The story behind the only African country formed by merger of two states

Julius Nyerere and  Abeid Karume
Julius Nyerere of Tanganyika and Abeid Karume of Zanzibar before the merger

Tanzania was established on 26 April 1964 as a result of the union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar. The name of the country was created as a clipped compound of the names of the two states.

Tanganyika is often understood as a reference to Lake Tanganyika and is said to be derived from the Swahili words tanga, meaning sail, and nyika, meaning uninhabited plain, wilderness. The two words create the phrase “sail in the wilderness”.

The name of Zanzibar comes from zeng, said to mean black, and the Arabic word barr, which means coast or shore.

Brief History of Tanzania

The union of the two states came shortly after both countries gained their independence from Britain.

From 1894 to 1914, Tanganyika, along with two smaller regions, was controlled by Germany and known as German East Africa. Tanganyika was put under the “trusteeship” of Britain by the League of Nations in 1920 after Germany was defeated in World War I. On December 9, 1961, the country gained its independence from Britain.

Zanzibar, an island port off the coast of Tanganyika, had been in contact with traders from the Persian Gulf since about the 10th century but was put under British control in 1890.

According to historians, Zanzibar gained its independence on December 10, 1963, but remained under the control of the Omani Arabs, under the Sultan Jamshid bin Abdullah.

The natives, outnumbering the Arabs and serving as slaves under their control, despised this designation and decided to fight for their independence in what resulted in the Zanzibar Revolution in which more than 20,000 people died. Jamshid bin Abdullah was deposed and sent into exile.

The revolutionary government that came to power, led by Abeid Karume of the Afro-Shirazi Party, went to visit Julius Nyerere a mere 105 days after the revolution. Nyerere proposed the idea of a union. Karume, reportedly, immediately agreed and suggested that Nyerere become president of the union.

The name Tanzania became the name of the combined states.

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