Peacekeeping Contributor Profile: Tanzania

Nicodemus Minde, International Law and Policy Institute (ILPI), Tanzania

Last updated: July 2017


Active Armed Forces[1] Helicopters Defense Budget Uniformed UN Peacekeepers UN Contribution Breakdown Other Significant Deployments
World Ranking (size): 83
Army: 23,000
Air force: 3,000
Navy: 1,000
Reserves: 80,000
Paramilitary: 1,400
1 transport squadron 2016: US$517m (1.5% of GDP)
2015: US$424m
(0.92% of GDP)
2014: US$394m (0.82% of GDP)
2013: US$333m (0.75% of GDP)
World Ranking (budget): 82
(106 women)
31 May 2017
13th largest UN contributor.
7th largest African and AU contributor.
MINUSCA 1 expert
MONUSCO 1,265 (1,253 troops, 12 staff officers)
UNAMID 844 (800 troops, 18 police, 11 experts, 15 staff officers)
UNIFIL 159 (155 troops, 4 staff officers)
UNISFA 6 (4 police, 2 experts)
UNMISS 7 (3 experts, 2 police, 4 staff officers)
AU Operation Democracy in Comoros (2008)
Defense Spending/troop: US$19,259 (compared to global average of approx. US$77,070).[2]


Part 1: Recent Trends

Tanzania has contributed uniformed UN peacekeepers in various parts of the world since 1995. It currently contributes peacekeepers in six UN missions in Africa and UNIFIL in Lebanon. Tanzania’s contributions are largely informed by its history of African liberation, conflict prevention and peace processes, especially in African countries. Regionally, Tanzania has shown willingness to participate and contribute both in terms of security and military cooperation. Under the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA), Tanzania is part of its African Standby Force’s (ASF). Specifically, Tanzania, falls under the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and in 2007 signed the agreement to become part of the SADC Standby Brigade.

In 2013, Tanzania was one of three states that contributed a battalion of soldiers to the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) as part of the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO). The FIB was established in March 2013 following the signing of the Framework Agreement for Peace, Security, and Cooperation for the DRC and the Region and UN Security Council Resolution 2098. It was one outcome of a larger debate about the need for more robust use of force by some UN peacekeeping missions. The Intervention Brigade subsequently helped in defeating the M23 rebels. The FIB also carried out successful operations against the Ugandan rebel group, the Allied Defense Forces (ADF) in 2014. The then Foreign Minister of Tanzania, Bernard Membe said his country’s contribution of a battalion of troops as well as the first FIB commander, Brig. Gen. James Mwakibolwa, was “to help our neighbors and be advocates for peace”. However, Tanzania’s contribution was seen as a geopolitical balance and a counter to the Rwandan government, which was accused of supporting the M23 rebel group. Bernard Membe had also directly accused the Rwandan government of funding the M23 rebels and stated that the M23 rebels were “Rwandan citizens.” Tanzania’s contribution to the FIB came at a time when President Jakaya Kikwete during an African Union Summit in Addis Ababa in May 2013, suggested that Rwanda should negotiate with the FDLR rebels in eastern DR Congo, a preposition which didn’t go well with Rwandan authorities.

Part 2: Decision-Making

The central figure in deciding when to deploy Tanzanian troops in peacekeeping operations is the President of the United Republic, who is the Commander in Chief of Tanzania’s Peoples’ Defense Forces (TPDF). According to practice, the president makes a decision about deployment upon a request from the UN. The TPDF is the unified force consisting of the Army, Air Force, Navy, and the National Service. As Commander in Chief, it is the president who has the power to declare war and commit the Defense Forces or part of it to active operations in or outside the country. The president relies on advisers in the Defense Ministry, Foreign Ministry as well as other national security departments. The National Defense and Security Council (NDSC) remains the highest decision-making body in defense and security matters. It among other things formulates defense and security strategies. The NDSC is made up of the President, Zanzibar’s President (Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous region of Tanzania), ministers responsible for defense and security, together with the chiefs of the defense and security organs.

Another key organ in the TPDF’s hierarchy is the Ministry of Defense. This ministry formulates and structures Tanzania’s foreign and security policy objectives and guides the contribution of the Defense Forces as well as shaping their structure and capabilities. It is thus a crucial pillar in the decision-making sphere. The ministry strives to maintain peace and security through collaboration with other countries in the world. It is also involved in training and maintaining the Armed Forces in accordance with the defense doctrine. At the bottom of the hierarchy is the Defense Forces Committee (DFC), comprised of the Minister in charge of Defense, the Chief of Defense Forces, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, the Chief Personnel and any other officer appointed by the Minister in charge.

