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International Publishers
Tanzania: The Land 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
John Ndembwike, Tanzania: The Land and Its People
ISBN-10: 0-9802534-4-6
ISBN-13: 978-0-9802534-4-3


THIS book is intended to introduce Tanzania to people around the world who don't know much about this East African country.

It's also looks at life in Tanzania in contemporary times including the period after independence when the country underwent radical transformation in the seventies and eighties following the adoption of socialism as a sate ideology in February 1967.

A general historical background is also provided to put Tanzania in its proper historical context and show how it evolved into a nation as we know it today.

The geography of the country is also examined in detail. Included in this is a survey of all the provinces or regions of Tanzania and the people of different tribes who live in those areas. Also covered are the natural resources of the country.

Also included in the book are the nation's ethnic and racial groups.

The book can help tourists, students and other people going to Tanzania for the first time or anybody who just wants to learn some basic facts about this country.

Many people know about Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. But there are many things about Tanzania which many people don't know about.

In fact, some people don't even know that the snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro is in Tanzania. They think or have been misled, sometimes deliberately, to believe that it is in Kenya, a neighbouring country.

Also, probably most people, including Tanzanians themselves as well as other Africans, don't know that Tanzania has more inland waters than any other African country.

It also has the greatest variation in altitude on the continent from sea level to the peaks of Kilimanjaro and other mountainous areas especially on the mainland.

And it is not just a land of large national parks and game reserves which attract hundreds of thousands of visitors to this "garden of Eden" from all over the world every year.

It is true we have Serengeti, known worldwide and made even more famous by John Wayne in his film "Hatari," which means danger in Kiswahili, shot when the famous American actor and his crew came to Tanganyika in 1962.

But Tanzania has a lot more than that. It has a rich history, an impressive ethnic, racial and cultural diversity, and great economic potential among many other things. It is also known for its peace and stability and stunning beauty.

I hope that this book will help you to learn more about Tanzania which also includes an area that is considered to be the cradle of mankind.

Chapter One:

Historical Background

TANZANIA is the largest country in a region that is generally known as East Africa.

The other countries in the region are Kenya and Uganda and they all were once ruled by Britain.

Tanzania is also known as the origin of mankind following the discovery of human-like fossil remains by British anthropologists, Dr. L.S.B. Leakey and his wife Mary, in the Olduvai Gorge in Ngorongoro Crater in 1959 in what was then northern Tanganyika before the country was renamed Tanzania in 1964.

Dr. Leakey's interest was sparked by earlier findings of some fossils and bones by a German entomologist in 1910 in the Olduvai Gorge which showed evidence of human life in the area. Leakey and his wife Mary, both of whom were Kenyans, started doing research in the Olduvai Gorge in 1931.

But it was not until 1959 that they had their major finding when Mary Leakey found fragments of teeth and a skull which were identified as remains of a male hominid whom they named Zinjanthropus, or Nutcracker Man, because of his extraordinarily large teeth.

About 20 years later, they found footprints at Laetoli, an area south of Olduvai, further validating their findings as proof of the presence of hominids in the region which earned it distinction as the origin of mankind. As Paul Rincon stated on BBC News years later:

New DNA evidence suggests "African Eve", the 150,000-year-old female ancestor of every person on Earth, may have lived in Tanzania or Ethiopia. A genetic study has shown that the oldest known human DNA lineages are those of East Africans. The most ancient populations include the Sandawe, Burunge, Gorowa and Datoga people who live in Tanzania.

Competing claims have come from other parts of East Africa, especially from Kenya and Ethiopia as the origin of mankind, but they have not dethroned Tanzania from its "eminent" status as the first home of the human species.

They, instead, as East African countries share together the distinction of East Africa as a region which is generally considered by scientists and anthropologists to be the original home of mankind, roughly equivalent to the Biblical Garden of Eden whose original site has never been located but which is probably in what is Iraq today based on the Biblical account of the land of Mesopotamia, the ancient name of Iraq, and of the ancient rivers of Euphrates and Tigris which still flow today.

