From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Tanzanian Lutheran Church Urges Restraint after Violence in Zanzibar

Date 07 Feb 2001 07:24:55

International Community Cautioned against Hasty Judgement

by Elizabeth Lobulu, ELCT Communications Secretary

ARUSHA, Tanzania/GENEVA, 7 February 2001 (LWI) - The Evangelical Lutheran
Church in Tanzania (ELCT) has urged the government and people of Tanzania to
act responsibly and take into account the common good when expressing their
individual convictions.

In a January 29 statement, the ELCT secretary general, Mr. Amani Mwenegoha,
also called on the international community to exercise restraint before
"making hurried conclusions and condemning the government wholesale."

The ELCT issued the statement following confrontations between police and
supporters of the opposition Civic United Front (CUF) in both Zanzibar and
Dar es Salaam, during which several people including policemen died and many
others were injured. The European Union reportedly condemned the Tanzanian
authorities for the way in which they handled the demonstrators and warned
of strained relations if there were more reprisals.

On January 27, the main opposition party, CUF, organized the demonstrations
demanding that the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) government annul last
year's disputed presidential election in Zanzibar, establish a new
constitution and create independent electoral commissions on the island and
in mainland Tanzania.

According to the ELCT, the CUF claimed that the demonstrations were peaceful
but the government denied them permission on the grounds that such action
could breach peace and endanger property. The opposition party leaders
defied government orders to restrain their members from demonstrating and
encouraged protestors to go on with the planned procession.

Imploring all people "to maintain the unity, peace, solidarity and stability
that prevail in Tanzania," Mwenegoha said this could only be achieved "if we
uphold the laws of the land and respect the constitution and the government
that has been democratically elected."

The Lutheran church official challenged the government concerning its
responsibility toward maintaining peace and the rule of law as well as
safeguarding all citizens. "The church also calls upon the international
community to give Tanzania a chance to sort out the problem it is facing
now," Mwenegoha added.

Last October's general elections, which on mainland Tanzania saw the return
of President Benjamin Mkapa, were characterized by violence and allegations
of vote rigging in Zanzibar.

The Indian Ocean island of Zanzibar is situated some 35 kilometers (22
miles) off the Tanzanian coast. It formed a union with mainland Tanzania in
1964. Zanzibar is semi-autonomous with its own president--Amani Karume--and

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tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund (Sweden), the LWF now has 131 member
churches in 72 countries representing over 60.2 million of the nearly 64
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in areas of common interest such as ecumenical relations, theology,
humanitarian assistance, human rights, communication, and the various
aspects of mission and development work. Its secretariat is located in
Geneva, Switzerland.)

[Lutheran World Information (LWI) is the information service of the Lutheran
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