Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere - Biography
His preferred dress, a Mao tunic, contrasted with the flamboyant uniforms worn by some of his contemporary heads of African states. While his policies may have proved disastrous for his country, few question his sincerity. Tanzania remains one of the poorest countries in the world, but its economy has grown since Nyerere's retirement, reaching 6 percent during 2006. While his economic policies are acknowledged as having failed, other policies succeeded. For example, under Nyerere literacy and health care "surpassed anything most African countries had achieved," thus, his legacy has been described as "rich and varied" and his intentions as always "noble."
He also battled the International Monetary Fund over the issue of Third World debt, and created "a genuine national entity out of a hotch-potch of some 120 ethnic groups" which some consider to be his most "enduring achievement." Even after the failure of his socialist experiment, he retained, says a Guardian obituary, his "worldwide moral authority."
Nyerere began attending Government Primary School, in Musoma, at the age of 12, where he completed the four-year program in three years and went on to Tabora Boys Government Secondary School. He received a scholarship to attend Makerere University (at that time it was the only tertiary education institution in East Africa), where he obtained a teaching diploma. He returned to Tanganyika and worked for three years at St. Mary’s Secondary School in Tabora, where he taught biology and English. In 1949, he got a scholarship to attend the University of Edinburgh (he was the first Tanzanian to study at a British university and only the second to gain a university degree outside Africa) where he obtained his Masters of Arts degree on economics and history in 1952. In Edinburgh, partly through his encounter with Fabian thinking, Nyerere began to develop his particular vision of connecting socialism with African communal living.
On his return to Tanganyika, Nyerere took a position teaching History, English, and Kiswahili at St. Francis’ College, near Dar es Salaam. It is at St. Francis’ College that he founded TANU. His political activities attracted the attention of the colonial authorities, and he was forced to make a choice between his political activities and teaching.
He was reported as saying that he "was a schoolmaster by choice and a politician by accident." He resigned and continued with his work on his goal to bring a number of different nationalist factions into one grouping, which was achieved in 1954. Nyerere traveled throughout the country, speaking to common people and tribal chiefs, trying to garner support for the movement towards independence. He also spoke on behalf of TANU to the Trusteeship Council and Fourth Committee of the United Nations, in New York.
His oratory skills and integrity helped Nyerere achieve TANU's goal for an independent country without war or bloodshed. The cooperative British governor Sir Richard Turnbull was also a factor in the struggle for independence. Nyerere entered the Colonial Legislative council in 1958, and was elected chief minister in 1960. In 1961, Tanganyika was granted self-governance and Nyerere became its first Prime Minister on December 9, 1961. A year later, Nyerere was elected President of Tanganyika when it became a Republic. Nyerere was instrumental in the union between the islands of Zanzibar and the mainland Tanganyika to form Tanzania, after a 1964 coup in Zanzibar toppled Jamshid bin Abdullah, who was the Sultan of Zanzibar.
Government positions held
* 1954 A Founding Member of TANU
* 1958-1960 Member of the Legislative Assembly in the first elections in which Africans were allowed to vote
* 1958 Leader of the Opposition in Parliament
* 1960 Chief Minister of the first Internal Self-Government Administration
* 1961 Prime Minister of the first Government of Independent Tanganyika
* 1962 Elected President of Tanganyika when it became a Republic
* 1963-1970 Chancellor of the University of East Africa
* 1964-1985 President of the United Republic of Tanzania
* 1970-1985 Chancellor of University of Dar-es-Salaam
* 1977-1990 Chairman of Chama Cha Mapinduzi which was formed by a merger between TANU and the Afro-Shiraz Party of Zanzibar. CCM was born in Zanzibar on February 5, 1977.
