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date: 24 March 2019

The Zanzibar Revolution and Its Aftermath

Summary and Keywords

The term “Zanzibar Revolution” refers to (1) the overthrow in January 1964 of the islands’ first postcolonial regime, barely a month after gaining independence from British rule; (2) a period of several weeks following the overthrow when Africans targeted islanders of mostly Arab heritage and identity for violence, plunder, and vengeance seeking; and (3) the years from 1964 through the 1970s, when Zanzibar’s revolutionary regime sought to level island society at the expense of Arabs and South Asians, whose numbers continued to dwindle, mostly through emigration, some of it coerced. While aided and advised by socialist experts from overseas, and inspired by socialist models such as China and the Soviet Union, the regime charted its own unique course, a course influenced by the revolutionaries’ own understanding of the role of race in island society.

The Zanzibar Revolution was exceptional in several ways. Arguably, it was the most lethal outbreak of anti-Arab violence in Africa’s postcolonial history. It was also remarkable in the extent to which it attempted to bring an end to long-standing social and economic inequalities. Since the early-19th century, all the wealthiest and most privileged islanders were Arab or South Asian. Yet after a decade of revolutionary policies, they and their less well-off kinsmen were killed, forced into exile, or reduced to relative poverty. Thus, despite its modest size and population, Zanzibar produced one of sub-Saharan Africa’s only postcolonial revolutions. While scholars may disagree as to what constitutes a “revolution,” if that term refers to a situation in which one regime overthrows another, and then afterwards seeks to “turn society upside down,” then it is an accurate characterization of Zanzibar in the 1960s and 1970s.

Keywords: African nationalism, socialism, revolution, slavery, race, ethnicity

Historical Background

Until the 19th century, Zanzibar—an island chain consisting of two principal islands, Unguja and Pemba—represented a relatively inconspicuous component of a cultural world that spanned the coast of East Africa, from Kilwa in the south to Mogadishu in the north. Due to an annual cycle of favorable monsoon trade winds, the East African coast was, for more than a thousand years, an integral part of an Indian Ocean trading nexus that exchanged Africa’s people, ivory, and gold for the products of the Middle East, India, and beyond. The wealth generated from such trade stimulated the rise of a series of largely self-governing coastal city-states. The relatively cosmopolitan nature of coastal society was reflected in the very words people spoke; as the main lingua franca, Kiswahili was and is an African language consisting of thousands of words borrowed from Arabic and other languages spoken by mariners visiting the coast, some of whom came to settle permanently and to intermarry with local peoples.

Prior to the 19th century, however, Zanzibar was a relative backwater; islanders subsisted largely on fishing and agriculture, and some of the surplus was traded to the mainland. All this began to change when Seyyid Said (1807–1856), Sultan of Muscat, decided to make Zanzibar—and what was formerly little more than a fishing village on Unguja’s western coast—the seat of a political and commercial empire that, by the 1840s, encompassed the entire Kiswahili-speaking coast. By persuasion, intimidation, and military confrontation, Sultan Said subordinated or displaced a series of governing dynasties. With a superior navy and armed force—some of it mercenary—the Omani merchant prince installed his own garrisons and governors in all the principal port towns and decreed that all overseas trade be channeled through his new capital city, Zanzibar Town.

The Omani colonial presence in Zanzibar accelerated East Africa’s integration into global networks of trade; armed caravans emanating from the coast traveled further and further into the interior in search of ivory and slaves. The wealth they were able to obtain, either through trade or violence, stimulated a wave of urban construction; Zanzibar Town grew into the region’s largest metropolis. Through Seyyid Said’s initiative, Zanzibar also became a world center for the production of cloves, a tree product grown for the most part on Arab-owned plantations dependent on slave labor imported from the African mainland. Thus, in addition to waves of settlers from the Arab peninsula and South Asia, there was an even larger influx of Africans from the mainland.

Arabs and South Asians comprised privileged minority communities that, despite remarkable internal disparities of wealth and social status (as well as considerable religious diversity), included the wealthiest island residents. Arab wealth was concentrated primarily in land, slaves, and urban properties, whereas South Asians tended to predominate in the craft, commercial, and financial sectors. While South Asians concentrated overwhelmingly in the capital, and while they tended to maintain their own semi-exclusive ethnic and sectarian ties and networks, Arabs settled in both town and country, and more frequently intermarried with “Africans.”

“African” needs to be placed in quotation marks because of the fluid and contested nature of an identity that was not always embraced by individuals whose ancestors—or at least most of their ancestors—came from the African continent. For the sake of brevity, “African” Zanzibaris may be divided into three groups. The first group was already resident in the islands at the time of the Omani colonization and was largely dependent on subsistence agriculture and fishing. The second consisted of tens of thousands of slaves who arrived in the 19th century (before the trade was officially abolished under British pressure in 1873), and who mostly performed agricultural labor, construction, or domestic services. The third group of “Africans” consisted of 20th-century voluntary migrants from the mainland who came to work in the islands’ clove plantations, some of whom came to see Zanzibar as their permanent or semipermanent home. They often settled in the poorer districts of Zanzibar Town, where they found employment in the port and colonial public works projects, for example.

While by the 1960s “Africans” constituted roughly three-quarters of the population, and were very often relatively poor, it was by no means a foregone conclusion that they would unite to achieve common political aspirations. During the British colonial period, indigenous “Africans” came to overwhelmingly identify themselves as Shirazis: descendants of Persian migrants who came to Zanzibar somewhere in the distant and semi-legendary past. More importantly, though, the emergence of the Shirazi identity in the first half of the 20th century may be seen as a reflection of long-standing cultural pride and chauvinism in East African coastal society. Even the Kiswahili word for civilization, ustaarabu, suggests the extent to which Arab—or, more broadly, non-African manners, material culture, and religion—were all considered the epitome of “civilized living.” Thus, Shirazi identity, though suggesting Persian descent, was primarily a means of asserting membership in a coastal Islamic civilization commonly regarded as more advanced than that of the African mainland. As the “other” in contrast to which Shirazis premised their constructions of self, non-Muslim societies of the mainland were regarded as backward and uncouth.

In addition, many of the second group of “Africans”—those born in Zanzibar of slave ancestry—also claimed Shirazi identity. Along with the reasons cited earlier, those of the second group sought to escape the severe social stigma attached locally to slave ancestry. Only members of the third group—20th-century voluntary migrants from the mainland—consistently referred to themselves as Africans, or by ethnic labels such as Wanyamwezi, Wamakonde, and Wasukuma, which in no way implied membership in Zanzibar’s Muslim cultural mainstream.

