54292137 uganda  Uganda profile

Since the late 1980s Uganda has rebounded from the abyss of civil war and economic catastrophe to become relatively peaceful, stable and prosperous.

In the 1970s and 1980s Uganda was notorious for its human rights abuses, first during the military dictatorship of Idi Amin from 1971-79 and then after the return to power of Milton Obote, who had been ousted by Amin.

During this time up to half a million people were killed in state-sponsored violence.

After becoming president in 1986 Yoweri Museveni introduced democratic reforms and was credited with substantially improving human rights, notably by reducing abuses by the army and the police.

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At a glance

Politics: Multi-party politics restored in 2005. The opposition accuses President Museveni of authoritarian tendencies

Security: Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) forced out of northern Uganda in 2005/06 and has been under military pressure in border regions in recent years

Economy: Uganda is vulnerable to changes in the world price of coffee, its main export earner. Oil discoveries have boosted prospects

International: Uganda has been actively involved in the DR Congo conflict. LRA leaders are wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes

Country profiles compiled by BBC Monitoring

Western-backed economic reforms produced solid growth and falls in inflation in the 1990s, and the discovery of oil and gas in the west of the country boosted confidence.

The global economic turndown of 2008 hit Uganda hard, given its continuing dependence on coffee exports, and pushed up food prices.

This galvanised the opposition, which disputed Mr Museveni's victory in the 2011 presidential elections and went to to organise street protests about the cost of living and political freedoms.

The president has also come under fire for Uganda's military involvement, along with five other countries, in neighbouring DR Congo's 1998-2003 civil war.

Minerals

DR Congo accuses Uganda of maintaining its influence in the mineral-rich east of the country. Uganda says DR Congo has failed to disarm Ugandan rebels on its soil.

Until relatively recently, the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in northern Uganda were blighted by one of Africa's most brutal rebellions.

The cult-like Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), led by Joseph Kony, began its activities more than 20 years ago and its forces became notorious for abducting children to serve as sex slaves and fighters. At the height of the conflict, nearly two million people in northern Uganda were displaced.

The LRA was forced out of Uganda in 2005/06 and since then has wreaked havoc in the Central African Republic, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

With the LRA's departure, northern Uganda has undergone a positive transformation. Thousands of former LRA fighters and abductees have left the group and been reintegrated through Uganda's Amnesty Commission.

Some critics have wondered why the conflict went on for so long and questioned Mr Museveni's commitment to ending the insurgency. The government in turn has pointed to progress since 2011, when the US committed itself to tracking down LRA bases in nearby countries.

Uganda has won praise for its vigorous campaign against HIV/Aids. This has helped to reduce the prevalence of the virus – which reached 30% of the population in the 1990s – to single-digit figures.

The country has gained international attention for its hardening anti-homosexual attitudes, culminating in anti-gay legislation introduced in 2014.

wpid 75675238 uganda stanley g6 Uganda profile Uganda is home to equatorial glaciers found in the Rwenzori mountains, which form the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo

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wpid 72577953 africadebate9 Does Nigeria have an image problem?

Tune in to the BBC World Service at 1200 GMT on Friday 27 June to listen to The Africa Debate: Is Nigeria ready to lead Africa? It will also be rebroadcast that day in Africa at 1900 GMT.

To take part on Twitter – use the hashtag #BBCAfricaDebate – Facebook or Google+

Is Nigeria ready to lead Africa?

But over five decades later, Nigerians remain in captivity: Foreigners control our self-image.

What the West thinks of us often takes manic precedence over who we really are, what we know and feel about ourselves.

The Europeans who first landed in Africa were unconcerned when the people they regarded as monkeys equally assumed that the white interlopers were ghosts.

The Germans can shrug it off when they are stereotyped as humourless; the Russians can dismiss it when they are described as cold.

But the Nigerian just has to kick up a tornado whenever he is perceived unpalatably.

He is touchy because he has no alternative image on which to base his confidence.

Like many Africans in the diaspora, a number of Nigerians abroad have erected careers out of defending their people's image.