It all depends on what you believe in, evolution or intelligent design as the origin of life, about which nothing seems to have been resolved in the meeting of the minds from the two opposing camps which remain sharply divided on this highly contentious subject. And Tanzania has figured prominently in this debate since Dr. Leakey and his wife Mary discovered man's "earliest:" ancestor in the Olduvai Gorge in 1959.

But as a country, Tanzania did not exist or come into being until the late 1880s when Germany claimed the territory as its sphere of influence and named it Deutsch Ostafrika, which means German East Africa, an area which included what is now Rwanda and Burundi and what was then known as Ruanda-Urundi.

The area of what is Tanzania today is believed to have been first inhabited by people related to the Khoikhoi of the Kalahari desert. They were later overpowered and overwhelmed by immigrants from West Africa, the ancestors of most of the inhabitants of East Africa today who belong to the Bantu linguistic group and who are simply called Bantu.

The term "Bantu" was coined in the 1850s by W.H.I. Bleek, a librarian of the British government of the Cape colony in South Africa. It has acquired legitimacy ever since, although it is also highly controversial in some circles, for example in South Africa where it was used as a derogatory term during the apartheid era.

Most of the people in Tanzania are Bantu. There is overwhelming evidence from numerous archaeological findings in what is Tanzania today showing that large-scale immigration into the region took place about 2,000 years ago around 100 - 200 AD. The immigrants were mostly agriculturalists who emigrated from what is now Nigeria and Cameroon, especially from the border region between those two countries.

When these tribes or ethnic groups arrived in East Africa, including what is Tanzania today, they virtually expelled the indigenous people who were forced to move south where they eventually settled in the Kalahari desert and other parts of southern Africa.

More than one thousand places have been found in central Tanzania showing that the area was well-inhabited during the Stone Age. The findings include rock paintings especially in what is now Kondoa district and surrounding areas including Irangi.

Some of the original inhabitants still live in the area. They are the Hadzapi and the Sandawi, some of the smallest tribes in Tanzania, and whose languages including the click sound, have a striking resemblance to Khoisan, the language of the Khoikhoi - derisively called Hottentots - which is also related to the language of the San, so-called Bushmen; a linguistic affinity which binds these groups together as one people of common ancestry some of whom originated from an area that became Tanzania.

There were other immigrants who settled centuries ago in what is now Tanzania. In fact, they came long before the immigrants from West Africa arrived in the region.

In the second and first centuries BC, immigrants from the highlands of southern Ethiopia arrived and settled in Tanzania. They were Cushites and they settled mainly in the central part of what is now Tanzania.

Their descendants still live in Tanzania and constitute distinct groups, with their distinctive physical features and languages. These ethnic groups are the Iraqw, the Mbugu, the Burungi, and the Gorowa. They are also some of the smallest tribes in Tanzania.

Through the centuries, other immigration movements took place. More people immigrated into the region from West Africa.

Like the earlier immigrants, they were also agriculturalists and fashioned iron into implements for various activities including farming, cooking, and storage among others.

They also made weapons - spears and arrows - from iron and they were, like the earlier immigrants from West Africa, of Bantu stock; a term used to describe members of ethnic groups who speak related languages even if some of these groups are not genetically related or there are major genetic differences between them.

Evidence of these iron-working Bantu immigrants from West Africa has been found in different parts of Tanzania including one important settlement at Engaruka north of Lake Manyara which has significant archaeological remains including more than 5,000 acres of cultivated and irrigated land.

Also various tools including axes from the Iron Age were found at Katuruka west of Bukoba in Kagera Region in northwestern Tanzania and at Isimila near Iringa in the Southern Highlands; critical evidence showing that Africans had for centuries used iron in their lives, skills that were handed down through the generations.

Iron-smiths are common throughout Africa and have been an integral part of traditional African societies for centuries.