After declaring a Protectorate over Zanzibar in 1890, the British gradually abolished slavery but undertook no further major social reforms. They sought to collect taxes, maintain law and order, undertake local public works projects, and ensure the functioning of an economy that continued to be based on clove and coconut production, as well as a diminishing share of East Africa’s coastal trade.1 Zanzibaris of African ancestry made some economic gains, especially in the agricultural sector and largely at the expense of Arab landowners, who sometimes lived beyond their means and mortgaged their lands and trees. Their declining fortunes were only partially offset by entrance into the civil service; Arabs, along with South Asians, dominated the middle and lower ranks of the colonial bureaucracy, which grew in size and complexity following World War II. Because colonial schools were the conduit to the clerical professions, and because they were concentrated in or near the capital, rural “Africans” were especially underrepresented in both the schools and bureaucracy.

Nationalist Politics

Through the 1940s, the British found it expedient to rule in the name of the Sultans of Zanzibar, the descendents of Seyyid Said, who received generous stipends and resided in palaces in or near Zanzibar Town. The British preferred a system of consultation in which their subjects, usually acquiescent, expressed their interests on a communal basis. Members of Zanzibar’s various racial, ethnic, and sectarian communities formed their own separate associations, such as the Arab Association, founded in 1911, or the African Association, founded in 1933. The British tended to favor Arabs in terms of local government. Through World War II, their general attitude was that they deserved to be treated as junior ruling partners because of the Arab nature of the Sultanate they had conquered but were technically still in the process of “protecting.”

It was therefore ironic that in the 1950s the British faced repeated demands for constitutional reform emanating primarily from the Arab Association, whose members were instrumental, in 1955, in forming the Zanzibar Nationalist Party (ZNP). In response, the Shirazi and African Associations allied together to form the Afro-Shirazi Party (ASP). The names of these two associations are suggestive: the ZNP presented itself as a party for all islanders, regardless of race, yet its initial core of support came from Arabs who comprised less than 20 percent of the population. Anxious over the prospect of Arab political domination, the ASP claimed in turn to represent the interests of the “African” and/or “indigenous” majority.

The ASP won the 1956 elections by a landslide, winning five of six contested constituencies; afterward, the party seemed poised to inherit power from the British. By 1961, that departure was understood to be inevitable and to take place within only a few years. And yet in two hard-fought elections of that year, the ZNP staged a remarkable comeback, attributable to superior grassroots organization. The ZNP also took advantage of a serious dispute within the ASP between Shirazi and African politicians, based respectively on Pemba and Unguja islands. This dispute concerned the ASP chairman, Abeid Karume. A former professional seaman with little formal education, Karume had traveled widely, and wielded considerable oratorical powers. More educated ASP politicians resented his seemingly autocratic leadership style; at its root, however, the issue was one of ethnicity. Shirazis resident in Unguja exhibited a greater tendency than those in Pemba to see Africans as their natural allies in a struggle against the allegedly “Arab” ZNP. In largely rural Pemba, by contrast, some Shirazis possessed extensive landholdings, and not infrequently intermarried with local Arabs. They tended, therefore, to be more susceptible to ZNP rhetorical claims that all Muslim Zanzibaris should form a united front to preserve the islands’ distinctive Islamic heritage from the supposed threat posed by “uncivilized” migrants from the African mainland.

In essence, the central dispute of Zanzibari nationalist politics was whether or not islanders should be united by religion/culture, as the ZNP claimed, or by race, as the ASP maintained. Karume and other ASP politicians argued that, given the islands’ long history of slavery and racial inequality, there was no realistic scenario in which the salience of racial categories could ever be eclipsed. They described the past as one in which Arabs, as the slave-owning class, routinely humiliated and abused Africans. Furthermore, they claimed that such mistreatment continued long after abolition and would grow worse if Arabs ever regained political power. The ZNP countered that slavery in Zanzibar was a relatively benign institution and that islanders should not allow themselves to be ensnared in the politics of race. They argued that the ASP was trying to divide Zanzibaris just as the British had before them; people like Karume were preventing any kind of mature political settlement in which all islanders, and not just “Africans,” could have a voice.

According to the 1948 census, Shirazis comprised roughly 60 percent of the population; for reasons already described, this pivotal group did not vote as a bloc for either party. Instead, most Shirazis in Unguja voted for the ASP, and most in Pemba supported the ZNP or a breakaway party from the ASP, the Zanzibar and Pemba People’s Party (ZPPP). The ZNP and ZPPP formed an alliance that managed to eke out narrow victories in the last two elections preceding independence. In neither case, however, did it win a majority; in 1963, the ASP rolled up huge margins in rural Unguja, won 54 percent of the total popular vote, and yet failed to win a majority of seats in the Legislative Council.


With the British planning to transfer power in December 1963 to the ZNP-ZPPP alliance, and with ASP leadership in disarray (Karume was personally blamed for the party’s defeat), an end to years of highly acrimonious and deeply divisive partisan politics might have seemed imaginable. And yet such optimism would have been misplaced. First, some ASP supporters, at least in Unguja, had already shown a willingness to physically assault their neighbors across the racial and partisan divide. Postelection riots in June 1961 claimed the lives of over sixty islanders, all of them Arab supporters of the ZNP. The disturbances demonstrated the islands’ vulnerability to further outbreaks of communal violence and may be considered, despite their spontaneous quality, as a portent of things to come.

A second reason to doubt the longevity of the ZNP-ZPPP regime was that its neighbors on the East African mainland regarded it as a minority government dedicated to serving the interests of politically irrepressible Arabs, who were still resented within the region as the allegedly arrogant descendants of slave owners. The ZNP’s brand of Muslim and Arab-centric nationalism was out of sync, to say the least, with the worldviews of Jomo Kenyatta and Julius Nyerere, the heads of state, respectively, of Kenya and Tanganyika. Neither was likely to rush to the defense of a government in Zanzibar headed by a Sultan descended from Omani slave merchants. Making matters worse was the local unpopularity of Sultan Jamshid bin Abdullah; the thirty-three-year-old who inherited his office as recently as July 1963 and was regarded by many ASP supporters as immature, partisan, and Arab-centric. Though real executive power was invested in the office of the prime minister, the young Sultan was a deeply polarizing figure in both national and regional politics.

Moreover, in mid-1963, the ZNP suffered the defection of a number of its most talented organizers, including its former secretary general, Muhammed Abdulrahman Babu. Babu’s departure from the party—as it was about to inherit power—can only be seen as motivated by principle, not interest. He and those who founded the Umma Party (meaning, in Kiswahili, “the masses”) were relatively well educated, from the left of the political spectrum, and of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. Some had taken advantage of offers since the late 1950s of free travel and scholarships to the Eastern Bloc. They had spent weeks and months touring and sampling life in the socialist fraternity of nations. Or, as in the case of Babu, they came by their leftist politics while working and studying in London in the 1950s. And while for years they supported the ZNP because of its resolute anticolonial stand, as well as its apparent avoidance of racial politics, they found themselves at odds with more conservative party leaders like Ali Muhsin who under British pressure were increasingly suspicious of “communists” in the party ranks.