With indignant frowns and stern tones, they strut from one global stage to the other like superintendents, dismantling stereotypes and whitewashing sepulchres.

wpid 75825534 482045005 14 Does Nigeria have an image problem? Lagos is home to a burgeoning middle class….

wpid 75825536 130783183 14 Does Nigeria have an image problem? It also has many poor suburbs to accommodate the rapidly expanding population of the city

This passion probably sprouts from a desire to blend into their host communities, to not be perceived as savages from some nihilistic jungle.

Unknowingly, they reinforce the subconscious message that has been passed down to generations of Nigerians and other Africans: That the West's opinion of us is paramount; that enlightening and convincing foreigners matters more than discerning who we are and who we want to be.

Fret and panic

And so, when the West claps for us, we get excited.

When they tell us off, we get upset.

When they applaud one of us, we automatically join in applauding the person.

We frantically monitor foreign opinions and we panic at the slightest hint of a negative perception of us.

wpid 75825538 112508525 14 Does Nigeria have an image problem? Nigerians are anxious about how they are portrayed in the international media

We fret about the many uncomplimentary stories from our land making the rounds on international media circuits, more than about the actual negative circumstances that birth those narratives.

From politicians to intellectuals to entertainers to terrorists, Nigerians have been socialised to rate themselves in the light of Western perceptions.

And as some of us have discovered first hand, the most effective way to draw the attention of our own people to any issue, is to speak to them through a Western medium.

It is unhealthy for a people's self-image to be hinged almost entirely on outside forces.

Nigeria expends too much valuable energy on sweeping dirt under carpets and stuffing skeletons inside closets.

Consequently, we deny ourselves the opportunity of frank dialogue, cultural criticism and self-examination—processes that are vital for a society to advance, by which the imperious West itself has developed thus far.

Nigeria can lead the rest of Africa in freeing our people from this image bondage.

wpid 75306515 line97613 Does Nigeria have an image problem?

Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani is a writer and the author of I Do Not Come to You by Chance.

wpid 75306515 line97613 Does Nigeria have an image problem?

The Africa Debate – Is Nigeria ready to lead Africa?- will be broadcast on the BBC World Service at 12:00 GMT on Friday 27 June and again at 19:00 GMT in Africa – and will be available to listen to online or as a download.

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 54027812 zambia Zambia profile

Zambia, in south-central Africa, is the continent's biggest copper producer and home to the Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.

The Victoria Falls – also known locally as the ''Smoke that Thunders'' – are to be found along the Zambezi River and have UNESCO World Heritage status.

They are one of the country's many natural features which have been enticing a growing number of tourists, along with the wide variety of wildlife to be found in large game parks.

wpid 64453466 zambia elex3 20066 Zambia profile Zambia has generally been peaceful since gaining independence

Another draw for visitors is the fact that Zambia has been peaceful and generally trouble-free, especially compared to most of the eight neighbours with which it shares a border.

The area was colonised in the 1800s and ruled by Britain as Northern Rhodesia until 1964, when it made a peaceful transition to independence.

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At a glance

Politics: Michael Sata won the presidency in 2011, unseating a government that had been in power for 20 years

Economy: Improved copper prices and investment in mining have improved prospects for export earnings

International: Thousands of refugees from the Angolan civil war have yet to return home

Country profiles compiled by BBC Monitoring

Economy

Kenneth Kaunda – who led the country at independence and for the next three decades – introduced central planning into the economy and nationalised key sectors including the copper mines. His policies, together with a drop in copper prices, are blamed for the country's economic woes during his time.

The country was also made to suffer for its support of liberation movements trying to remove white rule in South Africa and what is now Zimbabwe.

The country's economic fortunes began to change in the late 1990s when the privatisation of the mining sector began to draw in foreign investment and improve output. Government support for agriculture is also said to have contributed to economic growth, averaging around 6% a year in recent years.

China in particular has invested heavily in Zambia, creating jobs and new infrastructure. Census date suggests about 100,000 Chinese live in the country, and about 500 firms are active in sectors across the economy.

On the flipside, labour relations at Chinese-owned firms have sometimes been tense, and some Zambians complain of being exploited.

Politics

President Kaunda imposed single-party socialism, in which his United National Independence Party (UNIP) was the only legal political party within a ''one-party participatory democracy''.

Constitutional change was introduced in 1991 under popular pressure, allowing a multi-party system and a change of leadership.

Zambia has a reputation for political stability and a relatively efficient, transparent government.

