Tanzanian History


Figure 1.--Here we see Tanzanian school boys at a rather modernistic school receiving military training in 1970. At the time President Julius K. Nyerere was preaching Ujamaa and would soon use the Tanzanian Army to collectivize the rural population.

Few countries have a longer history than Tanzania. Archaeologist postulate that an estimated 3.6 million years ago, a party of two or three homonids trekked across the plain at Laetoli near Olduvai Gorge in northern Tanzania. They left their footprints in a blanket of volcanic ash. Mary Leakey uncovered them in 1978. She identified them as the steps of man's earliest known ancestors--Australopithecines, whose remains have been found only in East Africa (Tanzania and neigbboring Kenya). Modern Tanzania is the union of Zanzibar and Tanganika. Zanzibar was an Arab emirate which for centuries was a key port in the Arab Indian Ocean slave trade. The emirs were pressured by the British during the 19th century end the Indian Ocean slave trade. Zanzibar became a British protectorate (1890). Britain while suppressing the slave trade did not intervene substantially in domestic matters like education. The country today is peopled by more than 120 tribes of varying size and origins. The swahili language oiginated along the coast of Tanzaniaith an Arabic base. The first Europeans to reach Tanzania was the Portuguese explorer, Vasco da Gama (late-15th century). The Portuguese seized control of both Zanzibar and the coastal area. Omani Arabs seized control of Zanzibar (1699). The Germans, anxious to have an empire, seized control of what is now Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi--German East Africa (late 19th century). The British and Germans reached a deal as a part of the European Scramble for Africa. Tasnzania was a quiet part of the German Empire except for the Maji Maji revolt (1905). The British during World War I seized control of German East Africa. The British colony became Tanganika, as a League of Nations mandates. Britain granted Tanganika independence within the Commonwealth (1961). As Britain began granting independence ro its colonies, the situation on Zanzibar became unstable. After riots on Zanzibar following independence (1963), the island was united with Tanganika to form Tanzania (1964).

Pre-history

Few countries have a longer history than Tanzania. Archaeologist postulate that an estimated 3.6 million years ago, a party of two or three homonids trekked across the plain at Laetoli near Olduvai Gorge in northern Tanzania. They left their footprints in a blanket of volcanic ash. Mary Leakey uncovered them in 1978. She identified them as the steps of man's earliest known ancestors--Australopithecines, whose remains have been found only in East Africa (Tanzania and neigbboring Kenya).

Zanzibar

Modern Tanzania is the union of Zanzibar and Tanganika. Zanzibar was an Arab emirate which for centuries was a key port in the Arab Indian Ocean slave trade. Zanzibar has a long colorful history. The Assyrians and Sumerians were some of the various people to have traded with the ialand. Many other notable civilizations have traded with the island, including the Egyptians, Phoenicians, Indians, Chinese, Persians, Romans, Arabs, Ottomans, Portuguese, Dutch and English. Particularly importat were the Shirazi Persians and Omani Arabs who not only trades, but seized control of the island. As a result, the population od the island is predominately Muslim--as much as 97 percent. Arab traders soon after the Arab outburst following Mohammed's foundation of Islam reached Zanzibar (8th century). The oldest surviving building is the mosque at Kizimkazi (1107). Arab traders, especially those in Oman, mastered the Monsoon winds to trade in ivory, slaves and spices. Given the value of the trade, the Onanis established a permanent base on the two islands which make up Zanzibar: Unguja (the main island often called Zanzibar Island) and Pemba. Here the Arabs who were at first small in number defend themselves. From this base the Omani Arabs and their fleet eventually gained control of 1,000 miles of the mainland coast from what is now Mozambique to north to Somalia. Zanzibar became the center of the Indian Ocean slave trade. The wealth of Zanzibar and the African coiastal areas it controlled eventually led Sultan Seyyid Said, of the Busaid Dynasty, to transfer is capital from Muscat to Zanzibar (1832). Here the Busaid Dynasty would to continue to rule into the 1960s. While the Omanis were principal foreign group, there were others of some importance. The first were the Shirazi Persians (975). Shiraz is a city in Persia/Iran. A group migrated from Shiraz ad settled along the East Africa coast. The Shirazi had more interaction with the Africans and are believed to have been Intermarriage between Shirazis and Africans evolved into a coastal community with a variety of distinctive features, most importantly a language derived in part from Arabic--Swahili. The name Swahili comes from the Arab word 'sawahil' meaning 'coast'. Indian traders primarily interested in the spice and ivory trade also settled in Zanzibar. They became shopkeepers, traders, skilled artisans, and professionals. Political contro, howeverm remained in the hands of the Omani Arabs. Finally in the 19th century, The British arrived in East Africa. They were primarily involved in missionary and trading activities in East Africa and soon began atempting to suppress the slave trade which was centered in Zanzibar. Zanzibar became a British protectorate (1890). Britain while suppressing the slave trade did not intervene substantially in domestic matters like education.

Tribes

The country today is peopled by more than 120 tribes of varying size and origins.

Swahili

The Swahili language oiginated along the coast of Tanzaniaith an Arabic base.

The Portuguese

The first Europeans to reach Tanzania was the Portuguese explorer, Vasco da Gama (late-15th century). The Portuguese seized control of both Zanzibar and the coastal area. Omani Arabs seized back control of Zanzibar (1699).

