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      Pambazuka News 452: Sp. Issue: How we wish you were here: the legacy of Mwalimu Nyerere

      The authoritative electronic weekly newsletter and platform for social justice in Africa

      Pambazuka News (English edition): ISSN 1753-6839

      CONTENTS: 1. Features

      Help Pambazuka News become independent. Become a supporting subscriber by taking out a paid subscription. Donate $30 a year.

      Highlights from this issue

      How we wish you were here: a tribute to Mwalimu Nyerere - Firoze Manji

      Guest edited by Annar Cassam

      - Nyerere on Nyerere - Annar Cassam
      - El Mussawar interviews President Nyerere - Nawal El Saadawy
      - El País interviews President Nyerere - Ana Camacho
      - President Nyerere on liberation - Annar Cassam
      - Nyerere and the Commonwealth - Chief Emeka Anyaoku with Annar Cassam
      - Nyerere, the Organization of African Unity and liberation - Mohamed Sahnoun

      Guest edited by Chambi Chachage

      - But dear Mwalimu - Neema Ndunguru
      - Racial and religious tolerance in Nyerere’s political thought and practice - Salma Maoulidi
      - Mwalimu Nyerere’s ideas on land - Ng’wanza Kamata
      - Mwalimu Nyerere: The artist - Vicensia Shule
      - Reading history backwards with Mwalimu - Seithy Chachage
      - Reflecting with Nyerere on people-centered leadership - Marjorie Mbilinyi
      - Mwalimu Julius Nyerere: An intellectual in power - Haroub Othman
      - The village in Mwalimu Nyerere's thought - Issa G. Shivji
      - Nyerere’s vision of economic development - Faustin Kamuzora
      - Mwalimu in our popular imagination: The relevance of Nyerere today - Chambi Chachage
      - Mwalimu Nyerere and the challenge of human rights - Helen Kijo-Bisimba and Chris Maina Peter


      How we wish you were here: a tribute to Mwalimu Nyerere

      Firoze Manji

      Pambazuka News


      Ten years ago, on 14 October 1999, a giant died and left a cavern in our consciousness, if not in our conscience. Julius Kambarage Nyerere was a man of extraordinary achievements on a a national, continental and international scale, writes Firoze Manji, in this introduction to a special issue of Pambazuka News.

      Ten years ago, on 14 October 1999, a giant died and left a cavern in our consciousness, if not in our conscience: Julius Kambarage Nyerere, the first president of Tanzania, known to us all as ‘Mwalimu’, a name that, as Nawal El Saadawi points out in this issue of Pambazuka News, immediately brings to mind the other giants of the liberation movement – Nkrumah, Lumumba, Nehru, Tito, Nasser, Cabral and many others.

      Mwalimu’s influence went well beyond the territory that he led to independence. Perhaps a tragedy of all great people is that they are truly recognised for their achievements only after their passing. As Tanzanian people reel under the impact of the concessions subsequent governments have made to the International Finance Institutions, as they suffer the assault of neoliberal policies, it is really only now that many have begun to realise the extraordinary achievements of the Nyerere years. Whatever criticism many of us may have had – and continue to have – about some of his policies during his lifetime, there is no getting away from the transformations that he brought about. One has only to look in neighbouring countries at the scale of theft and pillaging, the failure of the national project, the politicisation of ethnic identity, the open collusion with transnational corporations in the plunder of resources, that characterise neighbouring countries understand what efforts Mwalimu had made to prevent the same happening in Tanzania. one only has to look at the speed with which Tanzania has played catch-up once Mwalimu ended his term as president in 1985, to be reminded how different things were.

      “Kambarage Nyerere,” sings Neema Ndunguru in this issue,
      “How we wish you were here.
      … But dear Mwalimu, why didn’t you tell us, expose and prepare us
      For the turmoil and struggles that have now engulfed us?”

      Nyerere was not simply a player on the national terrain. He was a pan-Africanist and an internationalist – not only in thoughts and writings, but crucially in his praxis. The support and refuge he provided to the liberation movements was unprecedented. His commitment to welcoming and integrating refugees into Tanazania life was extraordinary. And his willingness to speak out loud against injustices across the world, including – and especially – about Palestine – marks him out from the many so-called leaders who have come to be known more for their betrayal than any commitment to political principles. And consider the extraordinary act of solidarity in seeking to break the isolation of Zambia through the building of the TanZam railway – and extraordinary logistical enterprise that was a demonstration of south-south cooperation involving Zambia, Tanzania and China: there can be few comparable ventures in the history of the continent.

      We should not be shy in celebrating his achievements. But at the same time, he would be the first to condemn any attempts to romanticise his period in office. This special issue of Pambazuka News seeks both to celebrate Nyerere as well as to reflect on some of the shortcomings of his policies. Since retiring as president, a whole generation of young people has grown up, many of whom have had little opportunity to read about Mwalimu, to understand why his memory evokes such emotion, and to forge their own views about his contribution.

      Pambazuka News is therefore proud to be publishing this special issue on Nyerere’s legacy. And we are grateful to our guest editors, Chambi Chachage and Annar Cassam, for their efforts in making this happen. They have brought together reflections of Nyerere on Nyerere, and contributions by a wide range of commentators including Salma Maoulidi, Ng'wanza Kamata, Vencesia Shule, Seithy Chachage, Haroub Othman, Issa Shivji and others.

      We plan to publish this collection of articles in a forthcoming book.

      Nyerere on Nyerere

      Annar Cassam


      cc Wikimedia
      Annar Cassam discusses two historic interviews conducted with Mwalimu Nyerere, the first in September 1984 with Nawal El Saadawy of Egypt's El Mussawar, and the second in November 1991 with Ana Camacho of El País in Spain.

      The theme and title, 'Nyerere on Nyerere', suggests itself spontaneously when I read these two interviews, interviews which are not very long and in which Nyerere speaks in clear and concentrated form about some of the profound issues that guided his action. For example, in the 1984 interview with Nawal El Saadawy of Egypt's El Mussawar, he gives a brief record of his 30 years of leadership, of the independence struggle, of nation-building based on the foundations of equality, democracy and socialism, of the liberation struggle and of African and international solidarity.

      Looking back at the historical record of all that has happened since 1984–1985, his achievements in building a peaceful, stable and united Tanzania and his strategies for the liberation struggles of southern Africa speak for themselves.

      A second reason for choosing these two interviews is their timing. The year 1984 was the last year of Mwalimu's presidency; he retired as head of state exactly a year later in November 1985 after the presidential elections in which his successor, Ali Hassan Mwinyi, was elected president.

      The 1991 interview in Madrid with Ana Camacho of El País occurred at a major turning point in post-war world history, a moment symbolised by the collapse of the Soviet Union and its empire and by the subsequent jubilation expressed by the capitalist West. The imploding of the soviet system, caused mainly by its own contradictions, was seized upon by the US and Europe as being a vindication of their own form of capitalism. It was irrefutable proof of the superiority of the West for all time, according to them. Mwalimu, no longer president and having resigned from the chairmanship of CCM in 1990, speaks with insight and foresight about the Soviet collapse and about the ensuing Western victory dance. About the Soviet Union, he says it is not possible to build socialism without freedom and about capitalism, he warns against worshiping a “new god” whose days too are numbered.

      Finally, these two interviewers (both women) demonstrate in their choice of questions serious background knowledge about Mwalimu's career and beliefs in Tanzania and beyond as well as a real understanding of his place in the history of Africa and the world. And both of them refer Mwalimu's comments back to their own countries and show the relevance of his analyses to the political situations in Egypt, the Middle East and in Europe respectively.


      QUOTE: "Our generation was a generation of nationalists struggling for the independence of our own countries – that is what we were there for."

      COMMENT: The interviewer herself places him within the first generation of founding leaders of the Third World and the non-aligned countries such as Nkrumah, Nasser, Nehru and Tito. These were the men who emerged as the European empires crashed all over the globe and a host of freedom-fighters and nation-builders worked to pick up the pieces and re-anchor their separate and varied countries into two new and unifying networks at the OAU (Organization of African Unity) and the NAM (Non-Aligned Movement).

      In Africa, Nyerere, alone of his generation of nationalists, ran the full race and stayed the course; he alone never forgot what he was there for. He alone could say 30 years later, at his moment of choosing, that he had done what had to be done and it was time he and the country moved on. These were three decades during which many of his contemporaries lost their way (Nkrumah and Kenyatta), were assassinated (Limumba and Mboya), or whose health and careers were broken in their own homelands (Nasser and Ben Bella).

