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Saba Saba coincidence: Why July 7 is special for Kenyans and Tanzanians

3 celebrations that make July 7 a special day for Kenyans and Tanzanians

Festival-goers wave flags of Tanzania and Kenya. (Photo by BADRU KATUMBA / AFP)

Saba Saba is a significant day for both Kenya and Tanzania. The day is celebrated on July 7 every year and has historic significance for both countries.

In Tanzania, Saba Saba Day commemorates the founding of the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) in 1954, which played a crucial role in the formation and unification of Tanzania.

The day is a national holiday in Tanzania and is celebrated with various events, including the Dar es Salaam International Trade Fair.

In Kenya, Saba Saba Day is remembered as the day when nationwide protests took place in 1990.


On July 7, of that year, Kenyans took to the streets to demand free and fair elections.

The politicians who had called for the protests, Kenneth Matiba and Charles Rubia, were arrested days before the protest day.

Other organizers of the day, such as Njeru Gathangu, George Anyona, and Raila Odinga, were beaten up and detained by the police.

The demonstrations resulted in violence and criminal actions against participants by former President Daniel Moi.


Seven years later, in 1997, history repeated itself when scores were killed during a Saba Saba protest against Moi.

Kenyans took to the streets to pressure the government into making constitutional reforms but the rallies degenerated into chaos and bloodshed.

Saba Saba Day is a reminder of the struggles that both countries have gone through to achieve their independence and democracy.

It is a day to reflect on the progress that has been made and the challenges that still lie ahead.

The day is also a celebration of the Swahili language, which is the national language of Tanzania and is widely spoken in Kenya and other East African countries.


In 2021, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared July 7 as World Swahili Day, recognizing the importance of the language in promoting peace, unity, and development in the region.

Kiswahili is the first African language to be recognised in such a manner by the UN.

It is among the 10 most widely spoken languages in the world, with more than 200 million speakers.

The July 7 date was arrived at after considering key events that happened in Tanzania and Kenya. Swahili was a unifying language during both countries' independence struggles.


In addition, on July 7, 2000, the East African Community (EAC) was re-established to rekindle the spirit of cooperation and integration among the East African people of the United Republic of Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda where Kiswahili language is widely spoken.

Rwanda, Burundi, DRC Congo and South Sudan later joined the EAC and are now members.


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