Part 3: Rationales for Contributing

Political rationales: Tanzania’s participation in UN peacekeeping operations has been largely driven by political concerns at the regional and global levels. Providing UN peacekeepers has raised Tanzania’s profile as a regional icon for maintaining peace and security. Tanzania has never shied away from contributing to UN deployments as seen its presence in Southern Sudan, DR Congo, Darfur, Abyei and in Lebanon. Tanzania’s contribution of troops in the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), the first outside Africa, showed Tanzania’s willingness to participate in UN operations at both regional and global level. At the onset of African liberation, Tanzania provided military bases for countries such as Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Tanzania’s track record in African liberation gave the country an enviable international reputation. Tanzania has also facilitated peace processes in Africa such as in Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya, and recently in South Sudan. Tanzania was also a key a player in “Operation Democracy” to restore order on the island of Anjoun in the Comoros in 2008. Here, its troops were part of the AU mission that included France and Senegal.

Economic rationales: Peacekeeping operations offer Tanzania forces an opportunity to benefit economically through UN compensation payments. This is important at the level of soldiers’ welfare, which is improved and their families enjoy the benefits of their participation in UN peace operations. However, according to a senior official in the Ministry of Defense, Tanzania as a whole benefits only marginally economically if at all because the Ministry supplements the UN budgetary allocations and on a number of occasions they have incurred some financial losses by conducting UN operations (see below).

Security rationales: Tanzania’s approach to peacekeeping operations has mostly been driven by the desire to project its foreign policy goals. Tanzania’s foreign policy has always been anchored on promoting good neighborliness and African unity. It also aspires to support the UN’s search for international economic development, peace and security.[3] With Tanzania also located in a region of incessant political conflicts such as in the DR Congo and Burundi, this has encouraged its deployment of troops for peace operations in the area.

Normative rationales: Tanzania has always positioned itself as a leading country in African liberation. Its contribution to peace operations has largely been motivated by this historical legacy. Also as part of its foreign policy principles, Tanzania has sought to support the practice of non-alignment and the UN. One such example is Tanzania hosting the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

Institutional rationales: The TPDF has always maintained that peacekeeping missions offer its troops an opportunity to gain military experience and operational experience. The TPDF has used its experience in past operations by offering training to neighboring countries within the East African Community (EAC) and Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional blocs. In April 2017, at a SADC meeting, the new Foreign Affairs Minister of Tanzania praised the role played by the FIB contributing states of Tanzania, Malawi and South Africa, which are all SADC member states.

Part 4: Barriers to Contributing

Alternative institutional preference for crisis management: Tanzania has played a key role in regional economic and security issues. As a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Tanzania is part of the SADC Standby Brigade that was launched in August 2007 in Lusaka, Zambia. The SADC Standby Brigade has not yet deployed to a crisis zone. Consequently, despite Tanzania’s involvement in such regional security mechanisms, it has remained committed to providing its troops to UN peacekeeping operations.

Alternative Political or Strategic Priorities: Tanzania is located in a volatile and conflict-ridden region. Tanzania has therefore tried to involve itself in either conflict mediation or contribute to the peace operations in its neighboring states. Regional security concerns have not impeded Tanzania’s desire to contribute where necessary and this in retrospect is viewed as a way of ensuring its national security in the long-term.

Financial costs: Deployments are usually a resource-intensive undertaking. Tanzania has identified financial restraints as a key barrier to its contributions due to the late reimbursements from the UN. Tanzania has also faced difficulties in returning their dead soldiers from peacekeeping operations due to high costs.[4]

Discomfort with the expanding UN peacekeeping agenda: Tanzania has not made any reservation regarding the expansion of the UN’s peacekeeping agenda so far.

Exceptionalism: Tanzania does not succumb to exceptionalism and sees part of its foreign policy objectives as working with the UN to promote security and peace in Africa and beyond. An example of this is Tanzania’s contribution of military personnel beyond Africa in UNIFIL.

Difficult domestic politics: Tanzania has not faced serious domestic or international security threats. The country’s political leadership has over the years supported and promoted global security through such measures as UN peacekeeping operations. However, former president Jakaya Kikwete asked the United Nations to better safeguard the security of its personnel in order to reduce deaths and injuries.

Damage to national reputation: Tanzania’s army has always maintained an image of a disciplined force and one that champions human rights. However, a 2015 UN report is implicating Tanzanian peacekeepers in cases of sexual abuse and exploitation. Although not said in the public spheres, fear of indiscipline by its forces is something that has worried segments of Tanzania’s population.

