Tanzania: History

Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Kilimanjaro...

Tanzania History

Tanzania is a recently new African country and is the result of a unification between Tanganyika (independence from Britian 1961) and Zanzibar (independence from Britain 1963). The two states united in 1964 to form the United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, which was later renamed the United Republic of Tanzania. The area of Tanzania itself, however, has a long history of human habitation. Some of the earliest hominoid fossils in the world were discovered in Olduvai Gorge which show records of hominoid habitation going back at least 3 million years. As far back as 10 000 years ago the area consited of early hunter-gatherer communities. Between 3 000 and 5000 years ago, Cushitic speaking tribes brought basic agricultural technologies.

Battles over agricultural land and tribal regions occurred as migration increased well up into the 15th century. The success of trade routes gave rise to Tanzania's Swahili culture (a blend of Arab, Indian and Bantu infuences).

Although Tanzania was an importat trading port as early as 400 BC for the Greeks and Persians, permanent settlements only developed around 800 AD and trade in gold, spices, ivory and slaves meant Swahili civilization flourished until the 15th century.

In 1525 Portuguese traders dominated the East African coast until the 18th century when Omani Arabs regained control over the slave trade. Missionaries first journeyed to the mainland in the early 19th centry and as a result mission stations and trading posts were built as far inland as Lake Tanganyika.

In the late 19th century, the German East African Company gained control of large portions of the Tanzanian mainland, although the British held a sphere of influence over the Omani sultans ruling the Zanzibar Archipelago. By 1891, most of mainland Tanzania was under the colonial administration of German East Africa. At the end of World War I, the Germans relinquished control over the area and handed it over to British who were to indirectly rule.

Colonialism faced strong opposition during the 1930's, and in 1954 an internal constitution was drawn up and resistance unified under the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) with Julius Nyerere elected as its president.

After further elections in 1959, Britain established an internal self-government within the country and by 1962 the independent Republic of Tanganyika was formed with Nyerere as president.

Meanwhile, revolution on the island of Zanzibar ousted the Omani sultan and in 1963, the archipelago gained its independence from British influence and Arab rule. In 1964 leaders Nyerere and Karume, the first president of Zanzibar, signed an act of union to create the United Republic of Tanzania, which includes the Republic of Tanganyika and the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar.

In the 1970's however, Tanzania suffered economic hardship with the spike in oil prices. Tanzania, a socialist nation at this time sought the help of Communist China but continued to suffer from food shortages, and economic turmoil all the way into the 1980's. In the mid 1980's the country was forced to take a loan from the International Monetary Fund which meant cuts to health services, education, and deregulation of financial and agricultural markets. Today, the economy still depends heavily on agriculture and Tanzania is one of the poorest countries in the world.