History of Conflict and its Impact on Tanzanian Development

PESA Editorial - Tanzania - 3Q2018/19

The United Republic of Tanzania is among the most peaceful and politically stable countries in the Great Lakes region, with only a few incidents of socio-political and religious violence recorded since the country’s independence in 1961.  This is in stark contrast to the egregious levels of ethnically-motivated violence witnessed in post-colonial Rwanda in 1994, the armed rebellions that afflicted neighbouring Uganda between 1963 and 1986, and the protracted armed conflict that continues to plague the Democratic Republic of Congo. The relative peace and stability enjoyed by Tanzania since independence has enabled it to achieve sustained development and robust economic growth, which is among the highest in the region at an average of 6.7% over the past 10 years[1].


Notwithstanding its relative peace, Tanzania has experienced some conflicts. The largely sporadic incidents of conflict and violence that have beset Tanzania can be traced back virtually to the country’s independence.  In 1964, the country was faced with insurgency in semi-autonomous Zanzibar, which was instigated by the Afro-Shiraz Party on the grounds that it was under-represented in parliament. The Zanzibar revolution ultimately led to the overthrow of the Zanzibari sultan.  It is estimated that 80 people were killed and 200-400 were injured during and in the aftermath of the revolution[2].  Over the past twenty years Tanzania has largely been unaffected by major conflicts, with only a few minor incidents of post-election violence noted – particularly in semi-autonomous Zanzibar[3]. For example, the election results of 1995, 2000 and 2005 were rejected by Zanzibar’s main opposition party, which accused the CCM of interfering in electoral processes.  All three elections were consequently marred by violent protests.  During the Morogoro political unrest of 2000, 15 people were killed in domestic political disputes pursuant of liberal democracy. In another politically-motivated incident in 2001, 37 people were killed – about 30 of whom were opposition supporters[4].


Notwithstanding these casualties and injuries, political unrest and election-related conflicts have not tangibly undermined Tanzania’s economic growth and development.  The country’s economy grew from an average of 3.5% in 1995 to 7.1% in 2000, remaining constant up to 2005. During the same period, the annual GDP per capita increased from 0.4% in 1995 to 4.9% in 2005. This is attributable largely to sustained economic growth resulting from increased foreign direct investment, privatization programmes and improvements within the manufacturing and construction sectors.


Apart from election-related violence, post-colonial Tanzania has also witnessed intermittent incidents of religious violence, with the most severe cases observed between 1990 and 2013.  The root causes of religious violence include among others poverty, ignorance and issues of global import such as the radicalisation of youth[5]. The major religious denominations in Tanzania are Christianity and Islam, with Muslim groups in particular feeling marginalised and neglected by the political leadership of the country. The years 2011, 2012 and 2013 witnessed more frequent and intense Christian-Muslim clashes reflecting deteriorating relations between these religious groups and resulting in several deaths. Various reasons have been advanced for the disparity in religious tolerance and scale of violence and conflict observed during these periods, including poor education, poverty and economic hardships coupled with a scarcity of employment opportunities among others[6].


Therefore, economic factors can be seen to have played a significant role in Tanzania’s religious conflicts. For instance, annual GDP per capita growth fell from 3.6% in 1990 to -2.7% in 1992, which coincided with heightened periods of religious conflict.  Annual GDP per capita growth fell from 5.1% in 2007, to 1.9% in 2012 – another period marked by considerable religious conflict.   For this reason, peace and stability are pivotal to Tanzania’s economic growth and development; hence the government should prioritise development and avail material resources (including employment opportunities) on an equitable basis.


PESA Editorial - Tanzania People's Defence Force - 3Q2018/19
Tanzania People's Defence Force with President John Magufuli


The violence and conflict experienced by Tanzania has not been restricted to that of a religious nature - the country has also experienced terrorism, wars and contagion from Neighbouring Countries. For example, in 1998, the US Embassy in Dar es Salam was bombed resulting in the deaths of 213 people[7]. A terror attack on this scale has not been witnessed in the country since; however, in 2016 Tanzanian authorities successfully arrested terrorist suspects plotting a terror attack[8].  and over the past five years a total of 40 terrorist incidents have been recorded, resulting in 32 deaths and 140 people being injured[9]. Approximately 245 people have been killed in Tanzanian terrorist attacks since independence, with the bombing of the US Embassy in 1998 being the singularly most severe incident recorded.  However, the sporadic nature of the terror incidents in Tanzania when compared to neighbouring countries such as Kenya, has meant that Tanzania’s economic growth and development has largely been shielded from the negative impacts of this violence.


