EA court sheds light on Tanganyika- Zanzibar Union’s legitimacy

Thursday October 1 2020

The East African Community headquarters in

The East African Community headquarters in Arusha, which also house the East African Court of Justice. PHOTO | FILE 

By Jacob Mosenda

Dar es Salaam. The East African Court of Justice (EACJ) has shed new light on the debate over the legitimacy of the Tanzanian union, after dismissing a case questioning the legality of the union saying it has no jurisdiction to decide the case.

The court reached the decision on the September 29, 2020 ruling after agreeing to three preliminary objections jointly filed by the respondents in the case: the Attorney General of the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar, the Chief Secretary of the Revolutionary Council of Zanzibar and the Attorney General of the United Republic of Tanzania.

The case number 09 of 2016 - filed by about 40,000 Zanzibaris, represented by their colleague Rashid Salim Adiy - questioned the legitimacy of the 1964 Tanganyika-Zanzibar union, which gave birth to Tanzania.

Among other things, the applicants are opposed to the union claiming that documentation on it does not exist, or if documents exist, they are invalid, as they were never approved by the Zanzibar House of Representatives.

However, the respondents filed a preliminary objection to the case, asking the court to dismiss it, while presenting three objections.

In their argumentation, the respondents claim that: one: the court has no jurisdiction to hear the case. Two: the case was opened outside the period specified in the court’s establishment agreement.


In the third objection, they claim that the court could not hear and interpret the actions and decisions made by the independent state before the establishment of the East African Community and its institutions, including the tribunal itself.

Although the applicants - through their panel of lawyers led by Rashid Mukabana Matola - opposed the arguments of the respondents, the court in its decision agreed with all the arguments of the latter and thus dismissed the case.

Despite the court agreeing to the government’s objections - and dismissing the case without hearing the applicants’ basic arguments - it went as far as pointing out that the union’s documents were formally recognised by the United Nations (UN) in May 1964.

In a ruling reached by Chief Justice Monica Mugenyi, along with Judges Audace Ngiye and Dr Charles Nyachae, the court also ruled that the new nation of the United Republic of Tanzania was officially recognised by the UN in November 1964.

Speaking to journalists yesterday, the Tanzania Solicitor General, Mr Gabriel Malata, said the matter - which had been unclear for long - had finally found a legal solution.

“There have been questions about the union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar which have now been resolved. This matter is legally concluded now,” said Malata.

He also said that the argument about the availability and validity of the union’s documents had since been settled.

“All these questions have been answered several times in various occasions including parliament,” he said.