However, social conditions are tough. Poverty is widespread. Life expectancy is among the lowest in the world and the death rate is one of the highest – largely due to the prevalence of HIV/Aids.

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 54027459 swaziland Swaziland profile

The kingdom of Swaziland is one of the world's last remaining absolute monarchies.

The king rules by decree over his million subjects, most of whom live in the countryside and follow traditional ways of life.

The power of the throne, however, has not gone unchallenged.

King Mswati III, on the throne since 1986, is upholding the tradition of his father, King Sobhuza II, who reigned for almost 61 years and had scores of wives.

King Sobhuza scrapped the constitution in 1973 and banned political parties.

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At a glance

wpid 54293569 swazi boys afp9 Swaziland profile

Politics: King Mswati III – on the throne since 1986 – rules by decree and says the country is not yet ready for multi-party politics

Economy: Thousands have lost their jobs as garment and sugar export industries have lost trading concessions

International: Swaziland has diplomatic ties with Taiwan rather than China

Country profiles compiled by BBC Monitoring

King Mswati has shown no enthusiasm for sharing power, but banned opposition parties and trade unions have been vocal in their demands for greater democracy and limits on the king's power.

With peaceful change in neighbouring South Africa and Mozambique, Swaziland has been described as an island of dictatorship in a sea of democracy. Royalists have argued that democracy creates division, and that a monarch is a strong unifying force.

A long-awaited constitution, signed by the king in 2005 and introduced in 2006, cemented his rule.

Swaziland is virtually homogenous, most of the population being of the same tribe. Economically, it relies on South Africa, which receives almost half of Swazi exports and supplies most of its imports.

Many Swazis live in chronic poverty and food shortages are widespread.

Aids is taking a heavy toll. With an adult HIV prevalence of 26 percent in 2007, Swaziland has the most severe level of infection in the world. The virus has killed many workers and farmers and has created thousands of orphans. Life expectancy has plummeted.

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 54199922 zimbabwe Zimbabwe profile

The fortunes of Zimbabwe have for almost three decades been tied to President Robert Mugabe, the pro-independence campaigner who wrested control from a small white community and became the country's first black leader.

Until the 2008 parliamentary elections, Zimbabwe was effectively a one-party state, ruled over by Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF.

A power-sharing deal agreed after the polls raised hopes that Mr Mugabe might be prepared to relinquish some of his powers.

The partnership was shaky and often acrimonious, but the coalition succeeded in agreeing a new constitution, which was approved by referendum ahead of fresh elections in July 2013.

However, following Mr Mugabe's re-election as president in 2013 and Zanu-PF's gaining of a two-thirds majority in the parliamentary poll, the power-sharing coalition was ditched.

Mr Mugabe continues to preside over a nation whose economy is in deep crisis, where poverty and unemployment are endemic and political strife and repression commonplace.

wpid 64432075 zim cattle g8 Zimbabwe profile Control over the land has been a major issue in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is home to the Victoria Falls, one of the natural wonders of the world, the stone enclosures of Great Zimbabwe – remnants of a past empire – and to herds of elephant and other game roaming vast stretches of wilderness.

For years it was a major tobacco producer and a potential bread basket for surrounding countries.

But the forced seizure of almost all white-owned commercial farms, with the stated aim of benefiting landless black Zimbabweans, led to sharp falls in production and precipitated the collapse of the agriculture-based economy. The country has endured rampant inflation and critical food and fuel shortages.

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At a glance

Politics: President Robert Mugabe, in office since 1980, gained a new term in controversial elections in 2013

Economy: Economy appears to be stabilising after years of crisis with rampant inflation, “de-industrialisation” and shortages of food and fuel. Agricultural production has shrunk

International: Several countries shun Zimbabwe in the hope of promoting democratic reform

Country profiles compiled by BBC Monitoring

Many Zimbabweans survive on grain handouts. Others have voted with their feet; hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans, including much-needed professionals, have emigrated.

Aid agencies and critics partly blame food shortages on the land reform programme. The government blames a long-running drought, and Mr Mugabe has accused Britain and its allies of sabotaging the economy in revenge for the redistribution programme.