Tanzania has also engaged in an inter-state war with Uganda from October 1978 to June 1979, which resulted in the deaths of 373 people and led to the overthrow of the Idi Amin government. This war was believed not only to have resulted in 373 deaths, but to have exacerbated the political, financial and social ills of Tanzania, on account of the economic burden of warfare on the relatively poor country[10].  Tanzania’s economy has also been negatively affected by contagion from neighbouring countries. In 1977-78 and again in 1987-88, Tanzania was drawn into the Mozambican civil war incurring 99 casualties in the first incident and expending significant economic resources to support independence and the government in the subsequent civil war[11].


PESA Editorial - Tanzania People's Defence Force - 3Q2018/19
Tanzania People's Defence Force Emblem

Tanzania’s other isolated incidents of violence relate to resources, especially disputes over land. Land conflict between farmers and pastoralists often has a tribal dimension, with land scarcity, a rapidly increasing population, poor land use governance systems, a bias towards crop cultivators rather than pastoralists and the vulnerability of native pastoralists’ claims in favour of foreign investors all constituting major causes of land conflicts[12].   Tanzanian land use conflicts between farmers and livestock keepers date far back; however, the worst contemporary conflict of this nature occurred in Kilosa District, Morogoro region in December 2000 which resulted in 38 farmers being killed[13].  Approximately 56 people have died due to resource-based conflict, more specifically land conflict[14]. Therefore, better land use and management practices as well as amicable, constructive and legal means of resolving land disputes are needed since economic growth and development thrives in stable environments. Tanzania’s case, however, is unique:  despite land conflicts persisting since the early 1990s, annual economic growth has remained steady, even during periods of conflict.  If one references figure 1, it is possible to conclude that land conflict has not affected economic growth figures, as Tanzania’s GDP continued to rise in the reported years from as low as 0.5% in 1992 steadily increasing to 8.1% in 2005.The decline after 2008 (from 8.4% in 2007 to 6.9% in 2014) and again from 2011 is attributable to other economic factors, most notably the global financial crisis.


In line with the objective of its strategy Vision 2025, Tanzania’ economy has achieved growth close to its target of 7% almost consistently over the last decade[15]. This performance is the result of market-oriented reforms and prudent macroeconomic policies. Growth has been driven by construction, services, and basic manufacturing, and the economy has become more diversified[16]. This has resulted in improvements to the quality of life enjoyed by Tanzanians, enabled by the rise in GDP per capita. GDP per capita has gradually grown from an average of USD 352 between 1997 and 2007 to USD 785 between 2007 and 2017.  Therefore, over the last twenty years (1997 to 2017) GDP per capita has averaged USD 570. The rate of economic growth increased from 3.4% in the 1990s to 6.6% in the 2000s. Growth from 2009 to 2017 was supported by expansion in both the industrial and agricultural sectors. Improvements in infrastructure and relatively stable power supply facilitated the industrial sector expansion; while favourable weather conditions supported increased crop production. Services sector growth slowed, within public administration this was due to recurrent public spending being held in check.


Tanzania has been able to accomplish these economic gains in part because the country enjoys relative peace and stability and the ruling party, CCM, has a comfortable majority in both mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar, which gives it a strong platform from which to implement its economic growth policies and radical transformational agenda.  Notwithstanding the global financial crisis of 2008, Tanzania’s growth rates have been remarkably stable over the last decade, and they are expected to continue or even increase in the foreseeable future. Decades of massive international aid coupled with relative peace and stability have created positive economic growth indicators and positively aided development.


Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) have gradually improved from USD 3.1 million in 1971 to USD 1.4 billion in 2016.  Tanzania’s FDI net inflows rose from USD 1.8 billion in 2010 to USD 2.0 billion in 2014.  Investments in Tanzania increased in large part as a result of natural gas discoveries across the country[17]. In 2015, FDI net inflows in Tanzania decreased by USD 500 million to USD 1.5 billion from USD 2.0 billion in 2014. Due to a dip in foreign direct investment, Tanzania hosted an investment forum in 2016 which focused mainly on economic growth and investment opportunities[18]. This invariably has contributed towards Tanzania remaining, over the past two years, the first recipient of FDI in East Africa. Going forward, regional investment and integration initiatives will provide support for domestic growth initiatives in Tanzania. Tanzania is a member not only of the EAC, but also SADC, and the Common Market for East and Southern Africa which makes the country strategically positioned for trade with regional neighbours. Investment prioritization will in the medium to long term increase economic growth and lay the foundation for sustainable development.


