U.S. Department of State
Background Notes: United Republic of Tanzania, May 1998
Released by the Office of East African Affairs, Bureau of African
Area: Mainland--945,000 sq. km. (378,000 sq. mi.); slightly smaller than
New Mexico and Texas combined. Zanzibar--1,658 sq. km. (640 sq. mi.).
Cities: Capital--Dar es Salaam (pop. 2.8 million); Dodoma (200,000),
Zanzibar Town (200,000 ), Tanga (460,000), Mwanza (480,000), Arusha
Climate: Varies from tropical to arid to temperate.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Tanzanian(s); Zanzibari(s).
Population: Mainland--29 million. Zanzibar--800,000.
Religions: Muslim 45%, Christian 45%, indigenous beliefs 10%.
Language: Kiswahili (official), English.
Education: Attendance--74% (primary). Literacy--67%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--98/1,000. Life expectancy--52 years.
Work force: Agriculture--80%. Industry, commerce, government--20%.
Independence: Tanganyika 1961, Zanzibar 1963; union formed 1964.
Branches: Executive--president (chief of state and commander in chief),
vice president, and prime minister. Legislative--unicameral National
Assembly (for the union), House of Representatives (for Zanzibar only).
Judicial--mainland: Court of Appeals, High Courts, resident Magistrate
Courts, district courts, primary courts. Zanzibar: High Court, people's
district courts, kadhis courts (Islamic courts).
Political parties: Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM), Civic United Front (CUF),
Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (CHADEMA), Union for Multiparty
Democracy (UMD), National Convention for Construction & Reform (NCCR),
National League for Democracy (NLD), Tanzania People's Party (TPP),
United People's Democratic Party (UPDP), National Reconstruction
Alliance (NRA), Popular National Party (PONA), Tanzania Democratic
Alliance Party (TADEA), Tanzania Labour Party (TLP), The United
Democratic Party (UDP).
Suffrage: Universal at 18.
Administrative subdivisions: 25 regions (20 on mainland, 3 on Zanzibar,
2 on Pemba).
Flag: Diagonal yellow-edged black band from lower left to upper right;
green field at upper left, blue field at lower right.
GDP (1997): $7.5 billion.
Annual growth rate: 3.6%.
Per capita income: $260.
Natural resources: Hydroelectric potential, coal, iron, gemstone, gold,
natural gas, nickel, diamonds.
Agriculture (60% of GDP): Products--coffee, cotton, tea, tobacco,
cloves, sisal, cashew nuts, maize.
Industry (10% of GDP): Types--textiles, agribusiness, light
manufacturing, oil refining, construction.
Trade: Exports--$793 million: coffee, cotton, tea, sisal, diamonds,
cashew nuts, tobacco, and cloves. Major markets--U.K., Germany, India,
Japan, Italy, and Far East. Imports--$1.2 billion: petroleum, consumer
goods, machinery and transport equipment, used clothing, chemicals,
pharmaceuticals. Major suppliers--U.K., Germany, Japan, India, Italy,
Population distribution in Tanzania is extremely uneven. Density varies
from 1 person per square kilometer (3/sq. mi.) in arid regions to 51 per
square kilometer (133/sq. mi.) in the mainland's well-watered highlands
and 134 per square kilometer (347/sq. mi.) on Zanzibar. More than 80% of
the population is rural. Dar es Salaam is the capital and largest city;
Dodoma, located in the center of Tanzania, has been designated to become
the new capital by the end of the decade.
The African population consists of more than 120 ethnic groups, of which
the Sukuma, Haya, Nyakyusa, Nyamwezi, and Chaga have more than 1 million
members. The majority of Tanzanians, including such large tribes as the
Sukuma and the Nyamwezi, are of Bantu stock. Groups of Nilotic or
related origin include the nomadic Masai and the Luo, both of which are
found in greater numbers in neighboring Kenya. Two small groups speak
languages of the Khoisan family peculiar to the Bushman and Hottentot
peoples. Cushitic-speaking peoples, originally from the Ethiopian
highlands, reside in a few areas of Tanzania.
