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International Publishers
Tanzania and Its People
Relations Between Africans, African Americans and Afro-Caribbeans
The Sixties
Living in America: An Introduction for Foreigners
Africa and America in The Sixties: A Decade That Changed The Nation and The Destiny of A Continent
Africa and America in The Sixties....(2)
Africa and America in The Sixties...(3)
Tanzania: The Land and Its People
Africa is in A Mess: What Went Wrong and What Should Be Done
Tanzania under Mwalimu Nyerere: Reflections on an African Statesman
Africa After Independence: Realities of Nationhood
Black Conservatives in The United States
African Countries: An Introduction
Relations Between Africans and African Americans: Misconceptions, Myths and Realities
Kenya: Identity of A Nation
Investment Opportunities and Private Sector Growth in Africa
South Africa in Contemporary Times
My Life as an African: Autobiographical Writings (1)
My Life as an African.... (2)
My Life as an African....(3)
Author Profiles
Ethnicity and National Identity in Uganda: The Land and Its People
Tanzania and Its People
An Introduction to South Africa
Kenya and Its People
South Africa: The Land, Its People and History
An Introduction to Tanzania
The Union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar: Product of The Cold War?
South Africa and Its People
African Immigrants in South Africa
British Cities
Great Britain: A General Introduction
The United States and Its People
Great Britain: The Land, The People and The Culture
Botswana and Its People
David Lawrence, Tanzania and Its People
ISBN-10:  1441486925
ISBN-13:  9781441486929

Chapter Five:

The People of Tanzania

and Their Ethnic Identities

TANZANIA has one of the largest numbers of ethnic and racial groups in Africa. It also has one of the largest populations on the continent.

It has about 130 ethnic groups indigenous to Africa and is surpassed only by Nigeria which has about 250, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with about 200, and Cameroon with about 150.

We are going to look at each of those groups to get a demographic picture of the largest country in East Africa, a region comprising Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi. All these countries also constitute an economic bloc known as the East African Community (EAC) which one day may be transformed into a political federation under one government.

Each of Tanzania's ethnic groups differs from other groups in terms of culture, language and social organisation, although there are some similarities among a number of groups which share customs and traditions in varying degrees.

The languages of some of these groups are also very closely related in terms of vocabulary and structure because of their common origin, shared history and interactions – including intermarriage – through the centuries.

In fact, some of Tanzania's largest ethnic groups, the Sukuma and the Nyamwezi are very closely related.

But even within the groups themselves, at least some of them, there are some differences in terms of language and culture.

And in most cases, the demographic pattern of the country coincides with geography. Each region is identified with specific groups.

Therefore geography reflects ethnic identities as much as it does in other parts of Africa. For example, Songea District in Ruvuma Region in southern Tanzania is inhabited mostly by the Ngoni.

Bukoba District in northwestern Tanzania is inhabited mostly by the Haya; Iringa in the Southern Highlands by the Hehe, Moshi in Kilimanjaro Region by the Chaga, Dodoma in central Tanzania by the Gogo, Rungwe District in the Southern Highlands by the Nyakyusa, Tabora in western Tanzania by the Nyamwezi and so on, although there are smaller numbers of other people, as well, in all those areas.

Some of the minority groups are indigenous to those districts; for example, the Kisi who live around Lake Nyasa in Rungwe District, while others are not. And some of them are closely related. The Ndali, for example, of Ileje and Rungwe districts, are closely related to the Nyakyusa and their languages are mutually intelligible. They even use the same tribal names in many cases.

Even before Europeans came, different tribes lived in their own areas. The colonial rulers only reinforced these separate ethnic and geographical identities by drawing administrative lines on that basis to create districts which were inherited at independence and which exist unto this day as the basis of administration in post-colonial Tanzania and other parts of Africa.

Although Tanzania has one of the largest numbers of ethnic groups in Africa – for example, neighboring Kenya has only 42 contrasted with Tanzania's 130 – the country has not been affected by ethnic conflicts which have ravaged many other parts of the continent.

In fact, Tanzania is the only country in East Africa which has been spared this agony. And for decades since independence, it has been one of the most peaceful, and most stable, countries on the entire continent.

One of the main reasons for that is the size of the ethnic groups – or tribes – in the country. Most of the groups in Tanzania are relatively small. Therefore there are no dominant groups which have been able to flex muscles and dominate others.

The Sukuma, the largest, has about 3 million people. But that's in a country of about 40 million. And they have not even attempted to dominate the country because of the good relations which already exist among the nation's different tribes whose members are also united by a common language, Kiswahili, and by a strong sense of national identity transcending tribal – as well as regional – loyalties.

But there are tensions between Tanzanians of Asian origin, mostly Indians, and black Africans mainly because of the dominance of the Tanzanian Asian community in commerce.

