Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: August 2019

3 - Ethnicity, Citizenry, and Nation-Building in Tanzania

from Part I - Social Cohesion in Africa: Case Studies of Past and Present


Tanzania is commonly cited as “a success story” where a cohesive society has been built in tandem with its nationhood. In this chapter, we offer an account of interplay between ethnicity and social norms in the context of nation building in Tanzania and highlight the historical transformation of localized, ethnic-based mechanisms for self-protection, “trust networks”, to a national framework for trust enhancement and resolution of conflicts at local levels. This, we argue, was the key for acceptance of national identity by Tanzanians for self-protection, and, hence, a transition from divided pasts to cohesive futures. The chapter traces nation building efforts in Tanzania, and explains why Tanzania is an exception to the patterns of violence and instability experienced in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is argued that that, although conflicts are sometime inevitable, cross-cutting identities such as occupation, and particularly the all-encompassing identity of nationality, can help to decrease the likelihood that conflicts will divide the nation. Diversity may present a challenge to national unity, but it is not insuperable if the political leadership is genuinely committed to deemphasizing ethnic group identities in the public sphere and pursues policies which consider the goal of equality.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO
Abdulaziz, M. H. 1971 Tanzania’s national language policy. In Whiteley, W. (ed.), Language Use and Social Change. London: Oxford University Press, pp. 160178.
Afrobarometer Data, [Tanzania], [Round 5, 6], [2012, 2017]. Retrieved from
Alesina, A., Devleeshauwer, A., Easterly, W. Kurlat, S., and Wacziarg, R. 2003. Fractionalization. Journal of Economic Growth. 8(2): 155194.
Almond, G. A., and Verba, S. 1963. Civic Culture: Political Attitudes and Democracy in Five Nations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Bannon, A., Miguel, E., and Posner, D. N. 2004. Sources of Ethnic Identification in Africa (Working Paper). Cape Town: Afrobarometer.
Barkan, J. D. 1994. Divergence and Convergence in Kenya and Tanzania: Pressures for Reform. In Barkan, J. D. (ed.), Beyond Capitalism versus Socialism in Kenya and Tanzania. Boulder, CO: Lynne Reinner Publishers.
Barkan, J. D. 2012. Ethnicity Fractionalization and the Propensity for Conflict in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. In Herbst, J., McNamee, T., and Mills, G. (eds.), On the Fault Line: Managing Tensions and Divisions within Societies. London: Profile Books, pp. 150169.
Bjerk, P. 2017. Julius Nyerere. Athens: Ohio University Press.
Burgess, R., Jedwab, R., Miguel, E., Morjaria, A., and Miquel, G. 2015. The value of democracy: Evidence from road building in Kenya. American Economic Review. 105(6): 18171851.
Cliffe, L. 1967. One Party Democracy: The 1965 Tanzania General Elections. Nairobi: East African Publishing House.
Collier, P., and Hoeffler, A. 1998. On the Economic Causes of Civil War. Oxford: Centre for the Study of African Economies.
Collier, P., and Hoeffler, A. 2002. On the incidence of civil war in Africa. Journal of Conflict Resolution. 46(1): 1328.
Crepaz, M. M., and Damron, R. 2009. How welfare states shapes attitudes about immigrants. Comparative Political Studies. 42(3): 437463.
Easterly, W., and Levine, R. 1997. Africa’s growth tragedy: Policies and ethnic divisions. Quarterly Journal of Economics. 112(4): 12031250.
Erdmann, G. 2007. The Cleavage Model, Ethnicity and Voter Alignment in Africa: Conceptual and Methodological Problems Revisited (Working Paper). Hamburg: German Institute of Global and Area Studies (GIGA).
Fearon, J. D. 2003. Ethnic and Cultural Diversity by Country. Journal of Economic Growth. 8(2): 195222.
Feierman, S. 1990. Peasant Intellectuals: Anthropology and History in Tanzania. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
Gahnström, S. C. 2012. Ethnicity, region and politics in Tanzania: The 2010 general elections and Mwanza region. Master’s Thesis. University of Helsinki.
Geiger, S. 1997. TANU Women: Gender and Culture in the Making of Tanganyikan Nationalism. Oxford: Heinemann.
Global Security. National Service. Retrieved from: Accessed 11 May 2018.
Green, E. 2009. The political economy of nation formation in modern Tanzania: Explaining stability in the face of diversity. Commonwealth and Comparative Politics. 49(2): 223244.
Greenfeld, L. 2003. The Spirit of Capitalism: Nationalism and Economic Growth. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Gurr, T. R. 2000. Peoples Versus States: Minorities at Risk in the New Century. Washington, DC: U.S. Institute of Peace.
Horowitz, D. 2001. The Deadly Ethnic Riot. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.
