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Tanzania: The facts.






Brief History of Tanzania:


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 the Sultan.


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.







Deutsch-Ostafrika currency
Deutsch-Ostafrika Five Rupien

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’.