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International Publishers
An Introduction to Tanzania
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, An Introduction to Tanzania
ISBN  9780981425863


THIS book is a general introduction to Tanzania. It's intended for those who are going to Tanzania for the first time and for anybody else who wants to learn some basic facts about the largest country in East Africa.

The country has a rich history. In fact, if it existed as a nation throughout the centuries when the people in this part of Africa interacted with other cultures and continents as they still do today, it would be one of the oldest countries and nations in the world.

Tanzania also has one of the largest numbers of ethnic groups in Africa together with only a handful of other countries. In fact, only four countries – out of 53 – on the entire continent have more than 100 tribes or ethnic groups. Tanzania is one of them.

Readers are going to learn quite a few things about those tribes and where they live in Tanzania.

Also covered in the book are towns and cities in all the provinces of this large country.

Tanzania also is unique in one fundamental respect. It's the only union of two independent countries ever formed on the continent. And it's the only one that exists today, almost half a century after it was formed.

The union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar is one of the subjects covered in the book, and readers are going to learn about one of the most important events in the history of post-colonial Africa on a continent where the quest for unity has remained an elusive dream since independence in the sixties.

Tanzania also is virtually synonymous with Swahili or Kiswahili more than any other country in East Africa where this lingua franca is the dominant language.

It's the main language spoken in Tanzania and Kenya. It's also spoken in several other countries in east-central Africa. It is a language that transcends ethnicity, a unique attribute which has enabled it to play a major role in uniting the people of different tribes especially in Tanzania.

Kiswahili is not identified with any African tribe, making it a truly Pan-African language building bridges across ethnicity, cultures and nations especially in the eastern part of the continent.

And as you learn about Tanzania, you are also going to learn a few things about an area bigger than Tanzania because of the country's connection to other parts of East Africa and beyond.

Welcome to Tanzania. And welcome to Africa.

Chapter One:


A Panoramic View

TANZANIA is the largest country in East Africa and one of the largest on the continent in terms of area and population.

It is, in fact, one of the largest countries in the world and ranks 31st among all the countries in terms of area. It's 378,000 square miles and is somewhat bigger than Nigeria but much smaller in terms of population. Tanzania has about 40 million people and Nigeria about 140 million.

The former island nation of Zanzibar, now part of Tanzania, has an area of 640 square miles and a population of about 600,000.

Tanzania also is the size of Texas, Oklahoma and West Virginia combined or slightly more than twice the size of California.

It's bordered by Kenya and Uganda on the north, Rwanda and Burundi on the northwest, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on the west, by Zambia and Malawi on the southwest, Mozambique on the south, and by the Indian Ocean on the east.

It became one country when Tanganyika united with Zanzibar on 26 April 1964.

When the two countries united, the new country was known as the United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar. Its name was changed on 29 October the same year when it became the United Republic of Tanzania. But the most commonly used name is Tanzania.

Tanganyika won independence on 9 December 1961, and Zanzibar on 10 December 1963 but with little legitimacy since the black African majority in this island nation was excluded from power by the ruling Arab minority; an injustice which triggered the Zanzibar revolution on 12 January 1964.

Both countries won independence from Britain.

Not long after Tanganyika won independence under the leadership of Julius Nyerere, the government formulated its policy of ujamaa, Nyerere's African version of socialism. It also introduced one-party rule.

The first two decades after independence were a critical period in the history of the country in terms of political and economic transformation.

Many changes took place in the economic and political arena, and their impact on the nation still reverberates today across the spectrum. As Edwin Mtei, former governor of the Bank of Tanzania who also once served as minister of finance under Nyerere and as the last secretary-general of the first East African Community (EAC) which collapsed in 1977, stated years later in an interview published on 17 January 2005 in The East African:

You were the first governor of the Bank of Tanzania, which is believed to have struck the first blow to the former East African Community prompting the demise of the East African Currency Board - which had ensured the strength of the common currency, and thus the common market. You were also minister for finance during the early 1970s, the years of the Arusha Declaration. Both positions made you responsible for the country's economic performance. How would you describe this period?

I should start by clarifying my own involvement in these matters.

I was appointed permanent secretary to the Treasury in August 1964. In this capacity I was the Tanzania member of the East African Currency Board.

Its chairman was the secretary-general of the East African Common Services Organisation. The other members were my counterparts in Kenya, Uganda and the Aden Protectorate (now South Yemen). Another member was provided by the Bank of England and served as our technical adviser.

Early in 1965, the governments of Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda realised that they would not be establishing a political federation in the foreseeable future. Had the federation materialised, the Board would have been transformed into the federal central bank.

The three governments then agreed to establish separate central banks and currencies and to break up the East African Currency Board.

Being the permanent secretary for finance, I found myself recruiting experts in central banking and arranging the training of local personnel who later joined the Bank of Tanzania. My own career changed drastically when President Julius Nyerere appointed me governor-designate of the Bank of Tanzania in October 1965.

From then onwards, I devoted my efforts to preparing the legislation for the bank, the national currency and all the other prerequisites, so that the Bank of Tanzania was able to issue the national currency by June 14, 1966. Uganda and Kenya followed suit soon afterwards, so that by October 1966 the East African Currency Board had ceased to function.

True, the East African shilling was a strong currency. But this was because the partner states' fiscal policies then were cautious and non-inflationary, and this stance had nothing to do with the EACB. Besides, the continuation of the common market could not be attributed to the strength or the commonness of the currency.

