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No-one knows whether the 1964 union between Zanzibar and Tanganyika was dictated by cold war considerations first, with pan-African ideals of unity playing second fiddle to ideology and personal survival, writes Haroub Othman. But what is clear, Othman argues, is that despite Tanzania’s controversial history, the union brought peace and stability to the region, in contrast with the secessionism and violence seen elsewhere. While corrective measures – supported by the people – are required to ensure that it is fit for purpose, the union is a better option than breaking into a federal structure with Kenya and Uganda, says Othman.

Since the 1920s the countries of East Africa, namely Kenya, Tanganyika, Uganda and Zanzibar, had developed common services and joint institutions. Matters such as posts and telecommunications, harbours, railways and currency were run jointly. There was also a body to coordinate the development of Kiswahili. This, no doubt, was easy in view of the fact that all the four countries were neighbours and under one colonial power. The white settlers in Kenya had at one time pressed the British government for a federation of the East African countries on the lines of that of Central Africa. But people in Tanganyika and Uganda feared that if that was to happen it would throw their countries into the hands of white supremacists in Kenya, in the same way that the peoples of Central Africa found themselves under the white supremacists of Southern Rhodesia at the time of the Central African Federation. And so this idea was opposed at the time.

But as the countries were approaching independence and because of the close cooperation among the nationalist organisations, the idea of federation re-emerged. Nyerere, in a statement made in Addis Ababa when Tanganyika’s independence was imminent, said that he was prepared to delay his country’s independence if the four countries of East Africa could come to independence at the same time and form a federation. But with independence each country retreated into its own national shell, and what was agreed was the formation of the East African Common Services Organisation that later in December 1967 was transformed into the East African Community.

When, therefore on 26 April, 1964, the People’s Republic of Zanzibar and the Republic of Tanganyika announced that they had merged to form a union, the international community felt that Zanzibar and Tanganyika had succeeded where the four East African countries together had failed. But was it the ideals of Pan-Africanism that brought Zanzibar and Tanganyika together? Was the union the result of an African initiative or was it propelled by cold war rivalry? The circumstances in which the union was formed raised a lot of questions, many of which are still unanswered, and some have been at the centre of continuing debates and controversies in Tanzania in the last twenty years. Were the fears of ZNP (Zanzibar Nationalist Party) that Zanzibar would be ‘taken over’ by Tanganyika had been proven true? In later years, the union was to haunt the Zanzibar politicians for a long time, with each of them playing the ‘union card’ either for legitimacy on the mainland or for support at home.

Nyerere stated that he casually proposed the idea of the union to Karume when the latter visited him to discuss the fate of John Okello. According to Nyerere, Karume immediately agreed to the idea and suggested that Nyerere should be the president of such a union. In a New Year message to the nation on 2 January 1965, Nyerere implied that even if the ASP (Afro-Shirazi Party) had come into power through constitutional means and not as a result of a revolution, the union would still have taken place. But Amrit Wilson’s research has revealed that there was a very strong Western pressure, especially from the United States, for the Zanzibar revolution to be contained because it was felt that it held the threat of the spread of communism in the East African region. The Untied States, Britain and the then West Germany, which Tanganyika was heavily dependent on at the time, viewed the revolutionary government in Zanzibar as either a surrogate of the communist powers or dancing to their tune. The international press had already started to characterise Zanzibar as the ‘Cuba of Africa’, though to be fair to Duggan, he had referred to Zanzibar as ‘Tanganyika’s Cuba’ far back in July 1963 when he had interviewed Nyerere in Washington during the latter’s state visit to the US.