The government's urban slum demolition drive in 2005 drew more international condemnation. The president said it was an effort to boost law and order and development; critics accused him of destroying slums housing opposition supporters.

In 2010 the government passed a controversial indigenisation law as part of its policy to force foreign firms to cede economic control to black Zimbabweans. The policy has so far been applied to the mining industry.

Indigenisation was one of Mr Mugabe's key campaign issues in the 2013 election, and on being re-elected he vowed to pursue the policy with renewed vigour.

The former Rhodesia has a history of conflict, with white settlers dispossessing the resident population, guerrilla armies forcing the white government to submit to elections, and the post-independence leadership committing atrocities in southern areas where it lacked the support of the Matabele people.

Zimbabwe has had a rocky relationship with the Commonwealth – it was suspended after President Mugabe's controversial re-election in 2002 and later announced that it was pulling out for good.

wpid 64432074 zim ruins afp8 Zimbabwe profile The ruins of Great Zimbabwe are the remains of a lost civilization

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 54027463 togo Togo profile

Togo, a narrow strip of land on Africa's west coast, has for years been the target of criticism over its human rights record and political governance.

Tensions spilled over into deadly violence when its strong-arm, veteran leader died in 2005 and a succession crisis followed. Political reconciliation remains elusive.

Togo formed part of the Slave Coast, from where captives were shipped abroad by European slavers during the 17th century. In 1884 it became the German protectorate of Togoland.

It was seized by Britain and France at the start of World War I, divided and administered under League of Nations mandates.

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At a glance

wpid 54178555 togo woman afp5 Togo profile

Politics: President Faure Gnassingbe succeeded his father in a manner condemned internationally

Economy: Togo is among the world's poorest countries. Isolation has further aggravated its weak economy

International: Togo faces international pressure to hold credible parliamentary elections and improve its human rights record. Togo has become a transit point for the illegal export of ivory

Profiles compiled by BBC Monitoring

The British-ruled western part was later incorporated into what is now Ghana.

France granted independence in 1960 and Togo's first president, Sylvanus Olympio, was assassinated in a military coup three years later. Head of the armed forces Gnassingbe Eyadema seized power in a 1967 coup and dissolved all political parties.

Although political parties were legalised in 1991 and a democratic constitution was adopted in 1992, the leadership was accused of suppressing opposition and of cheating in elections.

A joint UN-Organisation of African Unity investigation into claims that hundreds of people were killed after controversial elections in 1998 concluded that there had been systematic human rights violations.

Gnassingbe Eyadema died in early 2005 after 38 years in power. The military's immediate but short-lived installation of his son, Faure Gnassingbe, as president provoked widespread international condemnation. Mr Faure stood down and called elections which he won two months later. The opposition said the vote was rigged.

The developments of 2005 led to renewed questions about a commitment to democracy made by Togo in 2004 in a bid to normalise ties with the EU, which cut off aid in 1993 over the country's human rights record.

Moreover, up to 500 people were killed in the political violence surrounding the presidential poll, according to the UN. Around 40,000 Togolese fled to neighbouring countries.

Togo has gained notoriety as a transit point for ivory poached elsewhere in the region. Poaching has risen in recent years across the continent, where well-armed criminal gangs kill elephants for tusks and rhino for their horns, before shipping them to Asia for use in ornaments and supposed medicine.

wpid 60899448 togo lome street g5 Togo profile Togo was colonised by Germany and seized by Britain and France at the start of the first World War

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 54270745 ceuta melilla Ceuta, Melilla profile

Ceuta and Melilla, fragments of Europe on north Africa's Mediterranean coast, came under Spanish control around 500 years ago.

Madrid says they are integral parts of Spain. On three sides they are surrounded by Morocco, which views the Spanish presence as anachronistic and claims sovereignty.

But improving relations were jeopardised in November 2007 by Spanish King Juan Carlos's first visit to the territories in more than 30 years, which King Mohammed VI strongly condemned.

Spain also controls a scattering of islets along the north African coast, including uninhabited Perejil, which was at the centre of a spat in 2002 when Moroccan soldiers occupied it before being removed by the Spanish army.

wpid 62842730 ceuta 20056 Ceuta, Melilla profile Moroccan youths survey Ceuta: The territories have been used as staging posts for immigration to Europe

More recently, differences over Ceuta and Melilla have not prevented a warming of relations between Morocco and Spain, particularly economic ones. Morocco's premier has advocated “neighbourly” talks on the issue.