Besides vast immigration movements from West Africa, there were other migratory waves into the region from 300 - 400 AD. These were pastoral Nilotic tribes from the north who constitute a significant part of the population of Tanzania today. They are mostly found in northern parts of this vast East African country.

Other parts of Tanzania have also produced evidence of well-established communities and highly developed skills which existed centuries ago. For example, in the area of Uvinza in western Tanzania, there is evidence showing that salt mining dates from the early Stone Age.

Pottery was also found in the same area dating from the 600s AD.

Salt traders established contacts beyond Lake Tanganyika in what became the Congo and carried on extensive trade for centuries until the 1800s.

The decline in this commercial activity coincided with an increase in the slave trade by the Arabs which disrupted centuries-old patterns of African traditional life, and with the penetration of the African interior by Europeans which eventually led to the partition and colonisation of Africa after the Berlin Conference of 1885.

External contacts have also been an integral part of Tanzanian history for centuries.

Before Tanzania was colonized by the Germans and by the British, the people along the coast already had commercial ties with Arab countries, especially Oman, and parts of Asia including India and China as well as Indonesia. A wave of immigrants reached the Tanzanian coast from Indonesia via Madagascar centuries ago. Others came straight from Indonesia.

Arabs settled in significant numbers along the coast in the 700s AD and through the years engaged in the slave trade many of whose victims were shipped to Mesopotamia, now Iraq, Arabia and other parts of the Arab world. African slaves were also sold to merchants in Persia, as Iran was known until 1935, India and even China as well as other parts of Asia including Indonesia.

And traders from India and southwest Asia had settled in the coastal areas of Tanzania by 900 AD. Commercial activities with Africans involved exchange of cloth, beads, porcelain and metal products for ivory and other items.

Shirazi immigrants from Persia also established settlements along the coast of what is now Tanzania from the 1100s - 1400s AD until they were supplanted and destroyed by the Portuguese in the 1500s AD.

The Arabs again gained prominence and reigned supreme along the coast from their stronghold in Zanzibar, replacing the Portuguese until they were finally conquered by the Germans. Resistance to brutal German rule which included land expropriation, forced labour, high taxation and corporal punishment, led to massive repression by the German colonial rulers.

Some of the most sustained resistance to German oppression and exploitation took place in the southern half of the country where Chief Mkwawa routed German forces more than once in his territory in Iringa in the Southern Highlands before he was finally defeated.

It was also in this part of the country - what is southern Tanzania today - where a number of tribes united to fight the Germans in the famous war that came to be known as Maji Maji.

The Germans almost lost the colony in this war and were rescued when they got reinforcements from Germany. About 200,000 people died during this campaign, mostly from disease and starvation.

The Germans pursued a scorched-earth policy, confiscating food, inflicting brutal punishment on the indigenous people including the destruction of villages. The result was massive famine and depopulation of vast expanses of territory and forced emigration of large numbers of people to other parts, many of which were inhospitable, hence unfit for human habitation.

The Maji Maji war of resistance was the bloodiest in the country's colonial history and one of the deadliest in the entire history of colonial Africa. The war was fought from 1905 to 1907. And between March and September 1906, all the leaders who spearheaded the Maji Maji war were hanged by the German authorities.

The Germans themselves lost the territory to the Allied forces in World War I, paving the way for the establishment of British rule with the blessings of the League of Nations in 1920. The country, formerly known as Deutsch Ostafrika or German East Africa, was renamed Tanganyika when the British took over. It was named after Lake Tanganyika.

It was such a tragedy that the country suffered so much in so short a time.

Not long after half of the country had virtually been destroyed during the Maji Maji war of resistance, came World War I only seven years later.

Vast areas of the country were devastated, turned into wasteland; economic life was disrupted; the social fabric of different tribes or ethnic groups was torn apart; rampant disease and extreme poverty further destroyed life; and thousands of African soldiers who had fought in the war succumbed to famine, malaria and other diseases.

The establishment of British colonial rule soon after the war ended did not alleviate the plight.

