opinionBy Gabby Mgaya
AGAINST intermittent attempts to derail it, the Union remains intact to date. It is a great feat; it is a great accomplishment.
As we all know, it has weathered the storms; in fact it is right now going through a test (I have in mind the ongoing debate on it in the Constituent Assembly) but given its firm foundations built around the goodwill of the people from both parts of the United Republic of Tanzania, it will all come to pass; that's for sure!
There was much euphoria about the establishment of the Union way back in 1964 when a series of events that started with the revolution in Zanzibar on January 12 of that year that ended centuries of Omani- Arab sultanate regime went into motion, ending with the enactment of the Union later on April 26.
Only a few nautical miles separate the Zanzibar islands of Unguja and Pemba and the Republic of Tanganyika on the Mainland, which got her independence on December 9, 1961, becoming a republic exactly a year later.
It is the closeness between the two parts of the now United Republic of Tanzania and centuries of much interaction between the people from the islands and the mainland, including migration either way and intermarriages either way, that made the establishment of the Union 'just a matter of time'.
In fact, the famous saying that 'when the drums beat on Zanzibar, people on the Mainland dance' holds a lot of water despite the sea water expanse that separates the two parts of the Union. The original Committee of 14, that is the pioneers of the Zanzibar Revolution, had their origins on the Mainland.
Most people from Zanzibar, be it on Unguja or on Pemba, owe their origins on the Mainland. The Tanga Association, the Mtwara Association, the Morogoro Association, etc, in Zanzibar are testimony to the massive presence of Mainlanders in Zanzibar.
It is the same on the Mainland, where people from Unguja and Pemba found permanent residence, very much being its part and parcel. Terms like 'duka la Mpemba', meaning a shop belonging to a Tanzanian from Pemba, are common in most Mainland neighbourhoods.
I lived and worked in Zanzibar for two different terms totalling five years between 1997 and 2002. I felt at home. While there, I was a member of the Tanga Association, which represents the interests of people from Tanga Region living in Zanzibar.
I was amazed to see the big number of people from the region living in the Isles. One elderly member even confided to me how he had taken part in the Zanzibar Revolution of 1964. That only serves to show the degree of participation of the people from the Mainland or people of Mainland origin in the affairs of Zanzibar - as Tanzanians.
One should just visit the Zanzibar ferry boat services' terminals at the Port of Dar es Salaam to see for himself or herself the extent of passenger traffic to either part of the United Republic. Trade, employment, education, tourism, religionrelated matters, sports and culture have linked the people from the two parts of the United Republic before and after the birth of the Union in 1964.
Such activities have grown with much intensity after the revolution, cementing further the ties between the Mainland and the Isles. The union between two sovereign states, the Republic of Tanganyika, and the People's Republic of Zanzibar to form the United Republic Tanzania showed Africa the way that where there is a will and determination, the then much-touted concept of African unity, is very much possible.
In short, Tanzania showed the Africa the way, which, unfortunately, it did not take, settling for the Organisation of African Unity, as it was called then, to be renamed the African Union (AU) later.
Under the Union, we have the same defence forces, the same police force, the same Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is a measure of our togetherness in the international arena, common currency and common central bank, common flag, common national anthem and common Union Parliament.
Of course there are a few concessions aimed at preserving some of the isles identity and history; and autonomy as a Zanzibar flag, Zanzibar presidency, legislative assembly, navy unit, militia and ministries other than those classified as Union Matters.
This was deliberately done given the size of Zanzibar compared to its 'gigantic' Mainland partner. Tanzanians can just look back with compelling pride at the achievements made all these years as the United Republic marks its golden jubilee today. Have a Happy Union Day; won't you!