Never a mass movement, the Umma Party did not pose an immediate threat to the electoral strength of the ZNP-ZPPP alliance; Babu and his supporters lost little time, however, in launching a new rhetorical challenge—based on class rather than race or religion. They also made common cause with ASP officials like Kassim Hanga and Hassan Nasser Moyo—trade union leaders who had traveled to Moscow and had come to see socialism as a blueprint for Zanzibar’s postcolonial development. With the formation of Umma, then, the new government was faced with the prospect of a reenergized and more capable political opposition—and one that furthermore spoke the powerful language of class grievance. Umma employed purge categories such as “feudalists” and “capitalists” that could easily serve as convenient and more polite labels for Arab landowners and South Asian businessmen. And yet, owing to its multiethnic leadership, the Umma Party was commonly perceived—despite its advocacy of the cause of the economically downtrodden—as just another “Arab” as opposed to “African” party. Had it not been so, it would have been in a strong position, following independence, to attract mass support.

Finally, the ZNP-ZPPP made two serious blunders, the first of which was the expulsion of mainlander Africans from the ranks of the police, the regime’s only security force. Some of these disgruntled former officers remained in the islands and played a key role in the revolution. More decisively, the regime failed to gain security guarantees from a foreign power—most likely Great Britain, or possibly Egypt, with which the ZNP was on friendlier terms. Britain acceded to requests in 1964 to quell army mutinies in Kenya, Tanganyika, and Uganda, yet allowed events in Zanzibar to take their course—even despite repeated last-minute pleas on the part of ZNP-ZPPP ministers to come to their rescue. Britain did not intervene to stop the revolution because it was not obliged by treaty to do so; nor did it wish to risk its relations with states in East Africa unsympathetic to the Sultanate. With its sizable British settler community and capital investments, Kenya was of immeasurably greater strategic value.


The events of the night of January 11–12, 1964, have long been shrouded in mystery and controversy. Undertaking research into the crucial question of who planned and executed the revolution is hampered by a set of archival documents that provide clues but not answers. Meanwhile, oral histories assembled decades later are often highly contradictory and sometimes less reflective of historical realities than the omnipresence of rumor in Zanzibari society. Making research more difficult is the popular belief that if one can prove who is responsible for orchestrating the revolution, then one has a scapegoat for everything terrible that has ever happened in Zanzibar since 1964—or, instead, for everything glorious. For years, the dominant ASP narrative—endlessly repeated in speeches and in print—was that Abeid Karume, President of Zanzibar from 1964 to 1972, was responsible for the revolution. Instead, knowing of the plan to seize power, Karume alerted government intelligence to the fact that a serious disturbance was about to take place on the night of January11–12, and then he fled to Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanganyika. Thus, Karume, the alleged “father of the nation,” betrayed his own supporters, the very ones who, upon the success of the operation, asked him to assume the reins of power.

A second dominant narrative, at least among Westerners, has been that John Okello, an obscure migrant from Uganda who only arrived in Zanzibar around 1959, was the sole mastermind of the revolution. There are two bases for this belief, the first of which was Okello’s claim to the title of “Field Marshall” of the revolution, which he first announced with terrifying effect over the radio on January 12. For days thereafter, Okello issued frequent radio decrees and broadsides, and played a highly visible role in the racial violence that accompanied the revolution. Yet by the end of February 1964, Okello was exiled from Zanzibar and shortly thereafter wound up in a Kenyan prison. Later, with considerable editorial assistance, he produced his remarkable memoirs. Upon publication, Western observers—barred from conducting research in revolutionary Zanzibar—deemed his account authoritative. Yet it is hard to understand why; his memoir contains many obviously fantastical elements, including repeated claims of prophetic powers on a par with those of Moses leading the children of Israel out of bondage. At the very least, such claims should arouse the skepticism of the most casual reader, and suggest that the author’s judgment and credibility are seriously impaired. Closer scrutiny of the text yields more problems; his chronology of events does not add up, and his obsession with placing himself at the commanding center of nearly all revolutionary events—even when they are simultaneous and highly chaotic in nature—undermines the reliability of his account. Okello’s memoir serves as a poor and misleading starting point for understanding what actually happened in the revolution.

A more likely scenario, from what can be gleaned from oral and archival sources, is that the plot to overthrow the ZNP-ZPPP government was centered in the ASP Youth League. Disgusted with the chronic factionalism of ASP politicians and inspired by the 1961 post-election riots, the Youth League decided to take matters into its own hands. Led by its chairman, Seif Bakari, the Youth League (and not Okello) possessed an extensive organizational apparatus capable of recruiting sufficient numbers of men to assault the two main police installations—at Ziwani and Mtoni, both of which were located on the outskirts of Zanzibar Town. Included among the recruits were an unknown number of recently sacked police officers, who likely provided key intelligence on how to subvert the regime’s security arrangements. Also among the recruits was John Okello, who, probably due to his megalomania (made abundantly obvious in his memoir), managed to thrust himself into a position of leadership, despite his status as a newcomer to the islands and political unknown.

The initial seizure of power was quick and relatively bloodless. In an astonishing failure of intelligence, Zanzibar’s police were taken by surprise on the night of January 11–12. Guards posted at camp perimeters were easily overwhelmed by an untrained force of men armed with machetes, clubs, bows and arrows. Within a couple of hours, most policemen loyal to the ZNP-ZPPP government were scattered, killed, or forced to surrender; virtually all the regime’s arms supply was now in rebel hands. The next morning, a few dozen loyal police assembled at Malindi police station, located at a key road juncture entering Stone Town, the capital’s largely Arab and South Asian neighborhoods surrounding the port and most government offices. While the rebels secured the prison and airport, they launched a series of loosely coordinated and desultory assaults against Malindi police station. Loyal police managed to hold out for most of January 12 and then withdrew in good order to the port, from where they were evacuated by sea. With their departure, all effective resistance ceased. Sultan Jamshid escaped on his yacht, and in the next few days all ZNP-ZPPP government ministers were forced to either surrender or go into exile.

The sudden collapse of the Sultanate and the rapid distribution of captured arms to rank-and-file ASP supporters triggered weeks of racial violence. Most vulnerable were Arabs living in rural Unguja, who endured punishments that included arson, plunder, detention, rape, and murder. Less affected by the initial violence were Arabs and South Asians living in Stone Town, where the insurrectionists were discouraged by the prospect of snipers in the balconies and narrow streets. The island of Pemba, meanwhile, was initially calm; within a couple of weeks, however, armed bands led by Okello were ferried over from Unguja to “export” the revolution to rural districts that had awarded the majority of their votes to the ZNP-ZPPP alliance. Probably because racial tensions were never as bitter in Pemba as in Unguja, the violence that accompanied the revolution to Pemba was never as lethal, with the primary accent on intimidation, humiliation, arson, rape, and plunder.

