Generally Zanzibar is a very peaceful place. Yesterday evening and this morning, however, I heard sounds like guns were fired from outside of my house. I remembered that I heard similar sounds on the Revolution Day of Zanzibar (January 12th) which scared me a little, but that turned out to be just part of the celebration, so my first thought was that there is a new celebration going on, that I didn´t know about. But then I heard something that sounded like helicopters, and when one of my friends called me and said “Have you been outside? No, good. Please stay inside until I tell you otherwise” I understood it was a little bit more serious than that.
It turns out that there is a demonstration going on, and that there has been some violence. As always, internet is my best source of information (but mostly in the form of social media) and I have learned that there was a muslim leader that argued for separation of Zanzibar from mainland Tanzania yesterday, and after he was
arrested some protests started. There might also be a religious aspects involved, because there are reports of churches being set on fire on the island. According to some web pages the demonstrations were initiated by the Islamic group called Uamsho (meaning “awakening” in swahili, from the word kuamsha meaning “to wake someone”, related to kuamka which means “be woken”, to digress with some linguistics). Being in Africa, and thinking about how the revolusion here was conducted, I thought it was best to be cautious so I stayed inside, until I heard from my friend. And being inside, I didn´t get to see nor photograph what was going on, but others have done that.
At the same time, I thought that I might be overreacting. And after my friend called me again and I went out to meat him it seemed like things were back to normal, except that more police was out than usually. As we drove through the town, however, we could see obvious signs of that something had happened: Some places the police was walking around with helmets, bullet proof wests and guns, many of the streets were blocked, and there was still smoke from tires that had been sat on fire.
Now, as the evening has arrived, everything seems to have settled down. There are no more sounds of riots from outside. People are again siting in their usual spots, doing nothing, as they usually do, and I have still not found any big headlines on official media on the internet. Neither has any warning been sent out from the Norwegian embassy. So I guess the action is over, but I will be curious to hear what people can tell me on work tomorrow.