The common market lasted because the partner states wanted it to last and, indeed, it continued to operate for 10 years after the demise of the common currency and the currency board.

I also do not think that currencies in a common market have all to be strong.

The important thing is that there must be agreed rates of exchange and the partners in the market must be ready to trade freely without restrictions.

When the Arusha Declaration was being drafted, I was invited only as an observer at the meeting of Tanu, which was held in Arusha at the end of January 1967. As governor of the central bank I could not have influenced the decisions made there.

Another point is that my appointment as minister for finance and planning was more than 10 years later, in mid-February 1977, when the president recalled me from the East African Community.

The EAC was then collapsing following Nyerere's decision to close the Kenya-Tanzania border earlier that month.

One could say that it was from then only that I could seriously be regarded as a participant in economic policy making in Tanzania.

What was the economic situation like during Nyerere's administration - under which you served - as against that under Hassan Mwinyi; and Mwinyi's in contrast to the current one of Benjamin Mkapa?

The Nyerere regime lasted for 24 years [1961-1985], and one can identify several phases in the evolution of the economy of Tanzania over this period.

The first phase ended with the promulgation of the Arusha Declaration in February 1967.

During the struggle for independence, Tanu had undertaken to rid Tanganyika of poverty, ignorance and disease, as the people's expectations were high at the time of independence.

The British government had agreed to only modest financial assistance to Tanganyika during the independence negotiations and the bulk of that aid was paid to the departing British colonial civil servants as compensation for redundancies.

The country was dependent basically on peasant agriculture for staple food. The exports were sisal, coffee and cotton. Diamonds also figured as a substantial part of Tanganyika's exports.

When the Union came into being in 1964, cloves from Zanzibar became one of the major exports of Tanzania. The first development plan, of three years, was drawn up with these modest resources and that was when Nyerere coined the phrase 'Kupanga ni Kuchagua (Planning is Choosing [your future]).'

The national motto at that time was Uhuru ni Kazi (Freedom is Hard Work).

In that development plan we started pilot projects of Integrated Development Villages and I recall taking foreign dignitaries to Upper Kitete near Lake Manyara as a showpiece of what could be done under the "integrated" approach.

Most of the public funds were spent on the intensive training programme for the Africanisation of the civil service, building of schools and hospitals.

The frustrating pace occasioned by inadequate flow of financial resources for development, I guess, made Nyerere opt for the Arusha Declaration hoping that it would be a faster and fairer way to development.

On the promulgation of the Declaration, the second phase of the Nyerere era began. The nationalisation of banks, insurance companies, major manufacturing and trading firms and sisal estates followed immediately. Uncertainties on the part of owners of substantial assets in the country caused a massive flight of capital and we had to introduce strict exchange controls.

The government also embarked on many new projects of manufacturing, especially in the textile sector. In the tourist sector, hotels and tourist lodges were built in the national parks.

By the end of 1969, most of the negotiations for compensation for nationalised assets had been completed, confidence had returned and we were able to relax exchange controls.

However, in 1971, further drastic measures were taken when all large residential and business buildings were nationalised.

The majority of the owners affected were members of the Asian urban community, and the panic that ensued saw a large number of them emigrating, especially to India, Pakistan, the UK and Canada.

It was again necessary to prevent excessive depletion of our foreign reserves and so strict exchange controls were reintroduced.

This was also during the construction of the Tanzania-Zambia Railway (Tazara) by the Chinese government.

The arrangement was that China would supply Tanzania and Zambia Chinese-made consumer goods without demanding immediate payment.

These goods were sold by the importing parastatals and the local currency generated was paid to Tazara to use for the construction, the value of these consumer goods figuring as part of the long-term loan by China.

In this way the market was flooded with Chinese goods and in spite of complaints from local and East African Common Market manufacturers of competing materials, Tanzanian consumers were satisfied.

The third phase of the Nyerere era began about 1972/73, when the government started to implement the Ujamaa village programme.

People were relocated from their ancestral land to new areas, which were planned as communal villages.

These ujamaa villages were designed to have basic social amenities like schools, hospitals, social halls or community centres and water supply. Each family in the village was allotted a parcel of land to grow food or other crops of their own choice; but there was also a large parcel of land earmarked for the whole village for communal farming.

The scheme had started by persuading the people and explaining the advantages of relocation. However, when it came to moving people with perennial crops or with permanent houses, there was resistance. Overenthusiastic officials began to apply force to move people; some houses were even burnt down.

A large proportion of the population of Tanzania suddenly found itself building shelters in the new locations. It then became necessary to feed the new arrivals and a lot of public funds were expended for food. The season for preparing the land to grow crops passed without a large number of peasants doing their normal work because of their preoccupation with building new houses or shelters. Large tracts of land lay fallow.

Unfortunately, the period of relocation coincided with the severe drought of 1973/74. The famine that followed was therefore devastating. Tanzania found itself without adequate food and was compelled to import large amounts of food to prevent widespread starvation.

Friendly countries gave us food as aid and we even had to import food from countries which were not friendly. Our reserves of foreign exchange dropped to rock bottom and we began to experience difficulties in meeting repayment of contractual debts.

It was at this time that as a nation we started experiencing negative gross domestic growth.

