Tanzania Country Introduction
Tanzania, with its magnificent wildlife reserves, is East Africa at its best. Famous parks such as Serengeti or the wonderful crater of Ngorongoro offer some of the best safaris opportunities on the continent. While these two may be the best known of the country’s numerous parks and reserves, many others deserve a visit. These ranges from the tiny Gombe stream National park near the Burundi border to the huge and virtually untouched Selous Game Reserve in the south-east.
Parks and wildlife are not all Tanzania has to offer. In the north in the Moshi town near Kenyan border is snowcapped Mt Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. Scaling with 5895-metre peak is the goal of many visitors and among the best hiking adventure in the world. Offshore in the Indian Ocean are several islands, including exotic Zanzibar, with its labyrinthine old Stone Town, ruined palaces and Persian baths, fort and other reminders of the Oman period, not to mention its beaches and coral reefs.
No other African country has been moulded so closely in the image of a former president known as Mwalimu (teacher) in his own country and often referred to as the conscience of Black Africa’ during his tenure, Tanzania’s first president, Julius Nyerere, is one of Africa’s elder statespeople.
He ruled as president for more than 20 years, until he stepped down in 1995 to become the chairman of his party, Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM or the Party of Revolution).
Like many other first presidents of postcolonial Africa, Nyerere was firmly committed to radical socialism and nonalignment. He was always at the forefront of African liberation struggles and Dar es Salaam has been home to many a political exile or guerrilla fighter. Since 1985, Ali Hassan Mwinyi has been the president though, out of respect to Nyerere, their photographs appear side by side in most offices, hotel, foyers, restaurants, etc.
Not a great deal is known about the early history of the Tanzanian interior except that by 1800 CE, the Maasai, who in previous centuries had gazed their cattle in the Lake Turkana region of Kenya, had migrated down the Rift Valley as far as Dodoma. Their advance was only stopped by the Gogo, who occupied an area west of the Rift Valley and the Hehe to the south of Dodoma. Because of their reputation as a warrior tribe, the Maasai were feared by the neighbouring Bantu tribes and avoided by the Arab traders, so the northern part of Tanzania was almost free from the depredations on the slave trade and the civil wars which destroyed many villages and settlements in other areas of the country.
Now the Maasai occupy only a fraction of their former grazing ground and have been advised to share it with some of Tanzania’s most famous national parks and game reserves. Although some of the southern clans have built permanent villages and planted crops, their northern cousins have retained their pastoral habits and are the least affected by, or interested in, the mainstream of modern Tanzania. Most of the other tribes of this country have more or less given up their traditional customs under the pressure of Nyerere’s drive to create a unified nation which cuts across the tribal division.
Arab Traders & Slave Trade
Through the coastal area had long been the scene of maritime rivalry, first between the Portuguese and Arab traders and later between the various European powers, it was Arab traders and slavers who first penetrated the interior as far as Lake Tanganyika in the middle of the 18th century. Their main depots were at Ujiji on the shores of Lake Tanganyika and at Tabora on the central plain. Their captives, generally acquired by commerce rather than force, were taken first to Bagamoyo then to Zanzibar, where they were either put to work on plantations or shipped to the Arabian Peninsula for sale as domestic servants.
It was, nevertheless, a sordid trade which devastated the tribes of the interior. The young and the strong were adducted, children and old people were left to die, and the few who resisted were eliminated. Mothers unable to carry both their babies and their ivory load were dispatched with a spear or machete. It is estimated that by the late 19th century, over half a million people had been transported to the coast and that 10 times that number had died along the caravan routes.
Zanzibar had been ruled for decades from Oman at the mouth of the Persian Gulf. By the first half of the 1880s, it had become so important as a slaving and spice enter port that the Omani Sultan, Seyyid Said, moved his capital there from Muscat in 1832. Though cloves had only been introduced to Zanzibar from the Moluccas in 1818, by the of Seyyid Said’s reign it was producing 75% of the world’s supply.
Britain’s interest in this area stemmed from the beginning of the 19th century when a treaty had been signed with Seyyid Said’s predecessor to forestall possible Napoleonic French threats to British possessions in India. The British were only too pleased that a friendly Oriental power should extend its dominion down the East African coast rather than leave it open to the French. When Seyyid Said moved to Zanzibar, the British set up their first consulate there.
