Julius Nyerere

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Julius Kambarage Nyerere
Julius Nyerere cropped.jpg
Nyerere, late 1950s.
1st President of Tanzania
In office
29 October 1964 – 5 November 1985
Vice President Abeid Karume
Aboud Jumbe
Ali Hassan Mwinyi
Prime Minister Rashidi Kawawa
Edward Sokoine
Cleopa Msuya
Edward Sokoine
Salim Ahmed Salim
Preceded by Queen Elizabeth II as Queen of Tanganyika
Abeid Karume as President of the People's Republic of Zanzibar and Pemba
Succeeded by Ali Hassan Mwinyi
President of the United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar
In office
26 April 1964 – 29 October 1964
Vice President Abeid Karume (First)
Rashidi Kawawa (Second)
President of Tanganyika
In office
9 December 1962 – 26 April 1964
Prime Minister Rashidi Kawawa
Prime Minister of Tanganyika
In office
1 May 1961 – 22 January 1962
Monarch Elizabeth II
Preceded by Himself (as Chief Minister)
Succeeded by Rashidi Kawawa
Chief Minister of Tanganyika
In office
2 September 1960 – 1 May 1961
Monarch Elizabeth II
Governor Sir Richard Turnbull
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Himself (as Prime Minister)
Personal details
Born Kambarage Nyerere
(1922-04-13)13 April 1922
Butiama, Tanganyika
Died 14 October 1999(1999-10-14) (aged 77)
London, United Kingdom
Resting place Butiama, Tanzania
Nationality Tanzanian
Political party CCM (1977–1999)
TANU (1954–1977)
Spouse(s) Maria (m. 1953–1999)[1]
Alma mater The Makerere University (DipEd)
University of Edinburgh (MA)
Profession Teacher
Awards Lenin Peace Prize
Gandhi Peace Prize
Joliot-Curie Medal

Julius Kambarage Nyerere (Swahili pronunciation: [ˈdʒuːliəs kɑmˈbɑɾɑgə njɛˈɾɛɾɛ]; 13 April 1922 – 14 October 1999) was a Tanzanian anti-colonial activist, politician, and political theorist. He governed Tanganyika as its Prime Minister from 1961 to 1963 and then as its President from 1963 to 1964, after which he led its successor state, Tanzania, as its President from 1964 until 1985. He was a founding member of the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) party and later a member of the Chama Cha Mapinduzi party. Ideologically an African nationalist and African socialist, he promoted a political philosophy known as Ujamaa.

Born in Butiama, then in the British colony of Tanganyika, Nyerere was the son of a Zanaki chief. After completing his schooling in Tanganyika, he studied at Makerere College in Uganda and then Edinburgh University in Britain. In 1952 he returned to Tanganyika, married, and worked as a teacher. In 1954, he helped form TANU, which was instrumental in obtaining independence for Tanganyika. Influenced by the Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, Nyerere preached non-violent protest to achieve their aims.

In 1967, influenced by the ideas of African socialism, Nyerere issued the Arusha Declaration, which outlined his vision of ujamaa (variously translated as "familyhood" or "socialism"; not to be confused with the Swahili word Umoja which means "unity"). Ujamaa was a concept that came to dominate Nyerere's policies. However, his policies led to economic decline, systematic corruption, and unavailability of goods. This campaign pushed the nation to the brink of starvation and made it dependent on foreign food aid. In 1985, after more than two decades in power, he relinquished power to his hand-picked successor, Ali Hassan Mwinyi. Nyerere left Tanzania as one of the poorest and most foreign aid-dependent countries in the world,[2][dubious ] although much progress in services such as health and education had nevertheless been achieved.[3] He remained the chairman of the Chama Cha Mapinduzi for another five years until 1990. He died of leukemia in London in 1999.

Nyerere is still a controversial figure in Tanzania. Nyerere was known by the Swahili honorific Mwalimu or 'teacher', his profession prior to politics.[4] He was also referred to as Baba wa Taifa (Father of the Nation).[5] A cult of personality revolves around him and the country's Roman Catholic community have attempted to beatify him.

Early life[edit]

Childhood: 1922–1934[edit]

Julius Kambarage Nyerere was born on 13 April 1922 in Mwitongo, an area in the town of Butiama in Tanganyika's Mara Region.[6][7] He was one of 26 surviving children of Nyerere Burito, the chief of the Zanaki people.[8] Burito had been born in 1860 and given the name "Nyerere" ("caterpillar" in Zanaki) after a plague of worm caterpillars infested the local area at the time of his birth.[9] Burito had been appointed chief in 1915, installed in that position by the German imperial administrators of what was then German East Africa;[9] his position was also endorsed by the incoming British imperial administration.[10] Burito had 22 wives, of whom Julius' mother, Mugaya Nyang'ombe, was the fifth.[11] She had been born in 1892 and had married the chief in 1907, when she was fifteen.[12] Mugaya bore Burito four sons and four daughters, of which Nyerere was the second child; two of his siblings died in infancy.[13]

These wives lived in various huts around Burito's cattle corral, in the centre of which was his roundhouse.[14] The Zanaki were one of the smallest of the 120 tribes in the British colony and were then sub-divided among eight chiefdoms; they would only be united under the kingship of Chief Wanzagi Nyerere, Burito's half-brother, in the 1960s.[15] Nyerere's clan were the Abhakibhweege.[16] At birth, Nyerere was given the personal name "Mugendi" ("Walker" in Zanaki) but this was soon changed to "Kambarage", the name of a female rain spirit, at the advice of a omugabhu diviner.[17] Nyerere was raised into the polytheistic belief system of the Zanaki,[18] and lived at his mother's house, assisting in the farming of the millet, maize and cassava.[17] With other local boys he also took part in the herding of goats and cattle.[19] At some point he underwent the Zanaki's traditional circumcision ritual at Gabizuryo.[17] As the son of a chief he was exposed to African-administered power and authority,[20] and living in the compound gave him an appreciation for communal living that would influence his later political ideas.[21]

Schooling: 1934–1942[edit]

