Tanzania People's Defence Force

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Tanzania People's Defence Force
Jeshi la Ulinzi la Wananchi wa Tanzania
Tanzania People’s Defence Force.svg
Emblem of Tanzania People's Defence Force
Founded1 September 1964; 58 years ago (1964-09-01)
Service branches
HeadquartersUpanga(Ngome), Dar es Salaam
WebsiteOfficial website
Commander-in-ChiefSamia Suluhu
Minister of Defence and National ServiceInnocent Bashungwa
Chief of Defence ForceJacob John Mkunda
Military age18
Conscription2 years
Available for
military service
9,985,445, age 16–49 (2010)
Fit for
military service
5,860,339 males, age 16–49 (2010),
5,882,279 females, age 16–49 (2010)
Reaching military
age annually
512,294 males (2010),
514,164 females (2010)
Active personnel27,000[1]
Reserve personnel80,000
Budget$827 million (2019)
Foreign suppliers Brazil
 South Korea
 South Africa
 United Kingdom
 United States
Related articles
HistoryWorld War II (1939-45)
Uganda–Tanzania War (1978-79)
Mozambican Civil War
2008 invasion of Anjouan
M23 rebellion
Insurgency in Cabo Delgado
RanksRank and insignia of the Tanzanian Armed Forces

The Tanzania People’s Defence Force (TPDF) (Swahili: Jeshi la Ulinzi la Wananchi wa Tanzania) is the military force of the United Republic of Tanzania. It was established in September 1964, following a mutiny by the former colonial military force, the Tanganyika Rifles. From its inception, it was ingrained in the troops of the new TPDF that they were a people's force under civilian control. Unlike some of its neighboring countries, Tanzania has never suffered a coup d'état or civil war.

The TPDF's mission is to defend Tanzania and every Tanzanian, especially the people and their political ideology. Conscripts are obligated to serve 2 years as of 2004.


Zanzibar, 12 Jan. 2004, celebration of 40 years' of the Revolution

After an aborted mutiny in January 1964, the existing army was disbanded. The new force was titled the 'Tanganyika Military Force', from 25 January 1964 - 26 April 1964.[2] The Tanzanian government concluded that the former British model was not appropriate for the needs of an independent African state.[3] Fresh recruits were sourced from the Tanganyika African National Union youth wing.[4] After the merge of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, the force was renamed the United Republic Military Force from 27 April 1964.[2]

For the first few years of the TPDF, the army was even smaller than the disbanded 2,000 strong Tanganyika Rifles, the air force was minuscule, and no navy had yet been formed. It appears that the new TPDF had three battalions by August 1965, stationed at Nachingwea, Colito Barracks (five miles outside Dar es Salaam), and Tabora, plus the yet to be fully integrated Zanzibari force of about 1,000.[5] However the army was four battalions strong by 1967.[6]

From 1964 to 1974, the TPDF was commanded by Mrisho S.H. Sarakikya, trained at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, who was promoted from lieutenant to brigadier in 1964 and became the force's first commander.[7] He was succeeded by Major General Abdallah Twalipo in 1974.[8] Twalipo was still a Major General in 1975,[9] but then promoted to Lieutenant General by 1978 (Kaplan, 1978, 249) and then later full General.

In 1972, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) listed the army with 10,000 personnel, four infantry battalions, 20 T-59, 14 Chinese T-62 light tanks, some BTR-40 and BTR-152, Soviet field artillery and Chinese mortars. 'Spares [were] short and not all equipment was serviceable.'[10]

War broke out between Uganda and Tanzania in October 1978, with several Ugandan attacks across the border culminating in an invasion of the Kagera Salient.[11] President Julius Nyerere ordered Tanzania to undertake full mobilisation for war.[12] In a few weeks, the Tanzanian army was expanded from less than 40,000 troops[13][14] to over 150,000, including about 40,000 militiamen[14] as well as members of the police, prison services, and the national service.[15] Fighting in December was mostly limited to "trench warfare"[16] along the border, marked by sporadic clashes and air raids.[17] By early January 1979 all Ugandan troops had been ejected from Kagera.[18]

