The United Republic of Tanzania was created in the 1960s by the merger of two independent countries: Tanganyika, a territory on mainland East Africa, and the Zanzibar islands in the Indian Ocean. Tanzania has been a stable and relatively peaceful democracy, although in recent years religious clashes have touched off disputes over election results. Tanzania has many natural resources, including the rare gemstone tanzanite, but it is one of the poorest countries in the world. This is due in part to a huge public debt the government incurred over the previous three decades. The AIDS epidemic has also weakened the economy by taking growing numbers of people out of the workforce. Since 2000, Tanzania's government has taken positive steps toward lessening poverty, reducing debt, growing the economy, and attempting to slow the spread of AIDS.