The British colonial administration encouraged the education of chiefs' sons, believing that this would help to perpetuate the chieftain system and prevent the development of a separate educated indigenous elite who might challenge colonial governance.[22] At his father's prompting, Nyerere began his education at the Native Administration School in Mwisenge, Musoma in February 1934, about 25 miles from his home.[23] This placed him in a privileged position; most of his contemporaries at Butiama could not afford a primary education.[24] Nyerere excelled at the school, and after six months his exam results were such that he was allowed to skip a grade.[25] He avoided sporting activities and preferred to read in his dormitory during free time.[26] His education allowed him to learn Swahili.[27]

While at the school he also underwent the Zanaki tooth filing ritual to have his upper-front teeth sharpened into triangular points.[28] It may have been at this point that he took up smoking, a habit he retained for several decades.[29] He also began to take an interest in Roman Catholicism, although was initially concerned about abandoning the veneration of his people's traditional gods.[15] With school friend Mang'ombe Marwa, Nyerere trekked 14 miles to the Nyegina Mission Centre, run by the White Fathers, to learn more about the Christian religion; although Marwa eventually stopped, Nyerere continued.[30] His elementary schooling ended in 1936; his final exam results were the highest of any pupil in the Lake Province and Western Province region.[31]

His academic excellence allowed him to gain a government scholarship to attend the elite Tabora Government School, a secondary school in Tabora.[32] There, he again avoided sporting activities but helped to set up a Boy Scout's brigade after reading Scouting for Boys.[33] Fellow pupils later remembered him as being ambitious and competitive, eager to come top of the class in examinations.[34] He used books in the school library to advance his knowledge of the English language to a high standard.[35] He was heavily involved in the school's debating society,[36] and teachers recommended him as head prefect, but this was vetoed by the headmaster, who described Nyerere as being "too kind" for the position.[37] In keeping with Zanaki custom, Nyerere entered into an arranged marriage with a girl named Magori Watiha, who was then only three or four years old but had been selected for him by his father. At the time they continued to live apart.[38] In March 1942, during Nyerere's final year at Tabora, his father died; the school refused his request to return home for the funeral.[39] Nyerere's brother, Edward Wanzagi Nyerere, was appointed as their father's successor.[40] Julius then decided to be baptised as a Roman Catholic;[41] at his baptism, he took on the name "Julius",[42] although later stated that it was "silly" that Catholics should "take a name other than a tribal name" on baptism.[27]

Makerere College, Uganda: 1943–1947[edit]

The main building at Makere University in Uganda, where Nyerere studied a teacher training course

In October 1942, Nyerere completed his secondary education and decided to study at Makerere College in the Ugandan city of Kampala.[43] He secured a bursary to fund a teacher training course there,[44] arriving in Uganda in January 1943.[45] At Makerere, he studied alongside many of East Africa's most talented students,[46] although spent little time socialising with others, instead focusing on his reading.[47] He took courses in chemistry, biology, Latin, and Greek.[48] Deepening his Catholicism, he studied the Papal Encyclicals and read the work of Catholic philosophers like Jacques Maritain;[48] most influential however were the writings of the liberal British philosopher John Stuart Mill.[49] He won a literary competition with an essay on the subjugation of women, for which he had applied Mill's ideas to Zanaki society.[50] Nyerere was also an active member of the Makere Debating Society,[47] and established a branch of Catholic Action at the university.[48]

In July 1943, he wrote a letter to the Tanganyika Standard in which he discussed the ongoing Second World War and argued that capitalism was alien to Africa and that the continent should turn to "African socialism"; in his words, "the African is by nature a socialistic being".[51] His letter went on to state that "the educated African should take the lead" in moving the population towards a more explicitly socialist model.[52] Molony thought that the letter "serves to mark the beginnings of Nyerere's political maturation, chiefly in absorbing and developing the views of leading black thinkers of the time."[52] In 1943, Nyerere, Andrew Tibandebage, and Hamza Kibwana Bakari Mwapachu founded the Tanganyika African Welfare Association (TAWA) to assist the small number of Tanganyikan students at Makerere.[53] TAWA was allowed to die off, and in its place Nyerere revived the largely moribund Makerere chapter of the Tanganyika African Association (TAA), although this too had ceased functioning by 1947.[54] Although aware of racial prejudice from the white colonial minority, he insisted on treating people as individuals, recognising that many white individuals were not bigoted towards indigenous Africans.[55] After three years, Nyerere graduated from Makerere with a diploma in education.[56]

Early teaching and Edinburgh University: 1947–1952[edit]

On leaving Makerere, Nyerere returned home to Zanaki territory to build a house for his widowed mother, before spending his time reading and farming in Butiama.[57] He was offered teaching positions at both the state-run Tabora Boys' School and the mission-run St Mary's, but chose the latter despite it offering a lower wage.[58] He took part in a public debate with two teachers from the Tabora Boys' School, in which he argued against the statement that "The African has benefitted more than the European since the partition of Africa"; after winning the debate, he was subsequently banned from returning to the school.[59] Outside school hours, he gave free lessons in English to older locals,[60] and also gave talks on political issues.[61] He also worked briefly as a price inspector for the government, going into stores to check what they were charging, although quit the position after the authorities ignored his reports about false pricing.[62] While in Tabora, Nyerere's wife, Magori Watiha, was sent to live with him to pursue her primary education there, although he forwarded her to live with his mother.[63] Instead, he began courting Maria Gabriel, a teacher at Nyegina Primary School in Musoma; although from the Simbiti tribe, she shared with Nyerere a devout Catholicism.[64] He proposed marriage to her and they became informally engaged at Christmas 1948.[65]