The non-performance of many of the parastatals set up as a result of the Arusha Declaration also began at this time. Many were under-capitalised, others lacked proper management, while others, especially those involved in manufacturing, were supplied of faulty, over-valued or inappropriate machinery.

The Treasury found itself either giving huge loans to these firms to rescue their management from irate employees who had gone without salaries for long periods or for repaying loans as guarantors since the borrowing parastatals were not generating the necessary surpluses. Factories under construction were left uncompleted, equipment delivered for installation was either faulty or lay rusting in crates in their yards for lack of funds and/or experts to complete the installation of the projects.

In spite of all these bottlenecks, though, the government pressed on with new projects in many parts of the country in the 1970s and 1980s. This was the period of excessive petro-dollars in the world money markets and a large number of creditors were ready to offer money and/or machinery on loan to the parastatals, provided there was a Tanzania government guarantee.

Many of these proved to be abortive projects, so that now Tanzania is dotted with unfinished projects and white elephants, the loans for which the Treasury nevertheless has to repay. The origin of the current unsustainable foreign national debt is mainly attributable to these borrowings.

The final phase of the Nyerere era saw our inability to repay our loans and the accumulation of bad national debt, which began in 1980.

Our imports exceeded our exports then by a wide margin since agricultural production would not recover fast enough from the disruptive impact of the Ujamaa villagisation programme. Most manufacturing parastatals were running at a loss, unable to produce enough for export or even to meet local demand. Others were closing down. Even the diamond mine at Mwadui was operating at very low capacity.

The government's recurrent expenditure was expanding and would not be curbed because of various commitments. Huge subsidies from the Treasury to finance the parastatals meant unsustainable fiscal deficits, runaway inflation and rapid depreciation of the Tanzania shilling.

While the official exchange rate for the shilling was 9.60 to the dollar, in Zurich or even in Nairobi, the market rate was Tsh70 to the dollar.

The adamant refusal of the government to deal with these economic management problems made a bad situation worse and, within a few years, we found ourselves rated as the second-poorest country in the world. We were the 20th poorest country in the world in 1964 immediately after we acceded to membership of the IMF and World Bank.

The scarcity of consumer commodities caused by the failure of the parastatals and our inability to import enough goods because of shortage of foreign exchange, gripped the country. This led to a futile system of rationing, which resulted in corruption and extreme suffering on the part of members of the public, especially low-income earners.

Because of petrol shortages, Sunday driving was banned. This was followed by actual allocation of petrol and one could not buy this fuel without a permit from a government official specifying the amount allowed.

There were long queues of people at parastatal outlets like the Regional Trading Companies with chits permitting them to buy sugar, soap, salt, sembe, rice, cooking oil, matches, toilet paper and practically all other normal household requirements. Clothing was so rare and expensive that some people used empty bags of cement as normal wear.

The shelves of the other privately owned shops were empty and whenever anything was available, its price was very high.

The so-called luxury items were banned and even those who could secure foreign exchange legitimately, like Tanzanians working abroad, were not allowed to import items like television sets or saloon cars.

Because of the scarcity of goods and the ever-rising prices, those with money started to buy whatever was available even if they did not need such goods immediately. If an official travelled to, say, Iringa, he would return to Dar es Salaam with two bags of rice in his official vehicle.

People found themselves buying extra radios or extra furniture, just because money was losing value every day. Similarly, shopkeepers stocked items which they knew would rise in value tremendously in a month's time.

It was at this time that the Economic Crimes and Sabotage Act was passed by parliament.

Under the law, many citizens and non-citizens who appeared to have substantial assets were rounded up and detained. Some of their assets were seized, many of which were never recovered. Few of the assets recovered were serviceable and there have been claims for compensation ever since that time.

Those who were detained were subsequently released after appearing before a tribunal set up for that purpose. But I know a number of honest businessmen who never recovered from that shock of detention, health-wise or business-wise.

This was clearly a measure that dealt with the symptoms of the disease rather than the cause. It was bound to fail as Tanzania transited from the Nyerere to the Ali Hassan Mwinyi regime.” - (Edwin Mtei, interviewed by Stanley Kamana, “The Nyerere Era and the Origins of Tanzania's Current Crippling Debt,” in The East African, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya, 17 January 2007).

Nyerere stepped down as president in November 1985 after leading the country for 24 years since independence in December 1961. Ali Hassan Mwinyi succeeded him as president of the United Republic. Before then, Mwinyi served as president of Zanzibar and vice president of Tanzania.

After he became president, he started to liberalise the economy and introduce capitalism in the late 1980s.

Socialism and one-party rule were officially abandoned in the early nineties.

 Parliament renounced socialism as a state ideology, and one-party rule ended when the wave of democratisation and multi-party politics swept across the continent following the collapse of communism and the end of the Cold War during that period.

Tanzania underwent radical transformation in terms of political direction when the government issued the Arusha Declaration in February 1967 to build a socialist society. The government nationalised companies, banks, plantations and other major means of production and distribution.

In Zanzibar, the Zanzibar revolutionary government which came to power after the Zanzibar revolution of 12 January 1964 nationalised clove plantations and other properties in the same year.

But the nation's most ambitious programme was the establishment of ujamaa villages where the people would work together on communal farms. Individual ownership of farms was abolished and the farms were collectivised to establish communal settlements, except in a few parts of the country where the people already lived very close to each other because of the high density of population in those areas.