Although much of Zanzibar's African population came from the mainland,
one group known as Shirazis traces its origins to the island's early
Persian settlers. Non-Africans residing on the mainland and Zanzibar
account for 1% of the total population. The Asian community, including
Hindus, Sikhs, Shi'a and Sunni Muslims, and Goans, has declined by 50%
in the past decade to 50,000 on the mainland and 4,000 on Zanzibar. An
estimated 70,000 Arabs and 10,000 Europeans reside in Tanzania.
Each ethnic group has its own language, but the national language is
Kiswahili, a Bantu-based tongue with strong Arabic borrowings.
Northern Tanganyika's famed Olduvai Gorge has provided rich evidence of
the area's prehistory, including fossil remains of some of humanity's
earliest ancestors. Discoveries suggest that East Africa may have been
the site of human origin.
Little is known of the history of Tanganyika's interior during the early
centuries of the Christian era. The area is believed to have been
inhabited originally by ethnic groups using a click-tongue language
similar to that of Southern Africa's Bushmen and Hottentots. Although
remnants of these early tribes still exist, most were gradually
displaced by Bantu farmers migrating from the west and south and by
Nilotes and related northern peoples. Some of these groups had well-
organized societies and controlled extensive areas by the time the Arab
slavers, European explorers, and missionaries penetrated the interior in
the first half of the 19th century.
The coastal area first felt the impact of foreign influence as early as
the 8th century, when Arab traders arrived. By the 12th century, traders
and immigrants came from as far away as Persia (now Iran) and India.
They built a series of highly developed city and trading states along
the coast, the principal one being Kilwa, a settlement of Persian origin
that held ascendancy until the Portuguese destroyed it in the early
The Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama explored the East African coast
in 1498 on his voyage to India. By 1506, the Portuguese claimed control
over the entire coast. This control was nominal, however, because the
Portuguese did not colonize the area or explore the interior. Assisted
by Omani Arabs, the indigenous coastal dwellers succeeded in driving the
Portuguese from the area north of the Ruvuma River by the early 18th
century. Claiming the coastal strip, Omani Sultan Seyyid Said (1804-56)
moved his capital to Zanzibar in 1841.
European exploration of the interior began in the mid-19th century. Two
German missionaries reached Mt. Kilimanjaro in the 1940s. British
explorers Richard Burton and John Speke crossed the interior to Lake
Tanganyika in 1857. David Livingstone, the Scottish missionary-explorer
who crusaded against the slave trade, established his last mission at
Ujiji, where he was "found" by Henry Morton Stanley, an American
journalist-explorer, who had been commissioned by the New York Herald to
German colonial interests were first advanced in 1884. Karl Peters, who
formed the Society for German Colonization, concluded a series of
treaties by which tribal chiefs in the interior accepted German
"protection." Prince Otto von Bismarck's government backed Peters in the
subsequent establishment of the German East Africa Company.
In 1886 and 1890, Anglo-German agreements were negotiated that
delineated the British and German spheres of influence in the interior
of East Africa and along the coastal strip previously claimed by the
Omani sultan of Zanzibar. In 1891, the German Government took over
direct administration of the territory from the German East Africa
Company and appointed a governor with headquarters at Dar es Salaam.
Although the German colonial administration brought cash crops,
railroads, and roads to Tanganyika, European rule provoked African
resistance, culminating in the Maji Maji rebellion of 1905-07. The
rebellion, which temporarily united a number of southern tribes and
ended only after and estimated 120,000 Africans had died from fighting
or starvation, is considered by most Tanzanians to have been one of the
first stirrings of nationalism.
German colonial domination of Tanganyika ended after World War I when
control of most of the territory passed to the United Kingdom under a
League of Nations mandate. After World War II, Tanganyika became a UN
trust territory under British control. Subsequent years witnessed
Tanganyika moving gradually toward self-government and independence.