In Tabora, he intensified his political activities, joining the local branch of the TAA and becoming its treasurer.[66] The branch opened a co-operative shop selling basic goods like sugar, flour, and soap.[60] In April 1946 he attended the organisation's conference in Dar Es Salaam, where the TAA officially declared itself committed to supporting independence for Tanganyika.[67] With Tibandebage he worked on rewriting the TAA's constitution and used the group to mobilise opposition to Colonial Paper 210 in the district, believing that the electoral reform was designed to further privilege the white minority.[68] At St Mary's, Father Richard Walsh—an Irish priest who was director of the school—encouraged Nyerere to consider additional education in the United Kingdom. Walsh convinced Nyerere to take the University of London's matriculation examination, which the latter passed with second division in January 1948.[69] He applied for funding from the Colonial Development and Welfare Scheme and was initially unsuccessful, although succeeded on his second attempt, in 1949.[70] He agreed to study abroad, although expressed some reluctance because it meant that he would no longer be able to provide for his mother and siblings.[71]

Nyerere received his teaching diploma in 1947.[7] He returned to Tanganyika and worked for 3 years at St. Mary's Secondary School in Tabora, where he taught Biology and English. In 1949, he received a government scholarship to attend the University of Edinburgh, where he earned an undergraduate Master of Arts degree in Economics and History in 1952. In Edinburgh he encountered Fabian thinking and began to develop his particular vision of connecting socialism with African communal living.[72][73]

Political activism[edit]

Founding the Tanganyika African National Union: 1952–[edit]

Nyerere arrive back in Dar Es Salaam in October 1952.[74] He took the train to Mwanza and then a lake steamer to Musoma before reaching Zanaki lands.[74] There, he built a mud-brick house for himself and his fiancé, Maria;[74] they were married at Musoma mission on 24 January 1953.[74] They soon moved closer to Dar Es Salaam when Nyerere was hired to teach history at St Francis' College in Pugu.[74] Within three months of Nyerere's return to Tanganyika, he was elected president of the Tanganyika African Association (TAA).[74] His ability to take on the position was influenced by his good oratorical skills and by the fact that he was Zanaki; had he been from one of the larger ethnic groups he may have faced greater opposition from members of rival tribes.[75] Under Nyerere, the TAA gained an increasingly political dimension, devoted to the pursuit of Tanganyikan independence from the British Empire.[75]

In campaigning for Tanganyikan independence using non-violent methods, Nyerere was inspired by the example of Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi

On 7 July 1954 Nyerere, assisted by Oscar Kambona, transformed the TAA into a new political party, the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU).[76] Among the early TANU members were the three sons of Kleist Sykes, Dossa Aziz, and John Rupia, the latter an entrepreneur who had established himself as one of the richest Africans in the country.[75] Rupia served as the group's first treasurer and largely funded the organisation in its early years.[75] The colony's governor appointed Nyerere to fill a temporary vacancy on its legislative council generated after David Makwaia was sent to London to serve on the Royal Commission for Land and Population Problems.[77] His first speech at the legislative council dealt with the need for more schools in the country.[77] When he said that he would oppose proposed government regulations to raise salaries for civil servants, the government recalled Makwaia from London to ensure Nyerere's removal.[77]

At TANU meetings, Nyerere insisted on the need for Tanganyikan independence, but maintained that the country's European and Asian minorities would not be ejected by an African-led independent government.[78] He greatly admired the Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi and endorsed Gandhi's approach to attaining independence through non-violent protest.[79] The colonial government closely monitored his activities.[78] In August 1954, the United Nations had sent a mission to Tanganyika which subsequently published a report recommending a twenty to twenty-five year timetable for the colony's independence.[77] The UN was set to discuss the issue further at a trusteeship council in New York City, with TANU sending Nyerere to be its representative there.[77] At the British government's request, the United States had agreed to prevent Nyerere staying for more than 24 hours before the meeting or moving outside an eight-block radius of the UN headquarters.[80] Nyerere arrived in the city in March 1955, as part of a trip funded largely by Rupia.[80] To the trusteeship council he said that: "with your help and with the help of the [British] Administering Authority we would be governing ourselves long before twenty to twenty-five years."[81] This seemed highly ambitious to everyone at the time.[81]

The government had also put pressure on Nyerere's employer to sack him because of his pro-independence activities.[80] On his return from New York, Nyerere resigned from the school, in part because he did not wish is ongoing employment to cause trouble for the missionaries.[82] In April 1955 he and his wife returned to his Zanaki homestead.[82] He turned down offers of employment from a newspaper and an oil company,[82] instead accepting a job as a translator and tutor for the Maryknoll Fathers, who were preparing a mission amongst the Zanaki.[82]

By the late 1950s, TANU had extended its influence throughout the country and gained considerable support.[83] TANU had 100,000 members in 1955, which had grown to 500,000 by 1957.[84]

Nyerere returned to Dar Es Salaam in October 1955.[85] From then until Tanzania secured independence, he toured the country almost continuously, often in TANU's Land Rover.[85] The white colonial Governor of Tanganyika, Edward Twining, disliked Nyerere and regarded him as a racialist who wanted to impose indigenous domination over the European and South Asian minorities.[86] In December 1955, Twining established the United Tanganyika Party (UTP) as a "multi-racial" party with which to combat the African nationalist message of TANU.[87] Nyerere nevertheless stipulated that "we are fighting against colonialism, not against the whites".[88] He befriended members of the white minority, such as Marion the Lady Chesham, a U.S.-born widow of a British farmer, who served as a liaison between TANU and Twining's government.[89]

A 1958 editorial in the TANU newsletter Sauti ya Tanu (Voice of TANU) that had been written by Nyerere called on the party's members to avoid participating in violence.[90] It also criticised two of the country's district commissioners, accusing one of trying to undermine TANU and another of putting a chief on trial for "cooked-up reasons".[90] In response, the government filed three counts of criminal libel.[90] The trial took almost three months and resulted in a three month case.[90] Nyerere was found guilty, with the judge stipulating that he could either pay a £150 fine or go to prison for six months.[90]