President Julius Nyerere reported that by mid-1975 more than 9 million people – almost half the nation's entire population – had been moved into more than 6,900 ujamaa villages.

And in 1976, the government rounded up thousands of people in Dar es Salaam who were unemployed and sent them to work and live in the countryside. Many of them returned to their home villages.

The repatriation effort was also in pursuit of socialism and rural development, the cornerstone of the nation's economic growth in a predominantly agricultural country and one of the poorest in the world.

Nyerere defended his policy of socialism and explained that familyhood called for sharing, and that it was the basis of the African traditional way of life. Ujamaa, which means familyhood, was his African version of socialism and he called it African socialism.

But socialism failed to develop the economy.

After Nyerere stepped down from the presidency, he remained chairman of the ruling party, known as Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) – a Swahili name meaning Revolutionary Party – for five years until1990.

But even after he no longer served as chairman of the ruling party, he remained in control and was the most powerful political figure in the country until his death in October 1999 at the age of 77.

It was he who chose Mwinyi to be his successor; and it was he who chose Benjamin Mkapa to succeed Mwinyi as president of Tanzania and asked a highly popular contender, Jakaya Kikwete, to abandon his quest for the presidency in 1995 in order to provide room for Mkapa.

He said Kikwete was too young to be president at that time and should wait. Kikwete agreed and was elected president in 2005 after Mkapa completed his two five-year terms as president.

It was also Nyerere who in 1973 decided that the nation's capital should be moved from Dar es Salaam to Dodoma.

But although the official capital is Dodoma, most government offices remain in the former capital, Dar es Salaam, which is the nation's largest city. It's also the commercial capital.

Dodoma officially became the capital of Tanzania in 1996, and a few ministries have been moved there. The parliament was also moved from Dar es Salaam to Dodoma.

Dodoma was chosen as the nation's capital during President Nyerere's tenure because of its central location easily accessible from all parts of the country. It's now the third-largest city in Tanzania....

Tanzania is divided into 26 administrative regions. Twenty-one are on the mainland and five are in the former island nation of Zanzibar. Three are on the larger island of Unguja which is also known as Zanzibar, and two are on Pemba Island which is also an opposition stronghold. Tanzania's main opposition party, the Civic United Front (CUF), has its strongest support on Pemba Island.

And secessionist sentiments are strongest on Pemba Island – more than anywhere else in the former island nation.

Many residents of Pemba want Zanzibar – the former independent nation which includes both Zanzibar Island and Pemba Island – to secede from the union. And there are those who want Pemba to secede and declare independence as a sovereign entity.

Agriculture is the largest sector of the Tanzanian economy. It accounts for more than 40 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) and about 85 per cent of the exports. It's also the largest employer. About 80 per cent of the nation's entire labour force is involved in agriculture.

Only 4 per cent of the land is suitable for agriculture. The country has vast expanses of territory which could be cultivated but, in many parts, geographical barriers and other problems including poor and lack of infrastructure, infestation with tsetse flies, and black flies which cause river blindness, make it impossible.

Tanzania has only a small industrial sector producing light consumer goods including import-substitution items. A number of agricultural products are also processed in the country. But there are a lot of minerals. Some of them have been discovered only recently. In fact, Tanzania is one of the largest producers of gold in Africa. It has, at different times, ranked second after South Africa, and third after Ghana.

Tanzania also is the only country where Tanzanite, a highly precious mineral, is found. And large deposits of uranium have also been found in the southwestern part of the country east of Lake Nyasa.

In Tanzania, the lake is still known as Lake Nyasa not Lake Malawi. The boundary dispute has not yet been settled and Tanzania still maintains that almost half the entire lake is part of its territory.

Tanzania also is one of the world's leading producers of industrial diamonds. It also has large amounts of nickel, platinum and other minerals.

Large quantities of gas have also been found in Tanzania in recent years. The gas fields in Mtwara Region which borders Mozambique in the south have enough supply to meet the region's demand for 800 years. The gas is also being used to produce electricity for other parts of the country including Dar es Salaam. The rest is used for cooking.

Tanzania also has large reserves of coal and iron in Mbeya and Iringa regions in the southwest and coal will be used to generate electricity to help meet the nation's demand.

Also a rare mineral, coltan, has been found in Mbeya Region in recent years.

It's found in only a few countries in the world including the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Russia and is used in the development of missile guidance systems and other areas of high technology including the manufacture of computers and cell phones.

In fact, in the sixties, the coltan the United States used in the development if its missiles came from Congo. And its main rival, the Soviet Union, was the only other country which had a large supply of coltan during that period at the height of the Cold War.

There is also speculation that the Tanzania may have large quantities of petroleum, based on exploratory findings in different parts of the country including the areas of Rufiji Delta and other parts of the coastal region. The island of Pemba and other parts in the Indian Ocean have also attracted investors prospecting for oil.

Tanzania also is known worldwide for its national parks and scenic beauty with many geographical wonders. The majestic Kilimanjaro is not only the highest mountain in Africa; it's the highest lone-standing mountain in the world. And its ice-capped peaks – with all the heat and sunshine in the heart of the tropics – is a spectacular sight adding to its magnificent splendour drawing tourists from all over the world every year.

Lake Victoria, which Tanzania shares with Kenya and Uganda but whose largest part – an entire half – is in Tanzania, is the world's second-largest freshwater lake after Lake Superior in North America. And Lake Tanganyika is the world's second deepest lake after Lake Baikal in Russia.