At that time, Britain was actively trying to suppress the slave trade, and various treaties limiting the trade were signed with the Omani sultans. But it was not until 1873, under the threat of a naval bombardment, that Sultan Barghash (Seyyid Said’s successor) signed a decree outlawing the slave trade. Though the decree abolished the seaborne trade, slavery continued on the mainland for many years, as it was an integral part of the search of ivory. Indeed, slavery probably intensified the slaughter of elephants, since ivory was now one of the few exportable commodities which held its value, despite transport costs to the coast. Slaves were the means of transport.
European explorers began arriving around the middle of the 19th century, the most famous being Stanley and Livingstone. Stanley’s famous phrase, “Dr Livingstone, I presume”, stems from their meeting at Ujiji on Lake Tanganyika. Other notable explores in this region include Burton and Speke, who were sent to Lake Tanganyika in 1858 by the Royal Geographical Society.
The German Colonial Era
A little later, the German explorer Carl Peters see about persuading unsuspecting and generally illiterate chiefs to sign so-called treaties of friendship. On the strength of these, the German East Africa Company was set up to exploit and colonise what was to become Tanganyika. Though much of the coastal area was held by the Sultan of Zanzibar, German gunboats were used to ensure his compliance. The company’s sphere of influence was soon declared a protectorate of the German state after an agreement signed with Britain gave the Germans Tanganyika, Rwanda and Burundi while the British took Keny and Uganda.
Like the British in Kenya, the Germans set about building railways and roads to open their colony to commerce, building hospitals and schools and encouraging the influx of Christian missionaries. However, unlike Kenya’s fertile and climatically suitable for European farmers to colonise, much of Tanganyika was unsuitable for agriculture, the tsetse fly made cattle grazing or dairying impossible. Most farming occurred along the coast and around Mt Kilimanjaro and Mt Meru. A few descendants of the original German settlers still live in these areas.
The detachment of the sultan’s coastal mainland possessions didn’t go down too well with his subjects, and Bagamoyo, Pangani and Tanga rose in revolt. These revolts were crushed, as were other anti-German revolts in 1889. The most serious revolt against German rule, however, was the Maji Maji uprising between 1905 and 1906, triggered by resentment over the cotton scheme. Believing themselves in invincible when anointed by the “holy water” (Maji is Swahili for water) but inadequately equipped, some 75,000 to 120,000 Africans lost their lives before the revolt fizzled out in the face of superior German weaponry.
The German occupation continued until the end of WW1, after which the League of Nations mandate Tanganyika to the British and Rwanda and Burundi to the Belgians, but not before a long and hard campaign had been fought. The famous German cruiser Konigsberg harrassed and sank British ships along the East African coast, including the Pegasus in Zanzibar harbour before it was forced to take refuge in the Rufiji delta, where the British finally located it using aerial reconnaissance and sank it. Inland, the fighting was equally protracted. While steamers exchange fire on Lake Victoria, the British were forced to transport gunboats all the way from South Africa to Lake Tanganyika to counter the German naval threat on that lake. On land, General Paul von Lettow Vorbeck led the British forces a withering cat-and-mouse game throughout the war, including beating them soundly at Tanga and holding them at bay in the south. The armistice in East Africa was only declared two weeks after the same was declared in Europe and with von Lettow Vorbeck still unbeaten.
The British Period
Because of the tsetse flies that made much of central and southern Tanzania unsuitable for agriculture and stock raising, the British tended to neglect the development of Tanganyika in favour of the more lucrative and fertile options available in Kenya and Uganda. Nevertheless, political consciousness gradually coalesced in the form of farmers unions and cooperatives through which popular demands were expressed. By the early 1950s, there were over 400 such cooperatives, which were shortly to amalgamate with the Tanganyika Africa Association (TAA), based in Dar es Salaam.
In 1953, Julius Nyerere had gained the leadership of the TAA and quickly transformed it into an effective political organisation by amalgamating it with other political groups into the Tanganyika African Nationa Union (TANU). which had its slogan, “Uhuru na Umoja” (Freedom and Unity). The British would have preferred to see a multiracial constitution adopted by the nationalists so as to protect the European and Asian minorities, but this was opposed by Nyerere. Sensibly, the last British governor, Sir Richard Turnbull, ditched the idea and Tanganyika attained independence in 1961 with Nyerere as the country’s first president.