* 1984-1985 Chancellor of Sokoine University of Agriculture
* 1985 Retired from Presidency
When in power, Nyerere implemented a socialist economic program (announced in the Arusha Declaration), establishing close ties with the China, and also introduced a policy of collectivization in the country's agricultural system, known as Ujamaa, or "familyhood." Nyerere believed that people truly become "persons" within community-starting with the family, then moving into an extended family, and from there into the wider community. Small scale village industry, similar to M. K. Gandhi's model, was ideal for Africa. Influenced by the Mahatma, Nyerere was awarded the Gandhi Peace Prize in 1995. Personhood leads to service to the community. Wealth would thus spread horizontally, not vertically. Although some of his policies can be characterized as socialist, many regard that Nyerere was first and foremost an African, and secondly a socialist. He was what is often called an African socialist.
Nyerere had tremendous faith in rural African people and their traditional values and ways of life. He believed that life should be structured around the ujamaa, or extended family found in traditional Africa. He believed that in these traditional villages, the state of ujamaa had existed before the arrival of imperialists. All that needed to be done was to return to this state and capitalism would be forgotten. He believed that this would be a true repudiation of capitalism, since his society would not rely on capitalism for its existence.
This ujamaa system failed to boost agricultural output and by 1976, the end of the forced collectivization program, Tanzania went from the largest exporter of agricultural products in Africa to the largest importer of agricultural products in Africa. With the realization that the Tanzanian economy did not flourish, and being unwilling to lead Tanzania using an economic model he did not believe in, Nyerere willingly announced that he would retire after presidential elections in 1985, leaving the country to enter its free market era under the leadership of Ali Hassan Mwinyi.
Nyerere was instrumental in putting both Ali Hassan Mwinyi and Benjamin Mkapa in power. He remained the chairman of Chama Cha Mapinduzi (ruling party) for five years following his presidency until 1990, and is still recognized as the Father of the Nation. However, he did not interfere in his successors policies, which reversed many of his own.
Nyerere was one of the African Leaders during the Pan-African movement that swept the continent in the 1960s. He was a larger-than-life person, a seemingly incorruptible individual and a committed Pan-africanist. Nyerere was also one of the founders of the Organization of African Unity in 1963. Nyerere provided a home for a number of African liberation movements including the African National Congress (ANC) and the Pan African Congress (PAC) of South Africa, FRELIMO when it sought to overthrow Portuguese rule in Mozambique, and ZANLA (and Robert Mugabe) in its struggle to unseat the white regime in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).
From the mid-1970s, along with President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, he was an instigator and leader of the "Front Line States," which provided uncompromising support for the campaign for Black Majority Rule in South Africa. In 1979, he led Tanzania into war against Uganda, then under the dictatorship of Idi Amin, resulting in the defeat of Uganda and exile of Amin. However, Nyerere also instigated the 1977 coup d'etat that ousted the first president of the Seychelles, James Mancham, and replaced him with socialist France-Albert René, a move regarded to have set back development in the Seychelles for many years.
Nyerere's foreign policy overall emphasized neutrality in the Cold War, and under his leadership, Tanzania enjoyed friendly relations with both the West and the East.
Outside of Africa, Nyerere was a model to Walter Lini, Prime Minister of Vanuatu, whose theories on Melanesian socialism owed much to the ideas he found in Tanzania, which he visited. Lecturers inspired by Nyerere also taught at the University of Papua New Guinea in the 1980s, helping educated Melanesians familiarize themselves with his ideas.
After the Presidency
After the Presidency, Nyerere remained the Chairman of CCM until 1990, when Ali Hassan Mwinyi took over. Nyerere remained vocal about the extent of corruption and corrupt officials during the Ali Hassan Mwinyi administration. He also blocked Jakaya Kikwete's nomination for the presidency, citing that he was too young to run a country. Nyerere was instrumental in getting Benjamin Mkapa elected (Mkapa had been Minister of Foreign Affairs for a time during Nyerere's administration).
In one of his famous speeches during the CCM general assembly, Nyerere said in Swahili "Ninang'atuka," meaning that he was pulling out of politics for good. He moved back to his childhood home village of Butiama in western Tanzania. During his retirement, he continued to travel the world, meeting various heads of government as an advocate for poor countries and especially the South Center institution. Nyerere traveled more widely after retiring than he did when he was president of Tanzania. One of his last high-profile actions was as the chief mediator in the Burundi conflict in 1996. He died in a London hospital of leukemia on October 14, 1999.
