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  • Mwl. Julius K. Nyerere
  • Mh. Amani Abeid Karume
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Home Government Defence and SecurityTanzania People's Defense Force - TPDFTPDF History

The history of the Tanzania Peoples Defense Force (TPDF) stretches back to when the Germans ruled the area known then as German East Africa, from 1884 to 1918. This area consisted of Tanganyika, Rwanda, and Burundi. During this time the Germans established an army consisting of local soldiers and German officers, known as the Schultztruppe. After the defeat of the Germans in WWI, German East Africa was divided between Belgium and Britain, with Britain receiving the bulk of the area which was renamed the Tanganyika Trustee Territory. The British established the King’s African Rifles (KAR) based on the model of the Schultztruppe.

Upon independence from the British in 1961, the Tanganyika component of the KAR became the Tanganyika Rifles (TR) with African soldiers led by British officers. The Tanganyika Rifles revolted in January 1964, demanding the removal of the British officers, the promotion of Africans, and an increase in pay. Once the mutiny was contained, the Tanganyika Rifles were disbanded by the government. While efforts to establish a new army were carried out by the government, peace in the country was entrusted to a Nigerian army and British Marine Commandos, who assisted in disarming the soldiers who mutinied.

Meanwhile, on the nearby island of Zanzibar, a revolution was brewing, and the ruling Omani dynasty was overthrown on January 12, 1964. The Afro-Shiraz (ASP) party took over the leadership of the island. The irregular force, which spearheaded the Zanzibar revolution, turned into a nationalist army known as the Liberation Army. Three months later Tanganyika and Zanzibar united to form the United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, which later became the United Republic of Tanzania. At this point the Liberation Army was integrated into the Tanganyika Army. As a united country, Tanzania recognized the need for a new national army to cater for the defense of the Tanzania Mainland and Zanzibar.

The first recruits were obtained from the youth political wings of the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) and the Afro-Shiraz-Party of the Zanzibar Revolutionary Government and the National Service. On September 1, 1964, the new national army, the Tanzania Peoples Defense Force (TPDF), was established under the National Defense Act for the purpose of defending the United Republic of Tanzania against external threats. The new army was a people’s army, established according to socialist ideology. It was politically oriented and highly integrated with the society. Military personnel and other civil servants were not only allowed to join the ruling political party, TANU, but this was a prerequisite for enrollment into the military. Political commissars were introduced into the military. Battalion-sized units became party branches and every commander became a party chairman at his level of command. Party officials were trained at the Tanzania Military Academy, where they acquired military knowledge and a rank. After training they were either posted into the military or absorbed into the public and political arena.

From its inception, the members of the TPDF were taught that they belonged to the people and were under civilian control. In this way, not only the commanders, but all troops knew exactly where they stood in relation to the party, the government, and the people. The TPDF performed its roles and missions based on this system up to the end of the Cold War. The collapse of the Soviet Union led Tanzania to review it strategies and defense policies, including making the Armed forces apolitical. Since the late 1980’s, Tanzania has been striving to modernize its defense forces to meet the needs of the new strategic security environment. In 1992 Tanzania restructured the defense forces and downsized the organization in accordance with recommendations from the Strategic Defense Review carried out in 1990.

The Strategic Defense Review considered the change in the political, social, and economic environment and emphasized the concept of core force capability that can execute the peace time contingencies and form the basis for future expansion. The concept also aims to reduce defense expenditures, given the financial constraints and ensure the available limited financial resources allow for the real and crucial social developments needed without compromising military capabilities. This concept envisaged the complex environment the TPDF is likely to encounter as a result of internal threats such as refugees influx, high levels of crime, fundamentalism, and other threats to internal security. 

Source: Government Portal Content Committee, Last Reviewed on : 2015-10-14 11:27:22
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