TIMELINE: Tanzania’s historical events

A brief outline of Tanzania's history.


Tanzania has always played a pivotal role in African history. From being the location of some of the earliest human fossils ever found to being the vanguard of anti-colonial and -neocolonial activity, the country’s history has helped shape the continent and how Africans view themselves. 

Prehistory: Some of the oldest human settlements have been unearthed in Tanzania, with the oldest human fossils near Olduvai Gorge (Oldupai) in northern Tanzania, being over 2 million years old. Hunter-gatherer communities who spoke Khoisan populated Tanzania about 10,000 years ago.  

600 B.C. – 400 B.C.: Bantu-speaking peoples move into the area east of Lake Victoria.

100: Arab traders travel routes between Africa’s west and east coasts. Gold, ivory, cloth and beads are exchanged. Arab culture and religion spread.
1498: Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama becomes the first European to reach the East African coast.

1699: Portuguese ousted from Zanzibar by Omani Arabs.

1884: German Colonisation Society begins to acquire territory on the mainland.

1886 – Britain and Germany sign an agreement allowing Germany to set up a sphere of influence over mainland Tanzania, except for parts of the coast and Zanzibar.

1905-06 – German troops suppress a revolt by the indigenous Maji Maji.

 British rule

1916: British, Belgian and South African troops occupy most of German East Africa.

1919: League of Nations gives Britain a mandate over Tanganyika – today’s mainland Tanzania.

1929: Tanganyika African Association founded.

1954: Julius Nyerere and Oscar Kambona transform the Tanganyika African Association into the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU).


1961: Tanganyika becomes independent with Julius Nyerere as prime minister.

1962: Tanganyika becomes a republic with Nyerere as president.


1963:Zanzibar becomes independent.

1964: Sultanate of Zanzibar overthrown by Afro-Shirazi Party (ASP) in a violent, left-wing revolution; Tanganyika and Zanzibar merge to become Tanzania with Nyerere as president and Afro-Shirazi leader Abeid Amani Karume as vice-president.


1967: Nyerere issues the Arusha Declaration, which launches drive for socialist economic self-reliance.

1977: TANU and Zanzibar’s Afro-Shirazi Party (ASP) merge to become the Party of the Revolution, also known as Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), which is proclaimed as the only legal party.

1978: Ugandans temporarily occupy a piece of Tanzanian territory.

1979: Tanzanian forces invade Uganda, occupying the capital, Kampala, and help to oust President Idi Amin.

1985: Mr Nyerere retires and is replaced by the president of Zanzibar, Ali Mwinyi.

1992: Constitution amended to allow multi-party politics.

1995: Benjamin Mkapa chosen as president in Tanzania’s first multi-party election.

1998 August – Al-Qaeda Islamist terror group bombs US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.

2000: Mkapa elected for a second term, winning 72% of the vote.

2001: Tanzanian police shoot dead two people in Zanzibar while raiding the offices in Zanzibar town of the Civic United Front. Front chairman Ibrahim Lipumba charged with unlawful assembly and disturbing the peace.

Zanzibar violence

2001, January: At least 31 people are killed and another 100 arrested in Zanzibar in protests against the government’s banning of opposition rallies calling for fresh elections; government sends in troops.

2001, March: Governing CCM and main Zanzibari opposition Civic United Front agree to form joint committee to restore calm and to encourage return of refugees from Kenya.

2001, April: Tens of thousands of opposition supporters march through the commercial capital, Dar es Salaam, in the first major joint demonstration by opposition parties in decades.

2001, July: Huge new gold mine, Bulyanhulu, opens near northern town of Mwanza, making Tanzania Africa’s third largest producer of gold.

2001, November: Presidents of Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya launch regional parliament and court of justice in Arusha to legislate on matters of common interest such as trade and immigration.

2005, March-April: Political violence in semi-autonomous Zanzibar ahead of voter registration for October poll.

2005, October: Governing CCM wins Zanzibar elections. Opposition Civic United Front claims vote-rigging and announces an indefinite boycott of Zanzibar’s parliament.

2005, December: Jakaya Kikwete, foreign minister and ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi candidate, wins presidential elections.

2006: The African Development Bank announces the cancellation of more than $640m of debt owed by Tanzania, saying it was impressed with Tanzania’s economic record and the level of accountability of public finance.

2008: Central Bank Governor Daudi Ballali is sacked after an international audit finds the bank made improper payments of more than $120m (£60m) to local companies.

2008, February: President Kikwete dissolves cabinet following corruption scandal which forced the prime minister and two ministers to resign.

2009, November: Main opposition party in Zanzibar, Civic United Forum, ends five-year boycott of the island’s parliament ahead of upcoming elections.

2010, July: Tanzania joins its neighbours in forming a new East African Common Market, intended to integrate the region’s economy.

2010, October: President Kikwete wins re-election.

2012, March: The Statoil and Exxon Mobil oil exploration companies make major discovery of gas reserves off the coast of Tanzania.

2012, August: Tanzania confirms 36 Iranian oil tankers have been using Tanzanian flags to evade US and EU economic sanctions on Iran’s crude oil exports. The US warns Tanzania that it could face sanctions unless the flag operation stops.

2015: Works Minister John Magufuli of the governing CCM wins presidential election by large margin over former prime minister Edward Lomassa.

2016: Tanzania and Uganda agree to build East Africa’s first major oil pipeline.

Sources: BBC, Time Magazine

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