Zanzibar profile


The Indian Ocean archipelago of Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous territory in political union with Tanzania.

It consists of the island of Zanzibar or Unjuga, Pemba as well as smaller neighbouring islands.

A former centre of the spice and slave trades, present-day Zanzibar is infused with African, Arab, European and Indian influences.

In 1964 members of the African majority overthrew the established minority Arab ruling elite. The leftist revolution was swift but bloody; as many as 17,000 people were killed.

A republic was established and the presidents of Zanzibar and Tanganyika, on the mainland, signed an act of union, forming the United Republic of Tanzania while giving semi-autonomy to Zanzibar.

Separatist sentiments have been gaining ground on the islands.


Zanzibar and Pemba Island

Semi-autonomous islands in union with Tanzania

  • Population 1.3 million

  • Area 2,461 sq km (950 sq miles)

  • Major language Kiswahili, English

  • Major religion Islam

  • Life expectancy 58 years (men), 62 years

  • Currency Tanzania shilling

Getty Images


President: Ali Mohamed Shein

Image source, Getty Images

Ali Mohamed Shein from the governing CCM (Chama Cha Mapinduzi) party was voted in as president in elections in November 2010.

In March 2016 he and the CCM party were declared winners of controversial re-run elections. The polls were a re-run of elections the previous October that were cancelled by the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) over fraud allegations.

Fifteen European and US diplomats issued a joint statement regretting the vote, which was boycotted by the opposition.

Zanzibar has its own cabinet, known as the Revolutionary Council, and a 50-seat house of representatives. Elections, by popular vote, are held every five years.


Image source, Getty Images

The media in Zanzibar come under a different set of regulations to their counterparts in mainland Tanzania.

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