Historical sources do not allow for precise estimates of total casualties. The death toll may have reached as high as ten thousand; to this very imprecise number must be added a few thousand Arabs, who during the course of 1964 were forced into exile, either because they were detained and then expelled, or because they no longer felt safe. With a total Arab population of approximately 50,000, it does not seem an overstatement to suggest that those killed or forced into exile in 1964 represented as many as a third of the total. Over the next decade, the number of Arabs and South Asians would experience further dramatic attrition, as a result of discriminatory decrees enacted by the revolutionary regime.

The People’s Republic of Zanzibar

Karume spent most of the first half of 1964 maneuvering to consolidate his power and to neutralize his most serious political opponents. Former foes within the ASP such as Othman Shariff were given ambassadorships, Okello was exiled to the mainland, and his followers were disarmed. Personally insulted by the slowness with which the United Kingdom and the United States moved to recognize his regime—they waited until late February to do so—Karume leaned heavily on the advice of Babu, who as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade managed to persuade the older man to accept generous offers of aid from the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China, and East Germany. Babu influenced Karume to align with the Eastern Bloc and to replace British civil servants with socialist counterparts as fast as possible. Western observers were also astonished by the speed with which Babu’s leftist associates from the Umma Party—which merged with the ASP in March 1964—assumed positions of rank and influence in the new army and civil service. Also dispiriting were the repeated demonstrations in Zanzibar Town condemning American imperialism.

When Zanzibar announced the imminent expulsion of all British and American residents, and when it became the first African nation to accord diplomatic recognition to East Germany, it appeared to Western observers that the islands were about to become the “Cuba of East Africa.” Such anxieties peaked in March and April 1964, with worrying reports of Chinese and Soviet loans and military assistance, the latter of which came in the form of training and hardware provided to the islands’ nascent army. Westerners regarded Babu as a charming, sophisticated, and radical political operator who, with solid Chinese backing, was on his way toward ousting the relatively moderate and seemingly naïve Karume. Babu would then, it was feared, turn Zanzibar into a regional outpost of communist subversion and destabilization. The British therefore felt compelled to develop a series of plans for military intervention to neutralize Babu and his leftist partisans. All such plans were contingent, however, on the request and invitation of Karume or some other East African head of state, which never materialized. The Americans, meanwhile, tried to pressure Nyerere and Kenyatta to convince Karume that Babu posed a dire personal threat. Yet Kenyatta was relatively complacent, and Nyerere felt he could do little more than lend Karume’s government a contingent of over one hundred policemen to help restore some semblance of security to the islands. The Americans also embraced the idea of a federation of East African territories that would effectively “bury” Zanzibar and its radicals within a much larger political union that would remain nonaligned in the Cold War. Though Nyerere supported the idea, it never gained ground with either Kenyatta or Milton Obote, the President of Uganda.

Finally, in late April, to the pleasant surprise of nervous Westerners, Tanganyika and Zanzibar suddenly agreed to federate their territories, in a deal that was worked out between Karume, Nyerere, and Oscar Kambona, Tanganyika’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. By late April, Nyerere and Kambona appear to have become so worried about Babu’s growing influence, and Zanzibar’s movement toward the Soviets and Chinese, that they pressured Karume to accept a loose political union. Zanzibar lost its sovereignty and became a federated territory of the newly minted United Republic of Tanzania—with “Tanzania” as an amalgamation of “Tanganyika” and “Zanzibar.” While it was supposed to cede control over foreign affairs, in practice Zanzibar continued to maintain its own separate economic relations with foreign powers, its own army, and control over domestic policy. While Zanzibaris obtained vastly disproportionate representation in the Tanzanian parliament, based on the mainland, and while Karume received the additional title of First Vice President of Tanzania, he jealously guarded his autonomy in the islands. Not wanting to face a crisis that might lead to a permanent rupture, Nyerere allowed Karume to do more or less as he pleased, even when he regarded Karume’s actions as both embarrassing and morally indefensible.

As Minister of Foreign Affairs, Babu was notably absent from the union negotiations; indeed, the agreement enabled Karume to exile to the mainland all possible threats. Babu, Vice President Kassim Hanga, and a number of Umma leftists were given new posts in the union government. Their removal was merely Karume’s latest maneuver to consolidate personal power. Though considered in late 1963 a failure and a has-been, Karume managed by mid-1964 to assert himself as a kind of political kingpin. The coercive powers at his disposal would increase further as the decade progressed.

Nation Building, Redistribution, and Citizenship

The sovereign People’s Republic of Zanzibar lasted three months, not enough time to enact any comprehensive policies. After establishing a monopoly on violence, as well as basic governing institutions, the regime embarked on a series of innovations that may broadly be described as socialist. And yet while China, East Germany, and the Soviet Union were patient and generous in their aid and advice, and while Karume was prepared to endorse many of their proposals, it would be erroneous to say that Zanzibar’s socialist experiment of the 1960s and 1970s was merely derivative. Karume and his colleagues actively reworked concepts and techniques from overseas, having come to power with ideas of their own. While some officials were “true believers” in socialism in that they favored close adherence to models of national development emanating from the Eastern Bloc, most embraced a kind of populist racial nationalism. Their nationalism translated into innovations that were more impulsive, improvisational, and/or punitive in character than what “scientific” socialists may have preferred. As on the Tanzanian mainland, most African nationalists found it relatively easy to appropriate the language of socialism for the cause of addressing long-standing racial grievances—in effect, to right a century of communal as opposed to class wrongs. That said, nationalists’ embrace of socialism was not merely lip service but a long-term engagement with Eastern Bloc ideas, techniques, and expertise.

While the regime retained some colonial institutions, most were either hollowed out or swept aside. It banned all the ethnic associations that in previous decades had played such a prominent role in Zanzibari social and political life; also discarded were such innocuous organizations as the Boy Scouts. The Legislative Council was dissolved, replaced by the Revolutionary Council (RC), a kind of consultative body that initially consisted of men like Seif Bakari, Abdulla Said Natepe, and others who played leading roles in the overthrow of the Sultanate. Having little formal education and formerly employed in low-paying, menial occupations, such men were willing to let others administer the bureaucratic functions of the state. Also seated on the RC were Karume’s ministers, usually men of some education and overseas experience, including Aboud Jumbe, a former schoolteacher and graduate of Makerere College. Karume, however, tended to distrust the educated, probably because they were the most likely ones in the past to have repudiated his leadership of the ASP. As the 1960s progressed, the RC tended more and more to merely ratify Karume’s decrees, whose ruling style became increasingly autocratic and intimidating. In this respect, he could normally count on the support of RC members such as Seif Bakari, who possessed a profound distrust of democratic procedures. If Karume faced any challenges or perceived disloyalty, he did so from his ministers; four of the original nine who obtained ministerial rank were executed on his order.