Twining announced that elections for a new legislative council would take place in early 1958. These would be organised along the basis of ten constituencies, each of which could elect three members of the council: one indigenous African, one European, and one South Asian.[91] This would move the country away from its concentration of political representation entirely with the European minority, but still meant that the three ethnic blocs would receive equal representation despite the fact that indigenous Africans made up over 98% of the country's population.[78] For this reason, most of TANU's leadership believed that it should boycott the election.[92] Nyerere disagreed. In his view, TANU should participate and seek to secure the majority of the indigenous African representatives to advance their political leverage. If they abstained, he argued, the UTP would win the elections, TANU would be forced to operate entirely outside of government, and it would delay the process of attaining independence.[92] At a conference in Tabora in January 1958, Nyerere convinced the rest of TANU to his viewpoint.[92] Nyerere saw it as an improvement, but which was still frustrating.[78]

Tanganyika Independence[edit]

Nyerere campaigning for Tanganyikan independence in March 1961

Nyerere's activities attracted the attention of the Colonial authorities and he was forced to make a choice between his political activities and his teaching.[81] He was reported as saying that he was a "schoolmaster by choice and a politician by accident".[93]

The cooperative British governor Sir Richard Turnbull aided the effort for independence. Nyerere entered the Colonial Legislative council following the country's first elections in 1958–59 and was elected chief minister following fresh elections in 1960 when Tanganyika was granted responsible government.[citation needed]

Premiership and Presidency of Tanganyika[edit]

On 9 December 1961, Tanganyika gained independence and Nyerere became its first Prime Minister. Tanganyika became a republic in 1962, and Nyerere was elected as the country's first president. A month later, Nyerere declared that to further the interests of national unity and economic development, TANU was now the only legal political party, perhaps partially because the country had effectively been a one-party state since independence. During the first years of his presidency, Nyerere used "preventive detention", allowed after his party passed the Preventive Detention Act, 1962, to eliminate trade unions and political opposition forces. He was reelected, unopposed, every five years until his retirement in 1985.

Nyerere moved into the State House in Dar Es Salaam, the former official residence of the British governors. Nyerere disliked life in the building, referring to it as "my prison".[94] He remained there for three years, until 1966.[94]

Presidency of Tanzania[edit]

In 1964, Nyerere was instrumental in the union between the islands of Zanzibar and the mainland Tanganyika to form Tanzania with himself as president of the unified country. This was precipitated by the Zanzibar revolution on 12 January 1964 which toppled the Sultan of Zanzibar Jamshid bin Abdullah. The coup leader, a stonemason from Lira, Uganda, named John Okello, had intended Zanzibar to join Kenya. Nyerere, unnerved by a failed mutiny of the Tanganyika Rifles a few days later, ensured that Okello was barred from returning to Zanzibar after a visit to the mainland. In his absence the President of Zanzibar, Abeid Karume, negotiated with Nyerere on Zanzibar's behalf to enter into a union with Tanganyika to form the new country of Tanzania.[95]

Following the unification, Sheikh Abeid Karume served as the first Vice President of the new Tanzania.[96] In April 1972, Karume was assassinated in Zanzibar.[96]

Nyerere saw his inability to establish an East African Federation as the biggest failure in his career.[97]

Swahili language[edit]

During the 1960s, African Nationalism was on the rise. Nyerere implemented a nationwide policy in Tanzania for schools at all levels to instruct classes in only the Swahili language. The end goal was for colleges and secondary schools to reach full "Swahilization" by the year 2000. The movement at first was initially successful, as Nyerere was able to translate Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice" and "Julius Caesar" into Swahili. Even notable figures of the African-American Black power movement were interested in Swahili studies while at their respective institutions. Unfortunately, the movement ultimately failed as Nyerere's popularity in Tanzania faltered due to a collapsing economic state. The recent political establishments of Tanzania have a much more conservative vision for their country and as a result have mostly abandoned the practice of studying Swahili in their curriculum. English is instead the preferred language, as it is viewed as more practical and those able to speak it, being more educated. Another reason for the overall shift to English is that international trade becomes much easier. Learning English is also seen as an ability to unify the entire country with one language, opposed to the hundreds of other unique African languages. A majority of people in Tanzania currently speak Swahili, as it has existed in this region of Africa since the early 1800s due to an influence of Arab traders. [98]

Observing that a small sector of the population were able to attain a high level of education, he grew concerned that they would form an elitist group apart from the rest of the people.[99] In 1964 he stated that "some of our citizens still have large amounts of money spent on their education, while others have none. Those who receive that privilege therefore have a duty to repay the sacrifice which others have made."[100] In October 1966, around 400 university students marched to State House to protest that they had to perform national service after completing their studies. Nyerere, Rashidi Kawana, and other cabinet members met them on the steps of the building. Nyerere spoke to the crowd in defence of national service, and agreed to reduce government salaries, including his own.[101]

In 1966, Nyerere ceased using State House as his permanent residence, moving into a newly built private home on the seafront at Msasani, several miles north of Dar Es Salaam.[102]

Ujamaa and economic transformation[edit]

In January 1967, Nyerere presented TANU's National Executive Committee with a new statement of party principles, the Arusha Declaration.[103] He followed this with a series of additional policy papers covering such areas as foreign policy and rural development.[103] After this point, the concept of socialism became central to the government's policy formation.[104]

When in power, Nyerere issued the Arusha Declaration, which called for the implementation of an economic programme influenced by African socialist ideas. He also established close ties with the People's Republic of China under Mao Zedong, and introduced a policy of collectivisation in the country's agricultural system, known as ujamaa, "socialism" in the sense of "familyhood" or "extended family"—the Swahili word for socialism comes from the word Jamaa—which literally means "familyhood" and the "extended family".[citation needed] Nyerere was fascinated by Mao's China because it espoused the egalitarian values he shared.[105]

In 1967, nationalizations transformed the government into the largest employer in the country. The state expanded rapidly into virtually every sector. It was involved in everything from retailing to import-export trade and even baking. This created an environment ripe for corruption.[106]

The private sector suffered from the multiplying cumbersome, bureaucratic procedures and excessive tax rates.[106] Enormous amounts of public funds were misappropriated and put to unproductive use.[106] Purchasing power declined at an unprecedented rate and even essential commodities became unavailable.[106] A system of state permits (vibali) required for many activities allowed officials to collect huge bribes in exchange for distributing the vibali.[106] Nyerere's policies laid a foundation for systemic corruption for years to come.[106] The ruling party's officials became known as Wabenzi ("people of the Benz"), referring to their taste for Mercedes Benz cars.