Compounding the problem was the fact that the British had no interest in investing in Tanganyika or in attracting large numbers of British settlers because it was not a colony like neighbouring Kenya which was a "White Man's Country," as Lord Delamere put it. By remarkable contrast, Tanganyika was supposed to be under British tutelage only for a period of time, although not specified, before it became independent.

But it was not until more than 40 years later that Tanganyika attained sovereign status after the British took over as the rulers of this vast East African country under the supervision of the League of Nations. In 1946, it became a UN trusteeship territory - simply known as Tanganyika Trust Territory - under British mandate, with the stipulation that Britain would eventually guide the country to independence.

Although the British had a "special responsibility" to Tanganyika to prepare the country for independence, they did not proceed at a pace that satisfied African nationalists. As Julius Nyerere said years later in the 1950s when he became the leader of the nationalist movement - Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) - fighting for independence, the colonial government and TANU were headed in the same direction but not at the same pace.

The colonial rulers did, however, encourage limited local government under the policy of indirect rule using traditional rulers to help administer vast expanses of territory, a policy first introduced by Sir Frederick Lugard, later Lord Lugard, in Northern Nigeria when he served there as British high commissioner from 1901 to 1906.

Under this system, the British colonial rulers delegated authority to the emirs and other traditional rulers in Northern Nigeria making them responsible for labour recruitment, tax collection and limited law enforcement in areas under their jurisdiction.

But the policy of indirect rule also led to conflict with African traditional values and ways of life and favoured the chiefs and other Africans who were loyal to the British rulers. It was, however, adopted throughout British colonial Africa and other parts of the continent under colonial rule as a way to minimize administrative cost and other expenses. Tanganyika was no exception.

In Tanganyika, as well as in some other parts of Africa, some of the African chiefs or traditional rulers were appointed by the colonial authorities, further alienating the people.

In 1922 the British authorities in Tanganyika authorized the formation of African organizations in pursuit of their "liberal" policy of allowing Africans to express their views and promote their well-being. But in reality, Africans did not enjoy much freedom since they were still colonial subjects and therefore not entitled to the same rights and privileges enjoyed by their rulers and other whites.

The most prominent of these organizations was the Tanganyika Territory African Civil Service Association which became the incubator of nationalist aspirations which culminated in the establishment of the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) on 7 July 1954 under the leadership of Julius Nyerere.

African representation in the government was minimal, at best, but in 1926 some Africans were unofficially admitted into the Legislative Council (LEGCO) which was the colonial legislature or parliament.

In 1929, the Tanganyika Territory African Civil Service Association became the Tanganyika African Association which was eventually transformed into TANU in 1954. About 10 years earlier before TANU was formed, the first Africans were officially appointed by the governor of Tanganyika as members of the Legislative Council in 1945.

The transition from colonial rule to independence was a peaceful one under the leadership of TANU. Less than seven years after TANU was founded, Tanganyika became independent on 9 December 1961.

It was the first East African country to emerge from colonial rule under the leadership of Julius Nyerere who became prime minister. He was 39 and the youngest leader in the world during that time.

On 26 April 1964, Tanganyika united with Zanzibar to form Tanzania. It was the first union of independent states ever formed in Africa. And it is the only union of its kind that has ever been formed and which still exists today.

During his tenure as president of Tanzania, Nyerere became one of the most influential leaders in the history of post-colonial Africa. He was also one of the most prominent world leaders in the twentieth century despite the fact that his socialist policies failed to develop Tanzania.

But he had notable achievements in a number of areas in the domestic arena, especially in the provision of health services and education to the point where Tanzania had the highest literacy rate in Africa, over 91 percent; besides his highly commendable success as a champion of African liberation, especially in southern Africa when the countries in that region were under white minority rule. During his tenure as president, Tanzania was the headquarters of all the African liberation movements....

Chapter Three:

The People

THE demographic composition of Tanzania provides a unique perspective on the complexity of the ethnic diversity on the African continent, the second largest after Asia and with more than 1,000 ethnic and linguistic groups.

