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Tanzania - Introduction

Tanzania's government declared a ban on witchcraft on 14 January 2015 in an effort to halt deadly attacks on albinos. The move followed mounting pressure on the government to protect albinos, who lack pigment in their skin and hair, and whose body parts are used by witch doctors in so-called magic potions thought to bring power and wealth. The UN human rights agency said more than 70 people with albinism had been killed for body parts in Tanzania since 2000. Attacks on Tanzanian albinos appeared to have surged in recent years, driven by high black market prices for their body parts.

Tanzania has made choices to be nonaligned, self-sufficient, egalitarian, and a leader against colonialism and racial discrimination in Africa. Tanzania is a developing East African nation noted for its history of stability and astounding natural beauty. A robust tourism industry provides all levels of tourist amenities, although higher-end facilities are concentrated mainly in the cities and selected game parks.

The United Republic of Tanzania was formed in 1964 with the union of the mainland country of Tanganyika and the Zanzibar archipelago, which includes the islands of Unguja and Pemba. Unguja is the much larger and populous of the two islands and is commonly referred to as Zanzibar. The main city of Zanzibar is known as Stone Town. Although part of the union government, Zanzibar has its own president, court system, and legislature, and exercises considerable autonomy.

The union in 1964 of Tanganyika and Zanzibar to form the United Republic of Tanzania joined two entities whose connections before the nineteenth century had been few and whose political,, social, and economic systems in the precolonial and colonial eras were quite different. Moreover there were overwhelming differences in size between the two islands constituting Zanzibar and the land mass of Tanganyika. Their populations in the mid-1970s roughly 15.5 million for the mainland and about 500,000 for Zanzibar indicate the proportions at the time of union and earlier.

Inter-city transportation between major destinations, such as Arusha and Dar es Salaam, are serviced by a variety of carriers that offer differing levels of safety and comfort. Travelers are strongly encouraged to use taxis or hire a driver from a reputable source for transportation. Travelers should also avoid using dala-dala microbuses and bajaji three-wheeled taxis which are poorly maintained and unsafe.

Ferries traveling between the mainland and Zanzibar have been known to capsize, resulting in drowning deaths and injuries. Storms can also cause rogue waves to break over the ship decks causing injuries and drowning. Marine rescue and emergency response capabilities are limited. Some vessels are not maintained regularly and may lack basic safety and navigational aids.

Road and traffic conditions in Tanzania differ markedly from those found in the United States and present hazards that require drivers to exercise continual alertness and caution. Traffic in Tanzania moves on the left. Drivers and pedestrians alike must maintain vigilance, looking both ways before turning or crossing a road.

Drivers are advised against nighttime travel. Roadways are often not marked and many lack both streetlights and shoulders. Pedestrians, cyclists, and animals are often encountered on unlit roads after dark, as are slow-moving trucks and cars traveling without lights. Carjacking and other related crimes are more common during the nighttime hours. Traveling in rural areas after dark is strongly discouraged. Remain cautious and alert when stopping for red lights at night, but be very careful proceeding through intersections as other cars may also be reluctant to stop.

Although a number of inter-city highways are periodically repaved and maintained, maintenance schedules are erratic and even good roads may deteriorate precipitously in periods of inclement weather. During the rainy season (late March to mid-June), many roads in Tanzania, both urban and rural, are passable only with four-wheel-drive vehicles.

In urban areas, it is common to find main arterial roads paved and maintained, while secondary streets are severely rutted and passable only with high-clearance vehicles. Traffic lights are often out of order, and care should be exercised at any traffic intersection, whether controlled or not, as many drivers disregard signals. Excessive speed, unpredictable driving habits, and the lack of basic safety equipment on many vehicles pose serious traffic hazards.

A comparison of Tanzania with other African states of roughly similar size and population suggests that it faces some problems that others do not and is free of some that trouble others. As a consequence in part of its history as one of the three East African territories governed by the British it had only a rudimentary industrial base at independence, the bulk of industrial investment having gone to Kenya, Except for diamonds, expected to run out in the not distant future, it lacked mineral resources.

Some of its land was very good, but much of it was not, and the good land often supported excessively dense populations. There has been some progress in economic development, but Tanzania reached independence as a very poor country, and it has, in maay respects, remained so.

Like most African states Tanzania is ethnically heterogeneous; as many as 120 ethnic groups have been identified. Nevertheless ethnic relations have not become a political issue, in part because no single group is large enough to have become dominant (the largest constitutes no more than 13 percent of the population) in part because, except in a few cases, ethnic identification is not deeply rooted. Moreover Nyerere himself and must other leaders are adamantly opposed to what is usually called tribalism.

This does not mean that ethnic awareness does not affect local social and political relations, or that differences in culture and in the economic situations of ethnic groups have not affected perceptions and actions; it does mean that conflict in ethnic terms is not nationally salient. Tanzania has also been fortunate in that a combination of historic factors and TANU's insistence have given it a lingua franca, Swahili, that has become very widely known and provides an opportunity for most Tanzanians to become literate without learning a completely alien language.

If divisiveness on ethnic grounds is not a critical issue in Tanzania, it is not clear that efforts to minimize economic differences between urban and rural populations and in the rural areas will not lead to other difficulties. For example, some of the economic differences in rural Tanzania are based on the differences between the natural environments in which specific communities (ethnic groups or large segments of them) have the hick to be located. Whether such differences can be leveled without generating a sense of unfairness is doubtful.

Perhaps more important is the problematic nature of Nyerere's assumptions and vision. In the circumstances there was no articulated opposition to that vision, but there were indications by the 1970s that many Tanzanians did not share his emphasis on economic equality. Moreover Nyerere's assumption that his goals were rooted in traditional values was misplaced. Nyerere's popularity was not at issue, and his sense of the direction in which Tanzania should move remained the formal basis of public policy in the late 1970s, but whether his goals are really those of ordinary Tanzanians was another matter.

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Page last modified: 27-05-2015 19:36:57 ZULU