Zanzibar National Anthem The Story of ‘Mungu ibariki Afrika’ of Tanzania”


By Cynthia-G-Toups

The national anthem of Tanzania, “Mungu ibariki Afrika,” encapsulates the nation’s spirit and history. Its origin lies in the Swahili version of Enoch Sontonga’s renowned hymn “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika.” This anthem has become a symbol of unity and patriotism for Tanzanians.

Swahili lyricsEnglish translation
Mungu ibariki Afrika
Wabariki Viongozi wake
Hekima Umoja na Amani
Hizi ni ngao zetu
Afrika na watu wake.

Kiitikio ya kwanza:
Ibariki Afrika, Ibariki Afrika
Tubariki watoto wa Afrika.

Mungu ibariki Tanzania
Dumisha uhuru na Umoja
Wake kwa Waume na Watoto
Mungu Ibariki
Tanzania na watu wake.

Kiitikio ya pili:
Ibariki Tanzania, Ibariki Tanzania
Tubariki watoto wa Tanzania.
God bless Africa
Bless its leaders
Wisdom, unity and peace
These are our shields
Africa and its people

Chorus I:
Bless Africa, Bless Africa
Bless us, the children of Africa

God bless Tanzania
Grant eternal freedom and unity
To its women, men and children
God bless
Tanzania and its people

Chorus II:
Bless Tanzania, Bless Tanzania
Bless us, the children of Tanzania


In Swahili, “Mungu” means God, translating the anthem’s title to “God bless Africa.” This simple phrase carries profound significance, invoking divine blessings upon the vast African continent.


The roots of “Mungu ibariki Afrika” trace back to Tanganyika, where it was adopted as the state anthem. Although attributed to Enoch Sontonga, the creative minds behind its lyrics remain uncertain, possibly including Samuel Mqhayi. It’s intriguing to note that while often linked to Sontonga, the tune might have originated from Welsh composer Joseph Parry.

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Swahili Translation

On December 8, 1961, this anthem was performed in Swahili to celebrate Tanganyika’s independence from the British Empire. Replacing “God Save the Queen,” it became the nation’s anthem, making Tanganyika the first African country to adopt the melody of “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika.” After merging with Zanzibar to form Tanzania in 1964, this anthem continued to echo the nation’s aspirations.

The Anthem’s Significance

The adoption of “Mungu ibariki Afrika” was more than just a musical choice. It was a call for unity, inspired by the African National Congress’s embrace of “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika.” The anthem’s resonance led to its selection as Tanzania’s national anthem, promoting unity and independence.

Promoting Unity

Tanzania’s embrace of “Mungu ibariki Afrika” was a deliberate move to foster religious harmony in the wake of independence. To accommodate diverse religious perspectives, the anthem’s wording was carefully crafted, aiming to unite rather than divide.

Educational Role

In Tanzania, “Mungu ibariki Afrika” finds its way into the daily routine of schools, where it is sung as an embodiment of patriotism. A 1998 circular from the Commissioner of Education highlighted the anthem’s role in nurturing a sense of pride and loyalty among the youth.

Challenges and Legal Controversy

Despite its widespread acceptance, the anthem has faced challenges. In 2007, members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses objected to singing it in schools due to religious beliefs. This led to a legal battle, with the High Court initially upholding disciplinary actions. However, the Court of Appeal eventually ruled that singing the anthem was not a legal obligation.


What is the history of Tanzania’s national anthem?
Tanzania’s national anthem, “Mungu ibariki Afrika,” traces its roots to Tanganyika’s post-independence era, symbolizing unity and patriotism.

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Who composed the lyrics of “Mungu ibariki Afrika”?
The exact lyricists remain unknown, but figures like Samuel Mqhayi and Enoch Sontonga are associated with its creation.

Why was “Mungu ibariki Afrika” chosen as the national anthem?
The anthem’s resonance with the African National Congress’s unity efforts led to its selection, embodying Tanzanian aspirations.

How does the anthem promote religious harmony?
The anthem’s inclusive phrasing was designed to accommodate Tanzania’s religious diversity and foster unity.

What role does the anthem play in Tanzanian education?
The anthem is sung daily in Tanzanian schools, fostering patriotism and a sense of national identity among the youth.


“Mungu ibariki Afrika,” Tanzania’s national anthem, stands as a powerful testament to the nation’s history, unity, and aspirations. Rooted in the melody of “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika,” this anthem not only carries musical harmony but also encapsulates the essence of a united Africa.

Its journey from Tanganyika to modern-day Tanzania reflects a nation’s determination to promote harmony, diversity, and patriotism through the universal language of music.

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