Positions held after Presidency
* 1985-1990 Chairman of Chama Cha Mapinduzi
* 1987-1990 Chairman of the independent International South Commission
* 1990-1999 Chairman, South Center, Geneva & Dar es Salaam Offices
In January 2005, the Catholic diocese of Musoma opened a cause for the beatification of Julius Nyerere. Nyerere was a devout Catholic who attended Mass daily throughout his public life and was known for fasting frequently.
As African leader
The African Union, formerly the Organization of African Unity, which Nyerere was largely responsible for establishing, is increasingly taking on an important role in stabilizing the region, in peacekeeping and peace-building in collaboration with the United Nations. Nyerere's example of voluntary retirement from power has set a standard that few African heads of state have yet met. His strong opposition to Idi Amin's dictatorial regime in Uganda and his 1979 invasion, in retaliation for Amin's 1978 incursion into Tanzania, toppled the dictator to popular acclaim, setting an example of Africa policing Africa.
In retirement, he continued to work for African unity and also to resolve conflicts, including the civil war in Burundi and to find ways of lessening the rich-poor gap between the developed and developing nations of the world, chairing the South Commission. Despite the failure of his economic policies, he remained convinced that socialism was the right direction for poor countries to take. His modest lifestyle added to his moral authority. He was untainted by scandal or by charges of corruption. Family was central to his concerns. He married Maria Magige in 1953. They had five sons and two daughters. In addition to political writings, he translated two Shakespearean plays into Swahili.
* Nehru Award for International Understanding, 1976
* Third World Prize, 1982
* Nansen Medal for outstanding services to Refugees, 1983
* Lenin Peace Prize, 1987
* International Simón Bolívar Prize, 1992
Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation
It is this non-aligned engagement in the political process that sets the Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation apart from most other NGO’s. The challenges for East Africa today are largely political in nature. An influential viewpoint that is independent of partisan politics is a necessary counterweight to the day-to-day struggle for power. Seeking to ensure the implementation of its proposals, the Foundation will enter into political dialogue, publicity campaigns, and targeted lobbying. By engaging in the political process, the Foundation will gain insights into the realities of creative policy-making and implementation in today’s political environment, and measure success by real change. With its highly qualified board and the weight of Mwalimu Nyerere’s reputation, the Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation is uniquely endowed to fulfill this role.
Upon opening the Foundation, with typical humility, Mwalimu Nyerere expressed his desire that his ideas be a source of inspiration for the future, but that his legacy also be considered critically in order to best understand the way forward.
“I hope that in studying my ‘practices’ people will be kind—but also honest. Tanzania can learn from my mistakes as well as from our aims and achievements.”
-Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere, Dar es Salaam, 1997
Nyerere’s Nationalist Legacy
Issa G. Shivji writes of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere's conceptions of nationalism in Africa, ideas which encompassed both the political through liberatory principles and the universal through transcending narrow identities. Debates around the economic success of his policies notwithstanding, Nyerere's greatest legacy, Shivji writes, was his sweeping vision of African unity.
Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere was a great nationalist of the first generation of African leaders who struggled for independence. His nationalism was rooted in pan-Africanism, which is what gave it a universal dimension transcending narrow territorial, ethnic or racial nationalisms. In his address to celebrate the 40th year of Ghana’s independence, Nyerere said:
'For centuries, we had been oppressed and humiliated as Africans. We were hunted and enslaved as Africans, and we were colonised as Africans… Since we were humiliated as Africans, we had to be liberated as Africans.'