Nyerere decided that Tanzanian forces should occupy southern Uganda as revenge for the devastation wrought by Ugandan troops in his country and in order to incite a rebellion against Ugandan dictator Idi Amin.[19] The Tanzanians launched their offensive in mid-February 1979.[20] Major General David Musuguri was appointed commander of the TPDF's 20th Division and tasked with overseeing the advance into Uganda.[21] They steadily advanced, killing dozens of Ugandan soldiers and destroying large amounts of their materiel.[22] Following the capture of Masaka and Mbarara, the TPDF halted to reorganise. Silas Mayunga was promoted to major general and given charge of a newly formed "Task Force", a unit consisting of the 206th Brigade and the Minziro Brigade, which was to operate semi-autonomously from the 20th Division.[23] While the 20th Division moved out of southeast Uganda and attacked major locations in the country, the Task Force advanced north into western Uganda in the following months, engaging Ugandan troops conducting rearguard defensive actions.[24]

The 20th Division captured Kampala on April 11 and overthrew Amin's government.[25] The fall of Kampala marked the first time in the post-colonial history of the continent that an African state seized the capital of another African country.[26] The war ended on June 3, 1979; after Tanzanian forces occupied Uganda's border region with Sudan and Zaire.[27] Some Western military analysts attributed Tanzania's victory to the collapse of the Uganda Army, arguing that the TPDF would have been defeated by most other African armies.[28] Others felt that the TPDF's success indicated substantial improvements in African military capabilities over the previous years.[29]

When the TPDF began returning en masse to Tanzania, only a small number of soldiers were demobilised, contrary to public expectations. Military commanders then began making accommodations to render the wartime expansions of the army permanent, creating new units and divisional headquarters. Some in the military hierarchy expressed disapproval in light of Tanzania's bleak financial situation, and the country's depressed economy eventually forced the TPDF to disband many of the extra units.[15] Nevertheless, the TPDF retained a large amount of officers in the standing army, with the assumption that they could be used to command militiamen in the event they needed to be called back into service.[30] The post-war size of the TPDF remained larger than the pre-war size throughout the next decade.[31]

In 1992, the IISS listed the army with 45,000 personnel (some 20,000 conscripts), 3 division headquarters, 8 infantry brigades, one tank brigade, two field artillery battalions, two Anti-aircraft artillery battalions (6 batteries), two mortar, two anti-tank battalions, one engineer regiment (battalion sized), and one surface-to-air missile battalion with SA-3 and SA-6.[32] Equipment included 30 Chinese Type 59 and 32 T-54/55 main battle tanks.

In 2007 Tanzania pledged forces for the SADC Standby Brigade of the African Standby Force.[33]

Land Force Command[edit]

The Land force command was separated from the Army and an official commander was appointed to run the operations of the Land Forces.[34] In 2013, the other separated half of the army was officially incorporated as a new branch of the military to oversee strategic planning and administration of all the branches of the military called the Defence Force HQ Command.[35]

As of 2012, the army is gradually modernising and restructuring. Much of the inventory is in storage or unreliable.[36]

  • 5 × infantry brigades
  • 1 × armoured brigade
  • 3 × artillery battalions
  • 2 × air defence artillery battalions
  • 1 × mortar battalion
  • 2 × anti-tank battalions
  • 121st Engineer Regiment (battalion size; unit identification from usaraf.army.mil and Flickr)
  • 1 × central logistic/support group


Air Force Command[edit]

TPDF honour guard

Tanzania established its air force as the "Air Wing" (Kiswahili: Usafirishaji wa Anga) of the TPDF Air Defence Command in 1965.[37] As it was following an international policy of non-alignment,[38] Tanzania procured aircraft and trainers from a variety of countries, most notably China, Canada,[39] and the Soviet Union.[40] By 1978, the Tanzanian Air Wing possessed 14 MiG-21MFs, two MiG-21UMs, 22 Shenyang J-5s (F-5), 12 Shenyang J-6s (F-6), as well as several transport and trainer aircraft.[40][a] Furthermore, the country's Air Defence had access to SA-3 surface-to-air missiles,[40] SA-7 MANPADS,[43] 14.5mm and 36mm or 37mm anti-aircraft guns,[41][44] and ground support equipment—including early-warning radars.[40]

