Abeid Karume

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Abeid Karume
عبيد كرومي
Abeid Karume 1964.jpg
Abeid Karume in 1964
1st President of Zanzibar
In office
26 April 1964 – 7 April 1972
Preceded byHimself President of People's Republic of Zanzibar and Pemba
Succeeded byAboud Jumbe
1st Vice President of Tanzania
In office
29 October 1964 – 7 April 1972
PresidentJulius Nyerere
Preceded byPosition Established
Succeeded byAboud Jumbe
President of People's Republic of Zanzibar and Pemba
In office
12 January 1964 – 25 April 1964
Preceded bySir Jamshid bin Abdullah (Sultan of Zanzibar)
Succeeded byPosition Abolished (Julius Nyerere As President of Tanzania)
Personal details
Born(1905-08-04)4 August 1905
Nyasaland (Malawi)
Died7 April 1972(1972-04-07) (aged 66)
Zanzibar City, Zanzibar
Political partyAfro-Shirazi Party

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 Majesty Sir 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.

Early career[edit]

Allegedly born at the village of Mwera, Zanzibar in 1905, Karume had little formal education and worked as a seaman before entering politics. He left Zanzibar in the early years of his life, traveling among other places to London, where he gained an understanding of geopolitics and international affairs through exposure to African thinkers such as Hastings Kamuzu Banda of Malawi. Karume developed an apparatus of control through the expansion of the Afro-Shirazi Party and its relations with the Tanganyika African National Union party.

Revolution in Zanzibar[edit]

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.

Power struggle[edit]

Karume on Tanzania 200 shillings

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.

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]

Assassination and legacy[edit]

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. 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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Uwechue, Raph (1991). Makers of Modern Africa. Africa Journal Limited.
  2. ^ Sheriff, Abdul (1991). Zanzibar Under Colonial Rule. James Currey Publishers. ISBN 9780852550809.
  3. ^ Petterson, Donald (2004). Revolution in Zanzibar: An American's Cold War Tale. Basic Books. p. 28. ISBN 9780813342689.
  4. ^ Okello, John (1967). Revolution in Zanzibar. East African Pub. House.
  5. ^ Mwakikagile, Godfrey (2004). Tanzania under Mwalimu Nyerere: Reflections on an African Statesman. Fultus Corporation. p. 131. ISBN 9781596820050.
  6. ^ Maundeni, Zibani (2010). "Developmental States: Their Historical Absence and their Emergence in Post Conflict Southern Africa". Open Area Studies Journal. 3: 33.
  7. ^ "Tanzania: Prisoners of conscience face treason trial in Zanzibar". Amnesty International. 27 January 2000.