The linguistic diversity of Tanzania is unique in Africa. The majority of the people speak more than 100 Bantu languages in a country of about 130 ethnic groups indigenous to Africa.

There are also some people who speak the rare Khoisan click language characterized by implosive consonants. It is spoken only by the Hadzapi and the Sandawi of central Tanzania in a country that is predominantly Bantu. But it is common among the so-called Bushmen and Hottentots of South Africa and the Kalahari desert in Botswana.

There are also speakers of Cushitic and Nilotic languages in central and north-east central Tanzania. These are Iraqw who speak a Cushitic language and who originally came from the southern highlands of Ethiopia about 2,000 years ago; and the Maasai who migrated from southern Sudan about 300 years and who speak a Nilotic language. There is another group, the Datoga, also called Mang'ati, who also speak a Nilotic language and are fierce fighters like the Maasai.

Then there are the Somali, originally from Somalia, who live in the coastal regions and other parts of Tanzania including a significant number of them in Arusha Region in the northeast and the north-central parts of the country.

There are also Tutsis and Hutus especially in the western and northwestern regions of Tanzania and in other parts of the country. Some were born in Tanzania.

Others are refugees or descendants of refugees from the war-torn neighbouring countries of Rwanda and Burundi. In the early 1980s, tens of thousands of them were accorded citizenship by President Julius Nyerere. In 1980 alone, more than 80,000 Hutu and Tutsi refugees became citizens; beneficiaries of Nyerere's benevolent policies.

All these groups are indigenous to Africa.

Then there are the Arabs who constitute a significant part of the Tanzanian population especially in Zanzibar, Pemba, and along the coast.

They originally came from the Arabian peninsula including the Gulf states more than 1,300 years ago and have lived in Tanzania longer than some ethnic groups indigenous to Africa have; for example, longer than the Ngoni who migrated to Tanzania from South Africa only in the 1830s, and the Maasai who came from Sudan about 300 years ago. Other groups from Mozambique also migrated to Tanzania a few hundred years ago.

By some criterion, Arabs may be considered to be native to Africa because they have lived on the continent for so long, depending, of course, on how one defines the term "native."

How long do people have to live in an area to be considered native to the region? What makes Bantu groups native to Tanzania and other parts of East and Southern Africa when there is historical, cultural, linguistic and archaelogical evidence showing that they migrated from West Africa, especially from what is now eastern Nigeria and Cameroon, about 2,000 years ago? They were native to that region.

Whatever the case, Arabs are an integral part of the Tanzanian population and society and have contributed to the cultural vitality of the country and the East African region in a way other groups originally from outside Africa have not.

It was from the interaction and intermingling between the Arabs and Africans along the coast for centuries since 700 A.D, and even before then, that East Africa saw the birth of a new society and

culture along the coast of what is now Kenya and Tanzania and the islands of Pemba and Zanzibar.

It led to the birth and evolution of the Swahili language and the emergence of a virtually distinct ethnic group called Waswahili; a product of intermarriage between Arabs and Africans through the centuries. Arabs also have had a profound influence on Tanzania in another way through the introduction of Islam which became one of the major religions not only in Tanzania but in other parts of Africa as well.

The name Swahili itself is derived from the Arabic word sahil which means "coast." And Swahili is the main language of the coastal people, Waswahili.

It is also the national language of Tanzania and Kenya and one of the major African and world languages.

And it's the only indigenous African language that is used as one of the official languages in the African Union (AU) together with English, French, Portuguese, and Arabic.

In spite of the Arab influence on the language, Swahili, which is usually known as Kiswahili among the native speakers, is considered to be an African language because its structure, syntax and grammar is African, and most of its vocabulary is African, derived from Bantu languages.

Only about 25 percent of the Swahili vocabulary is of Arab origin.

There are also Persian, Hindi, Portuguese and English words in Kiswahili. It is also worth mentioning that Kiswahili is older than modern English and has written literature dating back to the 700s AD.