      QUOTE: “The plight of the Palestinians is very different and much worse. When we were fighting for our independence, I was in Tanganyika, Kenyatta was in Kenya. But the Palestinians have been deprived of their own country…”

      COMMENT: In the 60 years since the creation of Israel on dispossessed Palestinian land, this basic fact is the one reality that has yet to be faced by the “international community”, including Barack Obama. The idea that a "2-state solution” can be magically fashioned out of the rubble of biblically-inspired colonisation and military occupation is a costly miscalculation based on an erroneous diagnosis of the Palestinian–Israeli tragedy. As Mahatma Gandhi put it in 1938, "A religious act cannot be performed with the aid of the bayonet and the bomb.”

      The Arab countries, however, would be wrong in thinking their separate freedoms (and oil wealth) are secure while their Palestinian brothers and neighbours live in danger of extinction. And this same logic, which Nkrumah pronounced and Nyerere applied to the African liberation struggle, will ensure that even when every Palestinian has been hounded out of every inch of occupied territory, the Middle East will still not attain peace and stability.

      QUOTE: “I believe very strongly in unity. Sometimes, I am accused of supporting unity for its own sake but I believe unity is an instrument of liberation.”

      COMMENT: This is the central pillar of his belief, his view of the world and of his strategy for change. The idea of unity is not sentimentally exclusive, nor merely a political slogan. For Nyerere, it was what he was and what we are, "a part of each other". In this interview, the context is the altercation between himself, on the one hand, and Nasser and Nkrumah, on the other, who both became very “impatient” with the “reactionaries” (who shall remain nameless) at the OAU in those early years. By the same token, he then defended Egypt from being expelled from the OAU (and later from the NAM) when Sadat “went too far” at Camp David in 1979. And in defending Egypt, he was protecting the unity of the OAU because the “oppressed must not give up their unity – only the enemy can rejoice at its loss.”

      Later in this interview, he explains another dimension of the meaning of the unity principle when describing the stages and the reasoning that led to one- party democracy within TANU (Tanganyika African National Union). This development not only brought about democracy and debate to the country, it also brought unity, one of Tanzania's major strengths, for “it allowed the party to articulate the reasonable aspirations of the majority of our people”.

      This almost instinctive drive for unity enabled him to forge the Tanzanian nation and identity out of 127 tribes and different racial and religious affiliations very soon after independence. It was the strategic imperative guiding his initiatives at the OAU and elsewhere on behalf of the liberation struggles of southern and South Africa. It was manifest in his leadership of the FrontLine States and of the different historical, linguistic, political, administrative and economic characteristics of countries such as Zambia, Mozambique, Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, which he later forged into the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

      QUOTE: “It is true I am going. I am not very old, I am 62 but that is not the point. The point is that I have been leading my country since the beginning of the struggle for independence 30 years ago and since the Union with Zanzibar 20 years ago. So I think by now I have done all that I can do to help my country. One could go on but I do not believe that “going on” is the issue. It is much more important to look to the future…”

      COMMENT: Mwalimu's first attempt at retiring at the end of the previous presidential mandate of 1975–80 was not successful and he had to abandon the attempt. In 1980, the country was not ready for it and was shocked to learn of the very idea. Mwalimu realized this and so stayed for another five years, giving plenty of prior notice and reassuring the nation there was no need to fear his departure.

      On the eve of his retirement, in November 1985, he thanked the 3,000 CCM delegates and all citizens at the farewell meeting at the Diamond Jubilee Hall for “having made Tanzania what it is today. Together, we have built a Nation; what more can I say?”


      QUOTE: “Our first recommendation (in the Report of the South Commission) is that if African countries want to develop in freedom, they must first put their own people, their own money and their own resources to maximum use. Another problem is that when our countries talk of external cooperation partnerships, they only think of the North. They never consider the possibility of South–South cooperation, say between Southern Africa and Latin America.”

      COMMENT: In 1995, four years after the above interview, Nyerere and the highly respected Tanzanian permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, Amir Jamal, successfully negotiated with the Swiss authorities the establishment of the South Centre in that city. The main goal of this unique inter-governmental institution was to promote solidarity and cooperation among all the countries of the South and to strengthen their collective presence in the economic and commercial arenas of the UN. As the South Centre's first executive director, Mwalimu chose India's ManMohan Singh, now prime minister of his country.

      If the never-ending, never-completed Doha Development Round concocted by the World Trade Organization, also based in Geneva, has achieved anything, it is surely the opportunity to teach the South some very important lessons about the North–South gap or abyss. Since the Doha exercise began in 2001, the emergent, the developing and the very poor members of the South have seen at first-hand – and under laboratory conditions– the importance of the expert advice and analysis available at their own centre in order to face the Northern bulldozers disguised as “trade talks and development rounds”.

      And today, at this moment of writing, the leading countries of the South – China, India, Brazil, South Africa and Venezuela – have at last got their act together to put into place some of the concrete forms of South–South cooperation that Nyerere talked of years ago.

      QUOTE: "Yes, now we see the birth of a new god, one called capitalism which supposedly has all the answers” and “At present we are living a moment of deception. But the conditions being created on the ground by this euphoria over capitalism gives me reason to believe that, in about 10 years or so, the ideal of socialism will return. And more forcefully than before.”

      COMMENT: It is difficult, this side of the worst crisis since 1929, or this side of the banking binge, to be more precise, to recall the gross, self-congratulatory triumphalism that gripped the mind of so many citizens and leaders when the Soviet Union collapsed and the Berlin Wall was brought down in 1989. Some very bizarre exaggerations were invented to promote the theory that three saints, Reagan, Thatcher and Milton Friedman held up the capitalist sky over all our heads for which we should be eternally grateful. And in any case, there was no alternative…

      Two years later, in 1991, Nyerere tells the Madrid journalist not to get carried away and even more, not to believe that the purpose is General Motors. He then goes on to point out that unregulated bouts of over-indulgence will inevitably lead to severe hangovers in about 10 years or so. And then what some call a mistake, that is, the ideal of a just society, socialism, will be back. And perhaps he is right.

      QUOTE: “I belong to a dying breed, one that resists reneging on its own ideals.”

      COMMENT: This is pure Mwalimu, laughing quietly at himself, using self-deprecating but gentle irony to drive home a very unpopular point in 1991, namely that history never ends, it only repeats itself. And that it is better to stand firm by your beliefs, if you have beliefs, and not to follow the herd and not to deny reality. And that has nothing to do with ideology.


      * This article will be a contributing chapter to a forthcoming Pambazuka Press book entitled 'Nyerere's Legacy', edited by Chambi Chachage and Annar Cassam.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      El Mussawar interviews President Nyerere

      Nawal El Saadawi


      cc Wikimedia
      In an interview with Nawal El Saadawy of Egypt's El Mussawar first published on 19 October 1984, Mwalimu Nyerere discusses Palestine, Tanzania's relations with Libya, and Africa's economic woes.

      Nyerere's name brings to my mind the names of the leaders of the 1960s: Nkrumah, Lumumba, Nehru, Tito, leaders who, with Gamal Abdel Nasser, led the two huge continents of Africa and Asia towards unity within the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organisation of African Unity. Those years were full of hope; then came the seventies to abort these hopes. Now we are in the eighties and Africa is being buffeted more and more by crises as heavy as the waves of the sea in a storm. Now the continent which is rich in natural resources suffers from problems of food supply. Nyerere rules his country, Tanzania, like the captain of a ship, steering his vessel to avoid the deep currents and the whirlpools. In doing so, he has made his country an island of stability while still continuing to be an African leader who has never stopped struggling.

      When you meet him, he is as calm as the waters of Msasani Bay where he lives in Dar es Salaam, and as delicate as a poet. He also writes poetry. He is as simple as a child when he laughs, and as modest as are the truly great. When you sit with him, you yourself feel great; he never seeks to dominate you but gives you all the space in which to be yourself.

      He greatly admired Nasser; they worked together for the liberation of the African continent from colonialism. Many times during the last twenty years he has played an historical role in preventing the division of the OAU.

      Although his country is poor in financial resources, he has consistently refused to accept foreign aid under unacceptable conditions or at the expense of his country's independence. He rejected West German aid and turned it down for the sake of Zanzibar's independence; he sacrificed British aid for the sake of Rhodesia's independence; he continues to resist Reagan for the sake of Namibian and South African independence. And for the sake of his support for the Palestinians, he sacrifices much. During the October 1973 (Arab-Israeli) war, he spoke up against Israel and closed the Israeli embassy in Dar es Salaam. In 1974, he opened the Palestinian embassy whose flag still flies in the capital.

