Church and State in Tanzania: Aspects of Changing Relationships, 1961-1994

By Frieder Ludwig | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIVE

ISLAM, CHRISTIANITY AND CIVIL RELIGION

When Tanzania celebrated its independence on 9th December 1961, the population of about nine million was composed of 20–25% Muslims and 20–25 % Christians. The proportion of traditionalists was between 30 and 40%.' Christians were overrepresented in government, Muslims underrepresented and traditionalists were not represented at all.2

The character of African traditional religions varied from region to region and there was no one to voice their interests at a supraregional level. They therefore played no role at national level. Although Nyerere often referred to African traditions in his speeches, he spoke of traditionalists only with an embarrassed smile.

In regard to Islam, the situation was different. The Muslims had played a decisive part in the struggle for independence and had a great deal of influence in the party. They were represented in the government mainly by Rashidi Kawawa, who had been Prime Minister and Vice-President. In view of the disproportionate influence of the Christians in the state government, latent dissatisfacation existed which flared up from time to time. This dissatisfaction was expressed both inside and outside TANU. According to an early report, conflicts had arisen in the party before the presidential elections of 1962: “It is said, that at the TANU executive committee held in Tabora to decide who was to be president, the Muslims backed Fundikira very strongly and it was not clear for several days that Nyerere would be in.”4

1 According to H.G. Schatte, “Zur Lage der protestantischen Kirchen in Tan-
ganyika”, Evangelische Missions zeitschnft (1961), there were ca. 2 million Christians and
4 to 6 million Muslims in Tanganyika at that time. His estimate of the number of
Muslims seems to be exaggerated. L.W. Swantz, Church, Mission and Stale Relations in
Pre- and Post-Independent Tanzania (1955–1964)
(1965), compared different statistics
and concludes that Muslims represented between 18 and 21 percent of the popula-
tion. According to the Census of 1967, there were 34,6 percent traditionalist, but
their number could have been higher in 1961.

2 Cf. Chapter 2.

3 J. Iliffe, A Modem History of Tanganyika (Cambridge, 1979), pp. 549–550.

4 ELCT/NWD, Bukoba: L.W. Swantz, The Contemporary Scene of Islam in Tanzania.
A confidential report to CCT
, (May 1968), p 14. Swantz states that he had no first hand
informations.

-53-

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