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Most Tanzanians are indigenous as they find their roots here compared with colonialists who invaded Tanzanian borders and remained to be in Tanzanian soil. There are over 130 ethnic groups in Tanzania. The largest of these is the Sukuma, followed by the Nyamwezi (the dominant group in Tabora Region), and the Chagga. In Zanzibar, the dominant group is Shirazi. Despite this huge ethnic diversity or perhaps because of it – there has been little tribal strife in modern Tanzania. But, there are some tribal people here in Tanzania like the Maasai, Hadzabe, Barbaig, Iraqwi/Mbulu, Akie and Taturu who have voluntarily decided to perpetuate their cultural distinctiveness from other groups. Christianity, Islam, and traditional African faiths all have followers in the mainland, though the proportions appear to be in dispute. Zanzibar is predominantly Muslim.


Background information; by

The Iraqwi (Mbulu) ethnic group originated from the region around Rivers Euphrates and Tigris in the Middle East, nearly 500 years ago. They (Iraqwi / Mbulu) came from Mesopotamia, modern day Iraq in the middle East through Egypt, Ethiopia and Somalia. There are notable similarities between the IRAQWI language and the language spoken in Ethiopia and Somalia. On their migration journey is said that the Iraqwi were forced by drought and other calamities, to settle in Ethiopia for one thousand years before moving on to Somalia where they (Iraqwi /Mbulu) stayed for less than 200 years. In Ethiopia, they (Iraqwi / Mbulu) are linked to the line age of the Queen of Sheba who was married to king Solomon, the wisest person in Biblical times. On their journey to Tanganyika (now Tanzania), they (Iraqwi / Mbulu) passed through western Kenya, then finally settled in the Ngorongoro area for 200 years. But the Maasais and Datoogas (Mang’ati) defeated them in war and chased away. The Iraqwi (Mbulu), are said to be the first tribe to settle in the Ngorongoro area. Their next destination was central Tanganyika (now Tanzania), in the areas bordering Dodoma, Mbulu and Singida. During British colonial rule, they (Iraqwi / Mbulu) once again claimed their former lands in Ngorongoro. To prove their claim, as requested by the colonials, they dug up a clay pot and grinding stone they had secretly buried in the ground. The Iraqwi / Mbulu people, are the main ethnic group living in Karatu and Mbulu districts of Arusha and Manyara regions respectively, with a minority being found way off in Babati and Hanang districts in Manyara Region. They are estimated to be over 400,000 in number.


The Datooga are linguistically and culturally classified as highland or southern Nilotic. Their origins are thought to be in the southern Sudan or western Ethiopia highlands probably 3,000 years ago.


The Luo people began their migration to the area from South Sudan around the 15th century. Their numbers are relatively small in Tanzania, while in Kenya they comprise about 12% of the population as well as the second largest tribe after the Kikuyu people. Kisumu in western Kenya, is the homeland of many Luo ethnic group.


The haya people have Bantu and Nilotic roots and are one of the largest tribes in Tanzania.


The Bantu speaking pare inhabit the Pare Mountains in North – Eastern Tanzania where they migrated several centuries ago from the Taita - hills area of southern Kenya.


Bantu speakers, they are closely related to the Nyamwezi people of Tabora region, who are Tanzanian second largest tribal group.


The tribe has its origins in Northern Mozambique, where many Makonde still live, although in recent years a subtle split between Tanzania and Mozambican branches.


The Maasai are Nilotic people who first migrated to the region from South Sudan about 1000 years. They comprise less than 5% of population in Tanzania and Kenya.


  1. What is the only area in Africa where all four (4) of the major linguistic groups, the Bantu, the Cushitic, the Nilotic and the Khoisan (click languages) are spoken?
  • Answer; At Mto wa – Mbu Township in Northern Tanzania, adjacent to Lake Manyara National park as well as the general area from Lake Eyasi and Manyara south to Kondoa in north – central Tanzania (Dodoma region).
  1. What are the largest ethnic groups in each of the countries of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda?
  • Answer; The Kikuyu in Kenya, the Wasukuma in Tanzania, and the Baganda in Uganda.
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