectors fear of future repeats and of tourism being targeted outright by the group for maximum impact, calling for much more stringent measures by security to ensure that there is continuous protection around resorts and tourism hotspots while also vowing to increase internal security measures to prevent any incidents happening inside resorts.
With the current low season in full swing the sector has not been overly busy but the media coverage of the incidents has thrown some clouds over the future.
The Minister was reportedly swift in blaming the international media for overstating the situation in Zanzibar but in turn must suffer the consequences for trying to downplay on the situation and conveniently leaving out of his statement past criminal incidents blamed on Uamsho, which leader by the way was arrested yesterday and charged with a range of offences. Mainland sources commended this move as the radical Islamic group is also reportedly working to undermine the union between Zanzibar and the mainland, seeking separation and the establishment of an Islamic hardline state, two scenarios which are vehemently opposed by the government of President Kikwete whose CCM ruling party had since independence been promoting unity and tolerance and in the past stepped down hard on dissent. Watch this space.