In a cable message to US embassies in Dar es Salaam, Nairobi and Kampala, the US Secretary of State Dean Rusk instructed his diplomats to urge Nyerere, Kenyatta and Obote to explain to Karume the dangers involved in his dependence on Babu and:

‘The danger Babu represents… to the security of Zanzibar and East Africa generally… they should recognise here that the big problem is that Karume himself has great confidence in and dependence on Babu… also that Nyerere has said that Karume needs Babu who, despite his background, can and must be worked with. Kenyatta and Joseph Murumbi on the other hand appear to regard Babu as undesirable and the chief threat to Karume. Would it be useful to raise with Nyerere, despite his previous objection, the idea of a Zanzibar-Tanganyika Federation as a possible way of strengthening Karume and reducing Babu’s influence? Such action at this time may also help Nyerere’s own position.’

In an interview with Amrit Wilson in 1986, Frank Carlucci, the US consul in Zanzibar at the time of the union who was later thrown out of Zanzibar because of CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) activities (and who later rose to become the director of CIA and US secretary of state for defence), confessed that there was United States’ pressure on Nyerere.

Susan Crouch in her book Western Responses to Tanzanian Socialism 1967-1983 reveals that:

‘To this end the American Central Intelligence Agency was active in trying to create the conditions for union, fanning antagonisms among Zanzibar’s revolutionary leaders, and creating a fear of Zanzibar as a communist threat among East African leaders.’

Was the union then, as is indicated in US state department papers, dictated by cold war considerations first and the questions of pan-African ideals of unity were secondary to ideological factors and questions of personal survival?

It has also been suggested that Karume wanted a union with Tanganyika as a means of warding off his marxist and left wing colleagues. What seems to be the case is that after the electoral defeat of July 1963, Karume’s leadership within the ASP parliamentary group was shaky. There was a schism in it, with Karume being challenged by Othman Shariff, and some of the party’s MPs calling for a government of national unity that would bring together in government all the political parties in parliament. After the revolution, Umma Party radical elements in the government (Babu, Khamis Abdalla Ameir, Ali Sultan Issa, Ali Mahfoudh, Salim Rashid, Badawi Qullatein, etc) were forging links with the ASP leftists (Abdallah Kassim Hanga. Abdulazizi Ali Twala, Hassan Nassor Moyo, etc.), and this might have scared Karume and other moderate elements within the regime. At the same time, the radical way in which the revolution was surging ahead might have alarmed the regime in Dar es Salaam. It should not be forgotten that within days of the revolution in Zanzibar, an army mutiny took place in Tanganyika (later repeated in Kenya and Uganda); and even though we know now that there was no link between the revolution and those mutinies, it was difficult to see it that way at the time.

As a result of the army mutiny in Dar es Salaam, Tabora and Nachingwea, there was virtually no government in Tanganyika for three days, anarchy prevailed, and Nyerere was forced to request British military intervention to bring the country back to normalcy.

The West, particularly the Untied States, perceived developments in Zanzibar in the context of East-West rivalry, and given the leftist credentials of the Umma Party and some of the ASP leaders that were prominent in the revolutionary council, it was assumed that a Cuba-type situation was evolving. The best way of averting it, short of direct military intervention a la Playa Giron (though this was thought of and preparations made), was to try an ‘African initiative’. And it worked.


Many questions continued to be raised regarding the legal basis of the union: Whether the two presidents on their own had the powers to sign such a union agreement; why the Zanzibar’s attorney-general, as the principal legal advisor to the government, was not consulted; why there was no referendum; and whether in joining such a union, Zanzibar was not in fact ‘swallowed’ and ‘annexed’ by Tanganyika.

Discussions on the union were conducted very secretively. From the archival materials and the statements of those who were in the ‘corridors of power’ at the time, it would appear that not many people in the Tanganyika government or the Zanzibar Revolutionary Council knew what was happening. Apart from Nyerere and Karume, the only other people who might have been privy to those discussions were Rashidi Kawawa, Oscar Kambona, Job Lusinde, Abdallah Kassim Hanga, Abdul-Aziz Ali Twala and Salim Rashidi.