In 1954, Julius K. Nyerere, a schoolteacher who was then one of only two
Tanganyikans educated abroad at the university level, organized a
political party--the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU). TANU-
supported candidates were victorious in the Legislative Council
elections of September 1958 and February 1959. In December 1959, the
United Kingdom agreed to the establishment of internal self-government
following general elections to be held in August 1960. Nyerere was named
chief minister of the subsequent government.
In May 1961, Tanganyika became autonomous, and Nyerere became prime
minister under a new constitution. Full independence was achieved on
December 9, 1961. Mr. Nyerere was elected President when Tanganyika
became a republic within the Commonwealth a year after independence.
An early Arab/Persian trading center, Zanzibar fell under Portuguese
domination in the 16th and early 17th centuries but was retaken by Omani
Arabs in the early 18th century. The height of Arab rule came during the
reign of Sultan Seyyid Said, who encouraged the development of clove
plantations, using the island's slave labor.
The Arabs established their own garrisons at Zanzibar, Pemba, and Kilwa
and carried on a lucrative trade in slaves and ivory. By 1840, Said had
transferred his capital from Muscat to Zanzibar and established a ruling
Arab elite. The island's commerce fell increasingly into the hands of
traders from the Indian subcontinent, who Said encouraged to settle on
Zanzibar's spices attracted ships from as far away as the United States.
A U.S. consulate was established on the island in 1837. The United
Kingdom's early interest in Zanzibar was motivated by both commerce and
the determination to end the slave trade. In 1822, the British signed
the first of a series of treaties with Sultan Said to curb this trade,
but not until 1876 was the sale of slaves finally prohibited.
The Anglo-German agreement of 1890 made Zanzibar and Pemba a British
protectorate. British rule through a sultan remained largely uncharged
from the late 19th century until after World War II.
Zanzibar's political development began in earnest after 1956, when
provision was first made for the election of six non-government members
to the Legislative Council. Two parties were formed: the Zanzibar
Nationalist Party (ZNP), presenting the dominant Arab and "Arabized"
minority, and the Afro-Shirazi Party (ASP), led by Abaid Karume and
representing the Shirazis and the African majority.
The first elections were held in July 1957, and the ASP won three of the
six elected seats, with the remainder going to independents. Following
the election, the ASP split; some of its Shirazi supporters left to form
the Zanzibar and Pemba People's Party (ZPPP). The January 1961 election
resulted in a deadlock between the ASP and a ZNP-ZPPP coalition.
On April 26, 1964, Tanganyika united with Zanzibar to form the United
Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, renamed the United Republic of
Tanzania on October 29.
United Republic of Tanzania
TANU and the Afro-Shirazi Party of Zanzibar were merged into a single
party (Chama cha Mapinduzi--CCM Revolutionary Party) on February 5,
1977. On April 26, 1977, the union of the two parties was ratified in a
new constitution. The merger was reinforced by principles enunciated in
the 1982 union constitution and reaffirmed in the constitution of 1984.
The elections that followed the granting of self-government in June 1963
produced similar results. Zanzibar received its independence from the
United Kingdom on December 19, 1963, as a constitutional monarchy under
the sultan. On January 12, 1964, the African majority revolted against
the sultan, and a new government was formed with the ASP leader, Abeid
Karume, as president of Zanzibar and chairman of the Revolutionary
Council. Under the terms of its political union with Tanganyika in April
1964, the Zanzibar Government retained considerable local autonomy.
Abeid Karume was named First Vice President of the union government, a
post he held until his assassination in April 1972. Aboud Jumbe, a
fellow member of the ASP and the Revolutionary Council, was appointed to
succeed Karume. In 1981, 32 persons were selected to serve in the
Zanzibar House of Representatives. The election marked the first poll
since the 1964 revolution. In 1984, Jumbe resigned and was replaced by
Ali Hassan Mwinyi as both President of Zanzibar and First Vice President
of Tanzania. In the election of 1985, Mwinyi was elected President of
the United Republic of Tanzania; Idris Wakil was elected President of
Zanzibar and Second Vice President of Tanzania. In 1990, Wakil retired
and was replaced as President of Zanzaibar by Salmin Amour.
