By Ally Saleh
Zanzibar - The parliament of Zanzibar adopted a new flag on Monday, a sign of the semi-autonomous island archipelago's growing independence from Tanzania.
Zanzibar, a former Omani colony, united with Tanganyika 40 years ago to create Tanzania. In the process, it retained its parliament and president but lost its independence and flag.
The new design was approved after three days of debate in the normally tumultuous Zanzibari House of Representatives. It will be dark and light blue, green, black and gold, with the Tanzanian flag perched in the left hand corner.
The opposition party, the Civic United Front, voted for the bill, but not before fighting the inclusion of a symbol of the union it would prefer to break.
"We do not care about the colours of the flag. But it is just unacceptable to have the flag of Tanzania inside the flag of Zanzibar," opposition leader Abubakar Khamis Bakar said during the debate.
Over the past few years, the Civic United Front and some Zanzibaris have demanded more say over how they are governed, amid widening sentiment that mainland Tanzania has marginalised the archipelago.
The Indian Ocean islands annually provide about $736-million in vital tourism revenue to Tanzania, and critics say not enough of that is poured back into Zanzibar.
During the debate, the government was quick to say that it was not a move toward sovereignty, but a move to strengthen the islands' autonomy.
"The flag is just a step to conform with the constitution of Zanzibar, which empowers on the installation of symbols of the government," Zanzibar Attorney General Idd Pandu Hassan said.
Muhamed Juma, a shopkeeper, welcomed the new flag.
"This is a big step forward and we are slowly regaining our power," he said.