When these discussions were at an advanced stage, Nyerere is said to have called in his attorney-general at the time, British expert Roland Brown, and asked him to draft a union agreement without anybody knowing. In the case of Zanzibar, the attorney-general, Wolf Dourado, is said to have been sent on a one-week ‘leave’ and instead a Ugandan lawyer, Dan Nabudere (according to his own account which was corroborated by Babu), was brought in to advise Karume on the draft submitted by Tanganyika. Both Brown and Nabudere were present in the Karume-Nyerere discussions. One can speculate that one reason why Dourado was not involved was because he was ‘inherited’ from the previous ZNP/ZPPP (Zanzibar Nationalist Party-Zanzibar and Pemba People's Party) regime and the revolutionary government was hesitant to involve him in such a sensitive matter.

Under both the 1962 Republic of Tanganyika constitution and the Zanzibar presidential decree No.5 quoted above, the two presidents had the powers to enter into international agreements on behalf of their governments. What is also important is that the union agreement was ratified by both the Tanganyika parliament and the Zanzibar Revolutionary Council. Contrary to what some writers have said, the Nyalali Commission was satisfied that the Revolutionary Council met to ratify the Articles of Union. Both Abdulrahman Babu and Khamis Abdallah Ameir, the two former Umma party leaders who were in the Revolutionary Council at the time, have confirmed that the matter was discussed in the council, and while there were reservations on the part of some members, these were ‘quashed’ by Abdallah Kassim Hanga who made an emotional intervention to support the union.

Once the Articles of Union had been ratified by the two legislative bodies in Tanganyika and Zanzibar, there was no further requirement in law to make them enforceable. The question of referendum would not have arisen because under the Commonwealth legal tradition, in which the two countries were brought up, the notion of a referendum was unknown. The referendum was introduced as a legal requirement under British law in the 1970s during the heated debate in the United Kingdom on the question of its entry into the European Economic Community. To have also expected the Zanzibar revolutionary government to call a referendum on the union, four months after it came into power through unconstitutional means, was like expecting the French revolutionaries of 1789 to have invited King Louis XVI for dinner after they had overthrown him. Should ASP have conducted a referendum to ask Zanzibaris whether or not to stage a revolution? In law, therefore, the Union Agreement, as both Prof Issa Shivji and Dr Kabudi have pointed out, is valid.


The Union Agreement, signed by Karume and Nyerere in Zanzibar on 22 April 1964, is known as the Articles of Union. When this agreement was announced the following day, many people inside the two countries, and outside too, were taken by surprise. The strong feeling was that the West had won in their intention to containing the Zanzibar revolution; in fact there were military preparations by both Britain and the United States in case there was a violent reaction in Zanzibar against the union.

What the Tanganyika leadership wanted at the time was to play down the whole event. In a cable message of 23 April 1964 to the US secretary of state, the US ambassador in Dar es Salaam, William Leonhart, informed:

‘Mbwambo, chief protocol, has just telephoned a personal request… that, to the maximum extent, any US public statements on Tangovernment –Zanzibar union be avoided. Situation over the next few days in Zanzibar could be very critical and both the Soviet and Chinese reaction is undetermined.’

In an address later to the National Assembly requesting the ratification of the Articles of Union, Nyerere insisted that the move was inspired by the ideals for an African unity. ‘Unity in our continent does not have to come via Moscow or Washington’, he insisted.

The Articles of Union have been given different interpretations and characterised as federal, quasi-federal, an interim arrangement towards one government, etc. Some have seen the union as similar to the relationship between the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland.

Those who were close to the scene at the time also differ as to what type of relationship it is. The US ambassador in Dar es Salaam, in a cable message to his government on 22 April 1964, the day the Articles of Union were signed by Karume and Nyerere, stated:

‘Like the relationship between Northern Ireland and Britain, the union of Zanzibar and Tanganyika gave the island limited regional administrative autonomy… but ensured overall power… was held by the centre at Dar es Salaam’. But Frank Calucci, reporting from Zanzibar the next day, said that Karume was ‘still under the impression that he is agreeing to a federation of two autonomous states, not a centralised union envisaged under the present articles’. Attwood, the U.S. Ambassador in Kenya at the time, says he was informed by Dustan Omari, Nyerere’s permanent secretary then, ‘that the major power would rest in the centre… but that Zanzibar would retain its own internal governmental affairs’.