This way of conceptualising nationalism is both political and universal. It is political in that it privileges the common experience of oppression of a people and their struggle for liberation as opposed to identity. It is universal in that it transcends narrow nationalisms based on identities of race, religion, tribe, ethnicity and even countries. In the case of Africa, in fact Nyerere characterised African countries as artificial entities, as vinchi (statelets) – as he derided them in Kiswahili – carved out by imperial powers. His clarion call therefore was for African liberation and African unity. Only thus could the African people overcome both oppression and humiliation.
This pan-Africanist nationalism found its succinct expression in the Arusha Declaration of 1967. Its rallying cry, whose echo resonated with the African masses all over the continent, including in the diaspora, was:
'We have been oppressed a great deal, we have been exploited a great deal and we have been disregarded a great deal. It is our weakness that has led to our being oppressed, exploited and disregarded. Now we want a revolution – a revolution which brings to an end our weakness, so that we are never again exploited, oppressed, or humiliated.'
This was a powerful statement. C.L.R. James described the Arusha Declaration as ‘the highest stage of resistance ever reached by revolting Blacks’, but as he said, a statement of intentions. It is true that Nyerere’s government went beyond intentions in taking concrete measures including nationalising the commanding heights of the economy and instituting the leadership code prohibiting party and state leaders from indulging in capitalist and feudalist practices such as owning shares in companies, taking directorships in private capitalist enterprises, receiving two or more salaries and owning houses for renting.
There has been considerable debate on whether or not the economic polices followed under the policy of Ujamaa or socialism were successful, whether the leaders were truly socialist or not and whether there was a genuine participation of the workers and peasants in the decision-making organs of the party and the state. Whatever the merits in this debate – no doubt some of the analysis of Tanzania’s ujamaa was powerful and irrefutable – the greatest legacy of Nyerere lies not so much in his economic policies but rather in his grand vision of pan-Africanist liberation in which African people could say: 'We have stood up!'
There are two fundamental premises of Nyerere’s nationalism. One, that African states should be able to make their own decisions, that is, to be able to exercise their sovereignty meaningfully and, two, the unity of Africa. The two are inseparable. In fact, Nyerere’s call for the unity of Africa was connected with his passion for the right of African states to exercise their sovereignty. He rightly believed and constantly argued that African mini-states would not be able to defend their sovereignty and independence without uniting. In this, he was one with Kwame Nkrumah. Unfortunately, these paragons of pan-Africanism did not succeed in actualising their vision during their lifetime. But like all great visions, today their arguments are as fresh, and perhaps, have greater relevance after the rude interruption of neoliberalism of the last two decades.
More than its economic impact, neoliberalism in Africa was a political and ideological onslaught on nationalism. For a while, it helped to rehabilitate imperialism morally, enabling it to go on a political offensive. Neoliberal policies were a frontal attack on the sovereignty and independence of African states as these states lost the basic right of a sovereign state – to make its own policy. Ironically, the neoliberal period laid bare the limits of territorial nationalism and vindicated Nyerere’s pan-Africanism – without unity, Africa would not be able to defend its independence.
Globalisation and neoliberalism have come full circle. In its extreme form of casino capitalism, neoliberalism entered a terminal state last August. As capitalist powers rewrite the rules of the game, African masses and their organic intellectuals are beginning to question the game itself. This was not possible during the neoliberal triumphalism when we were told by the Thatcherites of this world that ‘there is no alternative’ (TINA). The TINA syndrome gripped African rulers, and the prospects of integration into globalisation mesmerised them. Nyerere’s successors were no exception. They joined the neoliberal bandwagon with a vengeance. The ideology of neoliberalism seemed so strong then that the Arusha Declaration was not only forgotten but unceremoniously buried as politicians set to liberalise and privatise, turning over public assets to rapacious private interests at fire-sale prices. Public goods – education, health services, water and electricity – were all turned into commodities to be sold for private profit. State coffers were emptied as politicians turned public offices into a vehicle for accumulation. Politicians became rentiers as rentiers became politicians.