Every major international language has borrowed from other languages. And Kiswahili is one of them. Yet, by remarkable contrast, the English language has borrowed from foreign languages far more than Swahili has.

One Tanzanian scholar, Professor Deo Ngonyani at Michigan State University in the United States, posted on the internet an answer to a question as to whether or not Swahili was really an African language.

The question came from a post on August 11, 2005, on the internet discussion group, "H-NET List for African History and Culture," in which the writer said the following:

I am familiar with the Kamusi Project and I think you are doing an excellent job. But I have a couple of questions about Swahili and its origin:

How did Swahili become the most popular African language in schools in the United States?

I don't think it has to do with the origin of African Americans. Most of them came from West Africa probably even myself.

It is also the most well known African language among members of the general public in the African American community and many still learn it.

But many West Africans, at least the ones I know of, resent that. They say African Americans should learn West African languages. They also, together with others, contend that Swahili is not really an African language like Yoruba, Zulu, Xhosa, Kikuyu, Lingala or Igbo; it is mostly "Arabic." Is it? I think Professor Ali Mazrui says it's about 30 percent Arabic.

Please correct me on that if I am wrong.

In his response to that, Professor Ngonyani who taught linguistics at Michigan State University had this to say:

I think that the popularity of Swahili (or Kiswahili, as the speakers of the language call it) is due to the fact that it is the most widely spoken African language south of the Sahara. And in East and Central Africa, it has become a pan-ethnic language. It has become widely used in education, media, and public discourse.

As for its Africanness, Swahili belongs to a group of languages known as Bantu. I spend much of my time studying the structure of words in different languages. I would like to share some of the salient features and put to rest some ideas that are not based on facts.

You can tell that Swahili is a Bantu language because, among other things:

(a) the word structure is typical Bantu: Noun classes and singular/plural prefixes, sometimes suffixes on roots that change other words into nouns; verbs are inflected for subject marker, tense, object marker, deriving new verbs with suffixes - all of these can be shown to belong to Bantu languages and in fact some very close relatives of Swahili in East Africa. (examples below)

(b) classification of nouns indicated by the prefixes

m-toto/wa-toto 'child/children'; ki-kombe/vi-kombe 'cup/cups' jina/ma-jina 'name/names'

m-tu/wa-tu 'person/persons'; ki-kapu/vi-kapu 'basket/baskets' dirisha/madirisha 'window/windows'

(roots: -toto, -tu, -kombe, -kapu, -jina, -dirisha)

-all nouns are classified this way

Now compare how Arabic inflects the nouns using Roman alphabet - closer to its phonetics:

jundub/janaadib 'locust/locusts' (root = j-n-d-b)

nafs/nufuus 'soul/souls' (root = n-f-s)

bank/bunuuk 'bank/banks' (root = b-n-k)

(c) a robust agreement system

ki-le ki-kombe ki-kubwa ki-mevunjika

that cup big is-broken

'that big cup is broken'

vi-le vi-kombe vi-kubwa vi-zuri vi-mevunjika

those cups big beautiful are-broken

'those beautiful big cups are broken'

(d) a core of very common words which can be traced to Bantu ancestry, and can easily be shown to be related to Bantu languages including Zulu, Xhosa, etc

(e) phrase structure and sentence that is Bantu


Now compare Swahili and Arabic verbs:



7-Tns-break-ST-FV (7-the class of the subject in the example above, -me- perfect tense, -ik- stative extension, -a indicative marker) Root -VUNJ-

'they are broken'


zarara 'pull'

zarrara 'he caused to pull'

-the root for these forms is Z-R (or Z-R-R).

I could go on and on with many examples. But I will need only to note that Arabic does not share these salient features with Swahili. For example the word structure you find in Arabic dominated by three-consonant roots is not found in Swahili except for words that are conspicuously borrowed from Arabic.

