The oldest evidence of human presence in Tanzania, and probably in the world was found at Olduvai gorge in northern Tanzania. Human bones thought to be over 2 million years old were discovered there by Dr Leakey. The written history of Tanzania goes back to 13th century when the coast and Zanzibar centers of the gold and ivory trade. In the 18th century this trade turned to slaves as commodity. Bagamoyo was the departure point for slaves obtained from inland Tanganyika, and they were then taken to work in Zanzibar and the middle east. The first Europeans arrived in Tanzania in the mid 19th century and by 1898, what is now mainland Tanzania was under German rule. After their defeat in the first world war, the Germans lost this territory to Britain. British colonial rule lasted until 1961 when Tanganyika became independent with Julius Nyerere as the Prime Minister. In 1964 Zanzibar and Tanganyika formed a union.
Tanzanians have an interesting story to tell about their origin. It is a fact that the instability in the earth crust during primeval times did split East Africa from mainland Africa by the great Rift valley. One of the sites with most favourable conditions in the valley, turned out to be the cradle of humankind. This is an early ape like creature whose footprints and skull were discovered by the Leakeys in 1959 and 1979.
These evidences, which are products of archaeological discovery about the earliest ancestor were, obtained from the Olduvai Gorge and Laetoli. These areas were some of the habitats of the homo habilis and homo sapiens the old Tanzanians who could think and make stone tools. Important artefacts and the bones of the origin of the human species which were left behind have been estimated to be 1.75 million years old.
Moreover, similar landmarks have been made through excavation of historical sites at lsimila in the Southern Highlands where old stone age tools, commonly referred to as hand-axes can be seen today.
The Kondoa-lrangi cave paintings by such ancestors and the Engaruka traces of both blacksmithery and irrigation works are further evidences of early human presence in Tanzania during the distant past.
It is better to be optimistic and assume that from here, some descendants dispersed world over and later came back to Tanzania to join their sisters and brothers who had remained on this land. Now these came back as either warriors, farmers, pastoralists, settlers, invaders, refugees, colonisers, traders, explorer’s missionaries or as slave masters. Most of these people form the present population of Tanzania including over 120 mega-ethnic groupings (99%) excluding minority groups from Europe and Asia (l%)
With constant instability and civil strife in neighbouring lands now as well as has been historically, Tanzania is a safe haven of peace for immigrants. Refugees from both the Niger-Benue confluence in West Africa, Bahr el Ghazal in the Sudan and Shungwaya disperal areas in Kenya found homes in Tanzania between the 3rd and 13th centuries. To date, she is still receiving and caring for thousands of refugees from Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia and Democratic Republic of Congo. This phenomenon has a significant impact on the size of the country's population, resources and environment. The number of these refugees ranges between 500,000 and 1,000,000. The refugees have caused incalculable damage to this country. Due to the need for food; water and fuel, almost all water sources and all natural vegetation within and around the refugee camps have been destroyed. As a result most of these sites have been virtually turned in to bare land of semi desert conditions.
Killings, thefts and other ills have been committed by some refugees thus causing social disorders and flight of peace from among Tanzania citizens. The government of Tanzania; the Organization of Africa Unit (OAU), the UNHCR and UNICEF are doing their best to acclimatize these refugees so that when ideal time comes, they are repatriated to their countries.
To the global community, the refugee problem is yet another area which calls for more support to Tanzania to enable these refugees line like other human beings as well as bringing peace in their home countries so that they are liveable places.
Before colonial invasion, the indigenous people had built up formidable political systems and institutions.
These were kingdoms, chief-dims or social orders such as the Maasai Age-set rule. The Nyamwezi people under chief Mirambo, the Hehe under chief Mkwawa, Yao under Machemba, Ngoni under Chabruma, Sambaa under Kimweri, Rumanyika of Karagwe and a series of small 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 from early that 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.
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, and 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 the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU), a political party already was a force to reckon with by 1954 under the able leadership of Julius Kambarage. Nyerere. It is under the same political party that Tanzania got rid of British domination to Independence 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 Zanzibae United in that year to form the United Republic of Tanzania.
Between 1964 and 1995, the country was under domination of one party political rule which was fostering "Ujamaa", the African socialist orientation of the country.
With a population of almost 300,000 (1998) Dodoma which is located at a distance of 309 km west of Dar es Salaam, is the country's political capital. Dar es Salaam is the country's commercial capital. Other big urban centres include Arusha; Moshi, Tanga and Mwanza to the north of the country, Morogoro in the east; Mbeya and Iringa, to the west. Tabora and Shinyanga are also important economic hubs in central Tanzania.
Kiswahili and English are the Official languages; however the former is the national language. While Kiswahili is the medium of instructions at primary school level; English is medium at Higher educational levels.