      I sat down beside Julius Nyerere at the hour before sunset on the terrace of his house by the sea, the mango and the papaya trees and tropical flowers around us in profusion. He has lived in his own house in Dar es Salaam for the past twenty years-from soon after independence. Behind me was a blackboard where his children used to write and in the corner was a huge receiver-set through which he can follow debates in Parliament. There were no carpets on the floor; the leather-covered chairs were old. I called him "Mwalimu Nyerere" as his own people do. He is kind-hearted and has a sense of humour. He laughed frequently while commenting on the contradictions of our world. I forgot I was with a head-of-state. The hour-and-half passed by very swiftly. And so I began with my questions.

      NAWAL EL SAADAWY: We have followed closely the support you have constantly given to the Arabs. You never stopped supporting Egypt even though you did not like Camp David. You have also always supported the cause of the Palestinians. How do you see their struggle?

      JULIUS NYERERE: We have never hesitated in our support for the right of the people of Palestine to have their own land. Our generation was a generation of nationalists struggling for the independence of our own countries- that is what we were there for. But the plight of the Palestinians is very different and much worse. When we were fighting for our independence, I was IN Tanzania, Kenyatta was IN Kenya. Even now, the Namibians and the South Africans are in their OWN country. But the Palestinian plight is more terrible and unjust; they have been deprived of their own country, they are a nation without a land of their own. And therefore they deserve the support of Tanzania and the entire world. The world must hear their voice and give them understanding and support.

      As for supporting the Arab world, you must remember that I believe very strongly in unity. Sometimes, I am accused of supporting unity for its own sake but I believe that unity is an instrument of liberation. And the oppressed must not easily give up their unity-only the enemy can rejoice at its loss. One of my major statements on unity was made in Cairo in a speech at Cairo University in 1964. At that time, both Nasser and Nkrumah were getting impatient with the "reactionaries" in our continent but I said we should not have a confrontation with other African countries; they were a part of us and we all had to live with each other.

      Many years later, when some Arab countries tried to have Egypt expelled from the OAU, I defended the unity of the OAU. We can criticize Egypt, I said, but we can never expel an African state from the OAU- where will it end? Similarly, during the Non-Aligned Summit of 1979 in Havana, there was an attempt on the part of some Arab countries to expel Egypt from the Non-Aligned Movement. I was asked to join them but I argued that Egypt was a member of the OAU and as such could not be expelled from the Non-Aligned Movement.

      We will destroy the OAU, and our unity through it, if we begin expelling each other. Egypt is a vital member of the Arab world and of Africa. Sadat went too far in embracing Israel; he was alone because of this; the Arab countries felt betrayed by him. But Africa too lost Egypt-it made a tremendous difference to us, this absence of Egypt. What is the OAU without Egypt? Egypt was a pillar of the OAU, of the Non- Aligned Movement. Earlier this year, President Mubarak came to visit Tanzania, his visit was a success and I believe he is now playing an important role in the Arab world and in Africa.

      NAWAL EL SAADAWY: What about your relations with Libya?

      JULIUS NYERERE: We have never cut our relations with Libya; Gaddafi got entangled in the Uganda war against us without really meaning to. Idi Amin was a good actor and pretended Uganda was a Muslim country; amazingly many other countries were also taken in by him. Uganda is not a Muslim country, it is a Christian country, almost as Christian as Southern Sudan. I tried to explain all this to Gaddafi in 1973 when I met him for the first time in Algiers during the Non-Aligned Summit. He had some very vague ideas then about Tanzania. He thought that during the revolution in Zanazibar (1964), Christians had fought against Muslims. I told him that Zanzibar was 99% Muslim and the Zanzibaris, during their revolution, had got rid of their feudalists just as he had got rid of the feudalists in Tripoli in 1969. I wanted to explain this and so get Gaddafi off that hook. He also felt that Tanzania was a Christian country because I am a Christian. But we are very mixed in Tanzania and we have three times more Muslims here than in Libya. But we are also very secular and we do not believe that politics and religion go together in that sense. During the Uganda war, I never wanted to make a big issue out of Libya's involvement in it. Since then, I have tried to get our friend Gaddafi to understand and I think he now has a greater appreciation of what is happening in this part of the world.

      NAWAL EL SAADAWY: There is no doubt that African unity is now facing another crisis, especially with the signing of the Nkomati non-aggression pact between Mozambique and South Africa. What are your views on this?

      JULIUS NYERERE: Up to 1980, the liberation struggle went extremely well and we achieved the independence of Zimbabwe. We were then very optimistic about Namibia's independence. And in a sense, we had South Africa on the defensive. Now the situation has changed. South Africa is on the attack. It is bad enough that she is on the offensive against her own people inside South Africa and Namibia; but she is also on the attack against the Frontline States, with full American support. The Americans are backing South African aggression against us - they approve of this policy. So the destabilization is succeeding. We do not like what is happening in Mozambique but the South Africans and the Americans are jubilant. We understand why the Frelimo government was forced to reach some agreement with South Africa, but we can no more rejoice at this than could the Arabs over Camp David. The Americans support South Africa and are now saying how wonderful it is that there is an agreement between South Africa and Mozambique! It is a source of humiliation for us but of jubilation for them - this defines their attitude towards us as human beings.

      For Mozambique, thing have got worse since Nkomati, and Angola has learnt its lesson from this- that to let the Cubans leave Angola now would be suicide. So there will be no independence for Namibia because of the American linkage (the Reagan government's link between the departure of Cuban forces from Angola and the settlement of Namibian independence as per UN Resolution 435). South Africa's interest in Angola is to get rid of the MPLA government and install UNITA instead, an ambition shared by the Americans. So we will continue the struggle and we will continue to avoid the division of the Frontline States. We do not want the American-supported offensive to divide us as Camp David divided the Arabs. We believe in unity and so we will remain together.

      NAWAL EL SAADAWY: The economic problems facing Africa and the Third World are getting worse. America leads the countries of the North in hindering all progress in the South. How do you feel about this now?

      JULIUS NYERERE: These problems are enormous and I do not feel optimistic. We are not going to see much movement - or even sympathy - from the North about our problems in the next few years. The arguments for change are there and are well-known but we will not see any change because the Americans(of the Reagan regime) do not want any change. And this suits the other countries of the North. They do not like America's attitude towards their own problems but they are not willing to move ahead without the US and adopt policies for the benefit of the South which the Americans oppose.

      This was clear to me at the North-South Summit in Cancun (Mexico 1981). There, some 22 countries of the North and the South met to see whether we could get the main leaders of the industrialized world to appreciate our problems and so do something about them. Prior to Cancun, there had been two meetings, the Commonwealth Summit at Melbourne (hosted by Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser) and the meeting of the Industrialized Seven at Ottawa (hosted by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau), where some basic ideas had been hammered out.

      At Cancun, it was clear to me that the major leaders of the North, Canada, France, UK, Japan, fully understood the situation and accepted the need for action on the specific problems of global negotiations and an energy affiliate for the World Bank. There was a general consensus on these points but Reagan, alone, opposed us and that was that. It was then also clear to me that the other members of the North were not prepared to move without the US; the Americans have the veto and therefore we will see no movement.

      But I am also pessimistic about the South. Just as the North, so the Third World too is afraid of moving in spite of the fact that we possess so many resources. It is not a question of money either - the Third World has it too. At one time, there was the suggestion of a tri-partite form of cooperation to help the Third World develop through a combination of European technology, Arab money and African raw materials. But we have only ourselves to blame; we lack the will to use our own resources for our own liberation.

      NAWAL EL SAADAWY: It is clear that your concepts of socialism and democracy are your own, based on the belief that socialism can be realized without class conflict and democracy without a multi-party system. Are your ideas still the same or have they changed after 30 years of practical experience?

      JULIUS NYERERE: My political education was of the Western liberal type up to the time of independence and so I believed in the multi-party model. But in the struggle for independence, we organized our independence party extremely well. We then found ourselves in the ridiculous position of behaving as if we had a multi-party system with only one party!

      So we decided, out of necessity, to legalize the fact that we were a single party. Ironically, it was necessary for us to do this in order to introduce some form of democracy into the country because otherwise, our own TANU party would have continued to win all the seats - no other party ever acquired a single member and we were returned unopposed.

      In Parliament too, we behaved as if there was another party in the House but there was no debate there at all because there was no opposition. This was a ridiculous situation so we had to legalize the one-party system and then have opposition inside it in order to have democracy and debate. This has had extremely good results. It has given this country one of its major strengths--unity.

      Of course unity is based on many different things but the unity we have built through the one- party system has been a very strong one because it has also allowed the party to articulate the reasonable aspirations of the majority of our people. Philosophically speaking, I am not a believer in the one-party system exclusively; my own inclination is towards a multi-party system but I do not regard that system to be the only way to democracy. We have tremendous debate and opposition in our party; we are a mass party, not a vanguard party, and we have the whole spectrum of opinions in our party of two million members. This fact has also helped us to contribute to the struggle for liberation - our mass party gave us the unity necessary for this.