The hostility towards them is not purely economic in terms of motivation. Racism is also a factor. But it's mostly economic. And the vast majority of black Tanzanians and their fellow countrymen of Asian origin get along just fine. Also, most Tanzanians prefer dialogue to violence in resolving their differences.

The two largest black African ethnic groups, the Sukuma and the Nyamwezi, are not only closely related linguistically; they are also related culturally. And they share a lot of similarities in terms of social organisation, how they live and how they earn their living.

The Sukuma also own large herds of cattle but they are also farmers like the Nyamwezi and other Bantu groups in Tanzania and elsewhere on the continent.

Their traditional homeland is a region south of Lake Victoria in northern Tanzania, and the name of their ethnic group, “Sukuma,” means “north” and, in this context, means “people of the north.”

The people call themselves Basukuma, which is plural form. In singular form, a Sukuma is Musukuma. This linguistic designation is applicable to all ethnic and racial groups.

The same prefix or something similar to that is found in other Bantu languages. For example, in Nyakyusa language, spoken by members of the Nyakyusa ethnic group which is one of the largest in Tanzania, the people call themselves Banyakyusa just as the Sukuma call themselves Basukuma, and the Nyamwezi – Banyamwezi, and so on.

In Swahili or Kiswahili, the plural is Wasukuma. The singular form is Msukuma. The prefixes Wa- and M- are used to identify other tribes and races in the same way.

Although historically the Sukuma and the Nyamwezi were farmers and cattle owners, many of them now concentrate on agriculture to earn a living.

They are engaged mostly in subsistence farming. But they also grow cash crops and sell whatever surplus they have from the crops they grow for their own consumption. The Sukuma also grow cotton. And the Nyamwezi are also known to be excellent bee keepers.

During German colonial rule, the Sukuma and the Nyamwezi worked as porters and acted as middlemen in the trade with the Swahili people and the Arabs along the coast. The Nyamwezi also played a big role in the slave trade working with the Arabs.

Besides the Sukuma and the Nyamwezi, another ethnic group which is one of the most well-known in Tanzania is the Chaga.

There's some dispute on how their name is spelt. Some spell it as Chagga and others spell it as Chaga, the former being an anglicized version common even in a few other African names which some people spell with double letters instead of a single letter common in African languages. Even some Swahili people spell their names that way; for example, instead of Ali, some spell their name as Ally.

Whatever the case, the Chaga or Chagga is one of the most well-known ethnic groups not only in Tanzania but in the entire East Africa. And its people were among the first to get education provided by Europeans in the country.

They were also among the first to grow coffee, their main cash crop. And like the Nyakyusa and the Haya, the Chaga are some of the biggest growers of bananas in the country. The Nyakyusa and the Haya also produce coffee in large quantities.

Although the Chaga are indigenous to the area around Mount Kilimanjaro, they also live in other parts of Tanzania just like members of other tribes do. And they are some of the most successful people in business.

The Makonde of southern Tanzania are some of the most well-known people not only in Tanzania but also among tourists from all parts of the world because of their highly valued wood carvings. Their works of art are known worldwide as Makonde carvings.

They straddle the border with Mozambique and virtually form a cultural and linguistic bridge between Tanzania and northern Mozambique, which is also their traditional homeland. And they are some of the most tradition-bound people in Africa, immensely proud of their culture and way of life.

The Makonde are also one of the largest ethnic groups in Tanzania. And because they have lived in virtual isolation for a long time, they have not been very much influenced by modernisation, thus reinforcing their ethnic and cultural identity.

They have had interactions with Muslim traders for centuries. But they have not been influenced by Islam or Islamic culture in a way they normally would have been because of this long interaction had they not been highly defensive of their identity as a people and their traditional way of life. Many of them continue to follow their traditional religion and live the same way they have lived for centuries.

A sample of Tanzania's demographic profile must include the Swahili for a balanced picture because of their dual heritage, African and Arab, among other things.

The Swahili live mostly along the coast and are a product of intermarriage between Africans and Arabs. But members of other black African groups along the coast such as the Zaramo around Dar es Salaam and others are also considered and consider themselves to be Swahili because of the Swahili culture they have adopted and the strong Islamic and Arab influence which has shaped their lives for centuries.

Most of them also speak Kiswahili as their first language, a distinction that also qualifies them to be Swahili or Waswahili.

As coastal people, the Swahili also have a reputation as excellent fishermen and sailors. And their dhows have been used for trade on the Indian Ocean for centuries, trading with Arabs, Indians and other people from Asia including Chinese and Indonesians.

And in many ways, their culture is an eclectic mixture, and blend, of African and Arab influences and to a smaller degree includes Indian elements as well.

In the former island nation of Zanzibar, there are a number of African groups although fewer than those on the mainland. And they originally came from the mainland themselves. Also, almost one-third of all Zanzibaris came from the mainland in recent times. The rest settled in Zanzibar centuries ago.

The indigenous Zanzibaris who include the Hadimu and Tumbatu on the island of Zanzibar which is also known as Unguja, and the Pemba on Pemba Island, and all of whom are Bantu, also include people of Persian or Iranian descent.