In conclusion, post-colonial Tanzania, like other African countries, has had its fair share of conflict (the dynamics of are discussed above).  While Tanzania has recorded considerable casualties and injuries as a result of these conflicts, compared to countries such as Kenya, Somalia and Nigeria, Tanzania can be regarded as relatively low risk – hence the country’s economic growth and development has not been too severely affected by these conflicts. Henceforth, Tanzania should pursue economic growth and development policies that fall within the ambits of a democratic state where the ethical shortcomings of the regime in relation to political repression and a lack of civil liberties are acknowledged and meaningful reforms are enacted in order to ensure true social justice.

[1] WB 2019. Tanzania, on the World Bank Website, viewed on 8 October 2018, from https://data.worldbank.org/.

[2] Gladstone, R. and Cowell, A. 2017. At Least 15 U.N Peacekeepers are Killed in Congo, on The New York Times Website, viewed on 19 November 2018, from https://www.nytimes.com/.

[3] Gebre, S. and Herbling, D. 2018. Rising Political Violence Stalks African ’Island of Peace’, on the Bloomberg Website, viewed on 12 September 2018, from https://www.bloomberg.com/; William, J. 2011. Emerging Socio-Economic and Political Conflicts in Tanzania, on the University for Peace Website, viewed on 19 November 2018, from http://www.monitor.upeace.org/.

[4] Pottie, D. 2001. Tanzania: Post-election Violence in Tanzania, on the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa Website, viewed on 20 November 2018, from https://www.eisa.org.za/; William, J. 2011. Emerging Socio-Economic and Political Conflicts in Tanzania, ibid.

[5] Nkoko, R.N. 2017. Accounting for the 1990-2013 Christian-Muslim Conflicts in Tanzania, Open University of Tanzania: Dar es Salaam. Available At: http://repository.out.ac.tz/ [Last Accessed on 31 January 2019].

[6] Nkoko, R.N. 2017. Accounting for the 1990-2013 Christian-Muslim Conflicts in Tanzania, ibid.

[7] William, J. 2011. Emerging Socio-Economic and Political Conflicts in Tanzania, ibid.

[8] GoUK 2017. Foreign Travel Advice: Tanzania, on the Government of the United Kingdom Website, viewed on 20 November 2018, from https://www.gov.uk/.

[9] WD 2018. Terrorism in Tanzania, on the Word Data Website, viewed on 20 November 2018, from  https://worlddata.info/.

[10] Matata, C. 2016. ‘The Tanzanian-Ugandan War: Were the Just War Principles, Islamic Just War Tradition or the Catholic Social Ethics Followed?’, IOSR Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, Vol. 21, Issue 7, pp.: 86-91. Available At: http://www.iosrjournals.org/ [Last Accessed: 31 January 2019].

 [11] PANA 2004. Mozambique to Return Bodies of Tanzanian Soldiers, on the Panapress Website, viewed on 31 January 2019, from http://www.panapress.com/.

[12] Nzongela, M.L. n.d. Land Conflicts between Pastoralists and Farmers in Tanzania: Approaches for Amicable Enforcement, Ardhi University: Dar es Salaam. Available At: https://www.academia.edu/ [Last Accessed: 20 November 2018].

[13] Mwamfupe, D. 2015. ‘Persistence of Farmer-Herder Conflict in Tanzania’, International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications, Vol. 5, Issue 2. Available At: http://www.ijsrp.org/ [Last Accessed: 30 January 2019].

[14] Makoye, K. 2014. Tanzania Struggles to End Clashes Between Farmers and Herders, on the Inter Press Service News Agency Website, viewed on 31 January 2019, from http://www.ipsnews.net/.

[15] WB 2019. Tanzania, ibid.

[16] IMF 2016. United Republic of Tanzania 2016 Article IV Consultation, International Monetary Fund: Washington, D. C. Available At: https://www.imf.org/ [Last Accessed: 31 January 2019].

[17] TI 2016a. FDI, on the TanzaniaInvest Website, viewed on 22 November 2018, from https://www.tanzaniainvest.com/.

[18] TI 2016b. Tanzania Investment Forum: November 16th 2016, Dar es Salaam, on the TanzaniaInvest Website, viewed on 22 November 2018, from https://www.tanzaniainvest.com/.


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