German Colony

The Germans, anxious to have an empire, seized control of what is now Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi--German East Africa (late 19th century). The British and Germans reached a deal as a part of the European Scramble for Africa. Tanzania was a quiet part of the German Empire except for the Maji Maji revolt (1905).

World War I (1914-18)

The British during World War I seized control of German East Africa. Even though cut off from supplies and aid, the Germans put up quite afight. And while few except for a handful of historians know much about it, all of us who have enjoyed the Hollywood classic, 'African Queen', have been exposed to it. The campaign was a World war I side show, but it had areal impact on East Africa. Tragically as a result of the campaign, some 0.3 million Africns perished in the resulting campaign. Unlike World War II, Germany had colonies in Africa and the Pacific. Thus a series of colonial campaigns played out when war broke out in Europe. At the center of East Africa was the German colony of East Africa. This was the colony which is today Tanzania, before British Zanzibar added, Rwanda and Burundi. German East Africa was surrounded by Allied colonies: Kenya to the north, the Belgian Congo to the west and Portuguese East Africa (Mozambique) and the two British colonies of Nyasaland (modern Malawi) and Northern Rhodesia (modern Zambia) in the south. The British saw German East Africa as a threart to the sea India Ocean sea lanes to India. The German Navy, however did not have the capability of utilizing bases in East Africa anf the Royal Navy not only put in place a North Sea blockade of Germany, but isolated the German colonies in East and West Africa. Unlike other colonial campaigns, it would take the Brtish 4 years to complete the East African campaign. While the campaign was led by the Germans and British, but it was primarily Africana and some Indian troops that did the fighting. The campaign was a series of battles began with the British invasion of the German colony. The fighting aspread all over Est Africa (Mozambique, Northern Rhodesia, British East Africa, Uganda and the Belgian Congo). It finally essentially ended when the Germans retreated in to the jungles of Portuguese Mozambique (November 1917). There they lived off Portuguese supplies until the War ended.

Tanganika

German East Africa seizedby the British during World War I became British Tanganika, one of the League of Nations mandates.

Independence (1961-64)

Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere became Prime Minister of British-administered Tanganyika in 1960. Britain granted Tanganika independence within the Commonwealth (1961). He continued as Prime Minister in independent Tanganyika. As Britain continued granting independence to its colonies, the situation on Zanzibar became unstable. After riots on Zanzibar following independence (1963), the island was united with Tanganika to form Tanzania (1964). Nyerere became the new nations new president. He introduced what he described as Ujamaa (familyhood), a form of African socialism which he said focused on justice and equality. Justice for Nyerere did not include democracy and he became one of many strongment who set up authoritarian rule. He was closer to the truth with equality. Tanzanians under Nyerere became increasingly poor. Just as he had no place for democracy, he saw not value in capitalism. Like other African strongmen he thought that the economy would miaculously blossom once socialism was introduced. Nyerere has no real knowledge of either history or economics. He simply accepted socialism as basically a religious doctrine on faith. He decided to take some major steps toward soialism with the Arusha declaration (1967). He revealed to the Tanznian people his vision of a socialist future. Socialism proved no more sucessful in Tanzania than in any other country where it was tried. In fact it proved moreof a failure in Tanzania than in many other countries, because Nyerere's utopian vision wsmore forcefully implemented. Nyerere made the cornerstone of Ujamaa huge collective farms. The rural population was encouraged sometimes coercively, although at first nothing like Stalin's and Mao's collectivization to move into large villages in which the outpit (both agricultural and craft) would be produced collectively for the benefit of the whole community. The result was a disaster. As in other countres where agriculture was collectivized, production plunged. And as agriculture was such an important part of the economy, the Tanzanian economy was essentially wrecked. Rural communities resisted Ujamaa when they found that it meant collectivzation. By 1973 only about 20 percent of the population had moved to Nyerere's Ujamaa villages. Nyerere took off the kid gloves and used the Army to foribly collectivize the rural population. Wothin 4 years, 7 about 80 percent of the population had been resettled. Tanzania had been essentally a one-party state from an early point in Nyerere's rule. He made it officially a one party state, banning all but the governmnt party (1975). Idi Amin had seized control over Uganda, bordering Tanzania in the north. Amin Amin invaded the Kagera region of Tanzania (978). The Tanzanian Army counterattacked and rapidly overran all of Uganda, sending amin into exile in Saudi Arabia (1979). The Tanzanians withdrew (1981). Nyerere was re-elected president in sham (1980). As a result of his 20 year reign, the Tanzanian economy was virtually destroyed. And one party rule meant endemic corruption. Nyerere who began his rule on foreign countries, technology, and finance, was forced to borrow hevily on international markets to keep the lights on. This left Tanzania deep ino debt. International donors like the IMF demanded reform for additional loans. Nyerere was unwilling to back down on Ujamaa. He resigned (1985). Ali Hassan Mwinyi replaced him. He began to repair the damage done by Nyerere and Ujamaa. During 10 difficult years, Mwinyi set about dismanteling Ujamaa. Mwiyini privatized money-losing state-owned business. He batteled corruption. He began to encourage foreign investment. The result was for the first time sice independence, the Tanzanian ecinomy began to grow. Tanzania became a multi-party democracy (1992). Benjamin Mkapa was elected president in a free and fair election (1995). Jakaya Kikwete was elected president (2002)..








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Created: 5:41 AM 11/23/2009
Last updated: 5:57 PM 12/13/2016