Along with effectively dissolving the legislative branch, Karume also set out to radically restructure the judicial branch of government. In what he liked to call “People’s Courts,” laymen without legal training were selected as judges to preside in committees of three over cases brought to them. Defense attorneys were prohibited; instead, the prosecuting attorney would attempt to double as defense attorney. Under Karume, the state also asserted unprecedented control over the economy. By 1972, the Zanzibar State Trading Corporation (ZSTC) was not only the sole legal purchaser of the islands’ clove crop (a carryover from colonial times), but also assumed control of the wholesale and most of the retail sector. In addition, the state nationalized the islands’ tiny industrial sector (owned primarily by South Asians) and all foreign banks, and shunned all foreign investment. However, it allowed peasants and fishermen to produce and sell as they had in the past. Thus, the revolutionary state never sought to impose central control over the productive endeavors of the majority of its subjects. And aside from the formation of retail cooperatives, it never attempted to collectivize them in any meaningful sense. Overall, Karume’s regime aspired to economic self-sufficiency; foreign aid projects included a new dairy plant, sugar refinery, and shoe factory, none of which proved viable. The state also purchased a small fleet of tractors and fishing vessels, and tried to increase local production of rice and sugar.

Karume’s regime has been characterized as mindless and incoherent in its governing policies, but this description is somewhat misleading. Many innovations were undertaken, and though many failed, or did not endure beyond the 1970s, they did possess some basis in rational thought. For the most part, they may be placed under the headings of nation building, redistribution, and citizenship. When it came to nation building, Karume was rather ambitious; early in his presidency he endorsed an East German plan to level most of the heavily African neighborhoods of the capital, which he did not consider suitably “modern” in either appearance or amenity. In place of mud and thatch homes would be vast, several-storied apartment blocks that would furnish residents with electricity and indoor plumbing, all built with islanders’ coerced, unpaid labor. While the initial plans were eventually downsized, neighborhoods such as Kigamboni, Michenzani, and Kikwajuni were permanently transformed. In terms of square footage, these were the largest buildings ever constructed in Zanzibar; they have served ever since (at least for some) as sources of patriotic pride.

Along with public housing, the Chinese built Mao Tse Tung stadium on the inward edge of Zanzibar Town; there were also a number of new primary schools, most of them located in rural areas and constructed with “voluntary” local labor. By the end of the 1960s, the regime doubled primary school enrollment, though the quality of education declined, partially as a result of the exodus of many skilled teachers for jobs elsewhere. Official efforts to improve public health were not effective. Believing islanders to be naturally healthy, Karume discontinued government support of a World Health Organization initiative to eradicate malaria in the islands; as a result, the disease returned with a vengeance.

The state also invested in a new and massive “business class” hotel, which was meant to dwarf the few hotels built in the capital during colonial times. This project turned out to be a white elephant. What was intended, meanwhile, to be Africa’s largest swimming pool never opened owing to engineering difficulties.

As for the regime’s redistribution efforts, they were exercised largely at the expense of formerly privileged minority communities and were intended to benefit the African majority, though Africans also sometimes suffered indirectly from such interventions. Almost immediately after the seizure of power, most but not all Arabs and South Asians were purged from the civil service; many of their urban properties were also “nationalized.” In addition, the state imposed a quota system in education; it limited the number of coveted seats awarded to Arab and South Asian students in the secondary schools to a percentage said to reflect their portion of the overall population. In addition, state authorities confiscated Arab and South Asian-owned clove and coconut plantations, which they transformed into state farms or divided into three-acre allotments and awarded to local ASP supporters. The process of allocation was characterized by considerable favoritism. Ultimately, it also reduced productivity; without the labor and other resources necessary to maintain and harvest the trees, Zanzibar’s clove production went into long-term decline. And because the price offered for cloves by the ZSTC was usually only a small fraction of what growers could obtain through smuggling, an illicit trade developed with the mainland.

Karume was infamous around Zanzibar Town for his personal sexual predations, in which he targeted young Arab and South Asian females. He employed his own private procurer, who routinely waylaid the women on the streets of the capital, or as they were walking home from school. Karume had them delivered to his palace, where he forced himself upon them. Such assaults encouraged Arabs and South Asians to flee the islands as a matter of safety. Following their exclusion from the civil service and the loss of their lands, properties, and businesses, they had few economic incentives to remain. Karume and most of his colleagues in the RC did not lament their departure; rather, they welcomed it as a perceived solution to the problem of racial inequality. If in 1948 there were over 15,000 South Asians in Zanzibar, by 1972 that number had been reduced to about 3,500; the more numerous Arab community suffered a similar rate of attrition.

In terms of citizenship, the regime set about to form loyal, productive, and hard-working subjects, and to do so, it relied heavily on the ASP Youth League. Under its chairman, Seif Bakari, the Youth League underwent a remarkable institutional expansion, becoming the regime’s primary fountain of revolutionary enthusiasm. Following the advice of socialist experts, it recruited tens of thousands of children and adolescents into the Young Pioneers, chapters of which were concentrated in the schools. At their height in the mid-1970s, the Young Pioneers numbered close to 30,000 and taught a generation how to march, sing revolutionary songs, and engage in “voluntary” service projects. Also, through the influence of socialist nations, the Youth League established labor camps in the countryside, where young men and women could devote themselves full time to agricultural tasks and then sit around campfires at night absorbing nationalist knowledge. Camp conditions were harsh; but those who endured such deprivation were believed to be endowed with revolutionary virtue and were often given jobs in the army or police.

Another Youth League department, known as the Green Guards, or Voluntia (Volunteers), was tasked with surveillance, intelligence gathering, and enforcement. Patrolling both urban and rural areas, the Voluntia sought to combat clove smuggling and to compel citizens to report for their forced labor assignments. In the 1970s, the Voluntia enforced the regime’s ban on various Western fashions regarded as offensive; these included bell-bottoms, mini skirts, and hair worn in an “afro” style. Such fashions were deemed unsuitable for a socialist society that was earnestly dedicated to nation building. They were also considered manifestations of Western decadence and cultural imperialism. Repeat offenders received beatings and jail sentences. Given the nature of their mandate, the widespread unpopularity of the Voluntia seems hardly surprising; they were regarded as the hatchet men of the regime, who in the absence of wages sought to extort fines for various violations of the regime’s ever evolving code of citizenship.

Although in the later 1960s the price of cloves increased over 500 percent on the international market, and although by 1972 the state accumulated cash reserves of approximately 25 million pounds, the state began rationing sugar, flour, and rice in order, Karume said, to encourage economic self-sufficiency. The deprivation that resulted was compounded by artificial shortages in other essential consumer commodities; such shortages, which lasted for most of the revolutionary period, were solely the result of ZSTC bungling. As in socialist Eastern European nations, standing in long queues became an ordinary fact of life. Accepting a certain amount of socialist austerity was considered a token of good citizenship.