The most famous national park in the world, Serengeti, is in Tanzania. Another world-famous natural reserve is the Ngorongoro Conservation Area known for its yearly migration of wildebeest between Tanzania and Kenya (Masai Mara).

It's estimated that 250,000 wildebeest perish every year in their long migration in search of food during the dry season.

The area is also known for other spectacular views. And it's the area where Dr. L.S.B. Leakey with his wife Mary found what are believed to be the remains of man's earliest ancestor, or one of the earliest.

They found the remains in the Olduvai Gorge in the Ngorongoro Crater. And the Olduvai Gorge is generally referred to as the cradle of mankind by many people in the scientific community around the world.

Considering its size, Tanzania is a sparsely populated country. But there are areas of high density, especially in the highlands of the northeast and southwest, along the coast and in the northwestern part of the country, and in the former island nation of Zanzibar.

Most of the black Africans in Tanzania belong to the Bantu linguistic group and speak related languages.

The Sukuma is the largest ethnic group with about 3 million people. They live mostly in Mwanza Region south of Lake Victoria in northern Tanzania.

The other large ethnic groups include the Nyamwezi, the second-largest, who are also closely related to the Sukuma; the Haya, the Chaga, the Nyakyusa, the Gogo, and the Ha, also known as Waha in Kiswahili. Each of these groups has more than 1 million people.

The Hehe, the Yao, the Makonde, the Ngoni, and the Pare are also some of the major ethnic groups in terms of numbers.

And they are all Bantu groups.

Nilotic groups include the Maasai and the Luo.

There are also many Hutus and Tutsis who are citizens of Tanzania. The majority of them were once refugees who later applied for citizenship after fleeing from the turmoil in their home countries of Rwanda and Burundi which have been wracked by civil wars through the years since independence and even before then.

The vast majority of the people in the former island nation of Zanzibar migrated from the mainland through the centuries and even comparatively recently in the twentieth century. For example, Abeid Karume, the first president of Zanzibar after the January 1964 revolution which overthrew the Arab sultanate, was of Malawian origin. Malawi was known as Nyasaland before independence and many Nyasas settled in Zanzibar during and before British colonial rule.

Both the mainland and the isles have significant numbers of racial minorities, mainly Indians and Arabs. Zanzibar has a higher percentage of people of Persian origin who trace their ancestry to Shiraz in what is now Iran which was known as Persia until 1935.

On the mainland, one of the most prominent national leaders is Rostam Aziz, an Iranian – a Tanzanian of Iranian origin – and member of a parliament who has been highly influential in national politics in recent years, including the 2005 presidential election.

People of Asian, Arab, and European origin especially British, have also played and continue to play important roles in national life.

They include Amir H. Jamal, of Indian origin, who was a cabinet member for many years since independence and one of the most prominent Third World leaders; Derek Bryceson, of British origin, who was also in the first independence cabinet like Jamal and continued to be a cabinet minister through the years; Dr. Leader Sterling, also of British origin, and cabinet member under Nyerere; Abdulrahman Mohammed Babu, an Arab from Zanzibar, who was one of the most prominent cabinet members in the union government.

Others include Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim, an Arab from Zanzibar, who once served as Tanzania's permanent representative to the UN for many years and later as prime minister, minister of foreign affairs, and minister of defence at different times under Nyerere.

He was also the longest-serving secretary-general of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and reportedly stayed in that post for a long time because of Nyerere's support. When Nyerere stepped down from the presidency in 1985, he asked Salim to run for president but Salim declined, according to Salim himself at a press conference in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in 2005 when he was running for president.

But Salim's quest for the presidency also highlighted some fault lines in the nation where divisions on the basis of ethnic and racial identity seem to have acquired some kind of “legitimacy”since the introduction of multi-party politics in the early and mid-nineties.

Some people were resolutely opposed to his candidacy simply because he was an Arab. Salim invoked Nyerere's legacy and commitment to racial equality to condemn his detractors. As one Tanzanian writer, Godfrey Mwakikagile, states in his book Life in Tanganyika in The Fifties:

“Europeans may have divided us - in fact only about 171 ethnic groups out more than 1,000 across Africa were split by colonial boundaries - but they also united us. As Nyerere conceded, colonialism created a sense of oneness among Africans.

But it is a oneness that has come under severe strain during the post-colonial era as has been clearly demonstrated by ethnic conflicts in many African countries simply because many people don't accept each other and would rather favour members of their own tribes than treat everybody as an equal.

That was not the case during colonial rule. Tribal or ethnic conflicts as open warfare were rare. It is as if we needed colonial rulers to maintain peace and hold us together.

Once they left, we turned against each on ethnic or tribal basis in an orgy of violence in many cases never witnessed before even in the past.

And large chunks of Africa are still blood-soaked on an unprecedented scale.

Tanzania has been spared this scourge in its most virulent form. But tribalism is a potent force anywhere on the continent especially in sub-Saharan Africa and it is a potential danger that cannot be ignored even in Tanzania. We ignore it only at our peril.

In fact, since the introduction of multiparty democracy in Tanzania in the early nineties, unscrupulous elements have tried to exploit ethnoregional rivalries and loyalties in pursuit of partisan interests to the detriment of national unity.

