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Sheikh Abeid Amani Karume (1905–April 7 1972), was the first President of Zanzibarmarker. He obtained this title as a result of a popular revolution which lead to the deposing of the last Sultan in Zanzibar during January 1964. Three months later, the United Republic of Tanzania was founded as Tanzania, prompting Karume to become the first Vice President of the United Republic along with Julius Nyerere of Tanganyika as president. He was the father of Zanzibar's current president - Amani Abeid Karume.

Early career

Allegedly born at the village of Mwera 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 Kamuzu Banda of Malawimarker. Karume developed an apparatus of control through the expansion of the Afro-Shirazi Party and its relations with Tanganyika's TANU party.

Revolution in Zanzibar

On December 10, 1963, the United Kingdom granted full independence to Zanzibar after the ZNP/ZPPP parties won the elections. The Sultan was a constitutional monarch. Initial elections gave government control to the Zanzibar National Party, despite Karume's Afro Shirazi Party having won a slight majority of the popular vote. 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.

Karume was not in Zanzibar on January 12, 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, were killed, with relatively few casualties on the revolutionary side. The Zanzibar Revolution brought an end 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

Having taken control of the island, John Okello invited Abeid Karume back to the island to assume the title of President. 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.

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 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 Unionmarker 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.

Assassination and legacy

Karume was assassinated in April 1972 in Zanzibar Town. Four gunmen shot him dead as he played cards at the headquarters of the Afro-Shirazi party. Reprisals followed against people suspected to have been opposed to Karume's regime. Amani Abeid Karume, Sheikh Abeid's son, is the current president of Zanzibar, having been elected in 2000 and 2005 by a popular majority.


  1. Zanzibar Under Colonial Rule
  2. Revolution in Zanzibar, by Petterson
  3. Revolution in Zanzibar, by Okello
  4. Tanzania under Mwalimu Nyerere: Reflections on an African Statesman. By Godfrey Mwakikagile (page 131)
  5. Death at Sunset (TIME Magazine)
  6. Amnesty International Report, 27 January 2000

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