Monday, May 3, 2010


The present country came into being with the union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar in 1964. There are over 120 tribes on the mainland, most of which migrated from other parts of Africa. The first European arrival was the Portuguese explorer, Vasco da Gama, who visited the coast in the late-15th century, after which most of the littoral region came under Portuguese control. The Portuguese also controlled Zanzibar until 1699, when they were ousted from the island by Omani Arabs. In the late-19th century, along with Rwanda and Burundi, Tanganyika was absorbed into the colony of German East Africa, as a consequence of a deal between the British and Germans – one process in the European colonial carve-up of Africa.

Other than an anti-colonial rebellion in 1905 – known as the Maji Maji revolt, which was suppressed by German troops – Tanganyika was a fairly quiet part of the German empire, until the end of World War I. Then, following the German defeat, it was administered by the British under successive League of Nations and United Nations mandates. Tanganyika became independent within the Commonwealth in 1961, after a period of self-government during which the principal nationalist party, the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU), emerged as the dominant political force. Its charismatic leader, Julius Nyerere, held the post of President from independence to 1985; he occupied the position of Chairman until 1990. In 1964, Tanganyika joined with Zanzibar and became Tanzania. Prior to that, Zanzibar had been a British protectorate (established in 1890) and an independent sultanate in 1963.

The sultan of Zanzibar lasted less than 12 months as the island’s independent ruler, before being deposed in a coup by radicals from the Afro-Shirazi Party, which quickly amalgamated with TANU on the mainland to form the country’s sole political party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM, Revolutionary Party of Tanzania). Nyerere’s main objective was the successful application of socialist principles to an African agricultural society and economy. Nyerere’s ideas, particularly the introduction of ujamaa (his theory of socialist development, applied in a developing and largely agricultural economy), were articulated in the famous Arusha Declaration. Unfortunately, mismanagement and external events conspired to wreck Nyerere’s plans, with dire consequences for the economy.

In foreign policy, Tanzania initially leant towards China (PR) rather than the USSR but has always maintained fairly good relations with the West, which have since flourished. Moreover, Tanzania has proved itself an active player in regional politics, having given consistent support to anti-colonial guerrilla movements in Southern Africa. It intervened militarily in Uganda in 1979, to overthrow the Amin regime. Relations with the post-apartheid government in South Africa have been good. Tanzania was a founder member of the Southern African Development Co-ordination Conference and has been a prominent participant in the Organization of African Unity.

In 1985, Nyerere retired as president of Tanzania and was replaced by Ali Hassan Mwinyi, former Vice-President and President of Zanzibar. Mwinyi favored introducing market forces into the economy and plurality into the political system. Economic reform proceeded slowly in the face of a large and fairly corrupt state bureaucracy. On the political front, amendments to the constitution allowing for the introduction of a multiparty system were endorsed by the National Assembly, early in 1992. Restrictions on opposition parties were not fully removed until the presidential election of October 1995, at which three candidates took on the CCM candidate, Benjamin Mkapa, who nonetheless won comfortably. However, there was major discontent in Zanzibar, where relations with the mainland were already strained over the conduct of the election.

In 1993, the island’s provincial government had applied to join and was accepted by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (the island has a large population descended from Arab traders). Zanzibar has also experienced strong economic growth in recent years, in contrast with the stagnation of the mainland economy. Both factors are symptomatic of the growing distance between the two parts of Tanzania, although there is no immediate prospect of a separation. The Rwandan genocide had a major impact on the country, not least in the form of thousands of refugees who crossed into Tanzania. Tanzania is also hosting the trials of some of the major perpetrators, who have been extradited from elsewhere in Africa (Kenya and Gabon, for example), in parallel with those in Rwanda itself.

In August 1998, Tanzania was the scene of a major terrorist incident when the US embassy in Dar es Salaam was bombed (a simultaneous explosion occurred in Nairobi). October 1999 was marked by the death of ex-president Julius Nyerere, whose funeral drew senior representatives from almost every government in the world.

The incumbent President Mkapa won a further term of office at the end of 2000 in an election marked by widespread violence and the ruling CCM party took all but 25 of the national assembly seats. With widespread vote rigging and intimidation, the contest was, according to international observers, a ‘shambles’. The electoral process in 2005 was viewed as equally shambolic. Zanzibar's Electoral Commission (ZEC) declared Amani Abeid Karume on 1 November 2005 as the winner of the Presidential poll, held amid tension and violence, particularly in the capital, Stone Town.

However, the results have already been disputed with claims that Sharif Hamad of the Civic United Front (CUF) won the majority of votes. There have been many reports of demonstrations by CUF supporters on the island, who have alleged widespread fraud in the proceedings: claims denied by the electoral commission. The elections were marred by controversy from the very beginning, since nationwide voting across Tanzania had been postponed due to the death of opposition Vice-Presidential candidate, Jumbe Rajab Jumb; postponement that Zanzibar did not adhere to. These incidents only serve to underscore Zanzibar's increasing dislocation from the rest of Tanzania and what many perceive as a drive for autonomy amongst some islanders.

Nationwide Presidential elections were won by Jakaya Kikwete in December 2005. Kikwete previously spent 10 years as foreign minister. He has said resolving tensions in Zanzibar is his number one concern.

As one of Africa’s poorest countries, Tanzania has benefited greatly from a recently-inaugurated program of debt relief. As a result, an estimated £2 billion owed by Tanzania was written off at the end of 2001.


Following constitutional changes implemented in 1995, legislative power rests with the unicameral National Assembly (Bunge), which is elected every five years. The Bunge has 274 members of whom 232 are directly elected, 37 are reserved for women appointed by the president and five allocated to members of the regional Zanzibar assembly. Executive power belongs to the president, who is directly elected every five years.


Agriculture employs around 80% of the working population and cash crops are one of the country’s main export earners. There is also an expanding mineral sector: diamonds are mined commercially, as are other gemstones and gold. Coal, phosphates, gypsum, tin and other ores are also extracted. Reserves of uranium, nickel, silver and natural gas have been located. The industrial sector is small and concentrated in agricultural processing and light consumer goods such as sugar processing, brewing and textiles. Tourism is worth about US$680 million annually to the Tanzanian economy and in 2006 contributed 17% of the country’s GDP.

On the whole, the economy has performed fairly well since the mid 1990s, and in 2006, Tanzania signed economic agreements with China for development assistance in the communications, transport and health sectors. Also in 2006, the African Development Bank wrote off US$640 million of Tanzania’s foreign debt claiming that it was impressed with the country’s steady economic growth and accountability of public funds.

Tanzania is a member of the African Development Bank, the Southern African Development Community and the East African Community (EAC). After a failed attempt in 1977, an East African Customs Union was established with Kenya and Uganda in 2005.