Tanzania Facts
Area:    945,087 sq. km.
Capital:    Dar es Salaam
Total Population:    30,616,000 (source: unknown, 1998, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References

Risk Assessment

The situation in Zanzibar is difficult to assess. In June 1999, the opposition CUF and the ruling CCM signed an agreement to end their political conflict. The agreement provides for more autonomy for the island, the inclusion of the opposition in the ruling cabinet, and an overhaul of the judiciary. The opposition CUF agreed, in turn, to recognize the CCM government and return to parliament. Zanzibar was to gain greater autonomy in exchange for recognizing and cooperating with the CCM government. Despite these agreements, an adequate level of trust between the CUF and CCM does not exist, and the fact that the election of 2000 was boycotted and rigged is evidence of this. The government repression that resulted after the elections further puts Zanzibaris at risk. Following protests in early 2001, Zanzibar police broke into homes destroying various items and monitored phone calls. The police saturation of the island following the elections caused 33 people to die and many more to flee to Kenya. There was some suspicion that the government had fired upon refugees with helicopters after the mysterious capsizing of a boat and the arrival of some refugees with gunshot wounds.

Due to the geographic concentration of the group and continual government-inflicted political discrimination and repression and, the potential exists for future militant and conventional protests. However, the situation in Zanzibar has gained international attention, and the pressure that is being put on the Tanzanian government by the Commonwealth and the European Union may be enough for a future settlement to be effectively put into place. Once again, it will depend on the level of trust that can be created between the CUF and CCM, and this trust may not develop until the current Zanzibar leader is replaced by a more willing negotiator. These problems are now affecting Tanzania as a whole, and they must become a more important issue for the government. Another concern for the Tanzanian government is growing fundamentalism on the Islands of Tanzania. The vast majority of islanders and about one-third of mainlanders are Muslim. Whereas the mainland has been secular in nature, the islands have tended to be more closely tied to and influenced by Muslim states in the gulf. This influence concerns the government because it is not willing to allow the islanders to rule themselves according to Islamic law, nor is it willing to give up the islands altogether if that demand should one day be developed by the fundamentalists.

Analytic Summary

The people of the Islands of Zanzibar (also called Unguja) and Pemba, which joined mainland Tanzania in 1964, are divided between those of Arab descent and those of African or mixed descent (Shirazi). The islands were ruled by the Sultan of Oman for centuries before gaining complete independence in 1963 (TRADITN = 1). Prior to independence, Arabs dominated trade and politics on the island, though they constituted less than 20% of the total Zanzibari population and only 2% of the total population (REGIONAL = 1). A large minority of mainlanders are Muslim, but not Arab. While there are religious differences between the Arabs and the mainlanders who are mostly Christian (BELIEF = 3), they all speak Swahili (LANG = 0). There are tensions between Africans and Arabs on the islands, but the main locus of conflict is not always ethnic. Both Africans and Arabs are actively separatist (SEPX = 3), though conflict exists between those who desire to separate from Tanzania completely and those who do not. Most Arabs favor independence, while there is less support among the African community. As a result of the tensions over the separatism issue, the Zanzibaris are very fragmented as a group (COHESX9 = 3), with cleavages arising out of both ethnic and ideological differences.

Shortly after independence, Zanzibari Africans – afraid of continued Arab domination – carried out a revolution that resulted in the deaths of thousands, mostly Arabs. After the revolution, many Arabs fled the islands and power fell into the hands of Shirazi Sheik Abeid Karume.

Zanzibar experienced minor ecological or demographic disadvantages in 2001 (DMSICK01 = 1; DMEMPO01=1; DMINFL01 = 1). However, the island was plagued by a cholera epidemic in December 2001 which resulted in the deaths of at least 30 people and the hospitalization of 200 others. Ramadan festivities were cancelled due to the outbreak, much to the chagrin of the Zanzibari Muslims (DMSICK01 = 1). Zanzibaris also do not suffer any degree of political discrimination (POLDIS03 = 0). However, following the 2000 elections, many Zanzibaris were arrested for involving themselves in protests in early 2001. The Arabs tend to support the opposition party, the Civic United Front (CUF). In the most recent elections in 1995 and 2000, the results were considered to be rigged, allowing the CCM (Chama Cha Mapinduz) to retain power in Zanzibar. International observers noted many irregularities in the 1995 elections, and some observers stated that the CUF should have been declared the winner. There were reports of harassment of CUF supporters after these elections, especially on the island of Pemba which voted overwhelmingly for the opposition, and many CUF supporters on Pemba reportedly fled the island out of fear. The CUF boycotted the 2000 elections. In 2000, there were attempts to limit the CUF's ability to organize and protest. CUF supporters have also been intimidated by the police. Lending even more support to the argument that the conflict between Arabs and Africans is political rather than purely ethnic is the fact that there are no cultural or economic disadvantages in Zanzibar (ECDIS03 = 0). While there have been no recent reports of inter-group conflict, the army was sent to Zanzibar after the controversial 2000 election, and they arrested a large number of protestors. Some of those detained were beaten while in custody, and Amnesty International reported that a number of them had died. A show trial also took place in 2000 against CUF members arrested for treason in 1997. These members were eventually released. However, Tanzania as a whole has been relatively stable and free from ethnic conflict since independence, despite the fact that it contains roughly 120 distinct ethnic groups. Twelve of these groups comprise half of Tanzania's population.