By the time of Karume’s assassination in 1972, economic conditions had become extremely trying for ordinary islanders; while enduring years of consumer scarcities, many thousands were also supposed to dutifully report for their “voluntary” labor assignments or practice marching in their spare time. The annual commemorations of the revolution, held in January of every year, were meant to overawe islanders with the visual spectacle of so many people parading in uniforms below the gaze of their all-wise president. Such displays of socialist unity and regimentation were not peripheral to nation building; rather, they were considered ends in themselves. They were meant to provide the forms and appearances of socialism, and give the people compelling visual evidence of the legitimacy and success of the revolution.

Whatever persuasive power parades may have possessed easily wore off in an atmosphere of deprivation, fear, and isolation. Islanders without radios were almost entirely cut off from the outside world; travel was severely restricted, and the tourism that began in the late-colonial period was now almost nonexistent. All independent media, aside from the cinema, was banned. Citizens, moreover, worried that any private expression of unhappiness with the regime might land them in detention. The state’s security agents, some of them trained in East Germany, were believed to be everywhere.


In early April 1972, Karume was assassinated while playing bao with friends on the ground floor of the ruling party’s headquarters, in Zanzibar Town; his assailants were eventually hunted down, killed, and linked to a conspiracy centered among former members of the Umma Party. Led by Babu, who after his removal in 1964 from island politics had served as one of Nyerere’s more popular and influential cabinet ministers, the plotters had originally planned to launch a military coup. Failing that, they set out to assassinate Karume, whom they believed had betrayed the revolution’s higher principles and had run Zanzibar into the ground. Karume’s death triggered mass arrests, followed by a drawn-out trial in which dozens of former Umma cadres were sentenced to death but who were eventually released in the late 1970s after years of incarceration. Most experienced severe torture, and three died while in custody.

While Seif Bakari was considered Karume’s chosen successor, his hard-line approach was unpopular among some members of the RC. No doubt, Nyerere also played an instrumental role in pushing forward Aboud Jumbe, a relative moderate, who did not seem to have shared his predecessor’s extreme animus toward Arabs and South Asians. While still a convinced socialist, Jumbe was able—after Bakari’s removal to the mainland—to allow the security apparatus to atrophy, and thereby gradually lessen the ever-present atmosphere of fear. Compulsory labor on state-sponsored public works projects was phased out, and rations were ended, though consumer shortages remained a recurrent feature of ordinary life. Jumbe relaxed restrictions on travel to and from the islands, ended quotas in education based on race, and spent the cash reserves accumulated under Karume on such things as a presidential plane, airport construction, and one of sub-Saharan Africa’s first color television broadcasting stations. The last was seen as an effective means by which to educate the populace regarding the virtues and duties of citizenship.

Jumbe began to promote into the civil service young men of relative education who sometimes held views in private that were not in accordance with ASP orthodoxies. He also established a House of Representatives, whose members were chosen by ASP organs rather than through popular elections. Jumbe’s attempt to revive the legislative branch may be seen as a means of reducing the role of the RC, which was still populated by some of the party’s old guard. Such measures were for the most part welcome; more controversial was Jumbe’s willingness in 1977 to accommodate Nyerere’s desire to amalgamate the ruling parties of the islands and mainland of Tanzania into one, to be called Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM), or the Party of the Revolution. Though this dramatically reduced Zanzibar’s autonomies, it came as a relief to many in the islands who saw the union as a restraining influence on the dreaded ASP old guard.

The union of the two parties also served Jumbe’s ambition to succeed Nyerere as president of Tanzania. Unfortunately for Jumbe, however, the formation of CCM turned out to have the opposite effect. Because of a dispute in 1982 over relations between the islands and mainland of Tanzania, Nyerere was able, through the disciplinary apparatus of a single party, to force Jumbe’s resignation. Jumbe’s successor was Ali Hassan Mwinyi, who chose as his chief minister Seif Shariff Hamad, one of the college-educated young men with liberalizing ideas originally promoted by Jumbe. Mwinyi and Shariff moved rapidly to dismantle much of what remained of Zanzibar’s socialist experiment, relinquishing state control over the import trade, abolishing Karume’s system of “People’s Courts,” and adopting a new and more liberal constitution that allowed the House of Representatives to be popularly elected. Such measures finally ended the era of consumer shortages, and allowed foreign investment—which had been virtually outlawed under Karume—to begin trickling back into the islands. Ironically, much of it came from prosperous Zanzibaris who back in the 1960s had been forced into exile. Their capital resources helped to seed the islands’ tourist economy, which took off in the 1990s and has been dominant in the islands ever since.

Like the Tanzanian mainland, Zanzibar in the 1990s returned to at least the forms of multiparty democracy, though no election has taken place without CCM fraud and electoral rigging. CCM regularly employs the revolution as a rhetorical platform from which to lambast its rivals as no better than the ZNP-ZPPP alliance ousted back in 1964. If islanders were once divided by race, they are also divided now over whether to embrace or reject the legacies of the revolution, including such contentious issues as the loss of Zanzibar’s sovereignty, and its reduced autonomies within the Tanzanian union. While some things can never be undone—including the loss of life and the people exiled—it is clear that the revolution no longer serves as an active, creative principle in island life. It stopped doing so in the early 1980s, if not before. Faced with serious economic decline and the end of all hope of self-sufficiency, officials felt their only choice was to roll back revolutionary policies and to seek out Western aid, advice, and investment. And yet the revolution lives on in the worldviews of some who continue to embrace its brand of racial nationalism and who see the Karume years as a time when islanders threw off the shackles of colonialism, combated inequality, and built a new, modern, and progressive nation.

Discussion of the Literature

For a generation, Michael Lofchie’s Zanzibar: Background to Revolution provided the most influential and accurate explanation for why, in 1964, Zanzibar would descend so dramatically into communal violence.2 By the early 1990s, however, some scholars found Lofchie’s interpretation of the violence as largely ethnic or racial to be unconvincing. The various authors of the essays contained in Zanzibar under Colonial Rule advanced materialist analyses of the islands’ social, economic, and political relations prior to the revolution.3 And then in 2011 Jonathon Glassman published War of Words, War of Stones, in which he persuasively argued that most islanders in the nationalist era thought in terms of race, not class, and that when looking at the key question of what motivated people to take up arms against their neighbors, such thought cannot be dismissed, in Marxist fashion, as “false consciousness.”4 Moreover, British colonial officials did not implant such racial thinking into local minds, as some have alleged; instead, such discourse drew upon local currents of thought long present on the East African coast.