They include leaders of the Civic United Front (CUF) in Zanzibar, especially on Pemba island; and Reverend Christopher Mtikila, the leader of the Democratic Party on Tanzania mainland who wants the union dissolved and is openly hostile towards Tanzanians of Asian origin, Arabs and other non-blacks and wants them expelled from the country. And there are others of his ilk, with the same warped mind.

Mtikila espouses doctrines reminiscent of the African National Congress (ANC) in Tanganyika in the late fifties and early sixties when the party was led by Zuberi Mtemvu and was virulently anti-white, anti-Asian and against other non-blacks even if they were citizens of Tanganyika. The party's doctrine of Tanganyika for Tanganyikans echoed the sentiments of other racial purists whose invocation of the slogan 'Africa for Africans' meant only one thing: Africa for black Africans.

It was divisive then, and it is divisive today. And so is tribalism which has torn the social fabric of many African countries and continues to do so. It is a continental phenomenon and a perennial problem.

Although Tanzania may have been spared the agony, it is not immune from this deadly disease, this malignant cancer of tribalism and racism, and may one day suffer the same way other African countries have. As Professor Haroub Othman, a Tanzanian originally from Zanzibar who taught at the University of Dar es Salaam, stated in his lecture, "Mwalimu Julius Nyerere: An Intellectual in Power," delivered at the University of Cape Town on 14 October 2005:

'Julius Nyerere was always non-racial in his perspective, and this at times got him into conflict with his colleagues both in the ruling Party and Government.

During the days of the struggle for Tanganyika’s independence, he rejected the position of the 'Africanists' within TANU who put forward the slogan 'Africa for Africans,' meaning black Africans.

In 1958 at the TANU National Conference in Tabora when some leaders strongly opposed TANU’s participation in the colonially-proposed tripartite elections, where the voter had to vote for three candidates from the lists of Africans, Asians and Europeans, Julius Nyerere stood firm in recommending acceptance of the proposals. This led to the 'Africanists' marching out of TANU and forming the African National Congress.

It is extremely worrying that this racist monster is reappearing now in Tanzania. Some politicians in their quest for power are using the racist card, as manifested both at last May’s Chimwaga Congress of the ruling party, CCM, and in the on-going election campaigns.

It is very unfortunate that no stern measures are being taken against this trend, thus giving the impression that the country’s leadership is condoning it.'

Tanzania remains an island of stability in a turbulent region. But if racism and tribalism go unchecked, it could end up being one of the deadliest theatres of conflict because of a combination of highly combustible elements in the country including a large number tribes or ethnic groups (126); significant numbers of racial minorities, and disruptive religious forces especially of the fundamentalist kind among both Christians (exemplified by Reverend Christopher Mtikila) and Muslims especially in Zanzibar who want turn the isles and coastal regions of Tanzania into a hotbed of radical Islam or Islamic fundamentalism intolerant of others.

One of the best examples of the malignancy of racism in Tanzania was the virulent campaign against Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim, an Arab, whose presidential ambitions in 2005 were thwarted by black nationalist elements within the ruling party itself (CCM) who questioned his credentials as a national leader simply because he is an Arab; although he is also of Nyamwezi and Manyema descent on his mother's side, an ancestry rooted in two ethnic groups native to western Tanzania and eastern Congo, respectively, with the Manyema also being resident mainly in what is now Kigoma Region.

His most vociferous opponents were fellow Zanzibaris, black delegates from the ruling party, Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) - which means the Party of the Revolution or the Revolutionary Party - at the party's convention at Chamwino near Dodoma in central Tanzania where the ruling party's leaders chose their presidential candidate in April 2005.

His enemies also claimed that he was not a Tanzanian because his father was born in Oman. Yet, as Dr. Salim explained, and as many people who know about his family equally stated, both of his parents were born in Zanzibar; so were his grandparents.

It's also interesting that his political enemies never questioned the credentials of Amani Karume, the president of Zanzibar and son of the first president of Zanzibar Abeid Karume, although his mother is an Arab if being Arab or partly Arab - or being white or of Asian origin - is indeed a disqualification in the quest for leadership in Tanzania. Yet Karume's partial Arab identity or ancestry was never a major factor, if it was one at all, in his quest for high office.

Still, the detractors of Dr. Salim raised questions about his credentials as a national leader and as a true patriot, and in spite of the fact that President Nyerere trusted him and even wanted him to be his successor after Mwalimu stepped down from the presidency in 1985.

During the 2005 presidential campaign, Salim himself publicly stated at a press conference in Dar es Salaam that Mwalimu Nyerere asked him to run for president in 1985 in order to succeed him, and again in 1995, but declined to do so for a number of reasons.

One of those reasons, although he did not publicly say so, was that he faced stiff opposition from some black nationalist leaders in Zanzibar who were resolutely opposed to his candidacy in 1985 and in 1995. And they were just as resolute and uncompromising in their opposition to his candidacy in 2005 as were a number of others on the mainland as well.

Dr. Salim also pointed out that there were many Tanzanians who were of mixed ancestry like him, and many others who were just Arab, Asian or of European stock and were entitled to equal treatment just like any other citizens of Tanzania.

He also reminded his detractors that if such discrimination continued, it would destroy Tanzania as Nyerere himself warned not long before Tanganyika won independence and again through the years when he was president.

