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Zanzibar has had a turbulent political history for more than half a century, from the time of nationalist struggles in the 1950s. The major bone of contestation has revolved around the politics of identity with its resultant long-standing political conflict. In November 2009, the then President of Zanzibar, Amani Abeid Karume from Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), and the Civic United Front (CUF) Secretary-General, Seif Shariff Hamad met and declared their commitment in public to end the long-standing political conflict between the two main political parties on the islands. This article seeks to explain the process of reconciliation in Zanzibar with specific reference to the role of leadership in transformational change. The study was conducted between March 2015 and February 2017, involving two main data collection methods: in-depth interviews and documentary reviews. Interviews were conducted with politicians, government functionaries, academics, journalists, and leaders of civil society organizations. The study found that the only substantive achievements that were realized in the short run were power-sharing under the Government of National Unity (GNU) and some changes in attitudes among some of the key political actors, which, to a certain degree, amounted to a discourse switch from a hostile political attitude based on zero-sum politics to the recognition of the need for cooperation across party lines. The uniqueness of the power-sharing arrangement in Zanzibar was that the system was entrenched in the constitution. The constitution was negotiated and established before the election. The theory of transformational change suggests that transformational leaders tend to have a strong personal attachment to their missions. Their absence in the course of implementation may sometimes negatively impact the transformation process, even in the context where the mission has been translated within the legal and constitutional framework. The case of Zanzibar indicates a pressing need for deepening the power-sharing deal so that it becomes people-centered rather than a mere elite project entrenched in partisan politics.
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