The Persians who first settled in Zanzibar in the 900s A.D. were gradually absorbed by the indigenous groups through the centuries, producing a distinct group known as Afro-Shirazi.

But the black African groups in Zanzibar have remained largely intact, maintaining their identities for hundreds of years as they still do today.

In fact, even many of the Zanzibaris who identify themselves as Shirazi, and nothing else, are as black as any other black Zanzibaris. That is because they are black in most cases, more than anything else, despite their claims to Persian ancestry. Many of them have none, and some of them have very little of it. They're just ashamed of their black African ancestry.

Many Zanzibaris are also descendants of slaves from the mainland including Congo, and Malawi which was once known as Nyasaland during British colonial rule. There are also groups of Comorians, Somalis and a large number of Arabs who once ruled the former island nation for centuries. There is also a significant number of people of Asian descent, mostly from India.

Among Arabs, a significant number of immigrants from Oman settled in Zanzibar in the past several decades. They were mostly poor and are known as Wamanga in Kiswahili. And those from Yemen are known as Washihiri.

There's no question that the ethnic and racial mixture of Zanzibaris is unequalled anywhere else in Tanzania except along the coast. And it has produced a population that is unique on the continent in many respects. 

As one Tanzanian journalist, Jenerali Ulimwengu, stated in his article – which was a review of a book by Professor Issa Shivji of the University of Dar es salaam who is a Tanzanian of Indian descent – published in The East African, 30 June 2008, and entitled “Nyerere: How He Manipulated Zanzibar”:

When anti-colonial forces in Africa were agitating for independence, different ethnic, racial and class formations vied with each other for political ascendancy.

Zanzibar in particular was a melting pot where groups of varied origins had created a culture, civilisation and language that were distinctly Zanzibari in particular and Swahili in general, belonging to the larger religious and cultural ensemble of coastal city-states that dotted the East African coast from Lamu and Mombasa to Sofala in present-day Mozambique.

The rich tapestry of Zanzibari society brought together not only people from the African mainland, from as far away as Nyasaland (present day Malawi) and Belgian Congo, but also from Oman, Yemen, the Comoros, India and Shiraz in Persia, - who interacted extensively in the fields of commerce, agriculture and the crafts and who, though the idyllic characterisation of social relations on the islands of Unguja and Pemba may have been exaggerated, could not strictly be pigeonholed into the racial hierarchy obtaining on the mainland (Europeans at the top, Asians in the middle, and Africans at the bottom). A unique Zanzibari identity thus came to be a reality, whatever the origins of those who claimed it.

It was the politicians, in jostling for space in the public consciousness, who ushered in the politicisation of race and ethnicity, especially as Independence approached and the prospects of acquiring power beckoned. Thus were born the easy categorisations that sought to place the various ethnic and racial groups into the neat little boxes -Arabs, Indians, mainlanders, etc - that have coloured the politics of the islands to this day.

Whereas Karume and the Afro-Shirazi Party (ASP) accused the Zanzibar Nationalist Party (ZNP) of being Arab feudalists acting at the behest of their masters in Oman, the ZNP suspected Karume and the ASP of being Trojan horses for the mainland (Tanganyika). The bad blood created in that epoch poisons Zanzibari politics to this day.”

On the mainland itself, the stunning diversity of its population reflects a neatly textured rich tapestry of multiple identities weaved into one transcending ethnic and regional loyalties.

The groups that constitute Tanzania mainland range from the Alagwa to the Zyoba.

Some of them even look different from each other. But they still see themselves as one people....

Chapter Six:

The Union of Tanganyika

and Zanzibar

THE Union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar was formed on 26 April 1964 when the two countries united to form one country. It was named the United Republic of Tanzania on 29 October the same year.

Both were independent countries. And both ceased to exist as countries when the union was formed. They surrendered their sovereignties to a higher authority, the state of Tanzania, which was the product of the union.

It was the first union of independent countries ever formed on the African continent. And it's the only union of independent states that exists on the continent today.

It is a peculiar union, unique in its configuration in the entire world.

While both Tanganyika and Zanzibar ceased to exist as separate nations and as countries, Zanzibar retained its status and continued to exist as a political entity, but not as an independent state. Tanganyika, on the other hand, ceased to exist even as a political entity. There is no Tanganyika today. And there are no Tanganyikans. But there is Zanzibar, and there are Zanzibaris.

This unique arrangement was deliberately crafted to ensure that Zanzibar retained its identity in the larger political entity of the union in order to alleviate fears among Zanzibaris that they had been swallowed up by Tanganyika.

The president of Zanzibar, Abeid Karume, wanted a complete merger. But the president of Tanganyika, Julius Nyerere, refused. He did not think it was a good idea for Zanzibar to lose its identity completely because Tanganyika was much bigger than Zanzibar, in terms of area and population, and felt there was an imperative need to assure Zanzibaris that they had not been submerged in the merger.

