Colonization in Eritrea and Tanzania had a lasting legacy, directly shaping the stability and unity of these nations as they transitioned into eras of political independence. Both countries were colonized by multiple countries, which further contributed to their instability, due to violent political transitions and vacuums of power.
Prior to the arrival of the Italians, Eritrea had several well developed polities that thrived and maintained relative control over the region. Similarly, modern day Tanzania was home to multiple sophisticated political entities and vibrant civilizations, in what is often regarded as its “golden age.” Tanzania then faced outside involvement, first by the Portuguese, then Arabs from Oman, and finally by the Germans in the late 19th century. All of these violent transitions of power marred the economic and political development of Tanzania, hindering their progress and stability. Germany took control of the region through series of treaties that forced tribal leaders to cede land to form German East Africa. Eritrea’s colonial experience was far shorter and faced fewer voids of power; however, their experience was similarly negative.
Italy developed several transportation and infrastructure improvements; however, they had fewer resources to offer Eritrea. Germany ruled over Tanzania with brutal authority and total disregard for local leaders and traditions. They established missions, a surprisingly good education system, and infrastructure for transportation, including a lengthy railroad; however, they largely neglected the wants of the locals.
The British’s attitudes towards the two colonies differed drastically, after they gained control of the territories following the defeat of Italy (WWII) and Germany (WWI). Wars plagued the regions during the transitional periods, destroying existing infrastructure and polarizing opposition groups. Britain wanted little to do with governing Eritrea, thus they simply divided it along religious lines to cede to Ethiopia, despite Eritrea’s strong desire for independence. The rushed formation of the political system following Britain’s departure from Eritrea, directly affected the post colonial era as it undermined a strong centralization of power and created a weak, or non existent, political system to fall back on.
Britain took control of Tanzania, a UN trust territory, and made their policy one of ensuring continued European involvement in the region. However, the ethnically and economically diverse region posed great difficulties for Britain to unify the territory under a centralized system. Britain was originally much more invested in the development of Tanzania, especially agriculturally and to export its resources to Europe, but as time went on and cries for independence became stronger, they similarly rushed the process of forming a political system.
The lack of a strong political and economic system prevented the development of both nations in the post colonial era. Eritrea continued to war with Ethiopia over border control, further inhibiting its economic development and resulting in rampant corruption under a harsh dictatorship with limited freedom for Eritreans. The violent and repeated transitions of power and negative impact of resource extraction have left a lasting impact on Tanzania. The country is continually plagued by power changes, corruption, misappropriation of funds, and political violence.