This unit is about the Zanzibar revolution of 1964.



Zanzibar and Pemba islands are found in the Indian Ocean. The good climate and fertile soils attracted foreigners for example British and Arabs. The British declared Zanzibar as a British protectorate in 1890.

For a long time right from the confirming of Sayyid Said to Zanzibar in the 1820, the minority Oman Arabs controlled the political affairs.

The first political party involved out of ratio association in mid-1950`s was the Zanzibar national Party (ZNP) its leadership was purely Arabs.

The Afro-Shirazi party was the Islands black Nationalist Party and it was clearly the most popular party whose leader was Abeid Karume.

Zanzibar became independent from the British on December 9th 1963.

However on 12th Jan 1964 the discontented Zanzibar civilians organized an uprising against the Arabs who had replaced the British.

The Uprising was headed by John Okello a Ugandan of Langi origin who had gone to Zanzibar in 1952 as a painter, stone cutter and labourer, he was also an active member of the Afro-Shirazi Party.

On Jan 12th 1964, Okello announced on radio that Zanzibar had been declared a republic and that Sheikh Abeid Karume would be the president.


The black people of Zanzibar were tired of the long period of foreign rule.

The British took over then handed over power to the Arabs. The revolution was necessary to liberate people from foreign rule.

The Arab led government was very despotic, authoritarian and brutal political opponent were arrested and openly tortured.

The Arabs made arbitrary laws for example stopping all the opposition leaders from travelling abroad by seizing their passports.

Politically, the Arabs and their British advisers hatched a sweeping and dangerous plan to turn Zanzibar into a constitutional monarchy and an Arab state.

Influence of John Okello who was a determined man. He had a revolutionary mind and above all he had the skill to choose his commander and invite others to rebel against the Arabs.

The existing differences and grievances between the Arabs who were moslems and the Africans who were Christian led to the Zanzibar revolution.

The Arabs wanted to dominate the Africans and Shirazi and to exploit them economically.

The Africans in Zanzibar were denied education and it was only the Arabs who received better education.

The Arabs also wanted to create an Islamic state in Zanzibar yet there were some Africans who were Christians.

Between 1961 and 1963 elections were held in Zanzibar these elections failed to bring any change to the Africans. The successive victories by Arab parties since 1957 out of rigged elections led to chaos and confusion hence a revolution.

Land was grabbed by the Arabs from the Africans and Shirazi. Arabs evicted Africans from their fertile land rendering them landless.

Generally, the Arabs despised the Africans and treated them as slaves. They regarded them as descendants of slaves, Africans thus revolted.

Discrimination from employment opportunities where by the Africans were disfavored.

The Afro-Shirazi wanted to over throw the Arab domination and to regain their political independence.

The financial situation of the Afro-Shirazi had become extremely weak, due to the decline in the economy especially when prices of cloves drop.

There was unfair exploitation in Zanzibar. The Arabs dominated all the high paying economic sectors and exploited the Africans.

The British recruited Arabs into top civil service while the black remained in law paying jobs.


The revolution of 1964 had the following effects;

Many lives of both the Africans and Arabs were lost.

The revolution brought down the rule of ZNP party. Its members together with its leader fled and sought asylum in Britain.

Following the fall of the Arab government a revolutionary council was formed to take over as the new government.

The revolution created unrest and political instability that left the country is total anarchy as law and order broke down.

However, the problem of insecurity was solved when President Julius Nyerere sent in troops from main land Tanganyika to restore order in Zanzibar.

The revolution also led to the new government which adopted the socialist ideology which later led to the Nationalization of land and other factors of production.

The new government was immediately recognized by other socialist countries like China, Russia and later Britain and America.

The revolution also laid a foundation for the formation of (Southern Tanganyika) modern Tanzania because it led to the signing of the union between the two heads of state i.e. Nyerere and Karume in 1964.

As per the terms of the treaty Julius Nyerere became the union President while Rashid Kawawa became the Vice President of 72.

Misunderstanding emerged between John Okello and other members of the revolutionary council. He was arrested for being an immigrant a Christian and for being popular later deported.

The revolutionaries fought curiously destroying property like shops, farms, homes etc.

As per the Union agreement Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) and Asp merged. It led to the formation of a new party called CCM.

Kiswahili was adopted as a National language for Tanzania and Zanzibar rather than English and Arabic, this was an aspect of real independence from colonialists.




SEE ALLAdd a note
Add your Comment