It was smooth, bloodless transition and TANU was fortunate in having no tribal conflicts, dominant tribe or linguistic divisions which could have torn it apart.
The island of Zanzibar had quite a different experience in its push for independence. It had been a British protectorate since 1980, as had a 16km wide strip of the entire Kenyan coastline which was considered to belong to the sultan. The main push for independence came from the AfroShiraz Party (ASP), which was formed in 1957. It was opposed by two minority parties, the Zanzibar and Pemba People’s Party and the Arab Sultanate-oriented Nationalist Party, which were favoured by the British administration. The British actively intervened on behalf of the two minority parties, denying the ASP power in three pre-independence elections so that, at independence in 1963, it was the two minorities parties which formed the first government. But it didn’t last long. Angered by continued victimisation, the ASP, led by Abeid Aman Karume and supported by TANU on the mainland, initiated a bloody revolution which quickly resulted in the toppling of the sultan and the massacre or expulsion of the bulk of the island’s Arab population. The sultan was replaced by a revolutionary council formed by the AfroShiraz Party. A short time later, Zanzibar and the other offshore island of Pemba merged with the mainland of Tanganyika to form the United Republic of Tanzania. Later, in 1977, in order to promote unity and collective leadership, TANU and ASP merged to form the Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM), which still rules today.
Socialist in Tanzania
Nyerere inherited a country which had been largely ignored by the British colonial authorities since it had a few exploitable resources and only one major export crop, sisal. Education had been neglected too so that at independence, there were only 120 university graduates in the whole country.
It was an inauspicious beginning, and the problems it created eventually led to the Arusha Declaration of 1967. Based on the Chinese communist model, the cornerstone of this policy was the Ujamaa village – a collective agriculture venture run along traditional African lines. The village was intended to be socialist organisations, created by the people and governed by those who lived and worked in them. Self-reliance was the keyword in the hundreds of villages that were set up. Basic goods and tools were to be held in common and shared among members, whilst each individual was obligated to work on the land.
Nyerere’s proposals for education were seen as an essential part of this scheme and were designed to foster constructive altitudes to cooperative endeavour, stress the concept of social equality and responsibility and counter the tendency towards intellectual arrogance among the educated.
At the same time, the economy was nationalised, as was a great deal of rented property. Taxes were increased in an attempt to redistribute people wealth. Nyerere also sought to ensure that those in political power do not develop into an exploitative class, by bunning government ministers and party officials from holding shares or directorships in companies or from receiving more than one salary.
A land of plains, lakes and mountains with a narrow coastal belt, Tanzania is East Africa’s largest country. The bulk of its 945,087 sq km is Highland plateau, some of it semidesert and the rest savannah and scattered bush. The highest mountains – Kilimanjaro stands 5895 metres and second highest Mt Meru stands 4556 metres are in the northeast, along the border with Kenya and Lake Victoria which is situated in the North bordering with Uganda as well as Kenya. Along the coast is a narrow low-lying strip and offshore are the islands of Pemba, Zanzibar and Mafia. More than 53,000 sq km of the country is covered by inland lakes, most of them in the Rift valley. Along the south of the country, it is bordered with Mozambique and on the west part of the country, you will find Zambia, Congo, Burundi and Rwanda.
Tanzania’s widely varying geography accounts for its variety of climate conditions. Much of the country is a high plateau, where the altitude considerably tempers what would otherwise be a tropical climate. In many places, it can be quite cool at night.
The coastal strip along the Indian Ocean and the offshore islands of Pemba, Zanzibar and Mafia have a hot, humid, tropical climate, tempered by sea breezes. The high mountains are in the north-east, Arusha and Kilimanjaro regions, along the Kenyan border, and this area enjoys an almost temperate climate for most of the year. The long rainy season is from April to May when it rains virtually every day. The short rains fall during November and December, though it frequently rains in January, too. Check out our Tanzania Climate Guide.
