THE DISCUSSION TO ESTABLISH A DEPARTMENT
OF RELIGIOUS STUDIES AND PHILOSOPHY AT
THE UNIVERSITY OF DAR ES SALAAM1
Dar es Salaam is one of the very few Universities in Africa without a Department of Religious Studies and Philosophy. This is all the more surprising since Tanzania is one of very few countries in Africa without a clear religious majority—with Islam, Christianity and African Traditional Religion being considered as representing each approximately one third of the population. The importance of interreligious harmony has always been stressed, and there is a whole bulk of literature describing the successes of the peaceful coexistence and cooperation between the various religious bodies in Tanzania during the period of Julius Nyerere's presidency.2 The absence of such a department becomes even more astonishing considering the fact that the plans and proposals were discussed for about twenty years. Today, as Tanzania is approaching a new period of multi-party democracy, the establishment of a Department of Religious Studies and Philosophy could be an important factor, but the discussions seem to have died down in recent years. In this paper, I will give a short historical account of these discussions and then try to analyse the difficulties and obstacles.
The University of Dar es Salaam was founded with one faculty— Law—in 1961. From then until July 1970 it was a constituent College of the University of East Africa, the other two Colleges being Makerere (Uganda) and Nairobi (Kenya). The original plan was to spread the Faculties over the three Colleges in such a way as to avoid academic duplication. The Department of Religious Studies of the East African University was situated in Makerere, where Tanzanian
1 This is the revised version of a paper given at the XVII Congresso Internacional
de Historias de las Religiones, Mexico City, 5–11 August 1995.
2 Cf. for instance C.K. Oman, “Christian-Muslim Relations in Tanzania: the
socio-political dimension”, Bulletin on Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations in Africa (Vol
2/No. 2, April 1984); S. von Sicard, “Christian and Muslim in East Africa”, Africa
Theological Journal, (2, 1978, pp 53–67).
3 It should be pointed out that there is probably more material, on the Muslim
side or on the side of the party CCM, which I could not get hold of.