Zanzibar Power: Electrical And Political Shortages

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Classified By: Ambassador Mark Green for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (U) SUMMARY: A two-week power outage on the number two
Zanzibari island of Pemba has resulted in suspension of
Zanzibar Energy Company (ZECO) Manager Juma Ishak Bakari.
December 8 delivery of diesel restored electricity
generation, if not CCM’s credibility, on the island that has
been a long-held opposition CUF stronghold. The incident
showcases the tenuous ties (and essential dependencies)
between the two islands of the Zanzibar archipelago and
between Zanzibar and the mainland. END SUMMARY.

¶2. (U) Power remains the single biggest impediment to
Zanzibari development, as little is commercially generated on
the archipelago. Indeed, some argue that Zanzibar’s
dependence on the mainland for electrical power is the
primary brake on Zanzibaris extracting more political power,
if not outright independence, from mainland Tanzanians.
Unguja, the autonomous region’s principal island, receives
most of its energy via a 38km undersea cable from Ras
Kilimoni, a Dar es Salaam substation. The aging cable,
originally completed by the Norwegians in 1980 and never
serviced since, delivers 45 MW of power away from Dar es
Salaam, contributing to power shortages that have resulted in
rolling blackouts on the mainland. Even so, Zanzibaris
suffer rationing as well, as the electricity that does make
it to the island is still not enough to meet needs. Hotels,
most commercial enterprises and the rich continue to rely on
personal generators, but sometimes even that is not enough:
damage to the cable in May 2008 resulted in an unprecedented
month-long, island-wide blackout, coming at the very start of
tourist high season and during peak oil costs. Losses are
estimated in the tens of millions of dollars, as even
international hotels were not able to acquire the fuel to
sustain their generators as the crisis played out.

¶3. (U) Meanwhile, power on the island of Pemba is even more
catch-as-catch-can. The situation has been so bad for so long
that the much of the island has not even been wired for
electricity. As a result, Pemba, 40% of Zanzibar’s
population, has a power consumption need of only about 5MW,
according to Norwegian Embassy experts working on the
problem. However, all of Pemba’s public power comes from two
small diesel-powered plants, collectively producing only 4.5
MW at peak capacity. Fuel for the plants is delivered via
small tenders from the mainland because Pemba’s sole harbor
is too small and dilapidated to accommodate big ships.
Pemban refueling shipments can be as small as 600 liters per

¶4. (U) In August 2008, during a Pemban fuel delivery, ZECO
admitted to the press that one of two diesel storage tanks
was leaking. When fuel was transferred to the other tank,
it, too, started to leak. The government was forced to rent
a reserve tank from a local gas station, and ever since, ZECO
has been on a system of just-in-time generator top-ups, with
around-the-clock blackouts throughout the island as a result.
The situation came to a head at the end of November when a
fuel delivery ship caught its propeller in fishing nets off
the coast, resulting in a complete island-wide shut down of
power generation, only resumed December 8 after 13 days of


¶5. (U) Forced to react to Pemba’s power crisis, the CCM-led
Zanzibar government responded by suspending Zanzibar Energy
Company (ZECO) Manager Juma Ishak Bakari for “failing to
notify the government of the power crisis on Pemba.”
Ironically, during the time of the Pemba power outage, Bakari
was on the mainland trying to hammer out modalities related
to a cost-sharing agreement with mainland power company
TANESCO. Having such an agreement in-place is a
pre-requisite for major donors, namely the U.S. and Norway
(see para. 8 below), to revamp Zanzibar’s power grid.

¶6. (C) Sources close to Bakari have told Zanzibar Affairs
Specialist that ineptitude and corruption relating to
Zanzibar’s power problems do not start at ZECO but emanate
from the highest levels. Lending credence to this assertion
is that the decision to suspend Bakari was announced by
Deputy Minister for Water, Energy and Land Tafana Kasim Mzee,
not by the Minister himself, Mansour Yussuf Himid, who is
President Karume’s brother-in-law. This is probably an
attempt to disassociate him from the event, as the normally
vocal Mansour only has been in the press during this time to
clamor for exclusive Zanzibari ownership of the unproven and
undeveloped alleged oil reserves in the Pemba Channel.
(COMMENT: Reverting to Zanzibari nationalism has been a
time-worn tactic during domestic crises. For example, during
the May-June energy crisis on the main island Unguja,
President Karume chose to be out of the country most of that
time on “Zanzibari State visits.” END COMMENT)

¶7. (SBU) Replacing Bakari as Acting Manager at ZECO will be
Power Services Director Hassan Ali Mbarouk. Hassan Ali has
been the U.S.’s main implementing partner for our MCC power
projects on Zanzibar. It remains to be seen whether his new
role will enhance or detract from our mutual efforts in that


¶8. (U) International donors have long identified the power
needs of Zanzibar, and infrastructure on Pemba more
generally, as being key toward development and national
stability. The U.S., through the Millennium Challenge
Corporation, has agreed to a USD $63 million project to
replace the cable from Unguja to the mainland, upgrading its
capacity to 100 MW. The U.S. is also committed to a USD
$13.5 million road project on Pemba. Norway also has robust
investments in Zanzibar, with an ambitious plan to build a 70
km long cable to span the 800 meter deep Pemba Channel to
move power from Tanga on the mainland directly to Pemba. The
project is estimated to cost USD $66 million, with an
additional $22 million in matching funds from Tanzania &
Zanzibar. While the exact capacity for the Pemba Connector
is not specified in the agreement, pending final budget
estimates, the cable is expected “to meet the demand for
20-25 years to come.” Norway also has spent millions over
the last 20 years improving power delivery on Zanzibar at the
village level, and also will work on roads in southern Pemba
(committing $8 million on the latter). Denmark, Germany and
Japan also have Zanzibar infrastructure projects planned or


¶9. (C) Zanzibar Chief Minister Shamsi Nahodha recently told
Zanzibar Affairs Officer that Pemba development has become
the number one priority for the regional government. He
pushed hard for any U.S. assistance to the island, large or
small, to be delivered “as soon as possible.” Since the
start of multi-party elections in 1995 (and arguably since
the Zanzibar Revolution), Pemba has been the cradle of
anti-regime politics, resulting in its neglect by the main
island of Unguja. This pattern has now started to have
repercussions for CCM because many of the leaders of the
growing national opposition party CUF have Pemban roots, and
Pemba has become a CUF home base. By focusing on Pemba
development, it is likely that the CCM-led government is
eager to show Pembans, at least some of whom would like to
secede from Zanzibar’s control (ref. B), that it can deliver

¶10. (SBU) All that notwithstanding, none of the donor-led
power or road projects on Zanzibar can be expected to bear
fruit until after the 2010 elections. In the meantime, CCM
Zanzibar has got to keep together the crumbling
infrastructure of the archipelago. Trying to remedy 40 years
of negligence will need the support of the mainland and of
the international community more broadly. To keep this
support, the Zanzibar government will need to find a balance
between soliciting assistance and its more natural tendency
to match or exceed opposition CUF’s nationalistic,
go-it-alone rhetoric.