But in spite of that guarantee, many Zanzibaris felt back then, and still fee today, that they were not treated fairly when the union was formed. They feel that when their country united with Tanganyika, it became a junior partner in the union.

And there are those who contend that Zanzibar entered the union as an independent state and never lost its status as a sovereign nation. There are also many Zanzibaris who simply don't want to be part of the union. They say it was a mistake from the beginning for the two countries to unite and Zanzibar has not benefited from the merger.

In 2000, Seif Shariff Hamad, the leader of the Civic United Front (CUF) which is Tanzania's largest opposition party, bluntly stated that if his party won the election in Zanzibar, he would lead Zanzibar out of the union. The Civic United Front is strongest in Zanzibar, especially on Pemba Island.

There are also complaints from the mainland. Former Tanganyikans, now Tanzania mainlanders as opposed to Zanzibar islanders, say the former island nation is overly represented in the union government and other state organs despite its size which is much smaller than that of former Tanganyika.

Also a group of 55 members of parliament from the mainland supported a bill in the 1990s which would have established a separate government for Tanganyika. They wanted Tanzania to have three governments: one for the union, one for Zanzibar, and one for Tanganyika or Tanzania mainland.

The founder of the union, Julius Nyerere although no longer president of Tanzania, was totally against the idea and said restructuring the union on the basis of three governments would destroyed the union.

He still had formidable influence after he stepped down from the presidency and remained the most powerful national leader until his death in October 1999 at the age of 77.

The the fate of the union again became a subject of public debate in June-July 2008 when Tanzania's Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda said in parliament that Zanzibar was not a country and ceased to exist as a sovereign nation when it united with Tanganyika in 1964. He was answering a question by a member of parliament from Zanzibar who wanted to know whether or not Zanzibar was still a country.

His response sparked furious debate in Zanzibar, and even in the Zanzibar legislature, with many Zanzibaris maintaining that Zanzibar was indeed a country and never lost its status as as an independent nation. There were also demonstrations in Zanzibar against what the prime minister said in parliament.

The matter was widely covered by the Tanzanian media. It also got attention from other East African media outlets, especially in Kenya and Uganda whose leaders have discussed with their counterparts in Tanzania the possibility of forming an East African federation under one government. As one of the Tanzanian newspapers, The Citizen, Dar es Salaam, stated in its report of 26 July 2008 from Zanzibar entitled “Shamhuna Adamant Over Zanzibar Status”:

“ The debate about Zanzibar's sovereignty once again emerged in the House of Representatives yesterday with the Isles' government vowing to stick to its earlier stance.

Apparently defying calls to shelve the debate on grounds that the union government was handling the issue, a senior Zanzibar Government official said the debate was far from over.

He suggested that they were determined to defend their view on the political status of the Isles despite the fact that their Constitution and that of the United Republic clearly state that Zanzibar is part of Tanzania.

Speaking in the House yesterday, the Isles' deputy chief minister, Mr Ali Juma Shamhuna, denounced claims that Zanzibar is part of Tanzania.

He was responding to contributions by members of the House of Representatives when discussing the 2008/9 Budget speech for the Ministry of Information, Culture and Sports.

Mr Shamhuna said Zanzibar was a sovereign state and would continue to hold that political status forever.

'The subject of whether or not Zanzibar is a sovereign state has not been exhaustively discussed. And I think we have the right to continue discussing it,' he said.

Recently, the speaker of the House banned the debate saying Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda's office was handling the issue.

The prime minister has ordered the attorney-generals from the Mainland and Zanzibar to find a way of clearing any doubt over the political status.

Mr Pinda said he believed the problem originated from different interpretations of the Constitution. 'It might be better for attorney-generals from both sides to look into it and, if necessary, give proposals on how to solve it,' he said.

But Mr Shamhuna told the (Zanzibar) House that there was no question about the Isles' status.

He said: 'Zanzibar is a sovereign state and it will continue retaining such a status. We should not get tired of defending such a status.'

The chief minister referred to Article 9 of Zanzibar's Constitution arguing that it provided a clear picture of the Isles' status. 'The fact that Zanzibar has its own executive, legislature and judiciary substantiates that it is a state on its own,' he said.

Mr Shamhuna, who is also the Minister for Information, Culture and Sports, said he was surprised by those who issued statements claiming that Zanzibar was not a sovereign state. He added that no one had the authority to stop the people of Zanzibar from fighting for their rights.

'Currently, countries almost all over the world are transforming themselves into more democratic states. In doing so, people in those countries no longer fear anyone when fighting for their rights,' said Mr Shamhuna.

His remarks were a veiled attack on some senior Government officials who had been reportedly trying to convince people not to discuss the subject on grounds that it constituted treason.