The Air Wing was eventually organised into three Kikosi cha Jeshi or KJ Brigades, with each brigade focusing on one particular element of air warfare: aircraft and helicopters (601 KJ), technical support (602 KJ), and air defence (603 KJ). The fighter aircraft unit of 601 KJ, known as "Squadron 601", was based at Mwanza Air Base (MiG-21s) and Ngerengere Air Force Base (F-5s, F-6s).[45] In 1978 the Air Defence Command employed approximately 1,000 personnel.[42][41]

The current Commander of the now-Tanzania Air Force Command is Major General William Ingram, who replaced Major General Joseph Kapwani upon the latter's retirement in January 2016. During a visit to Zimbabwe in March 2014, Kapwani commended Zimbabweans for 'remaining resolute and firmly safeguarding the country's sovereignty despite the suffering brought on by illegal Western sanctions.'[46] He made the remarks when he paid a courtesy call on Air Force of Zimbabwe Commander Air Marshal Perrance Shiri at AFZ headquarters in Harare on 12 March 2014. General Kapwani, who was then the chair of the SADC Standing Aviation Committee, said he was in Zimbabwe to share experiences and strengthen relations.

A few of the Tanzanian air wing's transport remain serviceable. However, its Shenyang F-5s, and Chengdu F-7s are reported to fly only on rare occasions because of airworthiness problems.[47] Tanzania's long coastline means that transports are also used for patrol flights.

A TPDF soldier

On 14 November 2013, Helmoed-Römer Heitman reported for Jane's Defence Weekly that a 'usually reliable source' had informed Jane's that the TPDF had replaced its 12 old CAC J-7 fighters with 14 new J-7s, twelve single-seat and two dual-seat. Deliveries were completed in 2011. Heitman also reported that the aircraft were fully operational at Dar es Salaam and Mwanza air bases.[48]

Recent estimates (2014) suggest that Tanzania's air force command operates 32 aircraft in 3 different types. It is believed they are operating 14 fighters, 11 fixed-wing attack aircraft and 7 transport aircraft. On October 1, 2015 a K-8 trainer jet of Tanzania Air Force Command crashed into the sea killing both pilots.[49]

Naval Command[edit]

The navy operates 9 fast attack craft and 12 patrol boats.

The current Commander of the Naval Command is Rear Admiral Ramson Godwin Mwaisaka.

The closing ceremony of the joint Tanzanian-Chinese exercise Beyond/Transcend 2014 was held on November 14, 2014, at Kigamboni Naval Base attended by guests that included China’s ambassador to Tanzania, the Chief of the TPDF, and the heads of the navy and air force. The exercise between the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy and the TPDF began on October 16 in Dar es Salaam, with more than 100 navy officers and seamen participating.

Jane's Defence Weekly wrote in August 2017 that '..a People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) flotilla consisting of a destroyer, a frigate, and a supply vessel visited Dar es Salaam on 16–20 August.'[50] Rear Admiral Makanzo said during the visit that Tanzania currently has two marine infantry companies, both of which were trained by the PLAN, with the training of a third company planned to begin with Chinese assistance. The admiral said that Tanzanian marines were deployed at the time in peacekeeping operations in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan.

United Nations missions[edit]

Tanzanian special forces training for the Monsuco FIB mission

As of 30 June 2019, the TDPF is involved in the following United Nations peacekeeping missions:[51][52]

Mission Location Number
United Nations Force Intervention Brigade (MONUSCO) Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo 970
United Nations African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) Darfur, Sudan 700
MINUSCA Bangui, Central African Republic 445
United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) Lebanon 159
United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) South Sudan 10
United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) Abyei 5


Current Commanding Officers

  • Chief of Defence Forces (CDF): General Jacob John Mkunda[53]
  • Chief of Staff: Lieutenant General Mathew Edward Mkingule[54]
  • TPDF Sergeant Major: Warrant Officer Class One (WO1) Martine Peter Kaziro
  • Commander of Military Headquarters: Brigadier General Nkambi
  • Commander of Land Forces: Major General Anthony Chacha Sibuti
  • Commander of Air Forces: Major General Shabani Baraghashi Mani[55]
  • Commander of Naval Forces: Rear Admiral Ramson Godwin Mwaisaka[56]
  • Chief of National Service: Major General Rajabu Mabele[55]

