The First and Last President of Zanzibar, Abeid Amani Karume

Graduates are featured on this side of our banknote. The building behind them is Nkrumah Hall at the University of Dar es Salaam. 
Abeid Amani Karume (1905-1972), the first President of Zanzibar, is depicted on this side of our banknote.

Zanzibar was subsumed into Tanzania.

Abeid Amani Karume (4 August 1905[1] – 7 April 1972) was the first President of Zanzibar. He obtained this title as a result of a revolution which led to the deposing of His MajestySir Jamshid bin Abdullah, the last reigning Sultan of Zanzibar, in January 1964. Three months later, the United Republic of Tanzania was founded, and Karume became the first Vice President of the United Republic with Julius Nyerere of Tanganyika as president of the new country. He was the father of Zanzibar’s former president – Amani Abeid Karume.

Zanzibar united with Tanganyika in 1964 to form Tanzania.

The Zanzibar Revolution brought an end to about 500 years of Arab domination on the island during which the Arab Slave Trade, most significantly, had resulted in a strong resentment among the majority African population.

Karume was assassinated in April 1972 in Zanzibar Town. Four gunmen shot him dead as he played bao at the headquarters of the Afro-Shirazi Party. Some people celebrated his death[citation needed], as different parts of the country did not like the self-proclaimed president who was never a person from Zanzibar by origin. It is believed he came from Malawi. Reprisals followed against people suspected to have been opposed to Karume’s regime.[7]Amani Abeid Karume, Abeid’s son, was elected two times as the president of Zanzibar, in 2000 and 2005 by a popular majority and handed over power in late 2010 to his successor Ali Mohamed Shein.

Karume’s second important political move came when he agreed to form a union with the Tanganyikan president Julius Nyerere in April 1964. The union ensured that the new country, to be called Tanzania, would not align itself with the Soviet Union and communist bloc, as A.M. Babu had advocated. Given the new legitimacy of Karume’s government (now solidly backed up by mainland Tanganyika), Karume marginalized Babu to the point of irrelevance. The Marxist leader was eventually forced to flee Tanzania after being charged with masterminding the assassination of Karume in 1972.[5] As a result, Karume was rewarded the post of First Vice-President.[6]

Having taken control of the island, John Okello invited Abeid Karume back to the island to assume the title of President of the People’s Republic of Zanzibar and Pemba. Other Zanzibaris in foreign territory were also invited back, most notably the Marxist politician Abdulrahman Mohammad Babu, who was appointed to the Revolutionary Council. John Okello reserved for himself the title of “Field Marshal”, a position with undefined power. What followed was a three-month-long internal struggle for power.[4]

Karume used his political skills to align the leaders of neighboring African countries against Okello and invited Tanganyikan police officers into Zanzibar to maintain order. As soon as Okello took a trip out of the country, Karume declared him an “enemy of the state” and did not allow him to return. Given the presence of Tanganyikan police and the absence of their leader, Okello’s gangs of followers did not offer any resistance.

On 10 December 1963, the United Kingdom granted full independence to Zanzibar after the Zanzibar National Party(ZNP) and Zanzibar and Pemba People’s Party won the elections. The Sultan was a constitutional monarch.[2] Initial elections gave government control to the ZNP. Karume was willing to work within the electoral framework of the new government, and actually informed a British police officer of the revolutionary plot set to take place in January.[3]

Karume was not in Zanzibar on 12 January 1964 – the night of the revolution – and was instead on the African mainland. The instigator of the rebellion was a previously unknown Ugandan, John Okello. The revolution was violent, short, and the revolutionaries prevailed. Thousands of Zanzibaris, mostly Zanzibari Arabs & Indians, were murdered, with relatively few casualties on the revolutionary side. The Zanzibar Revolution brought an end to about 500 years of Arab domination on the island during which the Arab Slave Trade, most significantly, had resulted in a strong resentment among the majority African population.


The flag and coat of arms of Tanzania are shown above.

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Tanzania, the name, is a compound formed the the words Tanganyica and Zanzibar, the two progenitor states which, united, formed present day Tanzania.

For specific stories, select the banknote images below. For general history, read further below.

Zanzibar …

The region was dominated from the Arabian peninsula in the 18th and early 19th centuries, until the Europeans took over in the late 19th century. Oman powerfully competed with other empires in the Indian ocean region from the late 1600s through the late 1800s. In 1698 Oman defeated the Portuguese at Fort Jesus, in Mombasa,1 and thereafter drove them from Zanzibar. By 1700 Oman had established a fort on the island of Zanzibar at Zanzibar City. The island of Zanzibar and much of the nearby mainland coastal regions was claimed by Oman by 1786. In 1840, Oman made Zanzibar city the capital of the empire.2During this time, Zanzibar became the centre for the Arab slave trade.