With its rebuilt 15th century cathedral, shipyards and a fish-processing plant, Ceuta is viewed by Spain as the more strategically-valuable enclave. The town is a 90-minute ferry ride from mainland Spain.

Melilla, conquered in 1497, is a modern town with a distinctive old quarter.

The territories are surrounded by fences, intended to deter illegal immigrants. But Ceuta and Melilla are nonetheless used by many Africans as stepping-stones to Iberia. Many migrants are caught and some drown while attempting to make the sea crossing. People trafficking is common.

After a series of increasingly-desperate attempts by would-be immigrants to surmount the barriers in 2005, Spain and Morocco agreed to deploy extra troops to try to secure the borders.

Ceuta and Melilla are linked to Spain by ferry services to Malaga, Algeciras and Almeria. Borders and defence are controlled by Madrid. Tourism is an important money-earner with duty-free goods being a big draw for visitors.

wpid 70295348 ceuta king g6 Ceuta, Melilla profile Spanish King Juan Carlos to Ceuta in 2007 angered Morocco, which claims sovereignty over the territory

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 52110984 benin Benin country profile

Benin, formerly known as Dahomey, is one of Africa's most stable democracies.

It boasts a proliferation of political parties and a strong civil society.

On the economic side, however, the picture is less bright – Benin is severely underdeveloped, and corruption is rife.

Benin's shore includes what used to be known as the Slave Coast, from where captives were shipped across the Atlantic. Elements of the culture and religion brought by slaves from the area are still present in the Americas, including voodoo.

Once banned in Benin, the religion is celebrated at the country's annual Voodoo Day, which draws thousands of celebrants.

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At a glance

wpid 61652523 benin bikes g5 Benin country profile

Politics: President Yayi won elections in 2006, replacing Mathieu Kerekou, who was in office for most of the time since he seized power in 1972

Economy: Benin to benefit from G8 commitment to write off debt. It is pressing Western cotton producing countries to compete more fairly by cutting subsidies to their farmers

International: Thousands of Togolese refugees have yet to return home

Country profiles compiled by BBC Monitoring

Before being colonised by France towards the end of the 1800s, the area comprised several independent states, including the Kingdom of Dahomey, which had a well-trained standing army and was geared towards the export of slaves and later palm oil.

Instability marked the first years after full independence from France in 1960 and the early part of Mr Kerekou's rule featured Marxism-Leninism as the official ideology.

However, during the 1980s Mr Kerekou resigned from the army to become a civilian head of state and liberalised the economy.

While Benin has seen economic growth over the past few years and is one of Africa's largest cotton producers, it ranks among the world's poorest countries. The economy relies heavily on trade with its eastern neighbour, Nigeria.

To the north, there have been sporadic clashes along Benin's border with Burkina Faso. The trouble has been blamed on land disputes between rival communities on either side of the border.

Thousands of Togolese refugees fled to Benin in 2005 following political unrest in their homeland. Benin called for international aid to help it shelter and feed the exiles.

wpid 61652525 benin boat2 g5 Benin country profile A child navigates through Ganvie, a stilted fishing village on Lake Nokoue which is also known as the Venice of Africa

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 54272259 garowe Puntland profile

Puntland, an arid region of north-east Somalia, declared itself an autonomous state in August 1998.

The move was in part an attempt to avoid the clan warfare engulfing southern Somalia. Nevertheless, the region has endured armed conflict, and grabbed the world headlines with an upsurge in pirate attacks on international shipping in the Indian Ocean.

Unlike its neighbour, breakaway Somaliland, Puntland says it does not seek recognition as an independent entity, wishing instead to be part of a federal Somalia.

The region's leadership refused to take part in peace talks in Djibouti in 2008 that led to the formation of a new transitional federal government headed by a moderate Islamist PM, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, but later reluctantly recognised the new administration.

wpid 62820915 som puntland5 Puntland profile Puntland is a destination for displaced Somalis from the south

Sporadic fighting has broken out between Puntland and Somaliland over the ownership of Sool and Sanaag regions, which are claimed by Puntland on the basis of ethnicity. Violence also accompanied a political power struggle in 2001 between rival claimants to the Puntland leadership.