In 1977, Nyerere merged TANU with the Zanzibar ruling party, the ASP, to
form the CCM as the sole ruling party in both parts of the union. The
CCM was to be the sole instrument for mobilizing and controlling the
population in all significant political or economic activities. He
envisioned the party as a "two-way street" for the flow of ideas and
policy directives between the village level and the government.
President Nyerere handed over power to his successor, President Ali
Hassan Mwinyi, in 1985, Nyerere retained his position as Chairman of the
ruling party for five more years, but in 1990, this post also was passed
on to Mwinyi, who started his last five-year terms at that time. Nyerere
retired from formal politics but remains influential behind the scenes.
In 1990, in response to the currents of democracy sweeping much of the
world, Tanzania began making substantial changes to its political
Tanzania's president, vice president, and National Assembly members are
elected concurrently by direct popular vote for 5-year terms. The
president appoints a prime minister who serves as the government's
leader in the National Assembly. The president also selects his cabinet
from among National Assembly members.
The unicameral National Assembly has 275 members, 232 of whom are
elected from the mainland and Zanzibar. There are 37 appointed seats for
women, and each political party receives a proportion of appointed seats
commensurate with the number of constituency seats won. Also, five
members are elected by the Zanzibar House of Representatives to
participate in the National Assembly. At present, the ruling CCM holds
about 80% of the seats in the Assembly. Laws passed by the National
Assembly are valid for Zanzibar only in specifically designated union
Zanzibar's own House of Representatives has jurisdiction over all non-
union matters. There are currently 76 members in the House of
Representatives in Zanzibar, including 50 elected by the people, 10
appointed by the president of Zanzibar, 5 ex-officio members, 10 women
appointed by political parties commensurate with constituency seats won,
and an attorney general appointed by the president. Zanzibar's House of
Representatives can make laws for Zanzibar without the approval of the
union government. The terms of office for Zanzibar's president and House
of Representatives are also 5 years. The semiautonomous relationship
between Zanzibar and the union is a relatively unique system of
Tanzania has a five-level judiciary combining the jurisdictions of
tribal, Islamic, and British common law. Appeal is from the primary
courts through the district courts, resident magistrate courts, to the
high courts, and Court of Appeals. Judges are appointed by the Chief
Justice, except those for the Court of Appeals and the High Court who
are appointed by the president. The Zanzibari court system parallels the
legal system of the union, and all cases tried in Zanzibari courts,
except for those involving constitutional issues and Islamic law, can be
appealed to the Court of Appeals of the union.
For administrative purposes, Tanzania is divided into 25 regions--20 on
the mainland, 3 on Zanzibar, and 2 on Pemba. Since 1972, a
decentralization program on the mainland has worked to increase the
authority of the regions. On July 1, 1983, the government reinstated 99
district councils to further increase local authority. Of the 99
councils operating in 86 districts, 19 are urban and 80 are rural. The
19 urban units are classified further as city (Dar es Salaam), municipal
(Arusha, Dodoma, Tanga), and town councils (the remaining 15
Principal Government Officials
President--Benjamin W. Mkapa
Vice President--Dr. Omar Ali Juma
Prime Minister--Frederick T. Sumaye
President of Zanzibar--Dr. Salmin Amour
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Jakaya Kikwete
Ambassador to the United States--Mustafa Nyang'anyi
Ambassador to the United Nations--Daudi Mwakawago
Tanzania maintains an embassy in the United States at 2139 R Street NW,
Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-939-6125).
From independence in 1961 until the mid 1980s, Tanzania was a one-party
state, with a socialist model of economic development. Founding Father
and first president Julius Nyerere used the Kiswahili word "ujamaa"
(familyhood) to describe the ideal of communal cooperation his
government sought to foster.