As neoliberal chickens come home to roost, the popular masses are re-membering, to use Ng’ugi’s felicitous phrase, the Arusha Declaration. Whereas only two years ago, no one remembered the 40th anniversary of the Arusha Declaration, this year, at the 10th commemoration of Mwalimu’s Nyerere’s death, Azimio la Arusha and miiko ya viongozi (the leadership code) was on everyone’s lips – from the lumpens of Dar es Salaam to the learned of the university. Even the officially organised ceremonies were forced to have a token presence of the critics.
On TV talk shows and in newspaper columns, ordinary people repeated tirelessly: Mwalimu gave us dignity; the Arusha Declaration cared for us, the oppressed and the disregarded. There could not be a better tribute to Mwalimu Nyerere’s great legacy – pan-Africanist nationalism. For truly, as he once put it graphically, African nationalism can only be pan-Africanism, otherwise it is ‘equivalent of tribalism within the context of our separate nation states'.
* Issa G. Shivji is the Mwalimu Nyerere University Professor of Pan-African Studies at the University of Dar es Salaam.
* Shivji is the author of 'Where is Uhuru? Reflections on the Struggle for Democracy in Africa'.
Tribute to Julius Kambarage Nyerere
Nyerere was one of the few tall trees that stood in the midst of a vast African jungle; an educator, a Mwalimu in the literal and figurative sense of the word; a statesman and a brilliant writer; an astute diplomat and a relentless fighter; simple yet a profound political persona, and above all, a humanist endowed with the highest moral sensibility.
Throughout his entire political career, Nyerere fought for the welfare of the Tanzanian people, struggled for African unity and advocated for the diginity and human rights of oppressed peoples all over the world.
Tanzania under Nyerere was a socialist nation inspired by social equality on Africa's traditional commuanl foundation, hence African socialism. The official manifesto for African socialism, with heavy dosage of Self-reliance, was the Arusha Declaration of February 1967 drawn up by Nyerere himself. Nyerere was not alone in promulugating the socialist doctrine or propounding the notions of an egalitarian society; he was accompanied by Nkrumah, BenBella, Sekou Toure, Modibo Keita etc. All African socialist leaders extolled the supremacy of the state as the vehicle for genuine societal transformation, but while some of them employed coercion and populist aura, Nyerere was uniquely a socialist-democrat. He sincerely believed in democratic principles and was even concerned with the excesses of a mono-party political culture and and the role of the state itself, especially if mechanisms are not installed to countercheck it.
Interestingly, a man who advocates the primacy of the state and public ownership of property, arguably delineates a cautionary note:"State ownership and control of the key points of the economy," says Nyerere "can infact lead to a greatest tyranny if the state is not itself controlled by the people, who exercise this control for their own benefit and their own behalf. For socialism is not an alternative to political democracy; it is an extension of it."
Nyerere was highly emphatic on good governance which, in the 1990s, has become a buzz word, if not a cliche in premier literary publications. In 1967, under Nyerere's supervision, TANU introduced a 'Leadership Code' for all its leaders to report regularly to the President on their wealth and income, and for the next three decades, he argued that the state officials must be accountable to the people. In fact, in his latest book entitled 'Our Leadership and The Destiny of Tanzania' (1995), Nyerere still emphasized on leadership ethics and good governance: Government officials, especially those at the top level, should be "persons of integrity of principles, and who respects the equal humanity of all others regardless of their wealth, religion, race, sex, ofr differeing opinions."
With respect to tolerance of differing opinions, Nyerere was perhaps at the forefront for the battle of democracy, and most of his writings, speeches and actions bear the imprint of dialogue in the promotion of meaningful political discourse for the benefit of all citizens of society. Nyerere was one of the very few African leaders who could listen and respect ideas diamterically opposite to that of his.