Livestock herding and fishing sustain the people – many of them nomads – of the drought-prone region. The money sent home from overseas workers is an important source of foreign exchange.

Maritime piracy

Since 2005, the region has become infamous as the hub of a burgeoning piracy operation in the seas around Somalia, particularly in the Gulf of Aden, where the pirates prey on key international shipping lanes to and from the Suez Canal.

The issue has achieved a high profile internationally, and several states, including the US, France, Britain and China, have deployed warships to the seas around Somalia to protect shipping.

Piracy has brought vast amounts of money into the region, leading to accusations that the authorities are turning a blind eye to the problem. Puntland's leaders have frequently promised to curb the pirates' activities, but with little apparent success.

It is widely viewed a socially acceptable and lucrative lifestyle, and has attracted former fishermen, ex-militiamen and technical experts.

Many in Somalia defend the attacks on foreign ships as a justified response to illegal fishing and the dumping of toxic waste along Somalia's long and poorly policed coastline.

Puntland is a destination for many Somalis displaced by violence in the south; some of them attempt to make the sea crossing to Yemen.

The region's coast was hit by the December 2004 Asian tsunami; more than 300 people were killed and thousands lost their livelihoods. A famine in 2011 and a cycloone in late 2012 added to the region's woes.

The territory takes its name from the Land of Punt, a centre of trade for the ancient Egyptians and a place shrouded in legend.

wpid 71094239 puntland migrants g5 Puntland profile Puntland's coast has been a jumping off point for migrants, such as those seen in this 2007 picture waiting to cross to Yemen

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 54027461 tanzania Tanzania country profile

Tanzania has been spared the internal strife that has blighted many African states.

Though it remains one of the poorest countries in the world, with many of its people living below the World Bank poverty line, it has had some success in wooing donors and investors.

Tanzania assumed its present form in 1964 after a merger between the mainland Tanganyika and the island of Zanzibar, which had become independent the previous year.

Unlike many African countries, whose potential wealth contrasted with their actual poverty, Tanzania had few exportable minerals and a primitive agricultural system.

In an attempt to remedy this, its first president, Julius Nyerere, issued the 1967 Arusha Declaration, which called for self-reliance through the creation of cooperative farm villages and the nationalisation of factories, plantations, banks and private companies.

wpid 76604199 tanzania dar g8 Tanzania country profile Tanzania's port city of Dar es Salaam

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At a glance

Politics: Tanzania has enjoyed stability. Multi-party politics was introduced in 1992

Economy: Annual growth rate has averaged 6.7% since 2006, one of the best in sub-Sahara Africa. Power supplies are erratic and fall short of demand. Gold earnings have been rising, and the find of a major offshore gas field is promising

International: Tanzania hosts thousands of refugees from conflict in the neighbouring Great Lakes region

Environment: Experts fear a planned highway threatens the Serengeti game park, Tanzania's biggest draw for tourism. Poaching is a major issue

Country profiles compiled by BBC Monitoring

But a decade later, despite financial and technical aid from the World Bank and sympathetic countries, this programme had completely failed due to inefficiency, corruption, resistance from peasants and the rise in the price of imported petroleum.

Tanzania's economic woes were compounded in 1979 and 1981 by a costly military intervention to overthrow President Idi Amin of Uganda.

After Mr Nyerere's resignation in 1985, his successor, Ali Hassan Mwinyi, attempted to raise productivity and attract foreign investment and loans by dismantling government control of the economy.

This policy continued under Benjamin Mkapa, who was elected president in 1995. The economy grew, though at the price of painful fiscal reforms.

Tourism is an important revenue earner; Tanzania's attractions include Africa's highest mountain, Kilimanjaro, and wildlife-rich national parks such as the Serengeti.

Tanzania has become a target for poachers, and conservationists have warned that the current rate at which elephants are being killed for their ivory the entire population could die out by the end of the decade.

The political union between Zanzibar and mainland Tanzania has weathered more than four decades of change. Zanzibar has its own parliament and president.

wpid 61660859 tanzania ol doinyo g8 Tanzania country profile Tanzania is home to Ol Doinyo Lengai, an active volcano

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