Nyerere himself appointed Salim Ahmed Salim ambassador to the UN, minister of defence, minister of foreign affairs, and prime minister at different times through the years; something he never would have done if he did not trust him as a capable and credible national leader; if he thought he was an Arab supremacist as some of Salim's enemies claimed, and if he thought he was - together with Abdulrahman Mohammed Babu and other suspects - one of those who masterminded the assassination of Tanzania's first vice president and president of Zanzibar, Abeid Karume, as his detractors also claimed.

In fact, Dr. Salim held the largest number of the highest posts in the government, at different times, more than any other leader in the history of Tanganyika and Tanzania besides Nyerere himself who also once served as prime minister and had the defence and foreign affairs portfolios at other times directly under his control in the president's office.

No other Tanzanian leader had, at different times, served as minister of defence, minister of foreign affairs, deputy prime minister, and prime minister besides Dr. Salim. And he was, besides Foreign Affairs Minister Jakaya Kikwete, the strongest presidential candidate in 2005 (and was said to have the support of the political heavyweights in the ruling party including President Benjamin Mkapa himself) until some people fabricated a story linking him to an Arab supremacist group, accusing him of being a racist. As Ernest Mpingajira stated in his article 'In Bed with the State' published in Intelligence 2005:

'In April this year, two very experienced editors, Said Nguba and Mhingo Rweyemamu, committed what amounted to professional impropriety.

They manipulated a picture of former OAU secretary-general, Dr Salim Ahmed Salim, and cast him as a member of an Islamic terrorist group Hizbu.

At the time this happened, Dr Salim was running neck and neck for the Chama Cha Mapinduzi presidential nomination against the eventual victor, Jakaya Kikwete. Dr Salim looked set to win the nomination to vie for the presidency in the October 30 General Election.

Within the CCM ranks, Dr Salim’s encroachment on Kikwete’s turf was a major threat and his wings had to be clipped at whatever cost.

The offensive picture was fished out of the archives, manipulated and published on page one of Mwananchi Kiswahili daily. It portrayed Dr Salim as a racist and an Arab supremacist who masterminded the assassination of Zanzibar’s first president, Abeid Amani Karume.


Foremost diplomat

Naturally, Dr Salim protested, but the damage had been done. For the time being, Tanzania’s foremost diplomat will never shake off this tag for the rest of his political life.

The two Mwananchi editors, Nguba and Rweyemamu, were given their marching orders by their employer but for Dr Salim, the die had been cast; he lost to Kikwete, who is likely to become Tanzania’s president in the October polls.'

Race seems to have gained prominence in Tanzanian politics, although not in national life, in a way it never did before, especially under Nyerere who did not condone such bigotry. And it is a threat to national unity.

It is a tragedy that while others, including the developed countries of Europe, talk about the imperative need for unity, we seem to glorify disunity on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin and other irrelevant criteria.

Race is definitely a factor and a potent force. But tribal loyalty is paramount in African countries most of which are predominantly black.

And as African countries are fractured along ethnoregional lines, we remain weak in a world where the weak are an expendable commodity especially in this era of globalisation while at the same time we complain that we are being dominated by outsiders.” - (Godfrey Mwakikagile, Life in Tanganyika in The Fifties, Second Edition, Continental Press, pp. 80 – 85).

Altogether, racial minorities constitute about 1 per cent of Tanzania's population in a nation of about 40 million, according to 2008 estimates.

Therefore there are about 400,000 racial minorities, mostly Asian and Arab, but numbers vary.

In the sixties and seventies, many Tanzanians, mostly of Asian origin, left the country for different reasons including what they considered to be a hostile economic environment because of the country's socialist policies which included nationalisation of private property as stipulated by the government; hostility towards them by some of their fellow countrymen of black African origin; uncertain future in the new dispensation under black majority rule; and better opportunities in other countries especially in the West.

Most of them migrated to Britain. Some of them were British citizens and already had British passports. And today, there are tens of thousands of Tanzanians or people of Tanzanian origin living in Britain. It's the largest community of Tanzanians living overseas.

There are also tens of thousands of Tanzanians of Asian origin living in Tanzania. They include Hindus, Pakistanis, Sikhs, Goans, Parsis as well as a number of others such as Indonesians, Chinese, Malaysians and Japanese.

Arabs also constitute a significant community. And there are about 10,000 whites living in Tanzania.

The religious composition is almost evenly distributed. About 35 per cent of Tanzanians are Muslim; more than 30 per cent Christian; and 35 per cent followers of African traditional religions.

The coastal regions are mostly Muslim for historical reasons. That's where the Arabs settled when they migrated to East Africa more than 1,300 years ago. And they are the ones who introduced Islam.

Zanzibar is more than 99 per cent Muslim.

Tanzania also is home to hundreds of thousands of refugees from neighbouring countries, mainly Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It has been a haven for refugees for decades since independence and even before then.

In fact, for decades, Tanzania has had the largest number of refugees in Africa and one of the largest in the entire world.

A large number of Somalis have also found sanctuary in Tanzania after their country collapsed in the nineties. And they have easily blended into Tanzanian society because of the large number of Somalis who are citizens of Tanzania. The country has had a significant number of Somalis almost throughout its history because of its gographical location not far from Somalia.

A significant number of Ethiopians have also sought refuge in Tanzania. In fact, one tribe of Ethiopian origin, the Iraqw, has been in Tanzania for centuries.