As mentioned, the Arab community on Zanzibar Island tends to support the CUF, and this appears to be the only organization that possesses predominant support from the group. The European Union, the Commonwealth, and other international organizations have attempted to influence the government of Tanzania to improve its electoral policies and to try to negotiate between the CCM and CUF. Finland has also stopped sending aid to Tanzania until negotiations take place. The CUF's main demand is the removal of the current president, who has rigged the elections to keep himself in power. As mentioned, there are also demands for greater autonomy for the island and greater control over local politics. Most Zanzibaris also oppose a recent government plan to build a toxic waste dump on the island. Grievances also appear in the domain of religion. In 2001, 20 Muslim leaders were arrested after they conducted Eid el Fitr prayers one day after the government's officially declared day for Eid el Fitr prayers. The government also cancelled Ramadan activities in what they claimed to be an attempt to stop the spread of cholera after the 2001 outbreak, but it was met with opposition by Zanzibaris. There were also reports in 2001 that celebrators of the Muslim holiday, Hajj, were dispersed using rubber bullets.

Beginning in the 1960s, there have been periods of protest and militant activity on the island. For instance, there were large protests during the 1961 election (PROT60X = 4). Protests resumed in the 1980s, when a coup plot was uncovered (PROT80X = 2). In 1999, there was a campaign by the CUF to protest the changing of the constitution to allow the CCM president to run for a third term (PROT99 = 2). As mentioned, there were also small protests against the election of the CCM in 2000 and 2001 (PROT00-01 = 3; PROT03= 0). The protests continued into 2001 with the main one occurring on January 26 and 27. This was the protest which resulted in the death of about 33 people and the migration of hundreds more. Starting in 1964 with the bloody overthrow of the Sultanate (REBEL60X = 3), the island has also had its share of militant activity. President Karume was assassinated in 1972 (REBEL70X = 1). Rebellious activity resurfaced in 2000 with a series of bomb blasts attributed to militant members of the CUF (REB00 = 1). In 2002, there was some sporadic banditry, which resulted in the in the bombing of a government office and the arrest of 5 Zanzibaris (REB00 = 1).


Glickman, Harvey. May 1997. ATanzania: From Disillusionment to Guarded Optimism.@ Current History, May 1997: 217-221.

Lexis/Nexis 1980-1999: Various news wires including BBC, Inter Press Service, Indian Ocean Newsletter.

Tanzania: A Country Study. 1978. Washington, D.C. The American University.

"Tanzania." CIA World Factbook, 2004.

"Tanzania: Country Reports on Human Rights Practices." (2001-2003) United States Department of State.

"Tanzania." Amnesty International. Dec. 2002. Http://web.amnesty.org/report2003/taz-summary.org.

"Tanzania's Political Union with Islands falters 37 years on." Agence France Presse.

"Zanzibaris arrive fleeing policial violence, seeking medical attention" BBC Summary of World Broadcasts. 31 Jan. 2001.

"Kenya; Zanzibari Refugees End Hunger Strike." UN Integrated Regional Information Network. Africa News. 9 Mar. 2001.

"Cholera outbreak prompts Zanzibar government to ban public celebration of the end of Ramadan fasting." Associated Press Worldstream. 17 Dec. 2001.

"Zanzibar refugees start returning home from Kenya." Associated Press Worldstream. 17 May 2001.

"Tanzanians mark 39th union anniversary Saturday." Agence France Presse. 25 Apr. 2003.

"Tanzania: Opposition DP plans demostrations to press for Zanzibar's rights." BBC Monitoring International Reports. Financial Times Information. 30 Aug. 2002.


This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.