While I have difficulty in accepting some of the assertions of some of the writers on the character of the union for reasons that I will advance later, I would only want to agree with the notion that the Articles of Union are the Grundnorm, the fundamental law of the United Republic, on which the Constitutions of Tanzania and Zanzibar, and other laws, have to be based and from which they derive their legitimacy. Like any supreme law in any other legal system, no other law or constitutional act can be in conflict with it.

Articles of Union provide for matters that would be under the union arrangement. From the original 11 items in 1964, the list has now expanded to 23. Some people question the validity of such an expansion, though one must admit that there was nothing that was added into the list unconstitutionally. The Articles of Union also provide for the existence of two governments: One for the whole United Republic for all union matters and for non-union matters in Tanganyika, which, under the 1977 Union Constitution is referred to as Tanzania mainland, and one for Zanzibar in all matters that are non-Union. According to Nyerere, Karume wanted a total union, but he (Nyerere) cautioned against it, saying that such a move might be construed by Zanzibaris and others as meaning that Zanzibar had been swallowed up, annexed, incorporated into or taken over by Tanganyika. He insisted that Zanzibar’s identity must be maintained.

There is no way one can construe the ‘Article of Union’ as a basis for a federal set-up. Nor can they be seen as an interim arrangement towards a one government. They intended to create a single state with two authorities, but with one of those authorities having a limited geographical jurisdiction. The intention was to retain the identity of the smaller unit. By this event, Tanganyika has not been lost; in fact it has been enlarged. Even if it is accepted that the union was a Western conspiracy against the Zanzibar revolution, the effect of the intention was to deny Zanzibar the capacity to be an international actor, not to interfere with what was happening inside the country. To be able to change the internal course of events would have entailed changing the regime. What might have confounded some of the law experts looking at the relationship between Zanzibar and mainland Tanzania was the fact that no such example existed in the Anglo-Saxon legal system. The closest they could think of then was that of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland.


At the time of the Union Zanzibar and Tanganyika were ruled by different political parties, ASP and TANU respectively. The Articles of Union did not require the formation of a single political party for the whole United Republic. Thus in the period 1964-1977 each party operated within its own geographical area, though at the approach of every general election, the two parties held a joint congress where they nominated a join presidential candidate for the elections. Only in 1977, after a national survey of members of both parties, did the two parties merge to form the Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) with authority over the whole country. But why did Zanzibaris agree to such a merger? Nyerere had always expressed surprise when recalling the radiant faces he saw and the jovial mood of the Zanzibaris the day CCM was proclaimed at the Amaan stadium in Zanzibar. The fact is that Zanzibaris were celebrating not only the birth of CCM but also the demise of ASP. By that time the general feeling in the islands was that the ASP had outlived its usefulness. The revolution which it had championed had stooped so low as to devour its own sons: Most of the leaders were busy amassing wealth; prison and death were the only options open to political dissent; and political thuggery was a virtue.

One matter that was added in 1984 to the list of union items was that of national security. This happened at the time when Ali Hassan Mwinyi was president and Seif Shariff Hamad the chief minister of Zanzibar in 1984-85, commonly known as the Third Phase government. Not having much confidence in the security personnel they inherited, who might have had personal allegiance to Jumbe and Seif Bakari, the new administration sought the extension of the National Security Act of the mainland to Zanzibar. In that case it was possible to transfer the security personnel in Zanzibar to the mainland and vice versa.

So from the above one can see the following: First, Zanzibaris wanted a merger of the parties, and for the united party to have authority all over the country, in the hope that it would rescue them from a regime that was no longer able to inspire confidence and instil enthusiasm; and second, a ‘consolidation’ of the union in this regard was necessary for one faction of the leadership to ward off any possible challenge by the other.