While Glassman appears to have won the debate between race and class as motivating factors for revolutionary violence, a sole emphasis on racial thought does not adequately explain the genesis of the revolutionary project that followed shortly thereafter. By mid-1964, Zanzibari political elites were appropriating class analysis and experimenting with socialist precepts of nation building; they were doing so very much as a result of the influence of a relative handful of well-traveled leftists, many of them members of the Umma Party; to understand their impact, researchers may be referred to three essays published by G. Thomas Burgess.5

Unfortunately, a thorough and reliable examination of the nature as opposed to the origins of the revolutionary violence of January 1964 does not exist.6 Most Western observers, unable to personally conduct research in Zanzibar, have regrettably accepted the sensational claims made by John Okello that he single-handedly conceived, organized, and led the plot to topple the ZNP-ZPPP government.7 A few have disputed such claims, foregrounding instead the role of the ASP Youth League.8 Still others have claimed that the conspiracy was centered on the Tanganyikan mainland and that therefore what took place was not a revolution at all but an invasion.9

The brief history of the People’s Republic of Zanzibar has produced its share of controversy, particularly concerning the events surrounding the formation in April 1964 of the United Republic of Tanzania and the loss of Zanzibar’s sovereignty. What motivated Karume and Nyerere to come to such an agreement? Was it pure pragmatism, or was it idealistic Pan-Africanist sentiment? Was it forged in order to serve Western interests, or was it concluded in defiance of such interests? The most convincing accounts present the union as a means undertaken by Nyerere and Karume—neither under the thumb nor in defiance of the West—to pool their resources in order to pursue common objectives. Most Tanzanians, however, have been more interested in the specific terms of the agreement, and if they mean the islands may retain some elements of sovereignty, or instead become merely another region of Tanzania.10 Island nationalists, for example, have sought to demonstrate a legal and historical basis for the revival of Zanzibari statehood, or at the very least grounds by which they can assert greater autonomy within the union.

For those interested in the revolutionary regime’s social, political, and economic experiments, the best sources are those that examine specific aspects of the revolutionary project, rather than those that analyze it as a whole. In 1981 Anthony Clayton published a forty-page account of the Karume years, without access, however, to either oral or archival sources located in Zanzibar.11 Ibrahim Fokas Shao analyzes land redistribution in Zanzibar; Issa Shivji focuses on political and judicial institutions, as well as Zanzibar’s fraught relations with the Tanzanian mainland.12 Garth Andrew Myers examines the regime’s public housing initiatives.13 G. Thomas Burgess studies the regime’s varied efforts to inculcate what it regarded as proper citizenship values, and Laura Fair examines the role of cinema in island life.14 Also promising is a forthcoming collection of essays, edited by William Bissell and Marie-Aude Fouéré, which explore the impact of the revolution on specific elements of Zanzibari society, as well as its presence in public memory.15

Primary Sources

The revolution has figured prominently in a series of memoirs, most of them very useful, produced by both Zanzibaris and Westerners.16 The revolution has been the backdrop of several novels by Abdulrazzak Gurnah, including Admiring Silence, Desertion, By the Sea, and The Last Gift.17 For archival sources, an excellent place to begin is the Zanzibar National Archives (ZNA), located in Zanzibar Town. There one may find colonial intelligence reports, contemporary newspapers, and minutes and decrees of the Revolutionary Council. The collection includes an uneven assortment of records from the revolutionary era, including those of various government ministries and departments, mostly in Kiswahili. Yet, given the incompleteness of the collection, researchers are advised to visit relevant government agencies and request access to records not yet transferred to the ZNA.

The National Archives of the United Kingdom, located in Kew, is also a key repository. From the colonial period and continuing through 1964, British officials received regular intelligence reports on the activities of the islands’ nationalist organizations. The US National Archives, located in College Park, Maryland, is an excellent resource for the entirety of the 1960s and 1970s. In the context of the Cold War, and concerns that the islands might serve as the “Cuba” of East Africa, American officials produced an extensive correspondence concerning political and economic developments in Zanzibar. Researchers should also consider visiting American presidential libraries, such as the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library housed at the University of Texas at Austin, and the Richard M. Nixon Library located in Yorba Linda, California. This researcher has not yet accessed repositories in Germany, Russia, or China; yet, given the aid relationships existing between revolutionary Zanzibar and East Germany, the USSR, and the PRC, such lines of inquiry appear to have considerable promise.

Further Reading

Babu, Abdulrahman Muhammed. “The 1964 Revolution: Lumpen or Vanguard?” In Zanzibar under Colonial Rule. Edited by Abdul Sheriff and Ed Ferguson. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1991.Find this resource:

Bissell, William, and Marie-Aude Fouéré, eds. Social Memory, Silenced Voices, and Political Struggle: Remembering and Representing the Revolution in Zanzibar. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Mkuki na Nyota/IFRA, forthcoming, 2017.Find this resource:

Burgess, G. Thomas. “Cinema, Bell Bottoms, and Miniskirts: Struggles over Youth and Citizenship in Revolutionary Zanzibar.” International Journal of African Historical Studies 35, no. 2 (2002): 313–330.Find this resource:

Burgess, G. Thomas. “An Imagined Generation: Umma Youth in Nationalist Zanzibar.” In In Search of a Nation: Histories of Authority and Dissidence from Tanzania: Essays in Honor of I. M. Kimambo. Edited by Gregory Maddox, James Giblin, and Y. Q. Lawi, 216–249. London: James Currey, 2005.Find this resource:

Burgess, G. Thomas. “The Young Pioneers and the Rituals of Citizenship in Revolutionary Zanzibar.” Africa Today 51, no. 3 (April 2005): 3–29.Find this resource:

Burgess, G. Thomas. Race, Revolution, and the Struggle for Human Rights in Zanzibar: The Memoirs of Ali Sultan Issa and Seif Sharif Hamad. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2009.Find this resource:

Burgess, G. Thomas. “Mao in Zanzibar: Nationalism, Discipline, and the (De) Construction of Afro-Asian Solidarities.” In Making a World after Empire: The Bandung Moment and Its Political Afterlives. Edited by Christopher Lee, 196–234. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2010.Find this resource:

Burgess, G. Thomas. “Memories, Myths, and Meanings of the Zanzibari Revolution.” In War and Peace in Africa. Edited by Toyin Falola and Raphael Chijioke Njoku, 429–450. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2010.Find this resource:

Clayton, Anthony. The Zanzibar Revolution and Its Aftermath. Hamden, CT: Archon Books, 1981.Find this resource:

Fair, Laura. Reel Pleasures Cinema Audiences and Entrepreneurs in Twentieth-Century Urban Tanzania. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2017.Find this resource:

Glassman, Jonathon. War of Words, War of Stones: Racial Thought and Violence in Colonial Zanzibar. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011.Find this resource:

Gurnah, Abdulrazzak. Admiring Silence. New York: New Press, 1996.Find this resource:

Lofchie, Michael. Zanzibar: Background to Revolution. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1965.Find this resource:

Martin, Esmond Bradley. Zanzibar: Tradition and Revolution. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1978.Find this resource:

Okello, John. Revolution in Zanzibar. Nairobi, Kenya: East African Publishing House, 1967.Find this resource:

Petterson, Don. Revolution in Zanzibar: An American’s Cold War Tale. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2002.Find this resource:

Sanders, Ethan. “Conceiving the Tanganyika-Zanzibar Union in the Midst of the Cold War: Internal and International Factors.” African Review 41, no. 1 (2014): 35–70.Find this resource:

Shivji, Issa, Pan-Africanism or Pragmatism? Lessons of Tangayika-Zanzibar Union. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Mkuki na Nyota Publishers, 2008.Find this resource:


(1.) For a more nuanced account of British colonial policies and initiatives, see William Cunningham Bissell, Urban Design, Chaos, and Colonial Power in Zanzibar (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011).

