The making of a nation
Tanzanian history starts in Ngorongoro more or less two million years ago. Here, in a place called Olduvai Gorge, a number of primitive men used to live.
And they evolved. The link between these men and us are a couple of hunter-gatherer tribes speaking a special kind of language with clicks, still living in Tanzania.
I am talking about the Sandawe tribe and the Hadzabe tribe, who have been slowly driven out of their lands by Bantu groups coming from the West and Nilotic groups coming from the North.
On the coast and in Zanzibar things went differently.
Around the 8th Century, Arab and Persian dealers, the Shirazi, reached the Tanzanian coast and settled. They left us what we now can admire in places like Kaole and the ‘Kilwas’.
The consequence was that while in continental Tanzania the animist religion of the Bantu groups took hold, on the coast the Islam of the Shirazi expanded.
But this place was attractive for other people too, so Portuguese and Chinese arrived and magically Tanzania experienced the contact with other cultures.
It wasn’t always a peaceful experience, nontheless it contributed to start what we now call the Swahili culture and language.
The 17th Century saw the birth of slavery on a large scale and the sad supremecy of Zanzibar in this awful trade because the Caribbean and Brazilian plantations needed free laborers. The Sultan Seyyid bin Said, who founded Stone Town, was one of the most active slaves merchants.
He made Zanzibar very rich and introduced the famous Zanzibari clove crops.
In the same period in which in Europe Romantic poetry scanned the human soul, in Tanzania arrived the Western explorers:
Burton, Speke and Livingstone, all looking for the source of the Nile, and the English Government established a representation in Zanzibar, obliging the Sultan to end the slave market.
Soon after, the Germans started to acquire land in continental Tanzania. It would be very hard to get rid of them both. The German East Africa lasted until the end of World War I and the British Protectorate until the decolonization in 1961.
In 1954 Julius Nyerere gave birth to TANU
Tanganyika African National Union: an opposition movement and in 1961 he became Tanganyka first president with his new party, the CCM.
In 1964 Zanzibar saw a bloody revolution against the sultanate: the last sultan ran away and the Zanzibari accepted Nyerere’s offer to join with Tanganyika. The United Republic of Tanzania was born, even if Zanzibar obtained a sort of autonomy from the central Government.
Nyerere was a visionary
He spent his entire life trying to improve the people’s conditions through the ujamaa, a kind of African socialism. It did’t work, I am afraid, but he has the merit of having really tried. Tanzanians still love him and he his the Father of the Nation.
His party won in every election till nowadays. The current president, Mr John Magufuli, still belongs to the CCM.