He also said he agreed with the statement given earlier by Zanzibar Attorney-General (AG) Iddi Pandu Hassan in which the AG described Mr Pinda's remarks in the (Tanzania) National Assembly recently as 'a slip of the tongue.'

The minister explained that the prime minister's remarks in Dodoma had actually increased the people's desire to discuss the matter.

'We thought the statement made by the Attorney-General on behalf of the Zanzibar Government that refuted the Prime Minister's utterances was clear and that the statement by Mr Pinda was just a slip of the tongue.

'But since the prime minister has stuck to his earlier statement, we are made to believe that this debate is not over,' he said.

Mr Shamhuna said officials who were threatening people over the subject were undemocratic.

Since last month when the controversy surfaced, there had been calls for authorities to settle the matter that threatens the fragile union government.

But his (Prime Minister Pinda's) stance that the Isles is not an independent country outside the union government within which it can only exercise its sovereignty has apparently earned him a lot of criticism from the Zanzibar House of Representatives.”

The speaker of the union parliament, Samwel Sitta, also banned the debate on Zanzibar's status in the union. According to a report in another Tanzanian newspaper, The Guardian, 25 July 2008, from the nation's capital Dodoma, entitled “Sitta Also Bans Debate on Zanzibar Status”:

“National Assembly Speaker Samwel Sitta issued a directive here yesterday effectively barring Members of Parliament from any further discussion on whether Zanzibar is legally a state....

The Speaker explained that the Prime Minister elaborated comprehensively on the issue inside the House last week, including recommending that the Union and Zanzibar attorney generals pursue it jointly to its logical conclusion....

He stood by his ruling amid a wave of questions on what the Union Constitution said about the status of the Isles from the opposition camp, led by Zanzibar legislators Mohamed Habib Mnyaa (Mkanyageni - CUF) and Dr Ali Tarab Ali (Konde - CUF) .

Mnyaa had demanded explanation from the Prime Minister on whether it was the Articles of Union that formed the United Republic of Tanzania or the Union Constitution that reigned supreme.

'I think Hon Mnyaa is not wishing me any good. I didn't want to comment on this issue at length. I have learned from the media that there was a demo planned against me in Zanzibar,' noted Pinda, before responding.

He then said the matter had already been left in the hands of the two attorney generals in the hope that they would make a thorough study of the Constitution and see where there were problems and how best to deal with them.

He added that he believed time had come for the ruling CCM to take up the matter and issue a conclusive statement on it 'after which I think we will be in a position to get a definitive answer.'

'Since the Union belongs to all Tanzanians, the issue is not the responsibility of only the government but of all the people,' argued the legislator, his favourite option being the initiation of a public dialogue 'so that the people can decide.'

It was at that juncture that Speaker Sitta intervened, issuing the 'stop order' just as Zanzibar House of Representatives Speaker Pandu Ameir Kificho did only days ago.

Responding to MPs' questions in the National Assembly last week, the Prime Minister was emphatic that there was no way Zanzibar could become a sovereign state within another sovereign state (the United Republic of Tanzania) because doing that would automatically break the April 26, 1964 Union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar.

Pinda, a lawyer, explained that Zanzibar was not a sovereign state because it lost the status when it became part of a new sovereign state known as the United Republic of Tanzania.

He said he saw no way during his prime ministerial tenure in which he would be a party to a political experience or process that would lead to the collapse of 'the precious and exemplary Union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar.'”

There are leaders on both sides who want to preserve the union. But no-one knows if the union would survive if the people were asked to decide in a referendum on Africa's only union of independent states – whether or not it should continue to exist.

In spite of the problems the union faces, there's no question that it has survived, and even thrived, for more than 40 years since its consummation in 1964. And Tanzania has, throughout its history, been one of the most stable and most peaceful countries on the continent and in the entire world.

So, if the merger were a threat to national stability and security, its existence for more than four decades as a stable entity provides incontrovertible evidence showing that is not the case.

Also the majority of Tanzanians, on the mainland and in the isles, were born after the union was formed. Tanzania is the only country they know. And it's highly unlikely that the majority of them would want it to break up.

They know nothing from personal experience, like their parents do, about the existence of Tanganyika and Zanzibar as separate nations. And it is Tanzanians of this generation in whose hands lies the future of the union.

Should their parents succeed in breaking up the union, although this is only a remote possibility, they would have betrayed their own children whose destiny is inextricably linked with the continued existence of Tanzania as a single political entity under one government of this United Republic.

However, it must also be emphasised that there are many people of the younger generation on both sides of the union – in Zanzibar and on the mainland – who want the union dissolved. Many people on the mainland, younger and older ones, feel that Zanzibar is burden on them. The former island nation does not have a lot of resources and is dependent on the mainland for economic survival.

Many Zanzibaris, of all generations, contend otherwise. They say they are exploited by the mainland.

The debate on the status of Zanzibar in the union escalated in August 2008 when legislators from Zanzibar and from the mainland had a heated exchange in the national parliament, with some of the MPs (members of parliament) calling for the restructuring of the union on the basis of three governments, including one for the mainland.