The population of Tanzania is about 57 million as of the year 2017. There are more than 120 tribal groups, the majority of which are of Bantu origin. The Arab influence on Zanzibar and Pemba islands is evident in the people, who are a mix of Shirazis (from Persia), Arabs, Comorians (from Comoros islands) and Bantu from the mainland.
The main two religions are Christianity and Islam with the latter having the most followers, especially along the coast and in Zanzibar. Islam has been around ever since Arab traders arrived here in the 21st century. Not until the 19th century did Christianity make any impact, and then it was mainly amongst the tribes of the interior. The principal Christian sects are Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, Presbyterian and Orthodox.
On the other hand, there are still many tribes who follow neither of the above religion and prefer to worship the ancient spirit of their choice. Principal amongst them are the Maasai, who place their faith in the god Engai and his Messiah, Kindong’oi, from whom their priests are descended. Worship is conducted under special fig trees or at Ol Doinyo Lengai, the mountain of God.
In Tanzania, as in many African countries, religion plays an important part in the availability of educational and medical facilities, as is obvious from the number of schools, clinics and hospitals attached to mosques and churches. Its claimed however that no religious bias exists in the country’s political and civil administration. Read More About Tanzania Religion
Swahili (Kiswahili) is the official language but English remains widely spoken and is the principal language of commerce. There are also many local African languages, reflecting the tribal diversity of the country, Outside the cities and towns, far fewer local people speak English. You can learn some useful Swahili phrases here
“How are you – Habari yako”, “Thank you – Ahsante”, “You are welcome – Karibu”, “Excuse me – Samahani”, “Can I ask you something – Naweza kuuliza kitu”, “How much – Shilingi ngapi”, “Very Expensive – Ghali sana”, “Very cheap – Rahisi sana”, “Goodbye – Kwaheri”, ”See you – Tutaonana”, ”Goodluck – Kila la Kheri”, “Fine – nzuri”, “Nice to meet you – nafurahi kukutana na wewe”. Read More About Tanzania Swahili Guide.
Make sure you have a valid vaccination certificate for yellow fever before arriving in Tanzania. You may not be asked for it at land borders and you probably won’t be asked for it if you arrive by air through either Kilimanjaro of Dar es Salaam airports, but its essential fro Zanzibar and Pemba. Officially, you are prohibited from entering Zanzibar or Pemba without a valid certificate, and these will be checked on the port side at Dar es Salaam or Zanzibar or on arrival by air. In practice, it is just about negotiable but you are in for a major hassle and also you should take precautions against malaria, you can consult your doctor for more details on this. Read More About Tanzania Health Guide.
Visa is required by all visitors to Tanzania, except nationals of most Commonwealth countries (Canada excepted), Scandinavian countries, the Republic of Ireland, Rwanda, Romania and Sudan. For those nationalities, a free visitor’s pass, valid for one of three months, is obtainable at the border (you will be asked how long you want to stay – three months is no problem). For other nationalities, visa costs vary, they fall in between USD $50 to USD $100. In the past, some Tanzania acquire bad reputations for hassling travellers but it was connected either with currency or with suspected visits to South Africa and that is all finished with the introduction of Evisatanzania
Getting there and Away
It is possible to enter Tanzania by air, road or rail. By air, you can use the international airlines serving Tanzania either through Kilimanjaro or Dar es Salaam international airport include, Turkish airlines, Ethiopian airline, Emirates flights, Qatar and KLM.
Sometimes travellers use Nairobi as a gateway to East Africa though it is not a lot of difference between the fares to Nairobi and those to Dar es Salaam or Kilimanjaro and the cheapest regular options to fly between Tanzania and Kenya are the Kenyan Airways flight between Dar es Salaam and Kilimanjaro to Nairobi as well as Zanzibar to Mombasa. And now Tanzania has revived its airline company Air Tanzania which have different routes between Tanzania and Zambia, Mozambique and Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar.
By road, there are a number of buses companies such as Kilimanjaro Express buses from Dar es Salaam to Arusha and Moshi as well as Dar Lux buses which travel up to Nairobi and Kampala.
The rail access is only from Zambia even though the Tanzania railway management is building a new advanced and modern electric train system which will cross the country from Dar es Salaam to Dodoma and end in Kigoma which almost half to end now.