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The politics of continuity and collusion in Zanzibar: political reconciliation and the establishment of the Government of National Unity

  • Sterling Roop (a1), Kjetil Tronvoll (a2) and Nicodemus Minde (a3)

The popularity of unity governments to settle both internal political divisions and outright conflict has grown in the last 20 years. However, more often than not unity governments fail to mitigate the political dynamics baked into the political economies and suffer from being insufficiently anchored in local society. The Government of National Unity (GNU) in Zanzibar, formed in 2010 as the culmination of the ‘maridhiano’ political reconciliation process and following numerous attempts at reconciliation led to initial successes, is a case in point. Zanzibar's GNU turned out to be ‘position’ rather than ‘power’ sharing, constitutionalised through a hybrid format of the politics of continuity and collusion. As such the position sharing system broke down when voters in the 2015 election sought neither continuity nor collusion, but transformational change of governance. This was in turn blocked by veto actors in favour of continuity, resulting in the collapse and discontinuation of the GNU in Zanzibar.

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This article was written as part of a project on Zanzibar's political history supported by the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Dar es Salaam. The authors of this article are solely responsible for its contents. The Embassy does not assume any responsibility for any omissions, errors or inaccuracies that may occur in this article. Nor does the Embassy necessarily concur with the analysis, assessment or opinions expressed in this article.

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