Tanzania Independence Day is celebrated on December 9 every year. 2021 marks the 61st year of the country’s independence from Britain, which governed Tanzania till 1961 under the name of Tanganyika.
History of Tanzania Independence Day
Tanzania’s independence movement started in 1954 and was led by Julius Nyerere, who co-founded the “Tanganyika African National Union (TANU)”. He was educated in Uganda and Scotland and began voicing his anti-colonial, Africanist political agenda when he returned to his country. He was inspired by the non-violent independence movement waged by Mahatma Gandhi in India and advocated for a similar resistance in Tanganyika. He was instrumental in uniting several tribal factions over the region to launch a united front against the British.
Elected to the General Council in the national elections of 1958–59, Nyerere, known as teacher or ‘Mwalimu’ in Swahili because of his teaching career, became the first President of an independent Tanganyika in 1961. It became a Republic the next year and merged with Zanzibar in 1964 after they overthrew the Sultan of Zanzibar. This is when the name of the country changed to Tanzania.
He was also a socialist who laid down state-ownership policies for services and community ownership for farms. When his plans failed to make Tanzania self-reliant, he became the first African leader to voluntarily resign from office. He remains a respected figure in the region because of his ethical principles.
Incidentally, the current ruling party, which is also the only party to have ruled the country, ‘Chama Cha Mapinduzi’, is an extension of TANU after it merged with the Afro-Shirazi party of Zanzibar. Currently, most of the Zanzibar archipelago remains a semi-autonomous region of the country with a flag that is a variation of the flag of Tanzania.
Tanzania Independence Day timeline
The region of Tanzania was under German rule since the late 19th century and is handed over to Britain, Belgium, and Portugal after the Treaty of Versailles.
After Nyerere’s efforts to unite various tribes in the region bears fruit, the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) is established to fight for sovereign rule.
The party wins all the seats allocated to it in the elections of 1958–59 and is well on its way to demand independence from the British, and this demand is realized shortly after.
The Zanzibar Revolution of 1964 overthrows the Sultan and his mainly Arabic government, and when it merges with Tanganyika, the country gets its present name.
Tanzania Independence Day FAQs
What do Tanzanians do on Independence Day?
There is a presidential address made in Dar-es-Salaam, the largest city and financial hub of the country. A military parade also takes place and music groups perform at the stadium in Dar-es-Salaam.
Did Tanzania get its independence later than its neighbors?
Tanzania got its independence around the same time as other colonies ruled by Belgium and Britain. The Democratic Republic of Congo gained independence in 1960 and Rwanda, Burundi, and Uganda in 1962.
Was Tanzania one of the last countries to gain independence from Britain?
Not at all. Brunei, which was a British colony, gained independence as late as 1984.
How To Observe Tanzania Independence Day
Learn about the history of Tanzania
The region has a fascinating history that stretches all the way back to the Stone Age, housing some of the oldest hominid cultures that archaeology has unearthed. It recorded travelers from Persia and India as early as the first millennium CE and the medieval period witnessed Swahili culture being mixed with Arabic influences. All this surely makes for wonderful history.
Speak to a Tanzanian
It’s not just the history of the region that’s interesting. Tanzanians today speak multiple languages of East African origin. Tanzania’s economy was elevated to the status of lower-middle income from low income by the World Bank in 2020. It also recently got its first female president, born to a Muslim family in Zanzibar. Speaking to a Tanzanian about how the country is doing today will provide a bird’s-eye view with lived experiences from the ground.
Travel to Tanzania
Tanzania has always boasted attractions such as the Serengeti National Park, which witnesses the Masai Mara wildebeest migration along with Kenya, and the highest peak in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro, among many other locations. If you have only heard of these famous places and are thinking of where to go for your next vacation, this is your chance to visit Tanzania and see them for yourself.
5 Interesting Facts About Tanzania
Tanganyika is the second-oldest lake
Africa has its own Great Lakes, including Victoria and Malawi, and Tanganyika is the second-oldest freshwater lake in the world, and the second-largest by volume and depth.
Tanganyika runs across the region
The central African belt is also referred to as the Great Lakes region and Lake Tanganyika is shared across the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, and Burundi.
Jane Goodall studied chimpanzees here
The famous primatologist and anthropologist Jane Goodall conducted her research on chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park.
Tourism is a major economic contributor
Agriculture is the biggest sector and employer in the country but tourism is a close third, accounting for 17.5% of GDP in 2016.
Four linguistic families are spoken here
All the four linguistic families in Africa — Bantu, Cushitic, Nilotic, and Khoisan — are spoken in Tanzania, which is the most linguistically prolific country on the continent.
Why Tanzania Independence Day Is Important
It reminds us of the colonial past
We can’t forget just how vast the British Empire was and how many countries it colonized. The Thirteen American Colonies of the U.S. were the first to gain independence in 1776 from the British.
It is an excuse to visit Tanzania
With so much biodiversity and topographical variety from volcanoes to Great Lakes, Tanzania is a great spot to visit at any time. The country’s Independence Day is just an excuse to finally book those flight tickets.
It is a merging of two different regions
The mainland of Tanganyika merged with the island archipelago of Zanzibar to form Tanzania. Zanzibar has its own distinct culture, not to mention a degree of autonomy from the mainland government, and Tanzania’s Independence Day celebrates the co-existence of both these regions.
Tanzania Independence Day dates