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Posted on August 20th, 2012, by

The population inhabiting Africa suffers from social injustice and permanent oppression from the part of the authorities. The social inequality and the huge gap between the rich and poor increases the social tension in practically all African countries. At the same time, the problem of social inequality and class antagonism in the society is enhanced by ethnic conflicts which emerge regularly in different parts of Africa. In this respect, the colonial past of the continent plays an important part because after the decolonization of the continent, new states emerged instead of former colonies of European powers but the ethnic groups inhabiting new, independent countries were diverse and suffering from poverty and numerous socioeconomic problems ethnic groups used the origin as the pretext to oppress each other and to take control and power in African countries. In such a way, African countries had little options but to wreak in havoc of civil wars and revolutions which led to the establishment of dictatorship and violation of basic human rights and liberties. In this respect, it is possible to refer to the case of the Zanzibar Revolution which was caused by the political havoc and socioeconomic problems which allowed John Okella to rise in power and took the total control over political, economic and social life of the country and this revolution was a typical example of the life of an ordinary country of African continent, which revealed the total neglect of human rights and liberties and democratic principles in Africa that engendered social inequality and ethnic conflicts throughout the continent.

On analyzing the development of African countries, it is important to dwell upon the historical background of the creation of independent states in Africa in the mid-20th century. As the matter of fact, until the mid-20th century African countries were colonies of European states which established their control over the entire continent. However, the liberation of African countries did not bring the desirable relief to the population of Africa. In this respect, the history of Zanzibar is particularly noteworthy because it reveals a typical history of many African states that got independence in the mid-20th century.

In fact, shortly after the proclamation of independence and withdrawal of the British from the country in 1963, the first elections took place in Zanzibar. However, the first year of independence revealed the fact that the political struggle in Zanzibar was conducted between political elites which took little care of needs of the population of the country. The only thing they strived for was the power.

At the same time, it is worth mentioning the fact that the political power in the country was taken by the parties representing the ethnic majority, namely by the Zanzibar Nationalist Party and the Zanzibar and Pemba Peoples Party, whereas the Afro-Shirazi Party, representing ethnic minority of the country, was to be in minority in the parliament of the country. As a result, ethnic minorities turned to be under-represented in the political life of the country.

On the other hand, the formal victory of the aforementioned political parties did not bring the political stability in Zanzibar. In fact, the country did not have an extensive experience of the implementation of democratic principles. This is why different political forces attempted to raise the population against the ruling government and parties to take control over the country and to get the power. In this respect, it is worth mentioning the fact that political opponents often used existing tension between different ethnic groups, numerous political and socioeconomic problems.

In case of Zanzibar, the rebelled John Okello successfully used factions and contradictions between various political forces to take the power into the country. Among these factions and contradictions, it is possible to mention the following: rights versus privileges, new-comers versus old established families, Capitalism vs Socialism, merchants vs landowners, Zanzibari’s vs Pemban’s, Asians vs Arabs, Swahili’s vs Mainlanders, and all this against the backdrop of the Cold War and the other nationalistic and de-colonial movements abounding in Africa at that time (Bakari, 217). Remarkably, other countries in Africa suffered from the similar problems. To put it more precisely, ethnic conflicts were widely-spread in Africa because new states were created in borders of former colonies, which did not take into consideration ethnic peculiarities of countries. As a result, ethnic conflicts emerged under the pressure of socioeconomic problems and poverty that forced African people to struggle for a better life with weapon. In fact, John Okello used the aforementioned controversies to take the political power in the country because, as he accomplished the plot, he used the support of the Afro-Shirazi Party. Gradually, John Okello used the ASP as the basis for his political power eliminating all of his political opponents and becoming a dictator with unlimited power.

He conducted repressive policies protecting the “gains”¯ of the Zanzibar Revolution. The terror and repressions became constituent elements of his policies, while he attempted to frighten the population of the country. For instance, on January 13, 1964, he broadcast the following messages:

The government is now run by us”¦should you be stubborn and disobey orders I will take measures 88 times stronger than at present.”¯ and, “If anyone fails to comply”¦ and locks himself in a house, as others have done”¦I have no alternative but to use heavy weapons. We, the army have the strength of 99,099,000.(Lofchie, 39)

His threats and his ability to act on them, panicked citizens, especially minority groups of all types. On January 14, 1964 he broadcast these chilling words.

Here is the Field Marshall of Zanzibar and Pemba”¦ I am thinking of going to Mtendeni (village) to destroy it if the people there do not obey orders. After 40 minutes I am coming to finish you off, especially the Comorians”¯. And “To all Arab youths living in Malindi; I will pass through Malindi armed with weapons of which I alone know. I want to see everyone stripped to his underpants and laying down. I want to hear them singing”¦ father of Africans. God bless him in his task and that of the Field Marshall. (Myers, 452).

As a result, on taking the total control over the country, John Okello kept population in the state of permanent fear that facilitated his control and made his power not only unlimited but also unchallengeable. In fact, this is the way dictators in Africa followed in many other countries of the continent. In such a situation, people living in Africa, including such countries as Zanzibar were absolutely deprived of basic human rights and liberties. Ethnic purges and genocide became practically a norm and an integral part of the life of the entire continent. The ethnic conflicts provoked civil wars but the major cause of all the conflicts in Africa was the social inequality or, to put it more precisely, the striking poverty the overwhelming majority of the population of Africa lived and keep living today. In the context of the ongoing pauperization of the population and in face of the threat of starvation, people readily support any political or military power that gives them a hope for a better life. However, in actuality, people become a mere tools, military units political and military leaders use to take power as John Okello did in Zanzibar.

Thus, in conclusion, it is important to lay emphasis on the fact that the Zanzibar Revolution had revealed the bunch of problems typical for post-colonial Africa. The lack of democracy, striking poverty, social inequality, and ethnic conflicts nourished permanent and ever-lasing conflicts between different ethnic groups and classes in practically countries of Africa. Political leaders used masses of people in their own interests for the only purpose to take the political power and to establish dictatorship eliminating all political opponents as John Okello did.

At the same time, people remained deprived of basic human rights and liberties.

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