Tanzania: Geographically East Africa, Geo-Politically Southern Africa


tanzania_fullmap Geographically Tanzania is clearly within the region of East Africa. Yet, Tanzania was a founding member of three important southern African regional groups: the Front Line States, the Southern Africa Development Coordinating Committee (SADCC), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). How can we explain this seeming geographic anomaly?The answer to this question can be found in the longstanding commitment on the part of Tanzania to the ideals of Pan-Africanism, the unity of Africa, and the liberation of all African colonies. Tanzania’s commitment to Pan-Africanism predated its involvement in southern Africa. After its independence from Britain in December, 1961, the leadership of the Tanganyika (as it was called before 1964) offered strong support to the independence of two of its neighboring countries, Kenya and Uganda. In 1963 after Kenya became independent, Tanganyika led the effort to form the East African Community along with Kenya and Uganda.
In 1964, showing its commitment to the ideal of African unity, Tanganyika merged with the island state of Zanzibar to form the new country of Tanzania. This merger is the only successful attempt to merge two former African colonies.While vibrant for more than a decade, the East Community dissolved in the mid-1970s as a result of strong disagreements between Uganda and the rest of the community over the policies of the then Ugandan dictator Idi Amin.In spite of the failure of the East African community, Tanzania pursued its commitment to African unity and African liberation through its active support of national liberation movements throughout southern Africa. Beginning in the mid-1960s, Tanzania invited liberation movements from neighboring Mozambique, Namibia, Angola, and South Africa to set up military bases and training centers in Tanzania. The current leaders of these countries are grateful for the support that Tanzania offered during their struggles for freedom. There is agreement within southern Africa that no other country in Africa offered as much support for their liberation as did Tanzania.

It was through this active engagement with the liberation struggles in southern Africa that Tanzania became actively involved in the regional organizations such as SADCC and SADC that promote economic and political cooperation and integration.

Tanzania’s support for the liberation of southern Africa and the ideal of Pan African unity is testimony to the intellect, charisma, and moral integrity of its first President Julius Nyerere. With the exception of Nelson Mandela, no other African leader has been held in as high regard by people from throughout the continent as former President Julius Nyerere. Without his visionary leadership, moral integrity, and commitment to the ideals of African unity, Tanzania would not be the bridge it is today between east and southern Africa, a shining example of the possibility of African collaboration, integration, and unity. nyerere
Julius Nyerere, first President of Tanzania