In an effort to convey the principles of "unity must incorporate differences" (his own words), during his state visit to the Ivory Coast in February 1968, Nyerere had the following to say: "We are all separate and sovereign states. No African state has the right to interfere in the internal affairs of the other. And each state has the power, and the duty, to determine its own path forward. But we can, and must still work together...We in Tanzania have adopted the principles of socialism as our creed ; we are deliberately trying to build a socialist state on the foundation of traditional communalism. We are proud of the progess we have made so far, although we recognize that we have only just begun the work we have set ourselves. The political philosophy of the Ivory Coast, on the other hand, has been defined by you, Mr. President, as 'evolution within freedom'. But these different choices do not mean that there has to bee hostility, or even suspicion between our two countries. Our different philosophies may affect the institutional arrangements we make for our mutual benefit; but they do not affect our African brotherhood, nor provide us escape from Africa's need for unity."
One of the greatest legacies of Nyerere, among others, is his persistence on the advocacy of the supremacy of the people. As far as he was concerned, the sovereignty of the people must be seen from the point of view of political economy. In a nutshell, what this means is that the people must be able [or enabled] to control their destiny by controlling their economic activities, decide on the nature of the laws and political institutions that they will be governed by, and above all, they are free from exploitation, hunger, lethargy, disease and tyrannical rule.
Nyerere is one of the few African leaders who stepped from power voluntarily. For him, power was responsibility, not unchecked authority. Till he succumbed on October 14, 1999, Nyerere was a vibrant Mwalimu who continued to advise the leaders of Tanzania and travelled extensively to participate on human rights and development conferences.
Nyerere's achievements, both for himself and for his people, were magnificent. Some of his remarkable inputs are: 1) Reorienting education to meeting the need of the people. Tanzanian rural adult education rose from 10 percent in 1961 to 65 percent in 1981; currently the literacy rate of the country is over 85 percent. Schools became productive laboratory units that were designed to translate 'education for self-reliance'; 2) reorienting medicine from urban-curative-hospital centered to rural-preventative-health centers. By 1975, 160 health centers and 1800 dispensaries were established. All health centers were conveniently located only six miles radius from where people lived; 3) establishing the East African Community (EAC) of Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda with a concerted action to finance railways, posts and telecommunications, harbors, the East African Airways, medical and vetrinary research centers/services, metreological services; common market, common tariff, joint currency adminstered by the East African Currency Board; East African Navy, East African Common service Organization.
The EAC was not sigularly Nyerere's creation, but he played a major role in the cooperative arrangement of the Community.
Despite his achievements, however, Nyerere also countenanced shortcomings and even witnessed the collapse of African socialism and the decay of Ujamma villages that he himself presided over as chief architect. He also witnessed the decline of the Tanzanian economy, but these negative phenomena are not altogether the making of Nyerere, nor of the Tanzanian collective leadership; it is largely [cognizant of the local problems] the impact of the current trend of globalization which is affecting the four corners of the world at supersonic speed.
The tall tree, the great son of Africa, our Mwalimu was a leaning tower in the last days of his life, but he maintained his equlibrium throughout with his incredible optimism and preseverance. His monumnetal legacy will inspire the present and coming generations of Africans for a long time, and he will be greatly missed.
Mwalimu Nyerere on Wildlife Conservation
In accepting the trusteeship of our wildlife we solemnly declare that we will do everything in our power to make sure that our children's grand-children will be able to enjoy this rich and precious inheritance.
The conservation of wildlife and wild places calls for specialist knowledge, trained manpower and money, and we look to other nations to co-operate with us in this important task - the success or failure of which not only affects the continent of Africa but the rest of the world as well."
Julius K. Nyerere, Arusha Manifesto, 1961
Nyerere's philosophy to protect and cherish Tanzania's spectacular wildlife as a prime national heritage is expressed in the high priority the Tanzanian government has given to conservation of natural resources. At independence Tanzania had only one national Park, the Serengeti. Since then 12 more Parks were created, about 4.5 % of the country are National Parks; nearly a quarter is under some form of protection as Game- and Forest Reserves.
"...intellectuals have a special contribution to make to the development of our nation, and to Africa. And I am asking that their knowledge, and the greater understanding that they should possess, should be used for the benefit of the society of which we are all members."
Julius Kambarage Nyerere, from his book Uhuru na Maendeleo (Freedom and Development), 1973.