In Swahili, like other Bantu languages, you add a string of prefixes and suffixes. In Arabic, you insert pieces into the root as you can see in the examples.

While the Swahili word forms I have provided as examples are shared with Kikuyu, Zulu, Xhosa, Lingala, and other Bantu language, the Arabic word forms are shared with languages known as Semitic eg Hebrew, not with Swahili.

Therefore, in linguistic terms, Swahili is a Bantu language.

Having said that, I must note the heavy Arabic influence on Swahili vocabulary. That is clearly a result of contact with Arabic speakers, Islam, etc. This is the main reason people say Swahili is not an African language.

Remember, a large percentage of Arabic words in Swahili does not make Swahili and Arabic derivative. Every language borrows from other languages it comes in contact with. An example from perhaps the most studied language in the world (English) is going to be very informative.

In 1960s A.H. Roberts published results of his study of 10,000 most used English words. The study discovered that only a third of them were 'native' English words. That is to say only a third were of Germanic origin. About 60% were of Romance (Latin) origin (French, Latin). However, no one ever claims that English is a Romance language, or a sister to French, Italian, Spanish, etc.

Let me also add that Bantuists like Tom Hinnebusch and Derek Nurse have even identified Swahili's closest sisters on the Kenyan coast and have theories that suggest that is where its origin lies.

And as another Tanzanian scholar, Professor Frank Chiteji at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, stated during the same time in response to the same question on the same forum:

I think this question should be addressed to tanzlist(, where we have some of the best minds on the language. I think of people like Prof. Lioba Moshi in Georgia, who has done a lot of work in this area.

I can only say that Swahili is perhaps one of the most widely spoken languages in Africa. It is estimated that more than 100 million Africans speak the language.

In my travels to Namibia, South Africa, Angola, Lesotho, Botswana, Swaziland, Mozambique, I have often ran into people who speak Swahili. People have called Swahili a trade language; I would to add that it is also a liberation language. Many of the echelons of the Southern African liberation movements speak Swahili.

Barbara Jean Palmer may also want to know that many of the top government officials in Southern Africa speak Swahili.

All of this is not to deny that other African languages are not important.

So, although Arabs had a profound impact on East Africa and continued to have significant influence through the centuries especially along the coast and in Zanzibar where they were the rulers; and in parts of the interior where they captured slaves; there is no question that they did not change or replace African languages with Arabic; and they did not fundamentally change the African way of life in a wider context even if they wanted to, except along the coast and in Zanzibar where they intermarried with Africans on a significant scale.

But even there, they did not totally replace African languages with Arabic. Instead, African languages fused with Arabic to produce the Swahili language which remained essentially African in grammar, structure and vocabulary because of the predominance of African languages and culture along the coast.

It is also worth remembering that Swahili is not only one of the major languages in the world - it is said to be one of the 12 major languages; it is also older than modern English. And there is no question that Arab influence on its evolution must be acknowledged as an integral part of Tanzanian history which includes the establishment of Arab communities in the coastal areas on the mainland and in Zanzibar.

It is also worth remembering that Swahili is not only one of the major languages in the world - it is said to be one of the world's 10 major languages; it is also older than modern English. And there is no question that Arab influence on its evolution must be acknowledged as an integral part of Tanzanian history which includes the establishment of Arab communities in the coastal areas on the mainland and in Zanzibar.

Also along the coast and in Zanzibar were Persian settlers. They emigrated from Persia centuries ago and built settlements some of whose remnants still exist today. They originally came from Shiraz, in what is now Iran, and built some of the first city states in Africa along the east coast of Tanzania.

They were founded by Persian princes who became the rulers of those city states the most famous of which was Kilwa on the southern coast of Tanzania. Its ruins still stand today as a monument to a bygone era.

The Persians also intermarried with Africans. In Zanzibar the Persians and Africans built a significant community whose descendants still exist today and identify themselves as Shirazis, although most of them are basically African. But a significant number of them do have Persian ancestry.

