Mainland Tanzania was formerly known as Tanganyika. In the late 19th century European
division and grab of the continent, Tanganyika formed part of what was known as German
East Africa or officially ‘Deutsch-Ostafrika’. German East Africa consisted of what
is present day Tanzania (mainland), Rwanda and Burundi. It is acknowledged that the
German rulers invested heavily in agriculture, rail communication and education during
their rule which lasted just over 30 years. The capital they built Dar es Salaam
was the most elegant at the time in tropical Africa.
After the defeat of Germany in the First World War in 1918, Tanganyika became a League
of Nations protectorate under the British while Rwanda and Burundi were governed
by the Belgians. Tanganyika remained under British rule for the next 43 years until
independence in December 1961. The fight for independence spearheaded by Mwalimu
Julius Nyerere and his political party called Tanganyika African National Union (TANU)
was peaceful. TANU had been formed seven years earlier after Nyerere persuaded other
African activists to convert the trade union Tanganyika African Association (TAA)
into a political party. TANU was inaugurated on the 7th of July 1954 and to date,
Saba Saba the literal translation of which is ‘seven seven’ and celebrated on this
date, remains a very important national day in Tanzania despite TANU being defunct
for over three decades now.
The modern history of Zanzibar starts in the year 1698 when the islands fell under
the rule of the Sultan of Oman. Prior to that, the islands had been under a loose
Portuguese rule for almost 200 years. For the Sultan of Oman, the islands were strategic
in his country’s lucrative trade in slaves and ivory. The Omani rulers also established
clove plantation leading to the name Spice Islands for which Zanzibar is sometimes
known to date. Clove cultivation remain an important economic activity in Zanzibar
today. Zanzibar became so important to the Arab rulers that in 1840, the then ruler
of Oman moved the capital of Oman from Muscat to Zanzibar. Zanzibar was the most
important slave trade centre in this part of Africa. Towards the end of the 19th
century, the British eventually succeeded in their efforts to end this trade and
Zanzibar became a British protectorate in 1890. However, the British ruled through
In December 1963, Zanzibar became independent as a constitutional monarchy. This
meant the Sultan was to continue ruling. Nationalists, led by Sheikh Abedi Karume
were having none of it and a month later overthrew the government in a revolution
which saw a great deal of blood-letting, the victims being members of the ruling
class who were mostly Arabs and Indians. Many also left the islands. Three months
after the Revolution, Zanzibar formally united with Tanganyika forming the United
Republic of Tanzania in April 1964. This is the only African union that endures.
Zanzibar remains semi-autonomous with its own president and cabinet. However, foreign
affairs and defence remain under the control of the Union government. The second
president of Tanzania was from Zanzibar.
Tanzania: Peaceful and politically stable
The United Republic of Tanzania stands out for its political stability in a region
with a great deal of political turmoil. Those with interest in the region will be
aware of the horrific 100 day genocide that wiped out almost a million people in
neighbouring Rwanda in 1994. To the north, the people of Kenya in 2007 endured weeks
of violence which cost the lives of thousands after an election glaringly stolen
by the incumbent Mwai Kibaki, in the typical style of post-independence African despots.
Another northern neighbour Uganda suffered 8 years of the rule of the murderous dictator
Idi Amin and even after his ouster (with the aid of Tanzanian forces), the country
suffered several years of civil war in which thousands died. It has since enjoyed
stability and relative economic prosperity. The problems of other neighbours such
as Burundi and the democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) are well documented.
German colonial influence lingers to date. Above are some of the currency coins and
notes used during German colonial rule. The word ‘hela’ (Heller) is long a standard
Swahili word meaning ‘money’.