Country report and updates: Tanzania

Last revision: 06 Aug 1998
06 Aug 1998

1 Conscription

conscription exists

Officially Tanzania has no compulsory military service in the armed forces and has never had since achieving independence. The armed forces consist of volunteers. [1] [6]

But from 1963 onwards, Tanzania has had National Service, which involves military training, and which has a compulsory character. Those who have performed National Service are considered to belong to the military reserve forces. In the past they have been called up during the war in Uganda to fight the Idi Amin regime. [4]

It has been argued that these parallel military structures were created to prevent a possible dominance of the armed forces over the civilian authorities. [3]

National Service

National Service involves a dual system of recruitment and participation.

Firstly, all men and women who have completed secondary education are liable for National Service. For them, National Service used to be compulsory. [3]

At present, National Service is only compulsory for those who want to get a government job, receive vocational training, or enter university. [4]

Most sources suggest that National Service lasts for two years. [3] [7] [8]

According to UNESCO, most youths are recruited for one year and in 1993, owing to the low agricultural production of the military camps and the poor morale of the youth, the duration was shortened to 6 months. [4] [5]

Secondly, the National Service programme is open to volunteers, who have to sign up for three years. [4] [5]

For them, National Service involves post-primary education for an initial period of two years, at the end of which some remain in the establishment, some enlist in the armed forces, a few get employed in the public and private sectors, and the rest return to their respective villages. [3]

Since 1972 the National Service has been run by the Ministry of Defence and consists of military training, agricultural work and civic education. Those who have performed National Service are considered to belong to the reserve force (the Citizens' Militia). [4]

The National Service produces some 6,000 to 10,000 recruits annually, who can be mobilised at any moment, should the need arise. The National Service is subordinate to the armed forces, serving as its production wing (food, uniforms etc.). [3]


Military service in the armed forces is voluntary. All Tanzanian men, and since 1969, women, have been permitted to apply to join. [6]

Under the Nyerere government the armed forces were predominantly composed of members of the Kurya tribe. [2]

2 Conscientious objection

There is no provision for conscientious objection to military training as part of the National Service. [4]

There is no known legal provision for conscientious objection for members of the armed forces.

3 Draft evasion and desertion


No information available.


There have been cases of National Service recruits escaping the military camps where the conditions are poor and they receive little pocket money. [4]

5 History

Shortly after independence, National Service was introduced in Tanzania in 1963. Its aim was to offer technical and civil education to 18 to 25-year-old unemployed men and women. It was not compulsory, but there was much pressure on the unemployed to participate. After the Arusha Declaration in 1967, National Service was run by the Tanu Youth League and the Afro-Shirazi Youth League and included "political education".

In 1972 National Service came under the responsibility of the Ministry of Defence. From then onwards, National Service was compulsory for students who completed their secondary education and involved military training and vocational training. National Service lasted three years and was carried out in military camps, with agricultural work as the main activity. [4]

In the past the National Service scheme was seriously resisted by students. [3]

6 Annual statistics

The armed forces comprise about 34,600 troops - 0.11 percent of the population. [8]

The reserve force (Citizens' Militia) is 80,000 strong. [8]

Every year about 280,000 men turn 18. [8]


[1] Eide, A., C. Mubanga-Chipoya 1985. Conscientious objection to military service, report prepared in pursuance of resolutions 14 (XXXIV) and 1982/30 of the Sub-Commission of Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities. United Nations, New York. [2] DIRB, 29 May 1989. [3] Omari, Abillah H. 1993. 'Beyond the civil-military dichotomy in Africa: the case of Tanzania' in: Siddiqui (ed.), Sub-Sahara Africa: A continent in transition. [4] Abecassis, L., P. Duong, S. Perrier, N. Watt, 1994. Conscription Militaire ou Service National a Option Civique, rapport de l'enquête préliminaire effectuée auprès d'une vingtaine d'Etats membres de l'UNESCO. CCIVS - UNESCO, Paris. [5] Gouault, J. 1995. Service National, quelle options? Serie POUR Avec. GREP Editions/UNESCO, Paris. [6] US Immigration and Naturalization Service 1995. Telephone interview with representative of the Tanzanian Embassy, Washington, 20 March 1995. [7] UN Commission on Human Rights 1997. The question of conscientious objection to military service, report of the Secretary-General prepared pursuant to Commission resolution 1995/83. United Nations, Geneva. [8] Institute for Strategic Studies 1997. Military Balance 1997/98. ISS, London, UK.

Recent stories on conscientious objection: Tanzania

30 Dec 2008

Submission to the 95th Session of the Human Rights Committee: March 2009

Although the regular armed forces of the United Republic of Tanzania
have always relied on voluntary recruitment, there are concerns about
the national service scheme “Jeshi na Kujenga Taifa” or
JKT, which in 1972 was put under the control of the Ministry
of Defence and became compulsory for those completing secondary