Collectivization was accelerated in 1971. Because much of the population resisted collectivisation, Nyerere used his police and military forces to forcibly transfer much of the population into collective farms.[107][108] Houses were set on fire or demolished, sometimes with the family's pre-Ujamaa property inside.[108] The regime denied food to those who resisted.[108] A substantial amount of the country's wealth in the form of built structures and improved land (fields, fruit trees, fences) was destroyed or forcibly abandoned.[108] Livestock was lost or stolen, or fell ill or died.[108]

In 1975, the Tanzanian government issued the "Ujamaa Program" to restructure the Sonjo region, in northern Tanzania, from compact sites with less water to flatter lands with more fertility and water. Further, new villages were created to ease the reaping of crops and raising of livestock. This "villagization" (coined by W.M. Adams) encouraged the Sonjo population to use modern irrigation techniques such as the 'unlined canals' and man-made springs (Adams 22–24). Given the diversion of water from the Kisangiro and Lelestutta Rivers by dams, river water can flow by canals into the irrigation systems to alleviate the hardships of smallholder farmers and livestock owners.[109]

Julius Nyerere
10 tz shillings back

Farming practices for tea and cloves improved for subsistence farmers; for example, only 3 tons of tea had been produced in 1964, yet by 1975, 2,100 tons of tea were netted from smallholder farmers. By 1974, the Ujamaa programs and the IDA (International Development Association) worked hand in hand; while villagization organized new villages to farm, the IDA financed projects to educate farmers to grow alternate crops and granted loans to farmers, with added credit to smaller farmers (Whitaker 206). Nyerere's policies had given the communal villages the opportunity to grow tea leaves despite the long history of tea being only grown in estates (208). One may understand agricultural growth through both re-organizing of traditional farms and improving the general farming methods therein, and investing into non-staple agriculture such as the aforementioned tea cultivation. Similarly, the Tanzanian government's put extensive effort into training farmers to grow tobacco effectively, which significantly improved tobacco yields to 41.9 million pounds in 1975–1976. By 1976, Tanzania became the third-largest tobacco cultivator in Africa (207). Therefore, via Tanzanian government intervention with regards to agriculture, a positive result was achieved in cheaper prices of tea and tobacco for Tanzanian villagers, consuming Tanzanian products rather than imported goods.[110]

This centralized governmental control was geared to use arable land for cash crops (specifically tobacco and tea) to benefit the government structure. As a result, food production plummeted and only foreign aid prevented mass starvation. Tanzania, which had been able to produce such vast quantities of food to both feed its population and be the largest exporter of food on the African continent, became the largest importer of food in the continent.[111][112] Many sectors of the economy collapsed; there was a virtual breakdown in transportation and goods such as toothpaste became virtually unobtainable.[111][112]

The deficit in cereal grains was more than 1 million tons between 1974 and 1977. Only loans and grants from the World Bank and the IMF in 1975 prevented Tanzania from going bankrupt. By 1979, Ujamaa villages contained 90% of the rural population but only produced 5% of the national agricultural output.[113]

Julius Nyerere announced that he would retire after presidential elections in 1985, leaving the country to enter its free market era — as imposed by structural adjustment under the IMF and World Bank – under the leadership of Ali Hassan Mwinyi, Nyerere's hand-picked successor. Nyerere was also instrumental in putting Benjamin Mkapa in power. Nyerere remained the chairman of the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (ruling party) for five years following his presidency until 1990, and is still recognized as the Father of the Nation.

Nyerere left Tanzania as one of the poorest, least developed, and most foreign aid-dependent countries in the world.[2] In 1985, he publicly apologized for his economic policies.[114] Nevertheless, Nyerere's government did much to foster social development in Tanzania during his time in office. At an international conference of the Arusha Declaration, Nyerere's successor Mwinyi noted the social gains of his predecessor's time in office: an increase in life expectancy to 52 years, a reduction in infant mortality to 137 per thousand, 2600 dispensaries, 150 hospitals, a literacy rate of 85%, two universities with over 4500 students, and 3.7 million children enrolled in primary school.[115]

Foreign policy[edit]

In the early 1960s, Nyerere had private telephone lines installed linking him to Kenyatta and Obote, although these were later eliminated in a cost-saving exercise.[96]

US President Jimmy Carter, Julius Nyerere, and First Lady Rosalynn Carter, 1977

Nyerere's foreign policy emphasised nonalignment in the Cold War and under his leadership Tanzania enjoyed friendly relations with the People's Republic of China, the Soviet bloc as well as the Western world. Nyerere sided with the Chinese in the Sino-Soviet rivalry, and China reciprocated by its assistance with the building of the TAZARA Railway. When it was completed two years ahead of schedule, the TAZARA was the single longest railway in sub-Saharan Africa.[116] TAZARA was the largest single foreign-aid project undertaken by China at the time, at a construction cost of 500 million United States dollars (the equivalent of US $3.15 billion today).[117]

Nyerere signed his country to the British Commonwealth.[118]

Nyerere wrote an introduction for Not Yet Uhuru, the autobiography of Kenyan leftist politician Jaramogi Oginga Odinga.[119]

West German President Richard von Weizsäcker greets Julius Nyerere, 1985

Nyerere claimed Tanzania to be the first country to recognise Biafra soon after it declared independence from Nigeria in 1967, but was criticised for not consulting on this within his government first, as it could cause division in its relationship with Nigeria at the time.[citation needed]