Currently, Tanzania mainland does not have a separate government. There are only two governments: one for Zanzibar and one for the union which also serves the mainland.

Others wanted to have only one government for the whole country: none for Zanzibar and none for the mainland.

And there were some MPs from Zanzibar who bluntly stated that the union should be dissolved and the former island nation should reclaim its former status it once enjoyed as a full sovereign entity.

According to a report on the parliamentary proceedings in Dodoma published in The Citizen, Dar es Salaam, 21 August 2008, entitled “Mainland, Z'bar Mps Disagree”:

“The debate over Zanzibar's status raged in Parliament yesterday with legislators from the Mainland calling for the formation of a single government as the permanent solution to conflicts arising from the current union structure.

While Zanzibar MPs continued to pour scorn on the structure of the Union and pressed for a review of the constitution, Mainland MPs took the view that the formation of one government was the answer to the growing crisis over the status of Zanzibar in the union government.

The House was debating the budget estimates tabled by the Minister of State in Vice President's Office responsible for Union Affairs, Mr Muhammad Seif Khatib, who was seeking the approval of Sh2.3 billion for the ministry.

Unlike the division that emerged in the House when debating the proposal to set up Kadhi courts in which MPs were divided along religious lines, this time CCM and CUF MPs from the Isles buried their differences. They expressed dissatisfaction with the union structure while MPs from the Mainland called for a single government.

Before the debate, opposition spokesperson for Union issues, Riziki Juma, said the structure of the union was the first issue to be dealt with if union differences are to be resolved.

She said the Union constitution does not reflect the original Articles of Union as key items had been left out, or were in the constitution but in practice this isn't the case.

The first MP to propose a one-government structure was Mr Lucas Selelii (Nzega-CCM) who told the House that forming one union government was the best answer in solving the growing crisis over the state of the union and the status of Zanzibar.

'I caution that our fellow MPs must know that the union comprises two parts. All of us have a profound interest in it, but I'm surprised by our colleagues' claim that they are sidelined,' he said, underlining that self-sacrifice was paramount for the union to last.

He said differences in the union could be sorted out through existing mechanisms without having to question the union. But Zanzibar MPs continued to pile on accusations that the union favoured Mainlanders.

Mr Ali Said Salim (CUF) sought an explanation on the issue of Zanzibar's shares in the Bank of Tanzania, saying Zanzibar has been contributing to the BoT as part of Tanzania but the contribution ended in benefiting only the Mainland.

He said since the union was formed, it was automatic that the sovereignty of the two countries died after the union but the current structure of the union operates as if Zanzibar never existed.

He said that under the original agreement of the union and by the constitution, the Zanzibar President would remain the vice-president but the provision has been flawed and the president is no longer the VP.

He hit back at Kyela MP Harrison Mwakyembe who last week accused Zanzibar ministers of being disrespectful by criticizing Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda for saying Zanzibar was not a state.

The MP said Dr Mwakyembe should apologise to all Zanzibaris, citing Article 103 (3) of the constitution, where Zanzibar ministers are only responsible to the Zanzibar President and that they had the right to express their feelings.

But Mr Selelii quoted article 1 of the Union constitution, its territory and its people, which stipulates that Tanzania is one state and is a sovereign united republic.

Article 2 (1) states that the territory of the United Republic consists of the whole of Mainland Tanzania and the whole area of Tanzania Zanzibar including the territorial waters.

He then quoted article 52 (2) on the powers of the Prime Minister, which notes that the PM shall have authority over the control, supervision and execution of the day to-day function and affairs of government of the United Republic.

'This is enough to prove that the PM has authority on the two sides of the union and that Dr Mwakyembe was right and it is they who are supposed to apologise,' the MP insisted.
Mr Job Ndugai (Kongwa-CCM) said Tanzanians are becoming tired of hearing endless complaints from Zanzibar MP.

He said the Kongwa constituency he represents has 300,000 inhabitants but only one MP while Pemba Island, which has the same number of people, is represented in Parliament by nearly 30 MPs. He said despite such hiccups no MP from the Mainland had ever complained.

He said it was unfair for a minister from the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar to openly scoff at the PM and blowing minor contentious issues on the Union out of proportion.

To end the emerging problems about the union, having one union government was the only remaining option, he further declared.

Mr Mohamed Amour Chombo (Magomeni-CCM) insisted that the current structure of the union was not beneficial to Zanzibaris and they are the ones who carry the burden caused by existing discrepancies in the union.

He said the best way to help Zanzibar get out of the problem and find ways of boosting its economy was allowing it to join the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC).

Mr Ponsiano Nyami (Nkasi-CCM) called MPs who stood against the union 'agitators' and that they were not supposed to be in the House. 'The worst thing about this is that it is the MPs who under article 65 of the constitution swore to protect the constitution are the ones abusing it,' he said.