The long-term effect of the parties’ merger was to have matters that were entirely within Zanzibar’s jurisdiction, and that were not union matters, decided by a pan-territorial political party where Zanzibari representation was not decisive. This became clear in 1984 when Aboud Jumbe was forced to resign as Zanzibar president: It was the party’s NEC which appointed Ali Hassan Mwinyi as an interim president and later nominated him for election as the president of Zanzibar. Since NEC’s Zanzibari membership is no more than a third of the total, this means therefore that a Zanzibar president could be chosen by a forum, which is predominantly non-Zanzibari. And this was further evidenced with the nomination by CCM’s NEC of the present president of Zanzibar.

A number of other measures were taken to consolidate the union, particularly in the constitutional realm. A permanent constitution was put in place in 1977 instead of an interim one that had been in existence since 1964.


In the Articles of Union, Zanzibar is allowed to retain its autonomy and pursue its own policies in all matters other than those stipulated as Union matters. In this case, the power to decide is left to the Zanzibar organs such as the house of representatives, the revolutionary council and the president of Zanzibar and chairman of the revolutionary council. The union constitution stipulates that constitutional amendments require the approval of two-thirds of Zanzibaris sitting in the union parliament and the same proportion of mainlanders.

In order to avoid a clash in the legislative functions of the two sides of the union, it has been provided that if the house of representatives enacts any law which should be under the jurisdiction of the union parliament that law will be null and void, and also if the union parliament enacts a law on any matter under the jurisdiction of the house of representatives that law will be null and void.

The constitution also provides for effective Zanzibari representation in the union parliament. It also guarantees a separate judiciary system for Zanzibar which has jurisdiction over Zanzibar alone. Even though the court of appeal of the United Republic is a union organ, it has no power to decide on a case involving a dispute between the union government and the Zanzibar revolutionary government.

However one might view the circumstances that made Zanzibar merge with Tanganyika in 1964, the fact of the matter is that Zanzibar was not annexed or forcefully incorporated. It agreed on the union out of its own free will and as a result of decisions made by its own organs. The argument that within the union Tanganyika has lost its identity has no basis. If anything it has enlarged its territory. It is Zanzibar’s autonomy and identity that must be maintained lest, as Nyerere himself has pointed out several times, an impression is created that the larger and more populous Tanganyika has swallowed Zanzibar. Such a situation is not new even in the most centralised states. In China, despite the fact that the country has a centralised authority and no federal traces of any kind, yet because of certain historical, political or cultural reasons, certain areas are conferred autonomy, and are constitutionally given the status of autonomous regions. As will be pointed out later there are entities in present-day Europe that enjoy full autonomy within one state. To entertain the thought that the Articles of Union are a temporary arrangement, and that ultimately the intention should be to create one government is to manifest ‘big brother chauvinism’


In 1983/84 and 1990/92 extensive political and constitutional debates took place in the country that deeply probed the question of the union. The debates of 1983/84 resulted in major amendments to the 1977 union constitution and the formulation of a new Zanzibar constitution in 1984. But they also resulted in the forced resignation of Aboud Jumbe from all his state and party positions, the sacking of a Zanzibar chief minister and the serious warning given by the ruling party to a number of prominent Zanzibar figures. The debates of the 1990/92 period resulted in the Nyalali Commission making major recommendations on the structure of the Union. In between the two periods also another Zanzibar chief minister was sacked, and several leading Zanzibar politicians were dismissed form the ruling party.