Nyerere, along with several other Pan-Africanist leaders, founded the Organisation of African Unity in 1963, which he served as Chairperson of from 1984–1985. He signed the Lusaka Manifesto with Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia in 1969, affirming his opposition to white minority rule of African nations. Nyerere supported several militant groups active in white minority African states, including the African National Congress (ANC) and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) of South Africa, FRELIMO when it sought to overthrow Portuguese rule in Mozambique, MPLA when it sought to overthrow Portuguese rule in Angola, and ZANLA in its war with the Smith government of Rhodesia. From the mid 1970s on, along with Kaunda, he was one of the leaders of the Front Line States which campaigned in support of black majority rule in southern Africa. In 1978 he led Tanzania in a successful war with Uganda, defeating and exiling the government of Idi Amin.[citation needed]

Nyerere was instrumental in the Seychelles military coup in 1977, in which soldiers trained by Nyerere deposed the country's democratically elected president James Mancham and installed a progressive one-party socialist state under France-Albert René.[120][121][122]

Oscar Kambona with President Nyerere and President Kennedy in 1963

In an interview with Hubert Fichte from Frankfurter Rundschau, Nyerere commented that homosexuality was alien to Africa and therefore homosexuals cannot be defended against discrimination. His comments were omitted from the publication.[123] Despite it being illegal, persecution was rare during his tenure.[124]

He was criticised[by whom?] for his vindictive actions after unsuccessfully appealing to the Pan Africanist Congress to adopt dialogue and détente with Pretoria instead of armed revolution. He supported a leadership coup that installed David Sibeko but after Sibeko's assassination he crushed PAC resistance at Chunya Camp near Mbeya on 11 March 1980, when Tanzanian troops murdered[citation needed] and split up the PAC army into detention camps. Nyerere then pressured the Zimbabwe government to arrest and deport PAC personnel in May 1981. The PAC never recovered and despite rivalling the ANC from 1959–1981 quickly declined. Its Tanzanian controlled remnant under Clarence Makwetu gained only 1.2% in the 1994 South African election, the first after the end of apartheid.[citation needed]

Outside of Africa Nyerere was an inspiration 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 familiarise themselves with his ideas.[citation needed]

In doing so, Nyerere—according to A. B. Assensoh—was "one of the few African leaders to have voluntarily, gracefully, and honourably bowed out" of governance.[125]

Post-presidential activity[edit]

After the Presidency, Nyerere remained the Chairman of Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) until 1990 when Ali Hassan Mwinyi took over. Nyerere remained vocal about the extent of corruption and corrupt officials during the Mwinyi administration. However, he raised no objections when the CCM abandoned its monopoly of power in 1992. He also served as Chairman of the independent International South Commission (1987–1990), and Chairman of the South Centre in the Geneva & Dar es Salaam Offices (1990–1999).[citation needed]

Nyerere did not leave the political arena altogether. He campaigned in support of the CCM candidates in Tanzania's 1995 presidential election.[125] He also took part in the fifth Pan-African Congress, held in the Ugandan city of Kampala.[126]

Nyerere retained enough influence to block Jakaya Kikwete's nomination for the presidency in the country's first multiparty elections in three decades, 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). Kikwete later became president in 2005.[citation needed]

Nyerere's portrait on the Tanzanian 1000 shilling note

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 kept to his word that Tanzania would be a democratic country. He moved back to his childhood home village of Butiama in northern Tanzania.[127] During his retirement, he continued to travel the world meeting various heads of government as an advocate for poor countries and especially the South Centre institution. Nyerere travelled 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.[citation needed]

The government and army contributed funds to build Nyerere a house in his home village; it was finished in 1999, although he only spent two weeks there prior to his death.[128]

Illness and death[edit]

By the end of his life, Nyerere had been battling chronic leukemia for over a year. On October 1st, Nyerere was sent to intensive care due to a major stroke. He eventually passed away at the age of 77 on October 14, 1999, at around 10:30 AM at St. Thomas's Hospital in London, with his wife, Maria, and six of his eight children by his bedside. Benjamin Mkapa, Tanzanian president at the time, announced Nyerere's death on national television, and also proclaimed a 30-day mourning period. Nyerere, the former president of Tanzania, was honored by Tanzanian state radio playing funeral music while raw video clips of him were broadcast on television.[129]

Nyerere received honorary degrees from the University of Edinburgh (UK), Duquesne University (USA), University of Cairo (Egypt), University of Nigeria (Nigeria), University of Ibadan (Nigeria), University of Liberia (Liberia), University of Toronto (Canada), Howard University (USA), Jawaharlal Nehru University (India), University of Havana (Cuba), National University of Lesotho,[130] University of the Philippines, Fort Hare University (South Africa), Sokoine University of Agriculture (Tanzania), and Lincoln University (PA, USA).[citation needed]

Cultural influences[edit]

Nyerere advocated for strict government control over popular culture in order to promote his vision of African pride and unity.[131] In the late 1960s, Nyerere criminalised "decadent" forms of culture including soul music, unapproved films and magazines, miniskirts, and tight trousers.[132][133]

Nyerere remained an influence upon the people of Tanzania in the years following his presidency. His broader ideas of socialism live on in the rap and hip hop tradition of Tanzania.[134] Nyerere believed socialism was an attitude of mind that countered discrimination and entailed equality of all human beings.[135] Therefore, ujamaa can be said to have created the social environment for the development of hip hop culture. As in other countries, hip hop emerged in post-colonial Tanzania when divisions among the population were prominent, whether by class, ethnicity or gender. Rappers broadcast messages of freedom, unity, and family, topics that are all reminiscent of the spirit Nyerere put forth in ujamaa.[134]

In addition, Nyerere supported the presence of foreign cultures in Tanzania saying, "a nation which refuses to learn from foreign cultures is nothing but a nation of idiots and lunatics...[but] to learn from other cultures does not mean we should abandon our own."[134]

Political ideology[edit]

The only way to defeat our present poverty is to accept the fact that it exists, to live as poor people, and to spend every cent that we have surplus to our basic needs on the things which will make us richer, healthier and more educated in the future.