'If you fail to defend the constitution you are no longer eligible to be a member of this House. Go and talk of your anti-union sentiments outside the chamber,' the MP intoned.

He said Zanzibar which has less than one million people has over 50 MPs and five members of the House of Representative have seats in Parliament. Mainland Tanzania with over 40 million people are represented by just 250 MPs and none of their MPs enters the House of Representatives.”

And according to a report in the government-owned newspaper, the Daily News, also from the nation's capital Dodoma – seat of the national parliament – published on 21 August 2008 and entitled “MPs Divided Over Union Setup”:

Members of Parliament were yesterday divided on whether the state of the Union should maintain the current two-tier but single Union government or adopt thorny proposals for a three-tier federal system of administration.

The opposition criticized the present two-tier structure of the Union in favour of a federal system with three governments.

Contributing to the budget proposals of the Vice-President’s Office (Union Matters), most MPs opposed the proposals for a federal administration and called for a single government instead, arguing it was the ultimate stage of the 44-year-old political marriage between the then Tanganyika and Zanzibar.

But when winding up, the Minister of State in the Vice-President’s Office (Union Matters), Mr Muhammed Seif Khatib, said any changes of the Union should come from 'wananchi' themselves, not just Parliament. He said that the Union would be changed to accommodate prevailing changes and to address some challenges when necessary, admitting that the Union was man-made therefore it had some shortcomings.

'There’s no need to keep on complaining … let’s come up with strong arguments to make the necessary changes because the Union is dynamic … A better way of respecting the Union’s founders is to consolidate the Union instead of merely showering praises on them,' he noted.

Mr Khatib pointed out to what he described as 'hypocrisy and insufficient knowledge and information' on the Union that had led some leaders to exaggerate all issues touching on the Union.

Earlier on, Mr Lucas Selelii (Nzega – CCM) proposed for a single government, but appealed for tolerance and constructive dialogue to maintain the 44-year-old Union. The legislator expressed deep concern over recent exchanges of heated swipes between politicians, including those traded between ministers from the two sides of the Union.

He said the political marriage between the then Tanganyika and Zanzibar was not ordained by divine law, saying it was the product of human beings with inherent shortcomings that could be amicably resolved through dialogue and consensus.

Mr Mudhihir Mudhihir (Mkinga – CCM) and Mr Ponsian Nyami also called for a single government structure, but warned that there were people who were distorting facts on the Union leading to confusion.

'With one government in place, there will be no complaints,' Mr Nyami told the House.

Mr Mudhihir noted that process to form one government should be a gradual, peaceful, cohesive … not forceful one.

'Any effective medicine is bitter … it is not easy to go away with Zanzibar government due to the traditions…one government is the only solution,' he said.

Mr Mudhihir said there were claims that there was no revolution in Zanzibar on January 12, 1964, but that people from the then Tanganyika invaded the Isles and toppled the government in power.

'This is not true at all,' the MP said, referring to a book by an author called Feruz. The legislator described the book as 'a collection of lies' and charged that the author was among people who had attempted to distort the history of the Union.

The MP said the author listed the alleged invaders from Tanganyika as Mr Hassan Nassor Moyo, Mr Abdallah Natepe, Mr Said Mfaranyaki and one Mr Darwesh.

Ms Riziki Omar Juma (Special Seats – CUF) told the House late Tuesday that the current structure was among the causes of discontentment in the country.

Ms Juma, who is the opposition spokesperson on Union Affairs, also charged that some of the changes in the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania of 1977, were against the letter and spirit of the original 1964 Articles of Union.

The opposition contended that the Articles of the Union provided that the Chairman of the Zanzibar Revolutionary Council and Isles President was then designated the Union Vice-President.

She said that under the present arrangement, the president of Zanzibar was a mere member of the Union cabinet, with insignificant authority over affairs on the United Republic.

The MP also challenged continued extension of the Union matters in the first schedule of the Constitution from the original 11 items to 22 at present.

She said many of the additional items were not in favour of the Isles – citing the position of the Attorney General of the United Republic as ‘unconstitutional’ since the administration of justice was not a union matter.

During debate on the 2008/09 budget proposals for the Vice-President’s Office, the Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office (Parliamentary Affairs), Mr Philip Marmo, said all constitutional changes were supported by legislators from Zanzibar.

'It is unfair to blame legislators from the Mainland on the changes because the Zanzibar House of Representatives and the Union Parliament unanimously endorsed them,' he said when he rose on the point of information.”

Tanzania's President Jakaya Kikwete bluntly stated that both Tanganyika and Zanzibar surrendered their sovereignties when they united in 1964 to form one country known as Tanzania.

