Blogging on Issues of International and European Security

Behind the Headlines: Tanzania

Tanzanian special forces  on p part in a multinational training exercise as part of the United Nations Intervention Brigade in the DRC. Source:

Tanzanian special forces take part part in a multinational training exercise as part of the United Nations Intervention Brigade in the DRC.

by Francois Ducrotte

A land of peace?

Overshadowed by the events of the region, Tanzania is an often forgotten.  Suffering the consequences of the years of conflict in the great lakes region but dwarfed by the historical significance of Rwanda, the ongoing bloodshed in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the state collapse and piracy in Somalia, Tanzania is on the periphery of international attention despite the key role it plays.

In its latest blog series, ISIS Europe hopes to draw attention to those countries that once used to be at the centre of attention of media and policy-makers, but that have recently been overshadowed by other topical conflicts.

On 29 March 1961, Britain agreed that Tanganyika would become an independent state on 28 December 1961. Tanganyika is today seen as the Tanzania main land without the island of Zanzibar. In 1964, Tanganyika joined Zanzibar to form the United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, which a year later became the United Republic of Tanzania.

Tanzania has today one ruling and dominant party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM). The CCM have won all the elections since 1995, opposition parties exist but are not considered to have a chance of electoral victory. The National Assembly has 323 members, with 75 seats reserved for women. The president is elected for a five year term and since December 2005, CCM candidate and ex-Foreign Minister Jakaya Kikwete has been the president of the United Republic of Tanzania, in the 2005 elections he won with 80.28% of the vote[1].

Tanzania, which is located in East Africa, is facing problems many states on the continent are also facing, such as HIV, terrorism, religious and ethnic problems as well as difficult relations with neighborhood countries.  However, Tanzania is one of the few countries in Africa which has enjoyed peaceful political development. Stable political leadership has kept the country out of numerous conflicts which have been afflicting a number of its neighbors.

National Issues: potentially a source of conflict

HIV is one of the national problems Tanzania is facing; 1.4 Million people have HIV representing 5% of the population. The rate is not higher than the neighboring countries but is higher for women than men and consequently higher for children as well. A national law was passed in 2008 which makes it illegal to discriminate against someone with HIV, however schoolchildren in the north of Tanzania are being made to wear a red ribbon on their uniforms to show that they are HIV positive. Discrimination towards people with HIV is still high, although the effort from the government and justice system are becoming increasingly important.

Around 170,000 albinos are living in Tanzania.  In 2008 an albino was elected for the first time as a Member of Parliament however some people remain attached to culture and traditions with albino hunters killing victims; their blood and body parts used for witchcraft.  Even though the government has taken some steps, East African albinos face many challenges and live with constant fear.

Internal conflicts are also taking place in Tanzania, especially in the north, close to Kenya and where most of the piracy takes place, far from the Capital Dar es Salam. Though a multiparty State, human rights violations persist; particularly the freedom of expression. The police are using brutality against people and journalist participating in political opposition activities.

Other Factors noted for causing internal conflict within Tanzania include unequal sharing of natural resources, ethnic and religious divides, severe income disparity, competition for arable land and a lack of impunity. Today, half of all Tanzanians live below the poverty line and approximately one-third live in abject poverty. Infant and maternal mortality rates remain amongst the highest in the world, literacy rates are low and more than one third of all children under five are malnourished.

One example of conflict arising over unequal sharing of natural resources is the confrontation at the Barrick North Mara Gold Mine that occurred on December 14th, 2008, when 3,000-4,000 local people from the Mara Region overthrew security guards at the mine and destroyed approximately $15 million USD worth of property.

In terms of ethnic and religious divides, many people in Tanzania self-identify first by their ethnic or religious background, and then as their national identity of Tanzanian.  These complex identity structures are often a source of tension that can lead to conflict.

Except the war against Uganda in 1978 where Idi Amin (ex-President of Uganda) was helped by Libyan forces sent by Muammar Gaddafi, since independence, very few violent conflicts—internal, regional, or international—have occurred in Tanzania.  However, more recently, Tanzania is also facing issues with piracy and terrorism, but at a lower degree than the majority of African States.   It started with the Al Qaida bombing of the US embassy in Dar es Salaam in 1998, an attack carried out simultaneously with a similar attack in Nairobi.  Only few attacks have happened since then but North Tanzania (around Arusha) is still exposed; in March 2013, a church was targeted in the regiong[2]. Tanzania is further south than the main pirate bases in Somalia, but pirates are still active in Tanzania’s territorial sea.

