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Politics and religion in Tanzania

Discussion in 'JF Chit-Chat' started by nngu007, Apr 5, 2011.

  1. nngu007

    nngu007 JF-Expert Member

    Apr 5, 2011
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    Of a population of about 42 million today in Tanzania, it is estimated that about one-third are Muslim, about one-third are Christian and perhaps one-third are "animist." Muslims in Tanzania live largely along the pre-colonial and colonial trade routes: coastal north-south, and east-west, in the past involving slaves, ivory, sisal, coffee and tea. Ninety-nine percent of the population of the Zanzibar islands, the hub of pre-colonial trade-about a million people-are Muslim. In the traditional centers of Swahili culture along the coast, Muslims adhere to Sunni Islam. From the ninth century, Arab traders married local women; the new culture that developed combined Persian and indigenous elements. As Islam expanded into the interior, so did syncretic practices combining Islam and traditional beliefs, some of which strayed far from the conventional. The Christian population lives primarily in the southwest and north-central areas of the country.

    The Tanzanian state is officially secular and its constitution guarantees freedom of religion. The state also prohibits religious political parties. The ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), the direct descendant of the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU), has held power, by a large margin, since independence in 1962, changing its name in 1977.

    TANU merged with Zanzibar's Afro-Shirazi Party, the victorious party in 1963 after the Zanzibar revolution, which saw the overthrow of the Sultan and an Arabized elite. The CCM has dominated government on the mainland, but the Civic United Front (CUF) has gained a substantial following in Pemba Island, near Zanzibar. The CUF was founded in 1992, with the advent of a multi-party system. Two movements merged: Kamahuru, a group advocating the democratization of Zanzibar, with the Civic Movement, a human rights organization based on the coastal mainland. The CCM gains much support in Unguja, the main Zanzibar Island, from its resident Africans, while the CUF is strong on Pemba, the small nearby island, part of the Zanzibar administrative entity. It is also strong among non-Africans, i.e., those who identify as "Arab." In 1995 the CUF refused to accept the results of the national elections, claiming that the vote had been rigged by the CCM. (The CUF repeated these allegations after the October-November 2000 elections and boycotted Zanzibar's regional parliament, as well as Tanzania's national legislature.)

    In January 2001 violence broke out when police fired into a crowd of CUF protesters, who were flouting a ban on protesting, killing thirty-three. During the 2005 presidential and parliamentary elections the opposition claimed that the CCM used illegal and unethical means in their campaign. Opposition politicians and supporters also reported being beaten and tortured. In addition, the CUF claimed that the electoral commission was influenced by the ruling party.

    Although bloody demonstrations occurred in 1995 and in 2000, the CUF has maintained that it does not use or condone violence as a means of gaining power, preferring to operate through legitimate, democratic means. Yet, it has not totally dismissed the use of violence as a means for establishing itself in Zanzibar, especially if political corruption and marginalization continue to occur there.

    The CUF organized a cadre of young men, called the Blue Guards, to protect CUF party leaders, despite the law against alternative police forces. Members of the Blue Guards said their goal was to "release Tanzanian society from the dictatorship of Christianity"; the goal of CUF is to make Zanzibar an Islamic state. [1] The political struggle between the CUF and CCM in the past two decades has created new distinctions between Muslims and Christians. During the early years of one party socialist rule, President Julius Nyerere was adamant about creating a nation free of racial and religious divisions. The demise of ujamaa ("community") socialism that had tried to create national unity, as well as the rise of the multi-party system, permitted region and religion to divide the population. In particular, "the contested nature of the Zanzibar state makes it very appealing to politicians to resort to the politicization of racial identity in order to claim legitimacy to rule." [2] Ethnic differences and overlapping religion have become rallying points in the search for the "true" identity of Zanzibar, which have faint echoes on the mainland. Religion has become a salient issue, especially in Zanzibar, as has the future of the union of the mainland and the offshore islands. "[...] people at the grassroots level advance religious identities in pursuit of their interests in regard to spiritual, material, and political interests" all across Tanzania. [3]

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