Tanganyika …

Following the Berlin Conference of 1884 and 1885, Germany aggressively joined other European states in the colonization “game”. The Scramble for Africa was on. Germany and Britain, in an agreement unknown to Oman at the time,3 had divided up the central Eastern African seaboard, giving the region roughly now known as Kenya to Great Britain, and the region roughly now known as Tanganyica and Rwanda and Burundi to Germany. The sultan of Oman, residing in Zanzibar and having laid claim to the coastal region of Tanganyica, objected to this claim of African territory by Germany. Otto von Bismark, the Chancellor of Germany, ordered 5 warships to Zanzibar City, which, upon arrival, on August 7 1885, trained their guns on the Sultans palace.4 The Sultan acquiesced. In 1890, Germany and Britain agreed that Zanzibar would be a protectorate of Great Britain.

Zanzibar …

Great Britain’s involvement with Zanzibar had been growing thoughout the 1800s. Zanzibar had become the center of the slave trade in the region, and Great Britain had had a change of heart and become opposed to the practice. In 1822, Great Britain began to place pressure upon the Sultan to bring an end to the trade. A series of treaties ensued which further restricted the trade. The protectorate established in 1890 included a provision that Great Britain would have the right of approval of a new ruler upon the Sultan’s death. The Sultan died on August 25, 1896, and this provision was violated on August 26, and what has become known as The Shortest War in History, The Anglo-Zanzibar War, began.

It all happened on a Thursday morning, from 9:02 am until 9:40 am, that war commenced and concluded between Zanzibar and Great Britain. It was August 27, 1896, and has been called the “shortest recorded war in history.”5

Tanganyika …

With the defeat of Germany in WW1, the colonial dispositions changed. In 1919, the Paris Peace Conference Supreme Council ceded all of East German Africa to Britain; over the strenuous objection of Belgium. Belgium and Great Britain negotiated a side agreement, and on January 10, 1920. Rwanda and Burundi became Belgian colonies, and the largest portion of East German Africa became a British colony under the name Tanganyika. And so, the territorial stage was set for present day Tanzania.

Tanzania …

Tanganyika became independent from Great Britain December 9, 1961. Zanzibar, having been a protectorate, not a colony, of Britain, was not granted independence, in that same sense as Tanganyika. But the British protectorate of Zanzibar was declared ended December 10, 1963. Following a tumultuous first few months, Zanzibar merged with Tanganyika April 26, 1964. The new united country was named the United Republic of Tanzania October 29, 1964. “On April 26, 1964, The Father of Nation Mwalimu Julius Nyerere and the First Zanzibar’s President Abeid Arnan Karume united Tanganyika and Zanzibar to form the United Republic of Tanzania. The Union was supported by what came to be known as the Articles of Union. Here is the original document of the articles as agreed by the founders of the two nations.”…6.

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Tanzania 500 Shilling banknote front featuring giraffe

Tanzania – 500 Shilingi

Tanzania 500 Shilingi Banknote – Face and Back
Tanzania 500 shilingi banknote back featuring coffee harvest

A Bountiful Harvest of Coffee is celebrated artistically on our banknote.  On the left is a broad view of a well-organized farm.  On the right is detail of the coffee plant and fruit.  At center is a large coffee plant and at left the coffee fruit is being separated.

Tanzania 500 Shilingi banknote front featuring coat of arms and giraffe and zebra

The zebra and giraffe adorn our banknote, and, at center is the coat of arms of Tanzania.

detail from Tanzania 500 shilingi banknote front (3) featuring coat of arms
Tanzania coat of arms

The central shield bears four images from top to bottom: the enflamed torch, the flag of Tanzania, a crossed axe and hoe, a spear over a pattern of waves.

The shield rests upon the image of Mount Kilimanjaro.

The shield is surrounded on the left and right with the tusks of the elephant.

The shield is upheld by a man standing upon a plant of cloves, and a woman standing upon a plant of cotton.

Beneath them is the unfurled banner with the motto of the nation, Freedom and Unity in Swahili.

The giraffe looks out at us from our banknote of Tanzania.  We cannot see the totality of our graceful creature, but if we were to zoom out, we would find that we would have to zoom out more than for perhaps any other land-based living mammal.  Our giraffe is, likely, a Masai giraffe, the largest subspecies of the entire giraffe family, residing in southern Kenya and, our, Tanzania.  The Masai giraffe is also known as the Kilimanjaro giraffe.  As Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain in Africa, so the Masai giraffe is the tallest mammal on the earth.  Our giraffe can be 19 feet tall, and, with its 6 foot long legs, can run at about 35 miles per hour..

The coat patterns vary among the various giraffe subspecies, the masai giraffe’s spots being somewhat more jagged than jagged.  It is believed that no two individual’s spot patterns are identical and thus individuals may be identified.

The Masai giraffe is generally found in Tanzania and Kenya and Somalia and Ethiopia.