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Published by EF041008 on 2010/1/4
This small archipelago off the African coast in the Indian Ocean, made up of Zanzibar and Pemba Islands, is today a part of the nation of Tanzania.
This was a holding place for slaves, and these islands took on immense importance in the triangular trade.

This small archipelago off the African coast in the Indian Ocean, made up of Zanzibar and Pemba Islands, is today a part of the nation of Tanzania. The island was the farthest destination for the dhows (these small vessels constructed without the use of nails) coming from Arabia and Sea of Oman. Zanzibar was dependent upon the Sultanate of Oman from the 17th century and it has a majority Muslim population.

This was a holding place for slaves, and these islands took on immense importance in the triangular trade. The slave trade of Zanzibar ravaged an entire area of East and Central Africa, from the North of Uganda to Mozambique and from the Indian Ocean to the Congo River.The slave trade became, along with the ivory trade, a major feature of Zanzibar’s commerce.

                                      Collections New York Public Library

The slave market of Zanzibar dates from 1811.
In 1832, the capital of the Sultanate of Muscat was transferred to Zanzibar and Sultan Seyid Saïd (1804-1856) took up residence here. Relying on an alliance with Britain (and the protectorate established in 1890), in exchange for a cessation of the slave trade (which would finally be abolished in 1897), the Sultan achieved independence for the Island from Oman and developed Zanzibar’s commercial interests.

This Empire included three elements: the commercial heart (the islands) produced cloves, the coastal zone, devoted to the slave and ivory trades, and the hinterland with its major artery of Tabora, the revolving door of all trade with the African interior. Close ties were woven between Zanzibar and the lands of Tanganyika, with more than a hundred chieftains and Bantu kings.
An example is the expansion of Swahili, the language of the commercial empire of Zanzibar which spread across the entire territory of Tanganyika. 

                                      Collections New York Public Library

Swahili was used by the German administration when it acquired the area after the Berlin Conference (1884-1885) and via the Carl Peters Company, the Deutsche Ostafrikanische Gesellschaft (DOAG), the Tanganyika Colony.
From this moment forward, the destinies of Zanzibar and Tanganyika would be ever more linked, until the two were joined.
In Tanganyika, the German attempt at management was a failure. The Maji-Maji revolts occurred and left 100,000 dead in 1907.
At the end of the 1st  World War, the German region was placed under the mandate of the Society of Nations (SON), managed by Great Britain. The capital was Dar-Es-Salaam.
Tanganyika did not receive western investments and the population was often excluded from the natural reserves that were created. Associations  were created like the Tanganyika African Association (1929), integrating both business and salaried classes.

                                                       Photo Credit Nicolas Gein
In 1954, under the impetus of the young teacher Julius Nyerere, this association became a political party, called the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU).
In Zanzibar too movements were created. The influence of the Eastern Block became apparent. The anti-colonialist movement encouraged the African peoples of both Zanzibar and Tanganyika.On the continent, the colonial power managed to control these pro-independence tensions by giving a small degree of representation to organized groups. Tanganyika achieved its independence in 1961.

In Zanzibar on the other hand, Arab and colonial aristocracies did not have as much diplomatic dexterity or desire to accord the same independence. An Arab-Marxist revolution, supported by the descendents of slaves, chased out the Sultan.
Zanzibar grew closer to Tanganyika and Julius Nyerere accepted to integrate Zanzibar into the new nation of Tanzania. He thought he would be able to ensure that Zanzibar did not become a Marxist haven at his doorstep.

                                                          Photo Credit Nicolas Gein
Zanzibar maintained the profits from its clove exports, was offered the position of Vice-President, numerous deputies, and it retained a single party, the Afro-Shirazi Party (ASP) which only melded in 1977 with TANU to form the Chma Cha Mapinduzi.
The control of Zanzibari politics remains a complicated affair, particularly for how strongly it is influenced by Islam and how it constitutes a vector of Muslim penetration inside continental Tanzania.

This is the dilemma that Tanzania today has to manage. Should it maintain its joint wealth while continuing to integrate Zanzibar and all of its history, including its religious identity? Or should there be a return to Tanganyika and Zanzibar, two separate political entities?
This is therefore a land where the true polemics of the 21st century hide behind the façade of a paradise of white sand beaches and tropical oceans.

This article was written by Emmanuelle Falsanisi.



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