      As for socialism, my first contact was with European, mainly British, socialism, not with the socialism of Marx and Lenin. When I started the movement towards independence, we talked of independence, not socialism, about which we had some vague ideas. This was not altogether a bad thing, I believe, because it allowed us to form our own ideas after independence and in the face of the real problems that came to us, rather than through a particular theory. Hence the Arusha Declaration which is a very simple document having two parts: one on socialism and another on self-reliance. It is not a profound theory but a way of dealing with practical problems which arose after independence. For example, soon after independence, we realized that civil servants expected to have the right to earn rent from the houses they had built through receiving government loans. We had to explain that this was wrong and so the Arusha Declaration says that everyone should work for his or her living. This causes a lot of trouble but it is very simple and still very relevant.

      The principle of self-reliance came in response to the fact that, after independence, our members of Parliament began demanding money all the time. This was clearly an impossible demand-we all have to depend on ourselves everywhere-in the regions and the villages. So we decided to formulate the need for self-reliance as a principle. So I have nothing to change here -the need for self-reliance at all levels has never been more vital. What has gone wrong with the Arusha Declaration is that it is not being carried out; it remains relevant and I would not change a comma if I were to re-write it now.


      Listening to President Nyerere, I remembered the speech he gave last week at the All African Women's Conference in Arusha. This speech reflects to a great extent the fundamental ideas rooted in African culture, ideas which have always emphasized dialogue and discussion rather than mere obedience. In this speech, Nyerere also showed the links that exist between the three problems of an unjust international economic system, of poverty and of the exploitation of women. He underlined the fact that every oppressed group in history has obtained its freedom through its own will and efforts. And so the African woman will have to liberate herself through her own struggle, just as the Third World must fight for its own economic emancipation.

      After the Arusha meeting, I returned to Dar es Salaam where I began to hear that Nyerere was planning to resign as President next year and to devote himself to leading the Party, CCM. And so I asked him about this.

      JULIUS NYERERE: It is true I am going. I am not very old; I am 62, but that is not the point. The point is that I have been leading my country since the beginning of the struggle for independence 30 years ago and since the union with Zanzibar 20 years ago. So I think by now I have probably done all that I can do to help my country. One could go on but I do not believe that "going on" is the issue. It is so much more important to look at the future, to begin to look forward to a new leadership to deal with the new problems. I was not even intending to stand as President at the last elections in 1980; so I said publicly then that the 1980-85 term would be final. There is a lot of pressure on me but I believe I have to help Tanzania to look to the future and to get away from the fear of "what happens". I do not like this fear. My enemies and the enemies of Tanzania want me to go because then every thing will stop; the socialism, the unity, the liberation. This is nonsense. I would want to retire if only to prove them wrong! But next year, I believe I should take one step back and remain Chairman of CCM until 1987. I believe a younger person should take over as Head-of-state.


      Nyerere has said elsewhere that a strong party is important because it is in this way that people can take part in achieving social justice and development. We all have the right to this but history shows that it is not enough to have the right; we must also have the power to exercise our rights, the power that comes only through unity and continuous resistance.

      In the plane going back to Cairo, I felt so optimistic. I saw the Nile extending from its source in the heart of Africa to reach Egypt, the African-Arab state. And on the horizon of the eighties I saw our hopes extend, the hope of Egypt returning to her rightful place in the heart of the Arab world - and Africa.


      * Dr Nawal El Saadawy is a writer–feminist–activist, (and a medical doctor-psychiatrist by profession) who has just returned to Egypt after three years in political exile. In 1984, she came to attend the All Africa women's meeting, held in Arusha in preparation for the UN World Conference on Women in Nairobi in 1985. Mwalimu Nyerere officially opened this Arusha meeting and afterwards was interviewed by El Saadawy in Dar es Salaam.
      * This article comprises an interview originally published in the Cairo-based Egyptian weekly magazine El Mussawar on 19 October 1984.
      * Translated from the Arabic by Nawal El Saadawy.
      * This article will be a contributing chapter to a forthcoming Pambazuka Press book entitled 'Nyerere's Legacy', edited by Chambi Chachage and Annar Cassam.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      El País interviews President Nyerere

      Ana Camacho


      cc Wikipedia
      In an interview originally published by El País on 16 November 1991, Ana Camacho questions Mwalimu Nyerere on the implications for the global South of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the role of democracy in Africa's development.

      It has been six years since Julius Nyerere retired from the political scene of his country, Tanzania, which he led for 30 years, starting with the struggle for independence. A rare example in Africa, he retired of his own volition without being forced out by a military coup or a revolution.

      "The Tanzanians began wondering anxiously about what would happen when Mwalimu went", Julius Nyerere explained to us at El País during his visit to Madrid. "In such a case, it was no use saying wait until I die in order to find out!", he joked. "And so I handed the reins to my successors and said, 'let us take the risk together'."

      A graduate of Edinburgh University and translator of Shakespeare into Kiswahili, the national language, he knew how to avoid the risks of tribalism by forging a nation state whose final form culminated in the Union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar in 1964. A devout roman catholic, his dream was ujamaa, a form of socialism which rejects Western concepts of capitalism and Marxism, but has at its core a belief in the importance of the agrarian society (Tanzania, like the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, is overwhelmingly a peasant society) and of family solidarity.

      For the last two years, he has dedicated himself to travelling the globe in order to speak of the conclusions of the Report of the South Commission, which he established in 1987.

      ANA CAMACHO: Do you think that the current developments in Eastern Europe (after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Soviet–Russian domination on that part of Europe) will lead to a reduction in Western aid to the countries of the South?

      JULIUS NYERERE: There is a real feeling that we are going to be forgotten by the so-called First World. We need to have a re-think here and in the South Commission Report we say that the development of our own countries is above all our own responsibility. If the countries of the South want development, they will have to initiate it themselves by making clear political choices.

      Accordingly, our first recommendation is that if African countries want to develop in freedom, they must put their own people, their own money and their own resources to maximum use. Another problem is that when our countries talk of external cooperation partnerships, they only think of the North. They never consider the possibility of South–South cooperation, say between Southern Africa and Latin America. Finally, in order to attract foreign investment to the South, it is first of all vital for the locals themselves to invest in their own countries instead of sending their capital abroad.

      ANA CAMACHO: To what point can democracy be of help in African countries in their quest for development?

      JULIUS NYERERE: Democracy can help to motivate our people when they are asked to tighten their belts so that they do not feel they are doing this for the benefit of the dictator of the day. But one should not confuse the sense of freedom with the issue of basic needs arising from hunger, the lack of schools, the insufficiency of transportation and electricity networks.

      And to believe, with the advent of multiparty politics, that all causes of economic distress will vanish overnight can create a dangerous delusion and lead to military coups d'état.

      ANA CAMACHO: The disorder and chaos facing Eastern Europe appear to have sounded the death-knell of socialism and the triumph of capitalism…

      JULIUS NYERERE: Yes, now we see the birth of a new god, one called capitalism which supposedly has all the answers. But to conclude that socialism has failed because of what has happened in the Soviet Union is equivalent to saying Christianity has failed because 2000 years after Jesus Christ urged us to "turn the other cheek" or to "love your enemy as you love yourself", these recommendations have yet to be complied with.

      Moreover, I have never considered the Soviets to be true socialists, exactly as they too do not believe that I am an authentic socialist. In Tanzania, we said this very clearly in the Arusha Declaration in 1967: there is no socialism without freedom. And of course, when I visited the USSR in 1969, I saw clearly that Soviet citizens were not free.

      ANA CAMACHO: You will no doubt admit that you have yourself not succeeded in fulfilling your own socialist project…

      JULIUS NYERERE: Yes, there have been mistakes, but in application. The idea still remains valid and if I had to start again, I would do the same things. What matters is that socialism be based on one's attitude; it cannot be imposed by force.

      Socialism, as an idea of a just society, cannot die. I know that in these times, one is not supposed to say such things. But I belong to a dying breed which resists reneging on its ideals!

      Some would say that it is no use believing in such things, but does it make more sense to believe in a society based on General Motors? I reject this. At present, we are living a moment of deception. But the conditions being created on the ground by this euphoria over capitalism give me reason to believe that in about 10 years or so, the ideal of socialism will return. And more forcefully than before.