Towards an economic diplomacy policy

More than military disputes, Tanzania is seeking a deeper economic diplomacy policy with main powers such as China and USA, but also with East African states. The East African Community (EAC)[3] is the regional intergovernmental organisation of the Republics of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, the United Republic of Tanzania, and the Republic of Uganda, with its headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania.  However, Tanzania is looking for an alternative alliance with the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi after a meeting was held only between Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. Tanzania may decide to pull out of the EAC.  Moreover, relations with Rwanda are tense again, because of the regional and historical instability around the Great Lakes. While Tanzania would rather focus on building its economy than regional conflict, it too has added fuel to the fire by expelling thousands of refugees from Rwanda, Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo.

Tanzania is exasperated by a flood of refugees fleeing fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s eastern Kivu region – the scene of years of back-to-back wars involving regional powers.  Tanzania has joined a United Nations (UN) brigade fighting alongside the Congolese army against the March 23rd (M23) rebel and militia forces that keep the region in anarchy. The intervention force, given an unprecedented offensive mandate by the UN Security Council (resolution 2098[4]), is being heralded as a bid to bring to an end the Kivu conflict once and for all.  Resolution 2098 approved the creation of the first-ever “offensive” combat force to “neutralize and disarm” the M23 and other rebels. The fighting has displaced more than 100 000 people, exacerbating the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the region which includes 2.6 million internally displaced and 6.4 million in need of food and emergency aid.[5]

But this has put Tanzania on a collision course with Rwanda, seen as a key backer of one of the main rebel groups in North Kivu. Rwanda could have potentially help the M23 rebels to move into Goma[6], the hub of rich mining territory and a city of one million, with the aim of “neutralise (ing) the UN brigade”, which is led by a Tanzanian general.  On the 29th of October 2013, a Tanzanian soldier died in DRC, killed by the M23 rebels.

On the 6th of November, M23 rebels declare the end of the rebellion after 20 month of insurgency[7]. Hopefully this will ease the tensions and will allow Tanzania focus to come back on a constructive economic and diplomatic policy.  The standoff between Tanzania and Rwanda is a setback to regional integration efforts.

To avoid casualties and following the intervention in Congo, Tanzania is also trying to engage discussion on Chapter VI of the United Nations Charter which encourages peaceful settlement for disputes and limits the type of weapons peacekeepers are allowed to use for defence.

Regional and International security contribution

Tanzania is one of the main East African contributors to UN peace keeping missions, mostly in Congo (MONUSCO) and Darfur (UNAMID), and  in 2013 is the 9th highest contributor to UN peacekeeping forces.[8] The UN also has 21 different UN agencies[9] operating in Tanzanian territory.

Tanzania is also improving its legal and justice system as well as trying to deepen cooperation with other organisations such as the EU regarding piracy issues. The EU Mission, EUCAP NESTOR is for example deployed in Tanzania, following receipt by the Union of an invitation from the Tanzanian authorities.[10]  EUNAVFOR[11] is working in close collaboration as the role of Tanzania is considered crucial by the EU regarding the fight against illegal traffic, piracy and terrorism.  Even if piracy emanate mostly from Somalia, Tanzania is part of the EU comprehensive approach to the issues of the Horn of Africa.  A pirate transfer agreement has been negotiated between the EU and Tanzania and the EU also supports Tanzania with capacity building projects for its maritime security sector.

Tanzania is also active in regional maritime security.  A trilateral MoU has been agreed between three countries (Tanzania, South Africa and Mozambique) working together to secure territorial waters of each respective country.  This includes the three parties sending members to participate in the combined maritime operations aimed at searching for pirate bases and any other illegal activities in the territorial waters[12].

Tanzania is on its way to progress but much more needs to be done if all targets are to be met.



One comment on “Behind the Headlines: Tanzania

  1. Baraka M Baraka

    congraturation tz

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