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Conciliatory Karume Sworn in As Zanzibari President

By Nicodemus Odhiambo, Panafrican News Agency, 8 November 2000

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania - Amani Abeid Karume, 52, the first-born son of the founding president of the federated island of Zanzibar was Wednesday sworn in as Head of State of the archipelago, following a highly controversial multiparty election that had to be rerun on parts of the semi-autonomous island.

Shortly afterwards, Amani of the Chama Cha Mapinduzi or CCM performed his first presidential duty by pardoning tens of suspects facing election-related charges.

Most of the suspects are followers of the opposition Civic United Front (CUF), which has refused to recognise Amani's election.

Before Tanzania's president-elect Benjamin Mkapa, retired presidents, senior government leaders, clerics and diplomats, Amani swore to protect the constitution of Tanzania, of which Zanzibar is part, and to uphold the rule of law and justice on the island.

He takes over from Salmin Amour, whose reign from 1995 had been dogged by controversy and a political stalemate between the CCM and CUF.

According to the Zanzibar Electoral Commission or ZEC, Amani, until recently the island's Communication and Transport Minister, got 248,095 votes against 122,000 by CUF's Seif Shariff Hamad, whose party did not participate in the rerun of the poll in 16 of the island's 50 constituencies.

Hamad's party, the biggest of the island's opposition parties, is demanding a fresh ballot in Zanzibar saying an initial exercise was fraudulent and rigged to maintain CCM in power.

CUF has refused to recognise Amani's victory and that of Mkapa, whose oath-taking is scheduled Thursday after his re- election to govern Tanzania for another five-year term.

Throngs of CCM supporters braved the morning sun to witness the swearing in ceremony at the Amani Stadium, which was also beamed, live on Zanzibar's State television and radio.

Addressing the crowd, Amani extended an olive branch to CCM's adversaries, saying all Zanzibaris should now work for the development of the island.

"I am ready to forgive the past and work hand in glove with all people to develop Zanzibar," he said.

He had taken note of the equally controversial treason trial of 18 members of the opposition CUF who have been under incarceration for over two years following the island's 1995 elections.

CUF refused to recognise the election results, and boycotted the House of Representatives, Zanzibar's parliament.

It claimed that its leader, Hamad was the rightful winner of the presidency.

But CCM lashed back accusing CUF of trying to make the island ungovernable.

"It will be hard for me to make any decisions now over the case because it is before the court but it is my wish that a decision on it is made expediently," Amani said, supporters applauding him wildly.

He added, "My swearing in is testimony to the high ideals of democracy evocative of Tanzania," a leering remark to local and international observers who have dismissed his election and the entire Zanzibar poll as a sham.

Zanzibar joined with Tanganyika on the mainland to form the United Republic of Tanzania in 1964.