As stated above, the question of Zanzibar being ‘sold’ to the mainland was an issue in pre-revolutionary Zanzibar. And if one remembers that the political parties were almost evenly divided, then one can assume that almost half of the Zanzibar population was already biased against the mainland even before the union. The post-revolution politics in the islands did not help matters much. Karume went into a union to save himself from his marxist and left-wing colleagues; and since Jumbe was not considered to be the ‘heir apparent’ before Karume’s assassination in 1972, he was not thought of as the natural successor when he took over. It has been speculated that the revolutionary council had Colonel Seif Bakari in mind, but Nyerere advised that since Karume was killed by an army officer, Seif Bakari taking over might be construed as a military coup. Jumbe, feeling that he had not much support within the revolutionary council, depended very much on Nyerere’s and mainland’s support. It is no wonder then that it was during his presidency that much of the consolidation of the union took place, with the most items added to the union list. It is significant too that the merger of the parties took place then. But this dependency on the mainland was costing him much popular support at home. Either as a way of outflanking his opponents or because of genuine problems he found in the union (after all he was for a long time a minister for union affairs before he became president of Zanzibar), he first raised the question of restructuring the union in a speech seven years before the 1983/84 debates.

Other politicians in Zanzibar too have used the mainland as a trump card either to crush their opponents or to climb the political ladder. Seif Shariff Hamad, Khatib Hassan, Shaaban Mloo and others accused Jumbe in 1984 of planning to break up the union, and thus forced Jumbe to resign from his political posts then. They in turn faced the same accusation from their opponents in 1988 and were dismissed from the party.

The issues that were raised in both the 1983/84 and 1990/92 debates centred on the following:

1. Whether the Articles of Union of 1964 provided for a federation, that is three governments (one of Tanganyika, the other of Zanzibar, and a third a federal one) or only two governments as presently existing;
2. As the union government is also the government for the mainland in non-union matters, does this not give the impression that mainland is the union?
3. Does Zanzibar get a fair share in the distribution of benefits coming form the union?
4. Is Zanzibar well represented in the diplomatic service?
5. Does it get a fair share of foreign aid coming to Tanzania?
6. Since the people of Zanzibar were not consulted at the time of the formation of the union, should there not be a referendum now to ascertain whether the people wanted the union or not?

Most of these questions, as can be seen, were coming from Zanzibar, and what surprised many people at the time of the 1983/84 debate, was that they were being aired in the state-owned-and-controlled official mass media.

No such strong feelings were voiced on the mainland during the debates. Many people who made submissions to the Nyalali Commission said hardly anything about the system of governments that the union should have. It was only after the opening up of the political system and the establishment of more political parties that one began hearing very strong views coming form the mainland on the question of the Union; some of those going even further than anybody in Zanzibar had ever contemplated.


One of the major recommendations of the Nyalali Commission was for the replacement of the present union set-up with a federal one. This was one of the areas that bought about a very heated debate within the commission and which necessitated members of the commission having to vote. Later those who were opposed to the federal idea had to append their own dissenting opinion to the main report to explain their position. But the division in the commission on this issue almost came to a mainland/Zanzibar division.

Of the 11 members from Zanzibar, seven wanted the present union set-up, with some major changes, to remain; three wanted a federal and one was undecided. Of the same number from the Mainland, nine wanted a federal set-up and two wanted the present arrangement to continue. What is important is that both sides agreed that there were problems within the union. Even though at the time the complaints form the mainland were not so loud compared to Zanzibar, it would have been wise if those complaints were addressed and resolved. The majority of members of the commission felt that in a federal set-up, both Tanganyika and Zanzibar would retain their identity, federal areas would be clearly defined and the responsibilities of each would be understood, and the federal entity would be distinct from the national ones.