      * This interview was originally published by El País on 16 November 1991.
      * Translated from the Spanish by Annar Cassam.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      President Nyerere on liberation

      Annar Cassam


      "Tanzania must support the struggle for freedom … regardless of the political philosophy of those who are conducting the struggle. If they are capitalists, we must support them; if they are liberals, we must support them; if they are communists, we must support them; if they are socialists, we must support them. We support them as nationalists. The right of a man to stand upright as a human being in his own country comes before questions of the kind of society he will create once he has that right. Freedom is the only thing that matters until it is won."

      President Nyerere, University of Toronto, October 1969

      The totality of his commitment to the freedom of others regardless of their political affiliations and the universality of his belief in the unity of Africa and other oppressed people gave Nyerere considerable strength and confidence. From the very beginning of his career, first as a nationalist for Tanganyika's independence and then as an internationalist leader of a Third World country, he led the newly formed international organisations of the day, the OAU (Organization of African Unity) and the Commonwealth in particular, to find their identity and purpose in action. This is evident in the first-hand testimony provided by two eminent international civil servants, Chief Emeka Anyaoku and Mohamed Sahnoun, who were sent to serve at the OAU and the Commonwealth and who collaborated in the strategy for liberation. This week's Pambazuka News features an interview with Chief Emeka Anyaoku entitled 'Nyerere and the Commonwealth' and a memoir from Mohamed Sahnoun entitled 'Nyerere, the Organization of African Unity and liberation'.


      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Nyerere and the Commonwealth

      Chief Emeka Anyaoku with Annar Cassam


      cc Wikimedia
      In this interview with Annar Cassam on 29 September 2009 in London, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, the former secretary-general of the Commonwealth Secretariat, reflects on Nyerere’s influence on international diplomacy. In “his many interventions and initiatives on behalf of Africa and the Third World in general and on behalf of the liberation struggle of South and Southern Africa in particular,” Anyaoku reflects with Cassam, Nyerere “came into serious conflict with the British government of the day, for the Commonwealth connection did not turn out to be the cosy network they had perhaps once imagined.”

      The sun set over the British empire in the aftermath of the Second World War and simultaneously, with the independence of India in 1948, there was born a new multinational institution, the Commonwealth of Nations. The new Republic of India became its first non white member in 1949, joining the older ex-dominions of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

      Ghana, the first independent country from Africa, joined in 1957 and the decade of the 1960s began with a memorable episode in international diplomacy initiated by Julius Nyerere, the leader of the soon-to-be-independent Tanganyika in 1961. The stage was the annual Commonwealth Heads of State and Government Meeting in London in July 1961. On the eve of this gathering, Nyerere (whose own country’s Uhuru date was already set for December 1961), wrote a letter to the Observer and the Manchester Guardian which seriously rattled the British establishment.

      The letter also and above all shook the South African government for it questioned the presence of a racist regime in an international institution based on the principles of mutual respect and equality among all nations, new and old. How could Africa join an organisation which had as its member a state which applied apartheid and white supremacy as its official policy, asked Nyerere. In a well-argued letter, he explained that his country would definitely not seek membership in such a case and that his example could well be followed by other African, Asian and Caribbean countries soon to gain independence from the U.K.

      The case was unanswerable and Nyerere was seconded by the then Prime Minister of Canada, John Diefenbaker, who took on the task of “persuading” his South African counterpart (Henrik Verwoerd) to resign from the Commonwealth rather than face being expelled from it. The South Africans left the meeting forthwith, Mwalimu remained and six months later in the same year, Tanganyika was welcomed as a full member.

      This event was recalled by the distinguished Nigerian diplomat, Emeka Anyaoku, who spent 34 years at the Commonwealth Secretariat and who became its Secretary-General from 1990 to 2000. As he explained, he had the privilege of observing, aiding and accompanying President Nyerere in his many interventions and initiatives on behalf of Africa and the Third World in general and on behalf of the liberation struggle of South and Southern Africa in particular. In many of these instances, the President came into serious conflict with the British government of the day, for the Commonwealth connection did not turn out to be the cosy network they had perhaps once imagined.

      A most difficult chapter opened in 1965 when Ian Smith, head of the white settlers in control of the British colony of Rhodesia, declared himself and the colony “independent” of British rule under UDI (for Universal Declaration of Independence). The matter was discussed at the Organization of African Unity (OAU) Summit that year and President Nyerere and his colleagues demanded in a Resolution that the British government take responsibility for this illegal act of usurpation on the part of Smith, failing which OAU member states would end diplomatic relations with the U.K.

      Mwalimu argued that the British should follow the example of General De Gaulle who had had to face a similar challenge from some French settlers of Algeria whose attempt to act unilaterally had been rejected forcefully by the General. The Labour Government of Harold Wilson refused to force Smith to return to legality and in December 1965, Tanzania and Ghana ended all diplomatic contacts with the U.K.

      As Chief Anyaoku points out, the matter did not rest there. Mwalimu was consistent in his relentless opposition to racist politics no matter where these were manifest. In this way, he mobilised and inspired many other Commonwealth citizens. One such was the first Secretary General of the Commonwealth, the Canadian Arnold Smith, appointed in 1965. In 1966, at the meeting of the Commonwealth Law Ministers held in London, Arnold Smith solved the dilemma of the break in relations between the U.K. administration and the African states mentioned above in an innovative manner. He invited and encouraged these delegations to come to London because he took the position that the Commonwealth was an international organisation whose activities were not subject to the policies of the host government. He cited the example of the presence of Cuba at the UN in New York. The Law Ministers in question duly attended the meeting at Marlborough House, London.

      In September of the same year, these countries also attended the Heads of State and Government Meeting in London where once more, Nyerere led the charge to get the British to act on Ian Smith in Rhodesia. The African group demanded action in the form of sanctions against Rhodesia but the British Prime Minister proposed mere talks with the rebel regime. As a result, the Africans proposed and the Summit adopted the famous resolution on NIBMAR (No Independence Before Majority African Rule) which embarrassed the British, if not the Rhodesian rebels, in a significant manner.

      By the time of the 1971 Commonwealth Summit held in Singapore, another conflict had arisen between Nyerere and the British government, now led by Prime Minister Edward Heath. The British gave notice of their decision to revive the Simonstown Agreement with South Africa for the sale of British arms to that country. Mwalimu protested that these arms were destined to be used against the black population of South Africa and as such the Agreement was indefensible. The British rejected this argument based on the legalistic position of the duty of states to respect treaty obligations. Matters came to a head at Singapore when Mwalimu, supported by President Kaunda of Zambia and President Obote of Uganda, strongly challenged Prime Minister Heath on the Simonstown Agreement issue. In the end, the British bowed to pressure from Africa and the rest of the Commonwealth but a heavy price was paid at the Summit by Uganda whose President was deposed in a coup d’état while attending the meeting and whose population subsequently suffered for years under the bloody and demented reign of Idi Amin.

      These Summits were not always so confrontational, as Chief Anyaoku points out. Mwalimu was not always on the war-path with the opposition in these meetings! His preferred method was a mixture of intellectual argument and gentle humour as was the case at the 1975 Summit in Jamaica. During the discussion on the liberation struggle in Africa, President Kaunda had given an emotional statement praising the solidarity and concrete help given to the liberation movements by China and the USSR. Whereupon Prime Minister Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore chided him for having “let the cat out of the bag” by revealing an open secret. Mwalimu immediately diffused the situation in a memorable and spontaneous aphorism, namely that “when the mice are out, we must let out the cat!”

      The years 1974-75 brought momentous changes for the liberation struggle in Africa with the collapse of the Salazar regime in Lisbon, the liberation of Mozambique by FRELIMO and the attempted South African invasion of Angola, an attempt that was thwarted by Cuban military assistance to the besieged MPLA government in Luanda. These events destabilised the Cold War boundary-lines in Africa which the West had taken for granted and which the USA especially could not abandon, caught as the Americans were in an ideological time-warp of their own making, in spite of their defeat in Vietnam in 1975. Henry Kissinger's visit to Dar es Salaam in 1977 to meet Nyerere, Chairman of the Frontline States, was a belated exercise in shuffle diplomacy; times had changed and so had the realities on the ground.

      By 1979, the Commonwealth too had changed and into this changed world stepped the next British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher to face a cast of experienced old-timers such as Nyerere, Kaunda, Ian Smith and the Queen, the perennial symbolic Head of the Commonwealth. The organisation's Secretary-General was now the former Attorney General of Guyana, Shridath 'Sonny' Ramphal, and his Deputy was Emeka Anyaoku, the living institutional memory of the organisation.

      The liberation struggle in southern Africa had also been transformed by the formation of the Frontline States, FLS (Tanzania, Zambia, Mozambique, Botswana and Angola) under the chairmanship of President Nyerere. The next chapter in the FLS strategy centered on the liberation of Rhodesia from the illegal grip of Ian Smith who had never been challenged by the British crown and who had by now made the place into a 'republic.' In 1979, under a so-called “internal settlement”, Smith appointed the first black Prime Minster, Bishop Abel Muzorewa and began to negotiate with the new British government for formal recognition.