Hunter, E. 2015. Political Thought and the Public Sphere in Tanzania: Freedom, Democracy and Citizenship in the era of Decolonization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hunter, E. 2017. “Economic man in East Africa”: Ethnicity, nationalism and the moral economy in Tanzania. In Berman, B. J., Laliberté, A., and Larin, S. J. (eds.), The Moral Economies of Ethnic and Nationalist Claims. Toronto: UBC Press, pp. 101122.
Huntington, S. P. 1996. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Ivaska, A. 2005. Of students, “nizers”, and a struggle of over youth: Tanzania’s 1966 National Service crisis. Africa Today. 51(3): 83107.
Kessler, I. 2006. What went right in Tanzania: How nation building and political culture have produced forty-four years of peace. Master’s thesis. Georgetown University.
Langer, A. 2013. Comment on “Bonding Ethnic Communities and Building National Cohesion” by Mwabu G. In Hino, H., Lonsdale, J., and John, T. (eds.), How Can Africa Flourish with Ethnic Diversity? Kobe: Research Institute for Economic and Business Administration, Kobe University.
Lake, D., and Rothchild, D. 1998. Ethnic Fears and Global Engagement. In Lake, D., and Rothchild, D. (eds.), The International Spread of Ethnic Conflict: Fear, Diffusion and Escalation. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, pp. 339350.
Lindemann, S. 2010. Civilian control of the military in Tanzania and Zambia: Explaining persistent exceptionalism (Crisis states working papers series No. 2). Retrieved from: Accessed 4 July 2018.
Lonsdale, J. 2012. Ethnic patriotism and markets in African history. In Hino, H., Lonsdale, J., Ranis., G., and Stewart, F. (eds.), Ethnic Diversity and Economic Instability in Africa. Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 1955.
Maddox, G., and Giblin, J. 2005. In Search of a Nation: Histories of Authority and Dissidence in Tanzania. Oxford: James Currey.
Mahoney, J. 2001. The Legacies of Liberalism: Path Dependence and Political Regimes in Central America. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Meienberg, H. 1966. Tanzanian Citizen: A Civics Textbook. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Miguel, E. 2004. Tribe or nation? Nation building and public goods in Kenya versus Tanzania. World Politics. 56(3): 327362.
Molony, T. 2014. Nyerere: The Early Years. Woodbridge, UK: James Currey.
Mozaffar, S., and Scarrit, J. R. 2005. The puzzle of African party systems. Party Politics. 11(4): 399421.
Ncube, M., Jones, B., and Bicaba, Z. 2014. Estimating the Economic Cost of Fragility in Africa (African Development Bank Group Working Paper No. 197). Tunis: African Development Bank.
Ndulu, B. 2012. Keynote Address delivered at the National Conference on “Unleashing Growth Potentials: Lessons and Way Forward in Creating an Inclusive Growth”, Economic and Social Foundation (ESRF). Dar es Salaam, 16 May.
Ndulu, B. J., and O’Connel, S. 2008. Policy Plus: African Growth Performance, 1960–2000. In Ndulu, B. J., O’Connel, S., Bates, R. H. Collier, P., and Soludo, C. C. (eds.), The Political Economy of Economic Growth in Africa 1960–2000. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 249296.
Nugent, P. 2012. Africa Since Independence: A Comparative History. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave.
Nyang’oro, J. 2006. Ethnic structure, inequality and governance of the public sector in Tanzania. In Bangura, Y. (ed.), Ethnic Inequalities and Public Sector Governance. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 322340.
Okewa, M. 1996. Political Culture of Tanzania. Lewiston, ME: E. Mellen Press.
Posner, D. N. 2004a. The political salience of cultural difference: Why Chewas and Tumbukas are allies in Zambia and adversaries in Malawi. American Political Science Review. 98(4): 529545.
Posner, D. N. 2004b. Measuring ethnic fractionalization in Africa. American Journal of Political Science. 48(4): 849863.
Pratt, C. 1976. The Critical Phase in Tanzania 1945–1968: Nyerere and the Emergence of a Socialist Strategy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Roeder, P. G. 2001. Ethnolinguistic Fractionalization (ELF) Indices, 1961 and 1985. Retireved from:∼proeder/elf.htm. Accessed 18 September 2018.
Scarritt, J. R., and Mozaffar, S. 1999. The specification of ethnic cleavages and ethnopolitical groups for the analysis of democratic competition in contemporary Africa. Nationalism and Ethnic Politics. 5(1): 82117.
Therkildsen, O. 2009. Competitive Elections, Ethnicity and State Elite Policy Responses, with Examples from Tanzania. Paper presented at From Asymmetry to Symmetry? The West, Non-west and the Idea of Development as Conceptual Flow, University of Heidelberg, 13–16 July 2009.
Therkildsen, O., and Tidemand, P. 2007. Staff Management and Organizational Performance in Tanzania and Uganda: Public Servant Perspectives. Copenhagen: Danish Institute for International Studies.
Tilly, C. 2005. Trust and Rule. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press