Forty-eight years ago today, the two sister countries of Tanganyika and Zanzibar joined together to form what is now known as the United Republic of Tanzania. It was a joyous occasion celebrated at home and abroad.
A period nearly half a century is a long time for a country’s development process. Many socio-economic and political changes have taken place during the Union’s existence since April 26, 1964.
First, it is sad to note the two architects of the Union, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere and Mzee Abeid Amani Karume, are not with us today – they are dead.
Second, the Tanzania of 1964 has undergone tremendous changes from single party to multi-party democracy to cope with the global socio-economic and political arrangement.
Tanzanians have prided themselves in having the only Union of the two independent states which has been described by many to be unique in Africa since no other states have followed their example.
Tanzanians have not been discouraged by the lack of interest on the part of other African states in forging larger political Units in Africa.
The Union came on April 26, 1964, when the late Julius. K. Nyerere, the President of Republic of Tanganyika and the late Abeid Karume, the President of Peoples Republic of Zanzibar had approved by signing the Articles of the Union less than four months since January 12, 1964 Zanzibar Revolution, which toppled the sultanate regime in Zanzibar.
However, from that time onwards cracks have appeared as some people claim that there are number of weaknesses that have surfaced since the beginning. One of the major claims is the increasing number of Union Matters that have doubled since the signing of the Articles of the Union in April, 1964.
Under the 1964’s Articles of Union, matters consented were only eleven (11) but now they are more than twenty-three.
At least four important factors contributed to the formation of the Tanganyika and Zanzibar Union:
It is believed that there were extensive historical ties between Tanganyika and Zanzibar in a wide range of respects including blood ties, trade, culture, common
language and close political co-operation particularly between the pioneer political parties – Afro Shiraz Party (ASP) for Zanzibar and Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) for Tanzania Mainland.
According to documented history, the second factor was the spirit of Pan – Africanism and particularly starting with East African Federation. Even before Independence, the late Nyerere and other nationalist
leaders in their regions had an ambition of AfricaN unity. Nyerere himself, unlike Kwame Nkrumah, preferred a gradual approach toward the African unity starting with regional federations.
Many efforts had been made to establish the East African Federation but the latest discussions between the three heads of East African states proved unfeasible for the establishment of this political federation.
For 48, Tanzanians have experienced many advantages of the existence of the Union. Some of the important merits are Tanzania being a proverbial island of peace in the turbulent the Great Lakes, the Union has contributed immensely to the stability of Zanzibar where political rivalry was hitherto intense, Union has enabled Tanzanian to cement the social and cultural relations, which existed for many years even before, and interaction between the people of
Tanganyika and the people of Zanzibar has increased as a result of inter-marriages and exchange of regular visits between the two peoples.
Some proponents of the Union have argued that the economy of Zanzibar cannot stand on its own as it heavily relies on the clove industry which is prone to the falling world prices of the crop.
As far as the economy is concerned, trade activities have increased between the two Union partners benefiting their people. People from the Mainland have been traveling to Zanzibar to buy goods also the same happening for Zanzibaris going to the Mainland for business activities.
Historians say perhaps the most conspicuous achievement of the Union is that it has existed longer than any other Union of its type in Africa.
They say despite of many shortcomings the Tanzanian Union is a shining example of the integration of peoples from two different sovereign nations.
The historians say the biggest merit of the Union, especially for Zanzibaris, is that it has guaranteed them security and diminished the vulnerability to external threats.
Some Zanzibar researchers say the Union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar has had a bumpy history during period of existence under every President of
the isles. They say it has led to the forced resignation of one president; dismissal of two Chief and the withdrawal of Zanzibar from the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) in the 1990s.
The researchers recommend that since the Union is a mutual agreement there is also the need to revisit the Articles of the Union and the Tanzania constitution to iron out political differences.
“In general we should revisit the Articles of the Union and to amend those doubtful additional matters. if our Union was really agreed by free consent and mutual agreement,” says a Zanzibar politician interviewed by researchers.
The major impediment to the Union, the researchers say, has been the political taboo to discuss issues related to it as doing that is considered treasonable.
Former Chief Justice Augustino Ramadhani puts this issue in the perspective:
“We are confronted by two issues; one is the Constitution and the other the Union.Why cannot we sit down and discuss these things? Claims that certain views will be expressed which are not compatible with the party policy are outdated. We are now under the multiparty system.
There are basic factors which have to be agreed upon by all stakeholders to ensure that they will be maintained by whoever is in power.”