Revealed: How Tanzania's Union was forged in just five day

Former Speaker of Parliament Pius Msekwa

What you need to know:

  • While Tanzanians celebrate the Union every April 26, Msekwa reveals a lesser-known fact: the Union was finalized on April 25, 1964, but its legal life commenced the following day.

With only two days remaining before Tanzanians celebrate six decades of the Tanganyika-Zanzibar Union, retired Speaker of Parliament Pius Msekwa shares a riveting account of the five pivotal days leading to the historic union on April 26, 1964.

As a key figure in achieving the Union, Msekwa's role as Secretary of the Tanganyika Parliament at the time positioned him at the heart of this momentous event.

In an exclusive interview with Mwananchi, Msekwa delves into the intricate details of those five days, from April 22 to April 26, 1964, which proved instrumental in the realization of the union.

He emphasizes that from conception to completion, the Union materialized swiftly within just five days, culminating in its official establishment on April 26, 1964.

The visionary leaders behind the Union, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere of Tanganyika and Sheikh Abeid Amani Karume of Zanzibar demonstrated unwavering resolve to unite their nations and foster brotherhood and solidarity.

While Tanzanians celebrate the Union every April 26, Msekwa reveals a lesser-known fact: the Union was finalized on April 25, 1964, but its legal life commenced the following day.

Msekwa draws a poignant analogy between human life and the legal process, illustrating that while human life begins at birth, the life of law follows a distinct trajectory, commencing upon completion of all legal formalities.

He elucidates that the Union's legal ratification by Parliament on April 25, 1964, mandated its official commencement on April 26, thus establishing the iconic date of celebration.

Recalling his pivotal role as Secretary of Parliament during this historic period, Msekwa recounts the urgency that permeated the proceedings, driven by the agreement between the Presidents of Tanganyika and Zanzibar.

The agreements inked by the two leaders on April 22, 1964, necessitated ratification by the respective parliaments to come into effect, prompting emergency sessions in Dar es Salaam to expedite the process.

Msekwa underscores the clandestine nature of these deliberations, driven by the looming threats posed by adversaries opposed to the Union's formation.

Citing the failure of the East African Federation and Zanzibar's precarious political landscape following the revolution, Msekwa highlights the imperative of secrecy and expediency in uniting the two nations.

"It had to be done secretly because enemies of the Union were present at that time and did not want these countries to unite. Mwalimu Nyerere remembered how the East African Federation failed.”

Within just five days, encompassing agreements, parliamentary ratification, and official signings, the Union was consummated, laying the foundation for six decades of shared history.

Reflecting on the Union's legacy, Msekwa emphasizes its profound impact on subsequent generations, particularly in catalyzing national development and harnessing the demographic dividend.

With Tanzania's population surpassing 60 million, Msekwa underscores the transformative power of unity in propelling economic growth and fostering collective progress.

As Tanzanians prepare to commemorate 60 years of the Union, Msekwa issues a resounding call to safeguard and uphold this sacred bond for generations to come, echoing the sentiments of unity and solidarity espoused by its visionary architects.

Addressing concerns regarding the Union's governance structure, Msekwa warns against the pitfalls of fragmentation, advocating for a unified approach to governance that preserves autonomy while fostering cooperation.

"Tanganyika has a bigger economy than Zanzibar, and many costs are borne by Tanganyika, for example, the army is of the Union, and all its costs are paid by the Union government, which is the same as that of Tanganyika,” he says.

He adds: Also, matters of foreign countries, ambassadors, and international relations all belong to the Union, so if we were to have a Tanganyika government and a stubborn President came and said we are united, these are equal countries, we must share costs equally, what would happen? It would cause serious problems, even leading to the collapse of the Union," he explains.

Drawing from his illustrious political career and intimate knowledge of Tanzania's history, Msekwa imparts invaluable insights into the Union's genesis and enduring significance, reaffirming its status as a beacon of hope and unity for the nation.

Amidst ongoing efforts to address grievances and strengthen the Union, Msekwa remains optimistic about Tanzania's future, poised to embark on its next chapter of growth and prosperity as it commemorates 60 years of unity and progress.