Fatma Karume: Why we should remain steadfast in protecting Union

  • Says founding fathers of the nation acted according to the will of Tanzanians
  • Insists Union never undermined Zanzibarians, mainlanders in anyway

THE phrase ‘United we stand, divided we fall’ is a common expression that highlights the importance of unity.

Unity is crucial because it provides strength, power and courage. When people come together, they can achieve more than they could individually.

Unity is often seen in the workplace, where team members work together to complete a task. It is also seen in local communities where people come together to help each other like in funerals, weddings, and disasters.

Analysts also argue that in business, normally companies and societies or associations grow and expand when team members work together, and similarly, many animals work together, such as dolphins helping each other when one gets hurt.

Further, the importance of unity includes: encourages mutual understanding and respect; leads to collective action and shared goals; creates a sense of community and belonging; helps to resolve conflicts and disputes peacefully; and facilitates problem-solving and decision-making.

Unity also supports and strengthens relationships; promotes social, economic, and political stability; it helps to build trust and confidence among individuals and groups; and contributes to overall social and national development.

It is behind these arguments that the wife of the first President of Zanzibar, late Sheikh Abeid Amani Karume, Ms Fatma Karume, declares full defence of the Union between the then Tanganyika and Zanzibar, which formed Tanzania in 1964. For Mama Karume, the benefits of this Union are obvious.

Speaking to the Tanzania Standard (Newspapers) Limited (TSN) editorial team, which she hosted for an exclusive interview at her Maisara home in Unguja recently, Mama Karume opened up on the importance of the Union.

The 93-year granny who was born at Bumbwini suburb in North Unguja region’s North B district to the Mayor of Unguja Urban also stands firms in defence of the current structure of the Union – two-tier government.

Fatma Karume, as best known for years, said “At least for the past six decades of the Union, I have not seen the bad side of it.”

Ms Karume enthusiastically explained that that since Tanganyika and Zanzibar united in 1964; she has not experienced one side undermining the other.

“Whether the Union has undermined the Zanzibarians or mainlanders in anyway, this has never happened instead a lot of opportunities have opened up for the people of both sides in different ways,” she said.

She said that Tanzanians, especially Zanzibaris, should respect, love and protect to the Union because it is a good link between them and their mainland counterparts socially, politically, and economically.

“The Union remains strong and has a very good connection for our people. We are free to live and travel to any part of the Union. It has also helped in sharing experience as many people from Zanzibar learn from their counterpart in the mainland,” she argues.

She explained that since the beginning of the Union, it remains strong just because its founders: Father of the Nation Mwalimu Julius Nyerere and Abeid Amani Karume did not establish it behind their personal interests, instead, they acted according to the will of Tanzanians.

According to Mama Karume, the founders orchestrated and formed the Union by considering the broad interests of the people.

“They did not want it to be just them to decide, but they considered the will of the people through different ways, and they also wished and tried to have neighbouring countries of Kenya and Uganda to join. This move later succeeded to form the East Africa Community (EAC).

The First EAC had challenges and collapsed, and resumed in 1999.  Therefore, the founders of our Union were right to think of uniting the country for the interest of the people, said Fatma adding that many countries wish to unite but fail due to lack of commitment.

She added “There is an interesting story I heard from my husband that Mwalimu Nyerere had suggested to him to the be the First President of this Union, but Karume rejected with honour, pressing Mwalimu to be the president of the Union, instead!”

Commenting on emerging debate with some people challenging the Union, including the allegation that the Union undermined and under-developed Zanzibar, Fatma said the dividing debate which has no justification started after the death of Karume and Nyerere and also continued after rebirth of multiparty democracy.

Mama Karume who throughout the three-hours ‘interview was charming and smiling, said the foundation of the Union laid by late great leaders, should be protected and sustained.

“We should always strive to protect our unity, freedom, love, peace, stability. Dialogue should always be our priority whenever disputes emerge,” she insisted.

Mama Karume sees the Union as unshakable and will always remain strong. Even though there were challenging times related to vexes of the Union, which however, are being swiftly addressed by both governments.

“Vexes cannot disqualify the validity of the Union and it will continue to remain strong, while providing social, political and economic benefits for the people of the two sides,” she said.

The government has made significant progress in resolving the vexes, for which Mama Karume is grateful and strongly believe that in the near future, all the remaining issues will be resolved. This, she said will significantly strengthen the Union.

To date, the two governments have discussed, resolved and removed 22 matters from the list of contentious issues of the Union

In the joint meetings held in the 2022/2023 financial year; eight issues were discussed of which four of them were resolved and removed from the Union vexes.

The remaining four issues being worked upon include the distribution of revenue from the Zanzibar shares in the East African Currency Board and the Bank of Tanzania profit, recommendations of the Joint Finance Commission, motor vehicles registration and importation of sugar produced in Zanzibar into the Mainland Tanzania.

Mama Karume asked executives in both sides of the Union to fast-track the process of eliminating the remaining challenges to ensure the people of both sides are strongly tied together.

“We should remain steadfast to protect this Union,” said Mama Karume.

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