(2.) Michael Lofchie, Zanzibar: Background to Revolution (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1965). See also S. G. A. Ayany, A History of Zanzibar: A Study of Constitutional Development, 1934–1964 (Nairobi, Kenya: East African Literature Bureau, 1977); and Juma Aley, Zanzibar in the Context (New Delhi: Lancers Books, 1988).

(3.) Abdul Sheriff and Ed Ferguson, eds., Zanzibar under Colonial Rule (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1991). For more recent versions of class analysis, see Issa Shivji, Pan-Africanism or Pragmatism? Lessons of Tangayika-Zanzibar Union (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Mkuki na Nyota Publishers, 2008); and Austin Mullins, The Zanzibar Revolution: The Formation of Racial Group Identities and Class Struggles, 1890–1964., 2013.

(4.) Jonathon Glassman, War of Words, War of Stones: Racial Thought and Violence in Colonial Zanzibar (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011). See also Abdul Sheriff, “Race and Class in the Politics of Zanzibar,” Afrika Spectrum 36, no. 3 (2001): 314–315.

(5.) G. Thomas Burgess, “An Imagined Generation: Umma Youth in Nationalist Zanzibar,” in In Search of a Nation: Histories of Authority and Dissidence from Tanzania: Essays in Honor of I. M. Kimambo, eds. Gregory Maddox, James Giblin, and Y. Q. Lawi (London: James Currey, 2005), 216–249; G. Thomas Burgess, “A Socialist Diaspora: Ali Sultan Issa, the Soviet Union, and the Zanzibari Revolution,” in Africa in Russia, Russia in Africa: 300 Years of Encounters, ed. Maxim Matusevich (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2006), 263–292; G. Thomas Burgess, “Mao in Zanzibar: Nationalism, Discipline, and the (De) Construction of Afro-Asian Solidarities,” in Making a World After Empire: The Bandung Moment and Its Political Afterlives, ed. Christopher Lee (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2010), 196–234.

(6.) Glassman reconstructs the 1961 postelection riots, not the violence of January 1964.

(7.) John Okello, Revolution in Zanzibar (Nairobi, Kenya: East African Publishing House, 1967). Notable among those who have based their accounts on Okello’s memoir is Anthony Clayton, The Zanzibar Revolution and Its Aftermath (Hamden, CT: Archon Books, 1981).

(8.) See Abdulrahman Muhammed Babu, “The 1964 Revolution: Lumpen or Vanguard?” in Zanzibar under Colonial Rule, 238ff; G. Thomas Burgess, “Memories, Myths, and Meanings of the Zanzibari Revolution,” in War and Peace in Africa, eds. Toyin Falola and Raphael Chijioke Njoku (Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2010), 429–450; and Shivji, Pan-Africanism or Pragmatism?, 41–54.

(9.) See Harith Gassany, Kwaheri Ukoloni, Kwaheri Uhuru! Zanzibar na Mapinduzi ya Afrabia., 2010.

(10.) Ethan Sanders, “Conceiving the Tanganyika-Zanzibar Union in the Midst of the Cold War: Internal and International Factors,” African Review 41, no. 1 (2014): 35–70; Amrit Wilson, The Threat of Liberation: Imperialism and Revolution in Zanzibar (New York: Pluto Press, 2013); Paul Bjerk, Building a Peaceful Nation: Julius Nyerere and the Establishment of Sovereignty in Tanzania, 1960–64 (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2015), 206–227; Aboud Jumbe, The Partnership: Tanganyika—Zanzibar Union: 30 Turbulent Years (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Amana Publishers, 1994); and Shivji, Pan-Africanism or Pragmatism? 69–99.

(11.) Clayton, The Zanzibar Revolution and Its Aftermath, 116–155. See also Esmond Bradley Martin, Zanzibar: Tradition and Revolution (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1978).

(12.) Ibrahim Fokas Shao, The Political Economy of Land Reform in Zanzibar (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Dar es Salaam University Press, 1992). Shivji, Pan-Africanism or Pragmatism? 101–234.

(13.) Garth Andrew Myers, Verandahs of Power: Colonialism and Space in Urban Africa (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2003), 106–134.

(14.) G. Thomas Burgess, “The Young Pioneers and the Rituals of Citizenship in Revolutionary Zanzibar,” Africa Today 51, no. 3 (April 2005): 3–29; G. Thomas Burgess, “Cinema, Bell Bottoms, and Miniskirts: Struggles over Youth and Citizenship in Revolutionary Zanzibar,” International Journal of African Historical Studies 35, no. 2 (2002): 313–330; and G. Thomas Burgess, “To Differentiate Rice from Grass: Youth Labor Camps in Revolutionary Zanzibar,” in Generations Past: Youth in East African History, eds. Andrew Burton and Hélène Charton-Bigot (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2010), 221–236. Laura Fair, Reel Pleasures Cinema Audiences and Entrepreneurs in Twentieth-Century Urban Tanzania (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2018).

(15.) William Bissell and Marie-Aude Fouéré, eds., Social Memory, Silenced Voices, and Political Struggle: Remembering and Representing the Revolution in Zanzibar (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Mkuki na Nyota/IFRA, 2017).

(16.) G. Thomas Burgess, Race, Revolution, and the Struggle for Human Rights in Zanzibar: The Memoirs of Ali Sultan Issa and Seif Sharif Hamad (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2009); Haroub Othman, ed., Babu: I Saw the Future and It Works: Essays Celebrating the Life of Comrade Abdulrahman Mohamed Babu, 1924–1996 (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, E & D, 2001); Ali Muhsin al Barwani, Conflicts and Harmony in Zanzibar (Memoirs) (Dubai, UAE: n.p., 1997); Minael-Hosanna O. Mdundo, Masimulizi ya Sheikh Thabit Kombo Jecha (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Dar es Salaam University Press, 1996); Maulid M Haj, Sowing the Wind: Zanzibar and Pemba before the Revolution (Zanzibar Town: Gallery Publications, 2001); and Nasser Abdullah Al-Riyami, Zanzibar—Personalities and Events (1828–1972) (Beirut, Lebanon: Beirut Bookshop, 2012). Don Petterson, Revolution in Zanzibar: An American’s Cold War Tale (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2002). Petterson’s account is especially useful for the first half of 1964.

(17.) See also Anne Chappel, Zanzibar Uhuru: A Revolution, Two Women and the Challenge of Survival (n. p., 2015).