Those holding the minority opinion, on the other hand, were of the view that there was nothing in the Articles of Union to suggest that their framers had a federal set-up in mind; that a federation would be a step backward and might be a prelude to the dissolution of the union; that corrective measures could be taken, if there is political will, which would define union matters, list union institutions and apportion the responsibility of each side on those matters. Examples were provided from the two Scandinavian countries of Denmark and Finland where entities (Faroe Islands, Aaland Islands and Greenland) have full autonomy in a number of areas that they exercise within a non-federal state. The dissenting opinion in the Nyalali Report pointed out:

‘Greenland and Faroe Islands, both of which are part of Denmark, have full autonomy in many matters. For example, a parliament that is not subject to interference form the central government of Denmark, and all political and economic matters agreed upon and even in international relations. The islands of Faroe have their own flag hoisted in all government buildings and on ships registered in Faroe islands. Also Faroe Islands authority issues passports;

Denmark had agreed to join the European Economic Community. So did Greenland. But later, Greenland withdrew from the Community. Therefore, all EEC agreements and conditionality accepted in Denmark did not apply in Greenland. Similarly, the Islands of Faroe are not a member of the EU.

In regard to Finland, the islands of Aaland have their own parliament and government. The islands of Aaland also have their own ‘identity’ for persons born in the islands and who have not lived abroad consecutively for five years or more. The islands have their own flag, issue their own stamps and its citizens are not subject to military service. The islands of Aaland are a demilitarised zone. The Central Bank of Finland must consult the government of Aaland before it takes measures that might harm the economy of Aaland. This, despite the fact that they share a common currency;

The islands of Aaland, as is the case for Greenland and Faroe, are, on their own right, represented in the Nordic Council that consists of Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Iceland.’


As pointed out above, there have been historical links between Zanzibar and Tanganyika long before the coming of the colonialists in East Africa; and colonialism did not in fact stop such interactions from continuing. During the struggle for national independence, the two main political parties in the two countries cooperated – though there is nothing to suggest that the two parties were thinking of merging into a union of this kind after they came into power. What they had in mind was to form a federation with Kenya and Uganda. Until the elections of July 1963, ASP still thought that it would win power through the electoral process; and it would appear that their main supporters, TANU (Tanganyika African National Union), thought likewise.

Now the union is a fact. Despite a lot of problems, it has brought stability and peace in the region. It is difficult to speculate what would have happened to the Zanzibar revolution without the union: Whether Zanzibar would have advanced faster or whether a counter-revolutionary force would have taken over and embellished a dictatorship worse than anything the islands have actually experienced especially during the first phase government. What is clear though is that the union has brought the two peoples much closer together.

I do not believe that the unity of the two peoples can be strengthened by restructuring the present set-up into a federation. I see movement from the present set-up to a federation as a step towards the dismemberment of the union; and I do not think that that is to the short or long term benefit of the people of Tanzania. The present problems can be resolved if there is a strong political will on the part of our political class and if the people are told the truth about those problems.

Only when corrective measures are taken, would it be possible to sustain and strengthen the union. Otherwise if the difficulties inherent in the Articles of Union and the problems arising from implementation are only emphasised and not resolved, the tendency would be towards the withering away of the union.
In this era of multi-parties and openness, it is even more important that matters are discussed and solutions founded on popular will. Of all the political parties that have been established since the abolition of the one-party system, only one, the Democratic Party led by Reverend Mtikila, has come out strongly against the union and called for its dissolution. Others are prevaricating between ‘referendum’, ‘federation’ and modifications within the present set-up. The CCM and its governments which seemed earlier on to strongly accept the dissenting opinion in the Nyalali Report, now seems to be torn apart, with a strong group calling for a federal set-up.

The national language, the ethics of equality and human dignity, and the Union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar are what overcame the ethnic hatred, religious bigotry, regional parochialism and national differences and forged national cohesion and unity. It is these that have made Tanzania an example in a continent beset with secessionism, ethnic violence and religious pogroms. One hopes that there is capacity, honesty and patriotism within Tanzania that will look beyond the sectarian interests. The alternative is too horrendous to contemplate.

*A full version of this paper was published in 1993 by the Danish Centre for Development Research. It also appeared in the book Zanzibar and the Union Question, edited by Prof Chris Peter and Professor Haroub Othman
and published by the Zanzibar Legal Services Centre.

* Haroub Othman is a professor in development studies at the
University of Dar es Salaam.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at