National goals were set forth in more conventional socialist terms in
the TANU constitution and reaffirmed in February 1967 in a party
document, the Arusha Declaration. This declaration enunciated the
principles of socialism and self-reliance, laying the foundation for
government nationalization of the means of production. The Arusha
Declaration also placed emphasis on improving rural living standards.
Beginning in the mid-1980s, under the administration of President Ali
Hassan Mwinyi, Tanzania undertook a number of political and economic
reforms. In January and February 1992, the government decided to adopt
multiparty democracy. Legal and constitutional changes led to the
registration of 11 political parties. Two parliamentary by-elections
(won by CCM) in early 1994 were the first-ever multiparty elections in
In October and November 1995, Tanzania held its first multiparty general
elections. The ruling CCM party's candidate, Benjamin W. Mkapa, defeated
his three main rivals, winning the presidential election with 62% of the
vote. In the parliamentary elections, CCM won 186 of the elected seats,
while the two main opposition parties CUF and NCCR won 24 seats and 16
In the Zanzibar presidential election, incumbent CCM candidate Salmin
Amour was declared the winner over rival CUF contender, Seif Sharif
Hamad, in a controversial decision by the Zanzibar Electoral Commission.
In the elections for Zanzibar's House of Representatives, CCM won 26
seats versus CUF's 24 seats, although the latter party decided to
boycott the legislature as a protest against the Zanzibar presidential
President Mkapa, Vice President Omar Ali Juma, Prime Minister Frederick
Sumaye, and National Assembly members will serve until the next general
elections in 2000. Similarly, Zanzibar President Salmin Amour and
members of the Zanzibar House of Representatives also will complete
their terms of office in 2000.
Significant measures have been taken to liberalize the Tanzanian economy
along market lines and encourage both foreign and domestic private
investment. Beginning In 1986, the Government of Tanzania embarked on an
adjustment program to dismantle state economic controls and encourage
more active participation of the private sector in the economy. The
program included a comprehensive package of policies which reduced the
budget deficit and improved monetary control, substantially depreciated
the overvalued exchange rate, liberalized the trade regime, removed most
price controls, eased restrictions on the marketing of food crops, freed
interest rates, and initiated a restructuring of the financial sector.
The Tanzanian Government agreed to a new 3-year Enhanced Structural
Adjustment Facility (ESAF) arrangement with the International Monetary
Fund in November 1996. Tanzania also embarked on a major restructuring
of state-owned enterprises. The program aims at privatizing some 425
parastatals. Overall, real economic growth has averaged about 4% a year,
much better than the previous 20 years, but not enough to improve the
lives of average Tanzanians. Also, the economy remains overwhelmingly
donor-dependent. Moreover, Tanzania has a heavy debt burden. with an
external debt of nearly $8 billion at the end of 1997.
The servicing of this debt absorbs about 40 % of total government
Agriculture dominates the economy, providing more than 60% of GDP and
80% of employment. Cash crops, including coffee, tea, cotton, cashews,
sisal, cloves, and pyrethrum account for the vast majority of export
earnings. The volume of all major crops--both cash and goods, which have
been marketed through official channels--has increased over the past few
years, but large amounts of produce never reach the market. Poor pricing
and unreliable cash-flow to farmers continue to frustrate the
Accounting for only about 10% of GDP, Tanzania's industrial sector is
one of the smallest in Africa. It has been hit hard recently by
persistent power shortages caused by low rainfall in the hydroelectric
dam catchment area, a condition compounded by years of neglect and bad
management at the state-controlled electric company.
The main industrial activities include producing raw materials, import
substitutes, and processed agricultural products. Foreign exchange
shortages and mismanagement continue to deprive factories of much-needed
spare parts and have reduced factory capacity to less than 30%.
Despite Tanzania's past record of political stability, an unattractive
investment climate has discouraged foreign investment. Government steps
to improve that climate include redrawing tax codes, floating the
exchange rate, licensing foreign banks, and creating an investment
promotion center to cut red tape. In terms of mineral resources and the
largely untapped tourism sector, Tanzania could become a viable and
attractive market for U.S. goods and services.
