Tanzania celebrates its independence from British colonial rule on Dec. 9. This year will mark the East African nation’s 53rd Independence Day celebration. Here are 15 things you didn’t know about Tanzanian Independence and the country’s struggle for freedom from colonial rule.
In 1498 Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama visited the Tanzania coast for the first time. By 1506, the Portuguese were in control of most of the East African coastline.
In 1699 the Portuguese were ousted from the island of Zanzibar — now a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania — by Omani Arabs.
Starting in 1884, the German Colonization Society began acquiring territory in Tanzania and other East African countries, which eventually became known as German East Africa.
In 1886, Britain and Germany signed an agreement that allowed Germany to “set up a sphere of influence” over mainland Tanzania. The exception was a narrow piece of coastal land, which stayed under the sultan of Zanzibar’s rule. Zanzibar was considered a British protectorate at the time.
After the end of World War I, German assets were divided by the League of Nations. Britain gained control over Tanzania in 1919.
During the early 20th century, while under British rule, Tanzania was known as Tanganyika.
After World War II Britain began to loosen its grip on its African colonial territories. In Tanzania this began with Julius Nyerere and Oscar Kambona overhauling the leading political party in 1954.
On Dec. 9, 1961 Britain granted Tanzania independence and Julius Nyerere became prime minister. Zanzibar, however, remained a part of Britain.
In 1962 Tanzania, still known as Tanganyika, became a republic and Nyerere was elected president.
In 1963 Zanzibar became an independent country under the control of a sultanate.
In 1964 the Afro-Shirazi Party overthrew the government in Zanzibar in a violent, left-wing revolution.
After the sultan was ousted, Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged and officially become known as Tanzania.
Following the merger, Julius Nyerere remained as president. Abeid Amani, leader of the Afro-Shirazi Party responsible for ousting sultan Karume, became Tanzania’s first vice president.
It took 30 years after the country became a republic for Tanzania’s constitution to be amended to allow multi-party politics. This happened in 1992. In 1995 Benjamin Mkapa was elected president in the country’s first multi-party election.
Dec. 9 is a national holiday in Tanzania. It is celebrated with parades, dances and military aerial acrobatics in Dar es Salaam.
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