Dossier/2 Invisible countries

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Zanzibar, an East African large island in the Indian Ocean, is already governed by a President and a local Parliament. The Sultan of Zanzibar was deposed in 1963 and the island joined Tanganyika in 1964 to form Tanzania. The island has known troubled times. While mainland Tanzania has had a peaceful experience of slow nation building and development, Zanzibar – which enjoys a lose autonomy – has witnessed recurrent bouts of violence. From 1992, Zanzibar introduced multi party politics. The Chama cha Mapinduzi (Revolutionary Party – CCM), founded by Julius Nyerere, had to struggle against the Civic United Front (CUF), which wanted more autonomy from the mainland. CUF was defeated in 2000 and 2005, amidst accusation of rigging, but succeeded in becoming part of the government of national unity in 2010. CUF accepted to work with CCM in view of changing the treaty with Dar es Salaam through a constitutional revision in 2014. Islamic groups are trying to accelerate the process and organized violent demonstration in May and October 2012.

dos2bA similar background to Zanzibar is shared by the coastal strip of Kenya. This lose region had been part of the Sultanate of Zanzibar from early XVIII century to 1895, when it fell under British authority as a protectorate. When Kenya became independent, the coastal strip was added to the new nation and provisions made to guarantee certain rights to the Muslim population. In 1999, a group of people unhappy with the lack of autonomy promised by the former colonizers founded the Mombasa Republican Council with the aim of gaining independence. The Council planned various actions to disrupt life at the coast, interfere with political elections and even staged violent protests. The government of Kenya has accused the Council to have links with terror organizations like Al Shabaab and blacklisted it. However, at the end of a long court case, the magistrates ordered the government to reinstate the Mombasa Republican Council as a legal association of people.
In 2008, the government of Nigeria handed over the Bakassi peninsula to Cameroon. The Peninsula is a region rich in resources, notably oil. It has been also a disputed territory between the two West African countries for many years. The International Court of Justice recognized Cameroon sovereignty on the region in 2002. While Nigeria has accepted the international arbitration, some of the inhabitants did not. The Free Bakassi Association took Nigerian President Jonathan to court over the agreement with Cameroon. In August 2012, the Bakassi Self-Determination Front – which composition and strength is unknown – declared the independence of the peninsula.
Even keen African observers may be excused if they never heard of Barotseland, the kingdom of the Lozi. Barotseland, mostly in Western Zambia but with minor claims in Angola, Botswana and Namibia, was an independent state until overrun by the British who declared it a Protectorate. In 1964, it was joined to Northern Rhodesia with a treaty that assured the Lozi of autonomy. The Lozi have been complaining that the treaty was never abided by the new government of Zambia. Zambian President Michael Sata promised, during his presidential campaign, that he would review the treaty within ninety days of his election. Later, Sata refused to act on the issue.
Last March, the Bardos2cotseland National Council, which gathers all traditional chiefs, stated the will to seek independence with peaceful means. The Litunga, king, has given his support to the Council, the first time this happens after independence. The Council resolved to nullify the Barotse Land Agreement of 1964, and has opened a web site ( to offer information and support to their would-be citizens. The Zambia Report claims that the Barotse Liberation Army – group not linked to the Council– is training 3000 volunteers.
There are other areas of tension with a long history of fighting for independence. Since 1982, a conflict engulfs the Casamance, a Senegalese region squeezed between The Gambia and Guinea Bissau. The people of Casamance reacted to the government in Dakar seeking to establish their own identity and protesting against economic exploitation. In the past decades, talks have been organized and peace treaties signed, however, the divisions inside the armed opposition prevented a real resolution of the conflict. Another area of conflict is Cabinda, the Angolan exclave surrounded by the two Congos. Cabinda is rich in oil, about 60% of Angola’s production comes from this region, oil that fuels Luanda’s growth and fattens the highest echelons of power in the southern African state. Little of it trickles down to the people in Cabinda. Since 1975, a group of fighters keeps government troops on their toes. In 2006, the government signed a peace treaty with a section of the FLEC, the secessionist group, but others keep fighting. Human Rights Watch has often stated that illegal arrests and torture are used by security forces that, however, are not yet able to gain the upper hand against the guerrilla.

Davide Maggiore


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