Tanzania, United Republic of

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Located in East Africa, Tanzania borders Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique and is home to Africa’s highest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro. The country was formed through a union of the formerly British ruled Tanganyika and the former Sultanate of Zanzibar. As a result, while there is a single national government headed by a president and elected assembly, there is also a parallel Zanzibari executive with power over local affairs. While human rights standards are generally good for the region, concerns continue about juvenile justice, gender based violence and the effects of poverty on children.


Tanzania is located on the equator on the Indian Ocean coast of Africa. It shares land borders with Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique as well as a border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo across Lake Tanganyika. The capital city is officially Dodoma, where the Union Parliament is based, but government ministries, major institutions and diplomatic missions are based in Dar Es Salaam.

Population and language

The population of Tanzania is 46.2 million, a figure that has risen rapidly and consistently over the last three decades. Since 2005, this figure has been rising at an annual rate of around three per cent, but the growth rate has shown a year on year increase. This population is highly ethnically diverse, with around 120 ethnic groups living on the mainland, none of which account for more than 10 per cent of the population. The mainland is also relatively religiously heterogeneous, with substantial communities of Christians (25 per cent), Muslims (35 per cent) and those with other traditional beliefs (30 per cent). The vast majority of inhabitants of Zanzibar are Muslim (98 per cent).

English and Kiswahili are both widely spoken, though Kiswahili is more so.

History and politics

Mainland Tanzania gained its independence in 1961 as Tanganyika, under the leadership of President Nyerere, and the Isles of Zanzibar followed suit in 1964. The two territories merged to become the United Republic of Tanzania the following year under an agreement whereby Zanzibar became largely self governing except for with respect to eight “Union Comptences”. The Union Constitution was amended in 1965 to institute a one-party political system which lasted for the next 27 years. In 1985, President Nyerere stepped down and was replaced by Ali Hassan Mwinyi, who began a system of reforms that culminated in the 1992 return to multi-party politics.

In mainland Tanzania, the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (Movement for the Revolution or CCM) have remained dominant since the end of one-party politics, and have successfully nominated every successful Presidential candidate since 1992. President Kikwete[1] is currently serving his second, and final, term in the office. In recent years other parties have begun to gain a foothold in national politics, and in the elections of 2010, opposition parties won a record 91 seats in the Parliament compared to CCM's 259[2].

While politics in mainland Tanzania has been largely stable, elections in Zanzibar have been marred by violence, intimidation and allegations of vote rigging. The CCM and the Civic United Front (CUF), both have substantial on the islands, and in 2000 the CUF refused to recognise the CCM Presidential candidate and to take their seats in the House of Representatives. Thirty demonstrators were subsequently killing on Pemba Island. In 2010, a referendum was successful in establishing a coalition “Government of National Unity” in which the two main parties are represented in a cabinet in proportion to their share of the popular vote[3]. CCM presidential candidate Mohammed Ali Shein is the current President.


Tanzania has experienced high economic growth over the past two decades, including GDP growth of between 5 and 7 per cent in recent years. Mining, construction communications and the financial sector have all been vital to this growth, though the service sector provides 47 per cent of value-added activity in the economy. The country's three Indian Ocean ports and trade corridors to five landlocked countries also present the potential for the country to become a regional trade hub, which could aid the country in developing into a middle income country. Despite this growth, the Tanzanian economy faces a number of challenges. Poverty remains high, and though the rate of poverty is decreasing the rapid increase in population led the World Bank to estimate that the number of people living in poverty had actually increased by 1.3 million in absolute terms between 2001 and 2007[4]. The UNDP has estimated that almost 68 per cent of the population live on less than US$1.25 per day[5]. The World Bank has also raised the potential problem of the rapidly growing young population entering the workforce, for whom there is a demand for jobs that outstrips the supply.

Tanzania is a member of the East African Community, which became a common market in July 2010. The Community also has plans to establish a political federation by 2015[6].

Media and civil society

Reporters Without Borders (RWB) rated the country 34 out of 179 in its Press Freedom Index of 2011/12, the fourth highest ranking for an African country[7]. RWB has noted the country's diverse and quality newspapers as well as the availability of international news, but has been critical of strict media laws and infrequent government actions against the press. Under Tanzanian law, it is possible for journalists to be prosecuted for publications deemed “contrary to the public interest” and for “sedition”, though such prosecutions are rare. In 2010, the newspaper Leo Tana was closed down for allegedly publishing pornography, and the weekly Kulikoni was suspended for three months following its report on the army[8]. RWB has reported that press laws in Zanzibar are stricter, and that local monitoring is more severe than on the mainland, but that censorship has been relaxed in recent years[9].

Human rights, children's rights and humanitarian concerns

In many respects Tanzania has a good record on human rights; during the Great Lakes crisis, the country hosted one of the largest refugee populations in Africa and granted large numbers of refugees citizenship[10]. Nevertheless, there are a number of areas in which human rights organisations have persistently raised concerns, particularly with regards to children. The Committee on the Rights of the Child has consistently identified the inadequacy of the juvenile justice system, which varies nationally in terms of legal process and the use of, and conditions in, detention facilities[11]. Amnesty International has particularly highlighted the problem of gender based violence, including the widespread practice of female genital mutilation[12]. Human rights NGOs have also highlighted the problem of violence against children, including the ongoing legality of corporal punishment in the home, schools, alternative care and the criminal justice system.

Tanzania also faces a number of serious development concerns. With regards to health, the country has one of the five highest malaria mortality rates in the world, a maternal mortality rate far in excess of the regional average for sub-Saharan Africa, and incredibly high levels of chronic malnutrition[13].

  1. BBC, "Tanzania profile: Leaders" 7 July 2011
  2. The African Election Database: Tanzania
  3. BBC, "Zanzibar profile" 9 December 2011
  4. The World Bank, "Tanzania Country Brief"
  5. UNDP, "International Human Development Indicators: Tanzania"
  6. The East Africa Community
  7. Reporters Without Borders, "Press Freedom Index 2011-12"
  8. International Freedom of Expression Exchange, "One newspaper closed, another suspended" 12 January 2010
  9. Reporters Without Borders, "World Report: Tanzania"
  10. UNHCR, "Global Report 2009: Tanzania"
  11. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations, May 2006
  12. Amnesty International, "World Report 2011: Tanzania"
  13. Full details available through the World Health Organisation


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