And even those who have only a little Persian ancestry still identify themselves as Shirazis. Some don't have any, yet they still call themselves Shirazis because of an inferiority complex. They are ashamed of their African heritage which they feel is inferior to anything foreign, regardless of how much some foreigners admire some aspects of African culture and way of life.

The Shirazi community in Zanzibar has had such a strong presence on the isles through the centuries that some of their descendants played a major role in the Zanzibar revolution of January 1964. So did some Arabs and others, and not just black Africans.

In fact, the Shirazis and some indigenous Africans together formed the Afro-Shirazi Party (ASP) which spearheaded the Zanzibar revolution which overthrew the Arab sultanate and went on to form a union with Tanganyika which led to the establishment of the United Republic of Tanzania on 26 April 1964.

There were also Turkish immigrants who settled in Zanzibar centuries ago and became absorbed by the local population after losing dominance to the Arabs.

Greeks and Romans also came to Tanzania in ancient times long before the birth of Christ (BC). And coins and other artifacts have been found along the coast from that era and thereafter. Ancient Greek mariners called the coast Azania, what became an integral part of what is now Tanzania.

But it was the Arabs who lived along the coast the longest and left a lasting impact. However, their dominance was now and then interrupted by other foreigners in the same they conquered other people at different times.

The Persians, who were once dominant along the coast, were supplanted by the Arabs who in turn were conquered by the Portuguese. The Portuguese rose to dominance not only in the coastal area of the mainland but also on Zanzibar island.

They conquered the Arab rulers in the 1500s and ruled the coastal area of what is now Tanzania for about 200 years until they were thrown out by the Arabs in the 1700s.

But in spite of their 200-year dominance, the Portuguese left very little influence in the region besides the introduction of avocado from Brazil, as well as a few other things, and a few words like mesa which in Kiswahili is meza meaning table. Even today, when you travel around Tanzania, you hardly notice any Portuguese influence in the country. It is far surpassed by German and British influence in spite of the fact that the Germans ruled Tanganyika for less than 20 years, and the British for only 43 years.

The British, who ruled Tanganyika last, also constitute the largest community of European settlers in Tanzania. And there are many other Tanzanians of European origin, including recent immigrants. Also a significant number of whites from South Africa have moved to Tanzania since the end of apartheid. But they are mostly investors and it's not clear how many of them have become or are going to be Tanzanian citizens.

One community whose members have been in Tanzania longer than most Europeans, but for a shorter period than the Arabs in general, is the Asian community, mostly of Indian and Pakistani origin, but mostly Indian. It is also the most powerful and most influential among all Tanzanian ethnic groups in the economic arena.

Tanzanians of Asian origin have been influential in commerce since colonial times. There were immigrants who came from India centuries ago. But it was during the last 100 years or so that the majority of them settled in Tanzania. And they have remained a formidable force in the local economy and as merchants in the import-and export trade.

They constitute a significant community, although their number has declined through the years for various reasons, with many of them migrating to other countries, especially in the West. A number of black Tanzanians have followed the same migratory trend, mainly for economic reasons in search of greener pastures. But not all Tanzanians believe that grass is always greener on the other side. And they include Tanzanians of all races who have chosen to stay in Tanzania.

Although the vast majority of Tanzanians are Bantu, they differ in culture, customs and traditions, and in the way they earn their living even if there are no fundamental differences among them in many respects because of their common history and origin.

A few examples may help to illustrate this point, by no means typical of all the ethnic groups in terms of how they manage their lives and the degree to which the differences among them may be compared and contrasted with some accuracy. But the examples may still serve as a general guide and perspective from which we can try to understand the complex ethnic diversity that is typical of Tanzania.

The Maasai, sometimes known as the Masai, are probably the most well-known ethnic group in Tanzania who may even have inspired myths and legends about what they are and what they are not; similar to what some people have in mind about the Tutsi,....


John Ndembwike, Tanzania: The Land and Its People

ISBN-10: 0-9802534-4-6

ISBN-13: 978-0-9802534-4-3