The leader of Islamic Revival Forum, Sheikh Farid Hadi Ahmed addresses a press conference in Zanzibar yesterday amid tight security. (Photo: Mwinyi Sadallah)
Sheikh Ahmed also claimed that he has got a list of those who torched churches and destroyed property worth millions of shillings during last Sunday’s skirmishes which rocked Zanzibar.
“ We demand a sovereign Zanzibar… we shall continue to demand it,” Sheikh Ahmed declared yesterday just a day after Isles President Dr. Ali Mohamed Shein addressed the nation and vowed to deal with the mastermind of the skirmishes, including Islamic Revival Forum.
Sheikh Ahmed also vowed to ensure the collapse of the constitutional review process in Zanzibar.
“We don’t need a new constitution…we need our freedom,” he declared, adding that the people of Zanzibar have a modern constitution suited to governing their affairs and all they needed was their sovereignty
Speaking under tight security, Sheikh Ahmed added, “We need a referendum about the union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar. Let the people decide whether or not they need this union.”
Sheikh Ahmed’s strongly-worded statement came on the same day that Zanzibar-based bishops from three dominions - Catholic, Anglican and Pentecostal - issued a statement expressing growing fears among their followers about the safety of their lives and property following sporadic riots in the municipality in which several church buildings were torched.
Sheikh Ahmed said his group, better known here as Uamsho (Revival), was not responsible for the wanton destruction of property, including widespread looting, because Islam did not condone riots. He said the group condemned such acts.
"Uamsho is not responsible for torching the churches and, fortunately, we have the names of all those who were involved in the incidents. We are still verifying the names before we submit the list to government authorities. Our religion does not force any person to be its follower nor are we in the business of destroying houses of worship," he said.
The cleric noted that the 30 Muslim communities he leads would continue demanding their rights by urging the government to organize a referendum so Zanzibaris may be accorded the opportunity to give their views on the union, adding that this would continue until their goal was achieved.
"We shall not rest until the matter is resolved, and we demand this right in accordance with the Zanzibar constitution that grants us the right to freedom of expression,” Sheikh Ahmed stressed, adding: “We are determined to disrupt the entire constitutional review process in the Isles. We need a referendum to gauge people’s views of those who support or oppose the union. Zanzibar has got its constitution. It is the Mainlanders who don’t have one. What we need instead is our freedom.”
On the accusation that his group staged an unlawful demonstration, Sheikh Ahmed dismissed the accusation out of hand, describing it as “a walking exercise to keep the body fit.”
He distanced himself from claims that he once served as a soldier in the Oman army, adding that his group did not get foreign financial assistance to facilitate the ongoing campaign nor did it have any connection with any political party.
However, he conceded that his group was being coordinated by a special committee that brings together 30 Muslim communities, as well as some popular law practitioners in Zanzibar. The Guardian has been provided with the names but is keeping them under wraps for now.
Meanwhile, three Christian leaders yesterday issued a statement here, saying their believers were living in constant fear for their lives and their property. They included Bishops Augustino Shayo of the Catholic Church and Michael Hafidh of the Anglican Church and Pastor Timothy Philemon of the Pentecostal Church. The trio said in their communiqué that there was a plot to destroy all church buildings and other property, including schools and health centres. The statement said further that the said plot could be effected as soon as yesterday, adding that they were ready to authenticate their claims through mobile phone text messages which have been circulated in Zanzibar urging Christians to leave the Isles even if they are Zanzibari natives.
The statement noted further that another version of the plot was the planned hunting down of Christians in every household with the aim of killing and raping them