By saying so, he threw his weight behind Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda who had been had been harshly criticised by many Zainzibaris for saying that Zanzibar no longer exists as a sovereign state but is an integral of the United Repubic of Tanzania. According to a report in one of Tanzania's leading newspapers, The Guardian, from the nation's capital Dodoma, 22 August 2008, entitled “JK Irked by Union Debate”:

“Debate on whether Zanzibar is a state or not is unfortunate because it is propagated by the same people charged with the responsibility of advising the government, President Jakaya Kikwete said yesterday.

Addressing Parliament, Kikwete hit out at public leaders who he said confused the wananchi deliberately on the issue of the structure of the union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar.

In his three-hour speech, President Kikwete said he did not believe that after 44 years of the Union, there were public leaders who did not know the essence and history of the Union.

'We are confusing and dividing our people for nothing. There is no need to show our differences on this issue in public. It is unfortunate that some of the people behind this issue are members of the committees formed to work on the problems of the union, he said.

The President said both Tanganyika and Zanzibar surrendered their sovereignty in 1964 to give way to a new sovereign state, which is Tanzania.

'Tanzania is the new sovereign state which identifies the people of Tanganyika and Zanzibar,' he said, adding, maybe the people behind this issue have their own agenda. Otherwise I see nothing which the people do not understand.'

The President said Tanzania was still one country and the Union was still strong.

'There have been some challenges, but every time they arise, we have been working on them using the system we have put in place to solve our problems,' he said.

Kikwete said even the wave of arguing whether Zanzibar was a country or not would pass. He called on public leaders to avoid using languages that might divide the people.

He said the teams formed to work on the problems of the Union were going on well, adding that he was optimistic that the solution would be found.

There has of late been a debate on the status of Zanzibar in the Union government, following Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda's statement in Parliament last month that Zanzibar is not a state.

Pinda`s statement sparked debate in the House of Representatives with some Zanzibar government ministers saying the PM was wrong.

On Wednesday, the House was divided on the issue of the structure of the Union, with legislators from Zanzibar demanding a new set up that would benefit both sides.”

An editorial in the same newspaper captured the essence of the controversy and expounded on some of the themes which have been the subject of debate between Tanzanians who support the union and those who are opposed to the merger. Published in
The Guardian, 23 August 2008, the editorial was headlined, “What's Behind Zanzibar Debate?”:

For quite some time, the issue of sovereignty of Zanzibar has dominated print and electronic media highlights. The whole controversy surfaced from nowhere other than inside the Union legislature itself.

It all began during a question and answer session, when the Prime Minister, in an answer to a question as to whether Zanzibar was a country or not, said that the country's sovereignty, including that of Zanzibar, rested in the United Republic of Tanzania.

This statement was sufficient to provoke a furore that culminated in President Jakaya Kikwete’s speech in Dodoma on Thursday, who said that he did not believe that after 44 years of the Union, there were political leaders who did not know the essence and history of the Union.

The President said that both Tanganyika and Zanzibar surrendered their sovereignty in 1964 to give way to a new state, which is Tanzania. He added that Tanzania was the new state which identified the people of Tanganyika and Zanzibar.

Much as we agree that the concept of sovereignty is a playfield of political scientists, it basically revolves around the fact that there must be a supreme power existing in a state, and in this case, the United Republic of Tanzania, although Zanzibar has retained a significant degree of autonomy.

At the centre of the whole debate is the validity of the word 'country,' as could be applied to Zanzibar in its current constitutional status.

Currently, Zanzibar has its own anthem, legislature and autonomous government, which runs several ministries apart from those which fall under the auspices of the Union government, which also comprises cabinet ministers from Zanzibar.

This is more or less similar with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly called Great Britain or Britain.

According to a dictionary definition, Britain is described as 'a country of Western Europe comprising England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.'

Likewise, Tanzania, a unitary state, is a country in Eastern Africa, comprising Tanganyika and Zanzibar, so the supreme power of this country lies neither in Tanganyika nor Zanzibar but in the government of the United Republic of Tanzania.

Granted that Zanzibar has got a government, House of Representatives and its own anthem and constitution, so have the constituent states and provinces in the federal systems of Australia, Canada and the United States and Union of South Africa.

As in any state merger, the United Republic of Tanzania is not a Union without problems.

Such problems can relate to the devolution of powers and challenges of upholding not only the letter, but also the spirit of the Articles of the Union.

Other challenges of the Union include primordial tendencies, which could also be at the heart of the on-going controversy.

For that reason, it is better for holders of such views to come out in the open and profess their true intentions so that the whole issue can be debated and acted upon not only in a transparent manner, but also in line with the country’s Constitution.”

The debate over the status of Zanzibar underscores one fundamental fact: There are a number of issues which have not been resolved or clarified since the union was formed in 1964....

Appendix I:

Tanganyika Before Independence

Appendix II:

The Swahili People

and Swahili Culture

Appendix III:

Tanzania in A Capsule

Appendix IV:

Nyerere and Nkrumah on Continental Union under one Government



David Lawrence, Tanzania and Its People,

ISBN-10:  1441486925

ISBN-13:  9781441486929