12 FACTORS THAT LED TO THE SUCCESS OF THE ZANZIBAR REVOLUTION IN 1964

12 FACTORS THAT LED TO THE SUCCESS OF THE ZANZIBAR REVOLUTION IN 1964
  • Vigilance of the field martial John Okello despite the fact that Okello was a liberator in a foreign land but his courage, revolutionary zeal and charisma highly contributed to the success of the revolution. He was a good organizer and this helped him in the dismantling of the Arab government.




  • Lack of a strong spying network in Zanzibar, Okello planned the revolution with the highest level of secrecy but even then Sultan Jamshid’s intelligence network was very inefficient for they could have detected the entire mission of Okello before it was actualized. The Arab inefficiency can be seen with the surprise attacks on the Sultan’s palace.
  • Coincidence with the Ramadan festival in the night of 11th to 12th January 1964, no doubt Okello was a schemer for he was fully aware that government and military officials would be fully occupied with prayers and jubilations on the day of the Ramadan festival. It is exactly then that Okello staged the revolution, this explains why Zowan and Malindi police armory were over run with ease just as Mutoni police station was over run.
  • The support got from the masses. Okello, got the support from the discontented peasants, the unemployed, painters because he addressed the problems they were facing, with the numerical strength attained, the Arab government was easily over taken.




  • The use of violence by the Africans the Afro Shiraz party supporters went on rampage destroying the Arab and Asian shops, their houses and cutting down the plantations. This caused panic and many were forced to flee to exile hence the success of the revolution.
  • The weakness of the Arab government, they were not only corrupt but harsh and arrogant to their African subjects. Africans were discriminated in schools, military and civil service. All these problems compounded together Africans who gave their support to the revolution making it successful.
  • The abduction of Sultan Jamshid to exile, he left a power vacuum in Zanzibar and this was only to be filled by the revolutionary council led by Abeid Karume hence forth it was clear that the revolutionaries had succeeded.
  • The formation of the revolutionary council, after the success of Okello’s attack on sultan’s palace, he realized that he was an African nationalist fighting for liberation in a foreign land. For this reason Okello formed the revolutionary council with Sheikh Abeid Karume as the chairman in order to gain support of the majority Africans behind the revolution. This gave a lot of support and the revolutionaries gained strength.




  • The split of the ZNP/PP and the formation of the Ummah party in 1963 by Ahmed Babu greatly weakened the coalition government; they even spread socialist propaganda leading the masses to turn against the Sultan in 1964.
  • The military weakness of the Sultan’s government, they were ill equipped and did not have modern tactics of war, it is therefore not surprising that Okello’s revolutionary men easily over run the Sultan’s government in just nine hours.
  • The use of surprise attacks. Okello made surprise attack on Zowani police armory later to Mutoni and Malindi stations. He equally invaded by surprise the sultan’s palace therefore it can be argued that the surprise attacks planned by Okello partly contributed to the success of the 1964 revolution.
  • Okello’s determination to fulfill his dream and religious cult ; that one day when he was sleeping God instructed him to go to the river and pick a black stone which symbolized that God was with him and promising him success wherever he went and whatever he did. This was an aspiration on which the revolution succeeded.
  • Okello’s characters and ambition, he was physically able to mobilize Africans, instill courage amongst the Africans, he was seen as a Trans- national figure that had the ability to plan and organize others. He persuaded Africans to take up stones, arrows, pangas, and hoes to confront Arabs who had guns.




  • The numerical advantage of the Africans, Okello used his Afro-identity to rally support such that almost all Africans in Zanzibar were determined to support their African counter parts against the Arabs.
  • The moral support from the East African countries. Even after the revolution, some arms were still sent to Zanzibar to reinforce its security. It is believed that Okello got soldiers from Tanzania a fact he denied.
  • Lack of support to Arabs from the British. They were left isolated and no reinforcement was given to them. This led the revolutionaries to easily over take the Arabs.
  • The heavy rains during the nights of 11th and 12th Jan 1964 caused confusion but worked to help Africans challenge the unprepared Arab army.

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