Resistance in the military: Tanzania’s military establishment has not shown any resistance to UN peacekeeping duties. Pursuant to the military’s objective and mission, UN operations offer the Tanzanian military an opportunity to gain operational experience and to enhance their professionalism and thereby advance their career.

Legal obstacles: The Tanzanian constitution has given the President, who is the commander chief of the armed forces powers to enable the country to remain committed to international peace and security.

Part 5: Current Challenges and Issues

The Tanzanian government has continued to pledge its support for UN peacekeeping operations. During the International Day of UN Peacekeepers commemorations in May 2014 in the country’s capital, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s Defense Minister Dr. Hussein Mwinyi reaffirmed the country’s willingness to continue to provide peacekeepers. This support will continue despite having lost 27 peacekeepers in UN missions, most of them in Darfur (UNAMID) and in DR Congo (MONUSCO). Tanzania’s leaders have honored these dead peacekeepers, describing them as national heroes whose sacrifices were not in vain.[5]

Tanzania has maintained its commitment to peacekeeping operations even after the election of John Magufuli as the new president.[6] Despite a strong showing of the opposition in parliament after the elections, it is not expected that any laws will pass that will impact Tanzania’s thinking about peacekeeping. With the country seeking a new constitution, the recently passed proposed new constitution, which could be passed in a referendum, does not impede the already existing positive attitude to peacekeeping.

Part 6: Key Champions and Opponents

Tanzania’s positive attitude to the UN has never been in doubt. The country’s former presidents Jakaya Kikwete and Benjamin Mkapa always engaged in relevant peace initiatives both regionally and internationally. The TPDF has also availed its troops for deployment. Salim Ahmed Salim, the former OAU Secretary-General who is from Tanzania, received praise for his commitment to the UN High-Level Panel Report, A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility (2004). This report gave priority to relations between the UN and Africa’s regional organizations. As OAU Secretary-General, Salim Ahmed Salim had been frustrated by the delayed responses from the UN Security Council to many conflicts in Africa such as Burundi, Liberia and Sierra Leone.[7] His involvement in attempting to bridge the gap between the UN and the OAU was crucial in advancing peacemaking and peacekeeping in Africa.[8] His commitment no doubt influenced Tanzania’s positive role towards the UN.

Part 7: Capabilities and Caveats

Tanzania’s military is in need of revamping its ageing equipment, which unfortunately is hindered by its limited budget. Since 2014, the country’s authorities stated that the military will undergo a modernization program by increasing its equipment stocks but no further details have been released.[9] Tanzania has regularly taken part in multinational exercises in Africa and provided some training assistance to other African forces. For example, during 2013 and 2014, the TPDF offered training to troops and military officers in the defense forces of Botswana, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Malawi. According to Tanzania’s Minister of Defence, the TPDF has also carried out training in Zambia, Namibia, Seychelles, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe. These countries are strong allies to Tanzania in the EAC and SADC.

 Tanzania’s participation in the UN’s Force Intervention Brigade in the eastern DR Congo, notably its special forces, has provided many lessons for force development. Key among the lessons of Tanzania’s experience in the FIB was the blending of cultural, linguistic and geographic fluency to neutralize the M23. With Swahili language used in DR Congo, Tanzanian troops and the FIB Commander James Mwakibolwa, who speak Swahili, helped in community outreach and intelligence-gathering. With Tanzania trying to exert greater regional influence, it will continue to participate in regional and international peace operations.

Part 8: Further Reading

To the best of our knowledge, there remain no scholarly publications directly analyzing Tanzania’s contribution to peace operations.


[1] Unless otherwise stated, all statistics are from the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), The Military Balance 2017 (Routledge, 2017).

[2] Armed Forces spending is a country’s annual total defense budget (in US dollars) divided by the total number of active armed forces. Using figures from IISS, The Military Balance 2016.

[3] See Tanzania Foreign Policy the Case of Economic Diplomacy.

[4] Author’s interview with Job Masima, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Defence and National Service, Dar es Salaam, 13 October 2015.

[5] Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete speaking at the UN General Assembly in September 2014.

[6] Tanzania went to the polls in October 2015. The ruling party’s candidate John Magufuli won the elections defeating seven other candidates.

[7] Adekeye Adebajo, UN Peacekeeping in Africa (Johannesburg: Jacana Media, 2011).

[8] S.A. Salim, “The OAU Role in Conflict Management,” in O. Otunnu & M. Doyle (eds), Peacemaking and Peacekeeping for the New Century (Rowman & Littlefield, 1998), pp.245-253.

[9] IISS, The Military Balance 2015 (Routledge, 2015), p.473.