Chief of Defence Force[edit]

No. Portrait Name
Term of office Ref.
Took office Left office Time in office
1 General
Mirisho Sarakikya
8 January 1964 12 February 1974 10 years, 35 days [57][58]
2 General
Abdallah Twalipo
13 February 1974 8 November 1980 6 years, 269 days [57]
3 General
David Musuguri
(born 1920)
9 November 1980 1 September 1988 7 years, 297 days [57]
4 General
Ernest M. Kiaro
1 September 1988 27 January 1994 5 years, 148 days [57]
5 General
Robert P. Mboma
28 January 1994 30 June 2001 7 years, 153 days [57]
6 General
George M. Waitara
1 July 2001 13 September 2007 6 years, 74 days [57]
7 Davis Mwamunyange.png General
Davis Mwamunyange
(born 1959)
13 September 2007 2 February 2017 9 years, 142 days [57][54]
8 Venance Salvatory Mabeyo.png General
Venance Salvatory Mabeyo
(born 1956)
2 February 2017 1 July 2022 5 years, 358 days [54]
9 General
Jacob John Mkunda
(born )
1 July 2022 Incumbent 209 days [53]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ According to Lagarde, the TPDF had 29 combat aircraft in 1979: 11 MiG-21s, 15 MiG-19s, and 3 MiG-17s.[41] According to Paxton, it possessed 12 Shenyang F-8s (MiG-21s), 15 F-6s (MiG-19s), and 3 F-4s (MiG-17s).[42]