Zanzibar's economy is based primarily on the production of cloves (90%
grown on the island of Pemba), the principal foreign exchange earner.
Exports have suffered with the downturn in the clove market. Tourism is
an increasingly promising sector, and a number of new hotels and resorts
have been built in recent years.
The Government of Zanzibar has been more aggressive than its mainland
counterpart in instituting economic reforms and has legalized foreign
exchange bureaus on the islands. This has loosened up the economy and
dramatically increased the availability of consumer commodities.
Furthermore, with external funding, the government plans to make the
port of Zanzibar a free port. Rehabilitation of current port facilities
and plans to extend these facilities will be the precursor to the free
port. The island's manufacturing sector is limited mainly to import
substitution industries, such as cigarettes, shoes, and processed
agricultural products. In 1992, the government designated two export-
producing zones and encouraged the development of off-shore financial
services. Zanzibar still imports much of its staple requirements,
petroleum products, and manufactured articles.
Throughout the Cold War era, Tanzania pursued a foreign policy based on
the principle of nonalignment with the West or the communist bloc.
Former President Nyerere defined nonalignment as the right of small
nations to determine their own policies in their own interests and to
have an influence in world affairs that accords with the right of all
people to live equally.
Tanzania played an important role in several regional and international
organizations, including the Non-Aligned Movement, the front-line
states, Southern African Development Coordination Conference, the
Organization of African Unity, and the United Nations and its
specialized and related agencies.
As one of Africa's best-known elder statesmen, Nyerere has been involved
in many of these organizations, particularly as former chairman of the
six front-line states concerned with Southern Africa and as former
chairman of the OAU (1984-85). Tanzania supported of liberation groups
in Southern Africa and was a leading opponent of apartheid in South
In recent years, Tanzania has joined with many other developing
countries to support a new international economic order. Tanzania
acknowledges the need for structural adjustment in developing economies
but also stresses the importance of developed country cooperation in the
transfer of resources and technology and debt settlement.
Tanzania enjoys close ties with neighboring Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, and
Mozambique. In 1977, the Kenyan, Tanzanian, and Ugandan partnership in
the East African Community (EAC), established 10 years earlier, was
dissolved. The breakup resulted in suspension of nearly all trade
between Tanzania and Kenya and closure of the border to most tourist
travel. The border was reopened in 1984, and relations with Kenya have
improved significantly. Also, in March 1996, Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda
relaunched the EAC, which was renamed the East African Cooperation.
The United States enjoys cordial relations with the United Republic of
Tanzania. The United States has historically sought to assist Tanzania's
economic and social development through bilateral and regional programs
administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
In the 1970s and 1980s, USAID focused on strengthening national
institutions in agriculture and, to a lesser degree, on health. In
agriculture, food crops and livestock were emphasized. Health care
assistance has supported labor development, particularly training for
maternal and childcare health aides. Training has been an important part
of the USAID program, and almost 3,500 Tanzanians have received either
long- or short-term training, primarily in the United States. During the
1990s, USAID has focused on improving the rural transportation network,
private enterprise development, HIV/AIDS prevention, family planning,
and programs designed to strengthen democracy and good governance. In
recent years, USAID assistance has averaged about $20 million annually.
The Peace Corps program, revitalized in 1979, provides assistance in
wildlife management, teaching, forestry, and agricultural mechanics on
both the mainland and on Zanzibar. There are about 92 volunteers
currently serving in Tanzania.
Principal U.S. Officials
Chargˇ/Deputy Chief of Mission--John E. Lange
Director, USAID--Lucretia Taylor
Public Affairs Officer (USIS)--Miriam Guichard
Director, Peace Corps--Sabina Dunton
The U.S. embassy in Tanzania is located at 36 Laibon Road, Dar es
Salaam. The consulate on Zanzibar was closed on June 15, 1979.
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