The Iraqw migrated from the highlands of southern Ethiopia about 2,000 years ago. They speak a Cushitic language. Only a few other people in Tanzania speak Cushitic languages. They include the Mbugu, or Wambugu, who live in the Usambara mountains in northeastern Tanzania.

As recently as 2008, Tanzania was home to more than half-a-million refugees from the neighbouring countries of Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). And many of them have been offered citizenship through the years.

In fact, throughout its history since independence, Tanzania has provided sanctuary to refugees more than any other African country. And it continues to do so.

And all the people, including the refugees who have lived in Tanzania for quite some time, are bound by a common language, Kiswahili, which is also known as Swahili.

Kiswahili also is the native language of black Africans in Zanzibar and along the coast. Some blacks along the coast of Tanzania mainland also speak indigenous languages but their primary language is Kiswahili. Many people along the coast are a product of mixed ancestry, Arab and African, and the only language they know is Kiswahili. They are also known as Waswahili as a distinct ethnic and cultural group.

Kiswahili is the most widely spoken African language in Africa in terms of the number of countries where it's spoken. And it's the only African language which is one of the official languages used in the African Union (AU).

It's also the most widely taught African language in the world. It's taught in schools, including colleges and universities, in different countries and on different continents more than any other African language and is recognised as one of the 10 major languages in the world. It's the world's seventh most spoken language.

It's Tanzania's national language and is also spoken in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Comoros, and parts of Somalia especially Mogadishu. And since 1963, Kiswahili has been one of the official languages of Kenya together with English.

There are also significant numbers of people who speak Kiswahili in Mozambique, Malawi, and Zambia; and smaller numbers in Madagascar, Mauritius, and the Seychelles.

There are also people who speak Kiswahili in the countries of southern Africa including Zimbabwe, South Africa, Namibia, Angola, Lesotho and Swaziland.

Many of them lived or were born and brought up in Tanzania during the days of the liberation struggle when they fled from white minority rule and sought refuge in Tanzania.

And the active role Tanzania played in supporting the liberation struggle in southern Africa cemented ties, including linguistic ties, between the people of Tanzania and southern Africa. For example, the former president of Mozambique, Joaquim Chissano is fluent in Kiswahili and even addressed the African Union (AU) in Kiswahili in June 2004 in his farewell speech as outgoing chairman of the continental organisation and urged fellow Africans to promote African languages and identity. He also encouraged them to learn Kiswahili.

Kenyan Professor Ali Mazrui also once addressed the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in Kiswahili to emphasise the importance and significance of African languages and the prominence of Kiswahili as a unifying language that transcends ethnicity and national identities and one that was also capable of handling complex ideas and concepts.

The origin of Kiswahili was the East African coast in what is now Kenya and Tanzania – including Zanzibar – where Arabs intermingled and intermarried with Africans for centuries.

The vocabulary and grammar of Kiswahili is African. It's mostly a Bantu language. It's structure also is Bantu. But it has incorporated into its vocabulary many words from other languages and is about 25 – 30 per cent Arabic. A few words come from English, Portuguese, and Hindi; and even fewer from German – for example the word hela for money.

Words of Portuguese origin include meza which means table in Kiswahili. In Portuguese – and Spanish – the word is mesa.

But although Tanzanians speak a common language, Kiswahili, members of different ethnic and racial groups also speak their own languages. At least 130 tribal or black African languages are spoken in Tanzania.

Some of the tribes straddle national borders. They include the Maasai, the Luo and the Kuria who are found on both sides of Kenya and Tanzania; the Makonde, the Yao and the Makua found in Tanzania and Mozambique; the Nyakyusa who straddle the Tanzania-Malawi border; and the Mambwe and the Nyamwanga who live on both sides of the border between Tanzania and Zambia.

Among non-black African languages, English is the most widely spoken and is second only to Kiswahili in usage. Arabic also is widely spoken by the Arabs and a significant number of black African Muslims.

The largest number of people who speak Arabic live in the former island nation of Zanzibar where the language is widely spoken mostly by Arabs but also by a large number of black Africans and Afro-Shirazis.

Hindi and Gujerati are the main languages spoken by Tanzanians of Asian origin and other residents of Tanzania mostly from the Indian sub-continent who are not Tanzanian citizens.

Portuguese is also spoken in Tanzania by significant numbers of people from Mozambique living in Tanzania. The majority are black Mozambicans. There are also Tanzanians of Mozambican origin who speak Portuguese which is the official language of Mozambique.

They are mostly members of the Makonde, Makua and Yao tribes and they speak Portuguese in addition to their tribal languages and Kiswahili.

German was also once spoken by a significant number of people including black Africans – even long after the Germans lost Tanganyika in World War I – since the country was once a Germany colony. But most of them are dead and only very few are still alive and speak the language. There are also a few descendants of the German settlers who still live in Tanzania.

One of the most well-known German settlements was in the Usambara mountains in northeastern Tanzania.

Most of the members of racial minorities live in towns and cities across the country.

But there are some who live in the rural areas where they own farms and other businesses, including recent white immigrants from Zimbabwe and South Africa. And the vast majority of black Africans live in villages in different parts of Tanzania.

Poverty continues to be a major problem in Tanzania especially for the vast majority of the people in the rural areas. The introduction of free-market policies has done little to alleviate their plight....


David Lawrence, An Introduction to Tanzania

     ISBN  9780981425863