  1. ^ "CIA World Factbook: Tanzania". The World Factbook. 11 February 2013. Retrieved 16 February 2013.
  2. ^ a b Tungaraza, Casta. (1998). The transformation of civil-military relations in Tanzania, in Hutchful and Bathily The Military and Militarism in Africa. Dakar: CODESRIA.
  3. ^ Keegan, John (1979). World Armies. p. 698. ISBN 0-333-17236-1.
  4. ^ For the rebuilding programme, see Lee, J. M. (1969), African Armies and Civil Order, International Institute for Strategic Studies/Chatto and Windus, 1969, 149-150.
  5. ^ United Republic of Tanzania, Assessment of Defence Forces, August 1965, on file DO 185/42, Integration, training and deployment of Tanzania People's Defence forces, Commonwealth Relations Office, 1965, held UK The National Archives
  6. ^ Parsons, 2003, 168.
  7. ^ Irving Kaplan, Tanzania: A Country Study, Library of Congress Country Studies, First Edition, 1978, p. 248–249, and General Sarakikya attends Royal Military Academy's 50th reunion in Sandhurst Archived 2013-07-24 at the Wayback Machine, Arusha Times, 13–19 August 2011.
  8. ^ Irving Kaplan, Tanzania: A Country Study, Library of Congress Country Studies, First Edition, 1978, p. 249.
  9. ^ U.S. Embassy Dar Es Salaam Personnel changes, 1975, Cable 75DARES0200
  10. ^ IISS, 1972-73, p. 40
  11. ^ Avirgan & Honey 1983, pp. 54, 58, 61.
  12. ^ Avirgan & Honey 1983, p. 63.
  13. ^ Lupogo 2001, p. 83.
  14. ^ a b Cooper & Fontanellaz 2015, p. 27.
  15. ^ a b Lupogo 2001, p. 84.
  16. ^ Lagarde 1979, p. 5.
  17. ^ Cooper & Fontanellaz 2015, p. 28.
  18. ^ Lubega, Henry (26 April 2014). "Revisiting the Tanzania-Uganda war that toppled Amin". Daily Monitor. Archived from the original on 24 January 2018. Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  19. ^ Avirgan & Honey 1983, pp. 77–79.
  20. ^ Cooper & Fontanellaz 2015, p. 29.
  21. ^ Avirgan & Honey 1983, pp. 78–79.
  22. ^ Avirgan & Honey 1983, pp. 79–82.
  23. ^ Avirgan & Honey 1983, p. 86.
  24. ^ Avirgan & Honey 1983, p. 174.
  25. ^ Cooper & Fontanellaz 2015, pp. 36–37.
  26. ^ Avirgan & Honey 1983, p. 124.
  27. ^ Avirgan & Honey 1983, pp. 195–196.
  28. ^ Lamb, David (11 May 1979). "Tanzania Keeps Strong Voice in Uganda: Post-Amin Regime Forced to Accept Plans for Sizable Army". The Los Angeles Times. p. D1.
  29. ^ Thom 1988, pp. 52–53.
  30. ^ Avirgan & Honey 1983, p. 72.
  31. ^ Francis 1994, p. 160.
  32. ^ IISS Military Balance 1992-93, p. 211.
  33. ^ Jane's Defence Weekly
  34. ^ "Tanzania Land Force Command". Tanzania Peoples Defence Force.
  35. ^ "Tanzania Defence Force HQ Command". Tanzania Peoples Defence Force.
  36. ^ "Tanzania". Janes World Armies. Archived from the original on 26 January 2013. Retrieved 22 June 2012.
  37. ^ Cooper & Fontanellaz 2015, p. 14.
  38. ^ Cooper & Fontanellaz 2015, p. 13.
  39. ^ Cooper & Fontanellaz 2015, pp. 14–15.
  40. ^ a b c d Cooper & Fontanellaz 2015, p. 19.
  41. ^ a b c Lagarde 1979, p. 8.
  42. ^ a b Paxton 2016b, p. 1169.
  43. ^ Cooper & Fontanellaz 2015, p. 25.
  44. ^ Legum 1981, p. B-333.
  45. ^ Cooper & Fontanellaz 2015, p. 20.
  46. ^ Zimbabwe: Tanzania Commander Hails Zimbabweans Archived 2015-05-02 at the Wayback Machine, The Herald (Zimbabwe) via AllAfrica, 13 March 2014.
  47. ^ "OrBat Tanzania - MilAvia Press.com: Military Aviation Publications". www.milaviapress.com. Archived from the original on 2008-03-27. Retrieved 2008-03-24.
  48. ^ Helmoed-Römer Heitman (Pretoria), Tanzania swaps old J-7 fighters for new ones, IHS Jane's Defence Weekly, 14 November 2013.
  49. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident 01-OCT-2015 Hongdu K-8 Karakorum". aviation-safety.net. Archived from the original on 2017-02-02. Retrieved 2016-03-08.
  50. ^ de Cherisey, Erwan (23 August 2017). "China steps up training for African militaries". Jane's Defence Weekly.
  51. ^ "UN Mission's Summary detailed by Country" (PDF). Page 33, UN. 30 June 2013. Archived (PDF) from the original on 12 October 2013. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  52. ^ "Tanzania". United Nations Peacekeeping. Retrieved 2020-06-13.
  53. ^ a b "Mkunda takes oath as new CDF, Mabeyo lands new job". The Citizen (Tanzania). The Citizen (Tanzania). 1 July 2022. Archived from the original on 4 July 2022. Retrieved 7 July 2022.
  54. ^ a b c DAILY NEWS REPORTER (3 February 2017). "JPM appoints Mabeyo new CDF". dailynews.co.tz. Archived from the original on 3 February 2017. Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  55. ^ a b Abdu, Fatma (1 February 2016). "Tanzania: President Picks New TPDF Chief of Staff". Archived from the original on 28 January 2017. Retrieved 22 February 2017 – via AllAfrica.
  56. ^ "Rear Admiral R S Laswai, Commander, Tanzanian Navy Visits India from 29 Aug to 01 sep 16". pib.nic.in. Archived from the original on 2017-02-23. Retrieved 2017-02-22.
  57. ^ a b c d e f g "Historia ya Viongozi" (in Swahili). Archived from the original on 24 November 2011. Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  58. ^ Ghulila, Anderson, George Mwashiga, Joseph Masanja, Mohamed Adam, Sylvester Mangure, and Jane Kipengele. TPDF: An Operational History. Dubai: Creo Ltd, 2012, 123.

Irving Kaplan, Tanzania: A Country Study, Library of Congress Country Studies, First Edition, 1978.

  • Elise Forbes Pachter, 'Contra-Coup: Civilian Control of the Military in Guinea, Tanzania, and Mozambique.' The Journal of Modern African Studies, Vol. 20, No. 4 (December 1982), p606 on 1975 personnel reshuffle.

Works cited[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]