      At President Kaunda's invitation, the venue of the 1979 Commonwealth Summit was Lusaka and the date was set for August. In May of that year, it became known that Mrs. Thatcher was preparing to recognise the Muzorewa government in spite of the fact that the British had ended formal diplomatic ties with Smith some years previously. In July, the rightwing Prime Minister of New Zealand, Robert Muldoon, came to London to lunch with Mrs. Thatcher, following which he gave a press conference to explain to the media how very concerned he was about the level of safety and security arrangements concerning the Queen during her stay in Lusaka. Within hours, at 6p.m. Buckingham Palace issued a statement to the effect that “it remained the firm intention of Her Majesty to attend the Lusaka Commonwealth Summit”.

      As can be imagined, at Lusaka the African Heads of State argued very forcefully against any links with the Muzorewa regime and for direct talks between the British authorities and the leaders of the liberation movements, such as Joshua Nkomo, Josiah Tongogara and Robert Mugabe. Mrs. Thatcher was isolated and outclassed by ALL her Commonwealth colleagues from around the globe, including New Zealand and Australia.

      Mrs Thatcher and her Cabinet colleagues were completely out-manoeuvred in their last-minute attempts to reverse the situation at Lusaka where the Summit in its entirety passed a resolution which led to the organisation of the Lancaster House Talks, to the temporary return of Rhodesia to colonial status under the British and to the eventual Agreement to prepare for majority rule and independence for Zimbabwe.

      Mwalimu attended his last Commonwealth summit as President of Tanzania in 1985 in the Bahamas and once more had to ensure, together with President Kaunda, that the Organisation's efforts in the direction of South Africa were not diluted by British interests. The Bahamas Summit had decided to send an Eminent Persons Group (the EPG) to South Africa to meet the leadership there to ascertain the seriousness of their declarations regarding political change in that country.

      After the Summit ended and before the EPG set out, the British press announced that the EPG would be led by the British Foreign Secretary, Sir Geoffrey Howe. The reactions from Dar es Salaam and Lusaka were immediate and unequivocal; the two Presidents rejected the very idea of the EPG if led by the British. Chief Emeka Anyaoku flew to meet Mwalimu and subsequently to see President Kaunda to re-assure them that the EPG would be led not by the British but by 2 co-chairmen; General Olesegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and Malcolm Fraser of Australia.

      Finally, former Secretary-General Anyaoku recounts with pride that it was at the Kuala Lumpur Summit of 1989 that the Commonwealth leaders took the initiative of establishing the South Commission and the South Center and invited Mwalimu Nyerere to be the Chairman.

      This was a fitting and lasting tribute to a champion of South-South cooperation and an advocate of the South in global affairs. Throughout his long and creative association with the many international forums he attended, he brilliantly practised what he believed – the common humanity and equality of all. At the Commonwealth, he led by example and so shaped the history of the institution and the very meaning of international solidarity.


      * Chief Emeka Anyaoku is a former secretary-general of the Commonwealth Secretariat.
      * Annar Cassam is a former personal assistant of President Julius Kambarage Nyerere.
      * This article will be a contributing chapter to a forthcoming Pambazuka Press book entitled 'Nyerere's Legacy', edited by Chambi Chachage and Annar Cassam.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Nyerere, the Organization of African Unity and liberation

      Mohamed Sahnoun


      cc Wikipedia
      In this memoir, Ambassador Mohammed Sahnoun, first assistant secretary-general of the then Organization of African Unity (OAU), recalls Mwalimu Nyerere’s historical role in the creation of its Liberation Committee. Nyerere’s “lucidity and his strategic skills”, he reminisces, “were remarkable at all levels, as was his courage, bearing in mind that his own country was newly independent [1961] and that its state institutions were also at their formative stage.” When “conflicts occurred, as they inevitably did at the OAU and in the area of liberation politics, Nyerere, as the mwalimu that he was, used his gifts of analysis and reasoning to reach the right resolutions”. Sahnoun thus affirms, “It was a unique privilege to have worked with such a leader.”

      On May 24 1963, the Addis Ababa Conference of Independent African States met for the first time under the chairmanship of the host, Emperor Haille Selassie of Ethiopia. I attended as a member of the Algerian delegation led by President Ben Bella who, together with other heads of state from that first generation of nationalists such as Presidents Nkrumah, Nasser, Sekou Toure and, of course, Julius Nyerere, adopted the Charter of the Organization of African Unity (OAU).

      This was my first contact with President Nyerere, who, at this same meeting, led his colleagues to create a subsidiary organ of the OAU, the OAU Liberation Committee, which, at his invitation, set up its headquarters in Dar es Salaam. To say that President Nyerere was committed to-and forward looking in-the struggle for liberation in Africa even at that early stage is an understatement.

      The following year, at the Cairo OAU Summit, the heads of state elected Diallo Telli of Guinea to be the first Secretary General of the OAU and myself as one of the 2 Assistant Secretaries-General. My own mandate covered the area of political affairs, with special responsibility for the Liberation Committee. As such, I was a regular visitor for the next ten years to Dar es Salaam, home and rear-base to refugees and liberation movements from all over Africa.

      The Liberation Committee, working under the guidance of a governing board of OAU member states periodically elected by the heads of state and in close collaboration with the government of Tanzania and its designated officials and structures, provided funding, logistic support, training, publicity and so on to all liberation movements officially recognized by the OAU. The Committee also organized their presence and campaigns on the diplomatic front through conferences, visits, press campaigns and radio broadcasts.

      In this way, I was in regular and direct contact with President Nyerere who gave to every issue, no matter how secondary, his complete and consistent attention. His lucidity and his strategic skills were remarkable at all levels, as was his courage, bearing in mind that his own country was newly independent (1961) and that its state institutions were also at their formative stage.

      Furthermore, the international context at that time was one of intense East-West rivalry and relentless Cold War pressure. President Nyerere not only gave refuge and support to diverse liberation movements but also managed to navigate through the choppy seas of big power priorities and conflicts with consummate mastery. In this way, he and other African leaders were able to build a broad front of solidarity and support, material and diplomatic, from Africa, Asia, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Nordic countries and of course, both China and the USSR.

      This long period of collaboration with the President helped me to appreciate, indeed, to deepen my own understanding of his complete and unfailing commitment to unity and solidarity for the benefit of the remaining parts of Africa still under colonial and racist domination. Unity and liberation were the two main tasks the OAU had set itself and President Nyerere served both these principles with his powerful intellectual and political skills.

      For example, the Francophone states of Africa, then grouped within the French-led organization, OCAM, were not too keen initially on the formation of a continent-wide organization such as the OAU. However, the arguments presented by the Tanzanian President were undeniable and these states could not but join the rest of the continent.

      Again, when the question of the seat for the headquarters for the OAU Secretariat came up for discussion, President Nkrumah proposed Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic, on the grounds that Bangui was at the geographical center of the entire African continent. President Nyerere, however, persuaded his colleagues to choose Addis Ababa on the grounds that it was the capital of the continent's oldest independent state.

      As President Nyerere explained many times, it was because of the OAU that Africa as a whole had a presence and a voice in a world dominated by superpowers and former empires, where it could design its own priorities and solutions. The OAU was the only continental organization in the post-colonial Third World; neither Asia nor Latin America had such an institution and this was the reason why Africa had a say in international matters, provided it used its unity as its strength.

      When conflicts occurred, as they inevitably did at the OAU and in the area of liberation politics, Nyerere, as the Mwalimu that he was, used his gifts of analysis and reasoning to reach the right resolutions. For example, the assassination of Eduardo Mondlane, the founder of FRELIMO, caused a serious leadership crisis for the Mozambican struggle. The Angolan freedom fighters also had their problems as did the leaders of SWAPO. Mwalimu was tireless in his efforts in the resolution of these difficulties, making sure that the real objectives were always kept in sight.

      When necessary, he was also fearless in standing his own ground in the face of people like Ian Smith of Rhodesia and his UDI (Unilateral Declaration of Independence). This was an illegal act and the British had the responsibility of bringing Smith to order, declared Nyerere, and if they did not, his country would end diplomatic relations with the UK. When the British did not act, this is exactly what happened in 1965.

      President Nyerere worked closely with President Kaunda of Zambia, also a border state and rear-base to the ANC, MPLA and SWAPO, and these two statesmen, with their evident simplicity, their sense of humour and their sophisticated use of the English language dominated the OAU Summits over the years as their other comrades (Ben Bella, Nkrumah, Nasser) left the stage.