— Julius Nyerere[105]

Nyerere was promoting "African socialism" from at least July 1943, when he wrote an article referring to the concept in the Tanganyika Standard newspaper.[136] Where he had learned the term is not clear, for it would not become widely used until the 1960s.[136] Nyerere saw socialism not as an alien idea to Africa but as something that reflected traditional African lifestyles. In his words from 1962, "We, in Africa, have no more need of being "converted" to socialism than we have of being "taught" democracy. Both are rooted in our past – in the traditional society which produced us."[137] Molony described Nyerere as having produced "romanticised accounts of idyllic village life in 'traditional society'", describing his as "a misty-eyed view" of this African past.[137]

When campaigning for independence, Nyerere insisted on a non-racialist front.[138] He also insisted that the situation in the country was such that non-violent protest was possible and should be pursued.[138] He stated that "I'm non-violent in the sense of Mohandas Gandhi... I feel violence is an evil with which one cannot become associated unless it is absolutely necessary".[138] He stated that Tanzania could only be developed "through the religion of socialism and self-reliance".[139]

Nyerere was also a prominent supporter of anti-colonial liberation movements in southern Africa, providing said groups with material, diplomatic, and moral support.[140]

Nyerere was a firm believer in egalitarianism and the creation of a society of equals.[141] In his view, the equality of ujamaa must come from the individual's commitment to a just society in which all talents and abilities were used to the full.[142] He believed it important to balance the rights of the individual with the duty to society, expressing the view that Western countries had placed too much of an emphasis on individual rights.[143] He detested elitism and sough to reflect that attitude in the manner in which he conducted himself as president.[141] He endorsed the equality of the sexes, stating that "it is essential that our women live on terms of full equality with their fellow citizens who are men".[144]

Nyerere's belief in socialism was retained after his socialist reforms failed to generate economic growth.[145] He stated that "They keep saying you've failed. But what is wrong with urging people to pull together? Did Christianity fail because the world is not all Christian?"[145] Much of Nyerere's political ideology was inspired by his Christian faith.[142] Trevor Huddleston thought that Nyerere could be considered both a Christian humanist,[142] and a Christian socialist.[146]

Personality and personal life[edit]

Smith described Nyerere as "a slight, wiry man with a high forehead and a toothbrush moustache".[147] Nyerere was a modest man who was shy regarding the personality cult that followers established around him.[148] In rejecting the personality cult, he for instance rejected ideas that statues be built to him.[149] In a 1963 memorandum, he called on colleagues to help him in "stamping out the disease of pomposity" in Tanzanian society.[150] As President, he for instance he did not like to be referred to as either "Your Excellency" or "Dr Nyerere".[151] Most staff members referred to him as "Mzee", a Swahili word meaning "old man".[96] Huddleston recalled conversations with Nyerere as being "exciting and stimulating", with the Tanzanian leader focusing on world issues rather than talking about himself.[105] In Huddleston's view, Nyerere was "a great human being who has always treasured his human-ness (his humanity if you like) more deeply than his office".[152] For Huddleston, Nyerere displayed much humility, a trait that was "rare indeed" among politicians and statesmen.[152]

Nyerere's secretary, Joseph Namata, said that the leader "jokes about everything" and "can shout if he is angry".[96] When planners suggested infrastructure developments for his home area, Nyerere rejected the proposals, not wanting to present the appearance of giving favours to it.[16] Nyerere ensured that his parents' resting places were maintained.[153] Smith referred to Nyerere as "a scholar at heart".[78] In later life, Twining described Nyerere as "a very shrewd politician, an emotionalist... he is not greedy, not corrupt; I think he is a good man."[87]

The style of suit that Nyerere wore was widely imitated in Tanzania, which led to it being known as a "Tanzanian suit".[154] Many European and American observers believed it similar to a Mao suit and interpreted it as evidence for Nyerere's perceived desire for greater links with the Marxist-Leninist government in China.[154] After the formation of Tanzania, Nyerere took to wearing a style of Zanzibaran hat called a kofia.[154]

Nyerere wrote poetry,[139] and translated William Shakespeare's plays Julius Caesar and The Merchant of Venice into Swahili.[139]

Nyerere described Christianity as "a revolutionary creed" but believed that its message had often been corrupted by churches.[155] He liked to attend Mass in the early mornings.[142]

With his wife Maria Gabriel, Nyerere had seven children.[156]

Honours and awards[edit]


Nyerere's coat of arms of the Royal Order of the Seraphim at the Riddarholm Church in Sweden (top row, fourth from right).
Order Country Year
Order of the Seraphim - Ribbon bar.svg Royal Order of the Seraphim  Sweden 1963
Ribbon jose marti.png Order of José Marti[157]  Cuba 1975
MEX Order of the Aztec Eagle 1Class BAR.png Order of the Aztec Eagle (Collar)[158]  Mexico 1975
Medalha Amílcar Cabral.svg Amílcar Cabral Medal[158]  Guinea Bissau 1976
Order of Eduardo Mondlane[158]  Mozambique 1983
Ordem Agostinho Neto.svg Order of Agostinho Neto[158]  Angola 1985
Ribbon bar of the Order of the Star of Ghana.gif Order of the Star of Ghana[159]  Ghana 1988
Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo (ribbon bar).gif Order of the Companions of O. R. Tambo (Gold)[160]  South Africa 2004
Royal Order of Munhumutapa[161][162]  Zimbabwe 2005
Order of the Pearl of Africa (Uganda) - ribbon bar.gif Most Excellent Order of the Pearl of Africa (Grand Master)[163]  Uganda 2005
Order of Katonga (Uganda) - ribbon bar.png Order of Katonga[164]  Uganda 2005
National Liberation Medal (Rwanda) - ribbon bar.png National Liberation Medal[165]  Rwanda 2009
Campaign Medal Against Genocide (Rwanda) - ribbon bar.png Campaign Against Genocide Medal[165]  Rwanda 2009
Order of the Most Ancient Welwitschia Mirabilis (Namibia) - ribbon bar.gif Order of the Most Ancient Welwitschia Mirabilis[166]  Namibia 2010
Order of Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere (Tanzania) - ribbon bar.png Order of Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere  Tanzania 2011
National Order of the Republic (Burundi) - ribbon bar.png National Order of the Republic (Grand Cordon)[167][168]  Burundi 2012
Order of Jamaica.gif Order of Jamaica[169]  Jamaica ?



