Tanzania’s population is concentrated along the coast and isles, the fertile northern and southern highlands, and the lands bordering Lake Victoria. The relatively arid and less fertile central region is sparsely inhabited. So too is much of the fertile and well watered far west, including the shores of Lake Tanganyika and Lake Nyasa (Malawi). About 80% of Tanzanians live in rural communities.
Zanzibar, population about 1.3 million (3% of Tanzania’s population), consists of two main islands and several small ones just off the Tanzanian coast. The two largest islands are Unguja (often referred to simply as Zanzibar) and Pemba. Zanzibaris, together with their socio-linguistic cousins in the Comoros Islands and the East Africa coast from modern-day southern Somalia to northern Mozambique, created Swahili culture and language, which reflect long and close associations with other parts of Africa and with the Arab world, Persia, and South Asia.
Tanzanians are proud of their strong sense of national identity and commitment to Swahili as the national language. There are roughly 120 ethnic communities in the country representing several of Africa’s main socio-linguistic groups.
Before colonial invasion, the indigenous people had built up formidable political systems and institutions. These were either kingdoms, chief-doms or social orders such as the Maasai Age-set rule. The Nyamwezi people under chief Mirambo, the Hehe under chief Mkwawa and a series of kingdoms among the Chagga and the Haya people are some of such developments recorded.
It is from some of these institutions that resistance to colonial domination, subjugation and exploitation emerged from late 19th century to the 20th century. For instance, in 1905-7, through the famous "Majimaji War" the people in the Southern part of Tanzania took up arms and fought the German rulers there. Helped by the world wars, eventually, the local people kicked the Germans out of Tanganyika. Traces of historic exotic artifacts have been made as evidences of the interactions between Tanzanians and the rest of the world societies. The Periplus of the Erythrean sea, for instance, puts clear the record that the East African coast had strong political developments.
Further Arabian influence in the country is recorded since the 7th century after the Birth of Christ. The occupation of the Isles and the Coastal areas by Asian societies did culminate in a systematic inhuman slave trade. Tired of cosmetic political changes in Zanzibar, the "Zenj" people evicted the Arabian rulers in 1964 through an armed revolution.
Similarly, after a protracted occupation by the unsuspecting traders, explorers and missionaries from Europe since the 15th Century Tanzania found itself being subjected to systematic colonial domination by Germany and Great Britain at different times before 1961. The Great Berlin conference of 1884 was the springboard of all what had happened for subjugating Tanzania and Africa.
Chagga society in a market
During the domination of Tanzania by Germans, British and Arabs, the indigenous people were decimated, lost their destiny and cultural identity, were economically exploited and their technology disrupted. However, the worst evil of all committed by colonialists has been their wishful intent to discourage individual initiative to venture, discover, make attempts and to fabricate. The outcome is the current dependency status!
As early as 1950's different, but very interesting forms of modern struggles for independence were being created. For example by 1954 the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU), a political party already was a force to reckon with under the able leadership of Julius Kambarage. Nyerere. It is under the same political party that Tanzania got rid of British domination in 1961. In Zanzibar, the Afro Shirazi Party emerged late in the 1950's and toppled the Arab rule on the island in 1964. Tanganyika and Zanzibar United in that year to form the United Republic of Tanzania.