      As the solidarity front strengthened over time, some memorable events took place:

      • President Kaunda's mission to the Nordic countries on behalf of the OAU resulted in the Oslo Conference Against Apartheid in 1972 which was a major meeting of support and made a strong impact on European civic society.

      • At the invitation of the OAU, I accompanied the Deputy Director-General of UNESCO, Mr. Mokhtar M'Bow of Senegal, on his visits to Zambia and Tanzania in 1972 to meet the liberation movements and to see the work and structures of support provided by the host countries. At the end of the visits we had a memorable meeting with President Nyerere. On his return to Paris, M'Bow reported to the Organization's General Conference which adopted his recommendation that the representatives of all liberation movements recognized by the OAU be invited to participate at UNESCO with observer status. This ground-breaking resolution was subsequently adopted by the entire UN system and led to the banning of racist South Africa from international activity and to its pariah status within the international community.

      • In 1973, the Cairo OAU Summit adopted a major resolution proposed by President Nyerere on the question of border conflicts which had started to erupt between the newly independent states trying to live within the borders arbitrarily drawn in colonial times. (There had been serious confrontations between Niger and Dahomey, now Benin, and between Ghana and Ivory Coast). The President argued for-and succeeded in getting adopted-the historic resolution on the inviolability and permanence of borders inherited from the colonial period on the grounds that peace and security issues were more important in independent Africa than trying to re-draw borders.

      • The Afro-Asian Solidarity Conference in Arusha was another land-mark gathering of support for the anti-apartheid and liberation cause from Asia, China and the USSR and the entire soviet bloc. As expected, there was some early friction between the Chinese and USSR delegations, both representing countries very active in their support for the liberation struggle. Once more, Mwalimu, greatly respected by both these powers, was able to resolve the problems and the meeting went ahead, with strong participation from ASEAN.

      My own mandate at the OAU came to an end in 1974, a year that brought an important success for the liberation struggle, the April revolution in Lisbon led by young officers of the Portuguese army. The downfall of the Salazar regime in Lisbon was a consequence of its doomed effort, on behalf of the NATO states, to stem the freedom tide in Southern Africa. The Portuguese soldiers saw the futility of this endeavour and returned home to liberate their own land from 40 years of fascism and begin the process of freeing their African colonies from 500 years of exploitation and severe underdevelopment.

      It is fair to say that from its inception, the OAU and its Liberation Committee in Dar es Salaam were indelibly marked by Nyerere's commitment and leadership, by his realistic and inclusive strategies, his capacity to inspire and galvanise people from very different backgrounds and of course, by his serene confidence, his eloquence and his unfailing good humour.

      It was a unique privilege to have worked with such a leader.


      * Mohamed Sahnoun is a former assistant secretary-general of the Organization of African Unity (OAU, 1964–1974).
      * This article will be a contributing chapter to a forthcoming Pambazuka Press book entitled 'Nyerere's Legacy', edited by Chambi Chachage and Annar Cassam.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      But dear Mwalimu

      Neema Ndunguru


      Kambarage Nyerere,
      How we wish you were here.
      Thank you for your patience and for making us persevere.
      But dear Mwalimu, why didn’t you tell us, expose and prepare us
      For the turmoil and struggles that have now engulfed us?
      Why didn’t we continue to build ourselves, our capacities and our attitudes?
      And recognize the potential that is within us?
      Appreciate the beauty of our land?
      Protect and respect the abundance of our resources?
      Why weren’t we encouraged and persuaded to think beyond our limitations?
      To serve our country and be duly recognized for our efforts?
      We remained suffering as we looked in awe at those outside our borders.
      As though their grass was greener than those of our majestic hills.
      As though their water was fresher than that of our sparkling rivers.
      We invited them in.
      And they saw that which we never saw in ourselves.
      They’ve come to take it. And here we remain. Still…. having peace.
      Kambarage Nyerere,
      Thank you for the peace you promoted in this country.
      A solid foundation of humanity.
      We’ve loved our nation. But we’ve never embraced ourselves.
      So where do we go from here? And how do we change our steps?
      Dear Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere.
      Things may have been a little different if you were here.
      How we wish you were here.
      * Neema Ndunguru currently works for a regional development bank in Tanzania.
      * This article will be a contributing chapter to a forthcoming Pambazuka Press book entitled 'Nyerere's Legacy', edited by Chambi Chachage and Annar Cassam.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Racial and religious tolerance in Nyerere’s political thought and practice

      Salma Maoulidi


      cc M A U
      Salma Maoulidi unpacks Nyerere's legacy in the realm of racial and religious tolerance. “As Nyerere became more exposed to politics and other races,” she observes, “he attained the sophistication of tolerating mutual coexistence where acknowledging the humanity of others in lieu of settling scores informed a more encompassing political strategy.” However, despite all his efforts and those of the liberation struggles, prevailing racial and religious tensions continue to find expression in post-independence Tanzania. Salma concludes that “Tanzania’s inability to overcome the vestiges of racial and religious exclusion exposes the government’s and the ruling party’s inability (or unwillingness) to address racial and religious discrimination that continues to dominate Tanzania’s political culture in a forthright and objective manner.”

      What does racial and religious tolerance signify to a nation like Tanzania? Is it solely the absence of violent conflicts i.e. kisiwa cha amani (‘island/pocket of peace’) as described by the current ‘political speak’; or is it the absence of grievances explained as peaceful coexistence? Specifically, what is the legacy of Mwalimu Nyerere with regards to the question of racial and religious tolerance in the larger political culture of Tanzania?

      The literature revieed for this piece suggests strongly that the question of racial and religious tolerance has been glossed over. The fuzziness with which the matter has been dealt with by successive governments can be summed up as a procrastinator’s escapism promising a sure recipe for latent divisions and sowing politics of hatred. Part of the myopia lies in the narrow scope within which the questions of race and religion are tackled by different writers. Equally problematic is the timidity with which commentators have taken up Mwalimu’s response to religious and racial challenges.

      Building on Nyerere’s performance in this realm I investigate the legacy left by Mwalimu Nyerere to a young nation with respect to confronting racial and religious challenges. How did Mwalimu’s personal values and beliefs influence his political agenda and trajectory? How far did his preoccupation with a racial or religious agenda contribute to fostering national unity and promoting a national agenda?


      Nyerere is credited for the level of racial tolerance reigning in Tanzania not witnessed in other countries in the region (Malambugi; Ssekitooleko; MacDonald; USAID). His politics of moderation and racial harmony ensured that the African majority lived in relative peace and harmony with minorities in the territory. A disposition of racial harmony is, however, deeply rooted in the history/herstory of the vanguard of the independence struggle, the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU). Her rallying motto was 'Uhuru na Umoja' (‘Freedom and Unity’). Rather than encourage racialism, TANU promoted nationalism seeing people foremost as Tanganyikans.

      Yet, at the heart of the liberation struggle in both Tanganyika and Zanzibar was the question of race. Therefore, the integrationist racial politics in TANU did not always find wide support among adherents leading to fissures among the leadership and membership. Zuberi Mtemvu, formerly the TANU Secretary in the Eastern province, for example, did not approve of TANU’s racial politics. On this account he broke away and the formed African National Congress (ANC), a party constituted on a racial platform. Her rallying slogan was ‘Africa for Africans.’ Another prominent party at the time, the United Tanganyika Party (UTP) – dubbed the governor’s party – advocated for a representative system based on multiracialism.

      TANU membership was open to all ethnicities and races and as a party of moderate racial politics, the TANU 1954 constitution stressed peace, equality, and racial harmony, while opposing tribalism, isolationism, and discrimination. TANU members were urged to fight the racialist habits of thought – a colonial heritage. During the 1958 elections TANU presented European as well as Asian candidates in different constituencies: Lady Chesham, a European, represented the Wahehe in the southern constituency of Iringa while Ms. Sophia Mustafa, an Asian, ran for the northern constituency in Arusha.

      This was later followed by Ms. Celia Paes, a Goan from Dar es Salaam, formerly the president of the Tanganyika Council of Women and Barbro Johansson, a European who stood for a seat in Mwanza. Together with three African women, these women formed the cream of Tanganyika’s elected and nominated representative at independence. Their achievements are eclipsed by prominent non African figures in the first cabinet some of whom became close friends of Nyerere like Amir Jamal, Al-Noor Kassam and Derek Bryceson.


      To Nyerere, a self proclaimed African socialist, Socialism and Racialism are incompatible. The basis of socialism is a belief in human equality. Socialism is not for the benefit of black men, nor brown men, nor white men, nor yellow men. The purpose of socialism is the service of man (read humankind), regardless of color, size, shape, skill, ability or anything else.