Reception and legacy[edit]

[Nyerere had] a legacy which continues to inspire millions of people in Tanzania and elsewhere especially in other parts of Africa. But it is also a legacy that has drawn mixed reactions from many other people, depending on how they saw him as a leader and the kind of policies he pursued.

Godfrey Mwakikagile, 2006[173]

Within Tanzania, Nyerere has been termed the "Father of the Nation",[174] and was also known as Mwalimu (teacher).[175] The African studies scholar Godfrey Mwakikagile stated that it was Nyerere's ideals of "equality and social justice" which "sustained Tanzania and earned it a reputation as one of the most stable and peaceful countries in Africa, and one of the most united; a rare feat on this turbulent continent."[176] For Mwakikagile, Nyerere was "one of the world's most influential leaders of the twentieth century".[145]

Nyerere was remembered "in African nationalist history as an uncompromising socialist".[177] Richard Turnbull, the last British Governor of Tanganyika, described Nyerere as having "a tremendous adherence to principle" and exhibiting "rather a Gandhian streak".[178] The scholar of education J. Roger Carter noted that Nyerere's peaceful withdrawal from the leadership "suggests a leader of unusual quality and a national spirit, largely of his own creation, of some maturity".[179] The Russian historian Nikolai Kosukhin described Nyerere as a leader of a "charismatic type, symbolizing the ideals and expectations of the people", in this manner comparing him to Gandhi, Nkrumah, Sun Yat Sen, and Senghor.[180] For Kosukhin, Nyerere was "a recognized standard bearer of the struggle for African liberation and a tireless champion of the idea of equitable economic relations between the rich North and the developing South".[181] In this way, Kosukhin thought, Nyerere "belongs not only to Tanzania and Africa, but also to all mankind".[182] In Mwakikagile's view, Nyerere "epitomized the best" among "the founding fathers" of independence African states, citing him alongside such "Big Men" as Kenyatta, Nkrumah, Sekou Toure, Patrice Lumumba, and Modibo Keita.[183]

He published widely over the course of his life.[184] He gained recognition for the successful merger between Tanganyika and Zanzibar.[185] He left Tanzania as a united and stable state.[181]

Bureaucrats from TANU subsequently established a cult of personality around Nyerere.[186] Posthumously, the Catholic Church of Tanzania began the processing of beatifying Nyerere, hoping to have him recognised as a saint.[186]

After his death, Nyerere received far less attention than other, contemporary African leaders like Jomo Kenyatta, Kwame Nkrumah, and Nelson Mandela.[186] Much of the literature published on Nyerere has been un-critical and hagiographic.[187]

In 2009 his life was portrayed in Imruh Bakari's – The Legacy of Julius Kambarage Nyerere (Mnet, Great Africans Series, 2009).[188]


Nyerere's statue in Dodoma
Nyerere Road in Dar es Salaam (formerly called Pugu Road).
Nyerere International Convention Centre in Dar es Salaam



  • Freedom and Unity (Uhuru na Umoja): A Selection from Writings & Speeches, 1952–1965 (Oxford University Press, 1967)
  • Freedom and Socialism (Uhuru na Ujama): A Selection from Writings & Speeches, 1965–1967 (Oxford University Press, 1968)
    • Includes "The Arusha Declaration"; "Education for self-reliance"; "The varied paths to socialism"; "The purpose is man"; and "Socialism and development."
  • Freedom and Development (Uhuru Na Maendeleo): A Selection from the Writings & Speeches, 1968–73 (Oxford University Press, 1974)
    • Includes essays on adult education; freedom and development; relevance; and ten years after independence.
  • Ujamaa – Essays on Socialism (1977)
  • Crusade for Liberation (1979)
  • Julius Kaisari (a Swahili translation of William Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar, as a gift to the nation to celebrate its first anniversary of independence.)
  • Mabepari wa Venisi (a Swahili translation of William Shakespeare's play – The Merchant of Venice)
  • Utenzi wa Enjili Kadiri ya Utungo wa Mathayo (a poetic Swahili version of the Gospel of Matthew)
  • Utenzi wa Enjili Kadiri ya Utungo wa Marko (a poetic Swahili version of the Gospel of Mark)
  • Utenzi wa Enjili Kadiri ya Utungo wa Luka (a poetic Swahili version of the Gospel of Luke)
  • Utenzi wa Enjili Kadiri ya Utungo wa Yohana (a poetic Swahili version of the Gospel of John)
  • Utenzi wa Matendo ya Mitume (a poetic Swahili version of the Acts of the Apostles)

See also[edit]



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Assensoh, A. B. (1998). African Political Leadership: Jomo Kenyatta, Kwame Nkrumah, and Julius K. Nyerere. Malabar, Florida: Krieger Publishing Company. ISBN 9780894649110. 
Carter, J. Roger (1995). "Preface". In Colin Legum and Geoffrey Mmari (eds.). Mwalimu: The Influence of Nyerere. London: Britain-Tanzania Society. pp. vii–viii. 
Huddleston, Trevor (1995). "The Person Nyerere". In Colin Legum and Geoffrey Mmari (eds.). Mwalimu: The Influence of Nyerere. London: Britain-Tanzania Society. pp. 1–8. 
Kosukhin, Nikolai (2005). "Julius Nyerere: Statesman, Thinker, Humanist". Julius Nyerere: Humanist, Politician, Thinker. Translated by B. G. Petruk. Dar Es Salaam: Mkuki na Nyota. pp. 6–13. 
Molony, Thomas (2014). Nyerere: The Early Years. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell and Brewer. ISBN 978-1847010902. 
Pratt, Cranford (1976). The Critical Phase in Tanzania 1945–1968: Nyerere and the Emergence of a Socialist Strategy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-20824-6. 
Smith, William Edgett (1973). Nyerere of Tanzania. Gollanz. 
Mwakikagile, Godfrey (2006). Life Under Nyerere (second ed.). Dar Es Salaam and Pretoria: New Africa Press. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]