      The Arusha Declaration of 1967, the then blue print for African socialism (‘Ujamaa’) in Tanzania, does not talk about racial groups or nationalities. It defines as friends those who stand for the interests of the workers and peasants, anywhere in the world. It urges against putting people in pre-arranged categories of race or national origin. Rather, it wants each individual judged according to her or his character and ability similar to Martin Luther King Jr.’s plea for people to be judged by the content of their character.

      Of course, there is an evolution in arriving at this point in both the TANU party and in the mind of its leaders. In his formative political career, Nyerere felt bitter about the favours which the Europeans enjoyed. He wanted to fight against discrimination, for African rights, for equal work and equal salaries. He later described these demands as the 'politics of sheer complaint', politics limited by his worldview at the time (Africa News Online, 1999). As he became more exposed to politics and other races he attained the sophistication of tolerating mutual coexistence where acknowledging the humanity of others in lieu of settling scores informed a more encompassing political strategy.

      Examples cited where Nyerere’s demonstrated the politics of racial moderation include the April 1959 meeting of the Pan-African Freedom Movement of Eastern and Central Africa (PAFMECA) held in Zanzibar where he was instrumental in bringing the Arab and African parties closer together as they struggled with ideological and racial divisions at the height of the independence struggle. Also, during a PAFMECA meeting in Nairobi, Kenya in September 1959, Nyerere diffused racial tensions by declaring that Europeans and Asians were welcome to remain in Africa as equal citizens after independence was achieved.

      Anti-racial politics were prominent not only in the party’s local agenda but also in its international agenda. On 26 June 1959 Julius Nyerere, along with Father Trevor Huddleston, at a meeting in London, launched the Boycott South Africa Movement re-named in 1960 as the Anti-Apartheid Movement. Also, during the Commonwealth Prime Minister’s Conference in London in March 1961 Nyerere joined other African leaders in denouncing the racist policies of the Union of South Africa. He threatened to boycott the body if South Africa remained in the Commonwealth, a threat that persuaded South Africa to withdraw its membership from the body. His anti-apartheid stance would go on to inform the creation of the Frontline States in which Tanzania played a prominent part, an initiative conceived to defeat racism and apartheid by containing it and confronting it both at home and abroad.


      But despite all these efforts, prevailing racial tensions found expression immediately after independence. In Dar es Salaam, rioting, looting, rapings and racial killings ensued as the mutineers took over the capital in 1964. British officers and Non Commissioned Officers (NCOs) were rounded up and expelled. The consequences in Zanzibar during the 1964 Revolution were more dire as ten of thousands of women, men and children were murdered, raped, imprisoned and tortured simply for being ‘the wrong’ race, ethnicity or political adherent.

      It has been easy in Tanzania to turn legitimate and not so legitimate political grievances into racial recriminations. Zanzibar represents a prime example where this has been done and more so in respect to the overthrow of a legitimately elected government by so termed ‘revolutionaries’ in 1964. Nyerere, his government, his party and his peers sought to explain a complex political terrain pertaining in Zanzibar in simplistic racial terms i.e. the overthrow of the minority Arab population by the majority African population aggrieved by the former’s continued political domination. However the problem lay in the electoral system in place which made it hard for a single party to have a clear majority. Consequently, before independence three successive elections saw the African majority in the isles unable to accede to political power because of the electoral system in place which was based not on the popular vote but on seats won similar to the Al Gore and Bush in the 2000 General Elections.

      Particularly, significant is the categorization of races in pre-independence Tanganyika where the key racial groups are presented as African, European and Asian. This would continue after independence where Nyerere too confined racial issues to Africans, Asians and Whites and less so to Arabs and other monitory groups. Such classification is interesting in view of the large Arab population on the Mainland relative to the other two minority groups and is perhaps indicative of the group’s perceived political and economic insignificance compared to the situation pertaining in Zanzibar where they were a visible minority. Mwalimu’s critics like Amani Thani Fairoz and Khatib M. Rajab al-Zinjibari, however, interpret this as his aversion towards Islam personified in the Arab. I will explore this in greater detail in the next part but at this juncture it suffices to point out that Nyerere’s inability to check or condemn the killings that followed the Zanzibar Revolution is perceived as a major failure in upholding his non racial political agenda.

      Racial politics persist in Tanzania and are largely informed by ethnicities and the question of resources and the control and ownership thereof. On the Mainland, in particular, racial politics are primarily directed at the Asian population, the economic moguls. During the nationalization campaign in the late sixties they were the primary targets of state take over of private enterprises and homes: it is estimated that more than 75% of the country's retail trade was controlled by Asians. Some owned factories, department stores and small shops; while others comprised the artisan class of carpenters, plumbers or tradesmen. Few become millionaires from large plantations and financial transaction.

      Asian Tanzanians have not been able to shake off the image of the scrupulous money lender or economic opportunists in the present multi-party dispensation. If anything, Asians today are accused of using their economic clout to exert political influence. The media has perpetrated this image of the un-patriotic Asian during general elections by creating an impression of mass exodus of Asian bodies and capital. Such images are in sharp contrast to the role played by notable Asians in early political life like Rattansy, Karimjee and Mustafa who were revered for their dedication and sacrifice. Thus the present war on corruption is disproportionately blamed on Asians, heightening their vulnerability as a racial group.


      If corruption and greed did not taint Nyerere’s political image, religious matters did. This is in spite of the fact that Nyerere, a Catholic, did not shy from wearing the Swahili skull cap to show his level of comfort with Islam. USAID avers that Nyerere adopted polices designed to minimize ethnic, religious and regional tensions and to foster an overarching sense of national unity. Accordingly, Nyerere was strict on the separation of church and state (See Deo Ssekitooleko). His socialist legacy promoted common secular values of unity, togetherness and social welfare geared at building a unified and uniform nation.

      Ssekitooleko and Malambugi claim that Nyerere did not allow his religious beliefs to influence national policy, something that allowed Tanzania to experienced stability, outlive all forms of sectarianism and become a secular country where religion and ethnicity are private issues. This is a view that is not shared by all Nyerere critics. In fact a growing number of literature paint a conflicting picture of Nyerere’s rhetoric and practice with respect to religious belief, observance and practice as will be appreciated below. It is useful at this juncture to put Nyerere’s association with religion into perspective lest we fall into similar trappings as those who would not fault Nyerere elevating him to super human status.

      One writer reminds us that Nyerere’s sawed-off front teeth indicated his pagan tribal background. His first encounter with major world religions was when he enrolled in school at twelve years old. He would be baptized on December 23, 1943 at the age of twenty, by Father Mathias Koenen in the Roman Catholic Church just before he went off to Makerere. At Makerere he became one of the leaders of the Catholic students, organizing retreats and pilgrimages to the shrines of the Uganda Martyrs. This interest in his faith would grow when he went to Edinburgh University.

      Upon his return from Makerere, Nyerere taught at Saint Mary's School, owned by the Roman Catholic Church in Tabora. Similarly, upon his return from Scotland he would again teach at St. Francis Secondary School, Pugu. This was the first territorial secondary school set up by the Roman Catholic hierarchy for Tanganyika. It was the elite Catholic Secondary School that got the selection of all the best students when they completed middle school.

      Perhaps, and in view of his humble background, Nyerere felt indebted to the Church: After all, it was his friends, in some cases his mentors at the Church, who had raised the money for his scholarship to Makerere and later to Scotland. At a certain point in his life Nyerere considered becoming a priest but was dissuaded by Father Walsh who advised him to continue pursuing his interest in politics. The church and particular the Fabian movement would continue to have a deep impact and role in his political life.

      Even as a politician, Nyerere practiced his Christian faith openly, attending early mass, whenever he could. His passion and interest in Christianity is evident in his scholarship where he is credited with translating some books of the Bible into Kizanaki as well as in Kiswahili. Only MacDonald suggests that Nyerere was paid for translating this work but the account of Father Wille tends to suggest that the nominal sum he got was to compensate him for his job loss at Pugu. Nyerere also translated two catechisms, two explanations of the catechism that the White Fathers had made up in Kikwaya, all the prayers for Mass and all the Scripture Readings for Mass. In 1996 he wrote poetry and spiritual songs inspired by the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the Acts of the Apostles in the Bible.

      It is, therefore, not far fetched to assume that Nyerere’s faith was central to who he is and his politics. Earlier on he is reported to have told Father Wille "I am not a Communist. I believe in God", when accused of belonging to the left. Nor was he fond of members of his cabinet who espoused communism like Abdul-Rahman Babu, Kassim Hanga and their sympathizers. Essentially, his religious values informs his strong stance against discrimination which he likens ‘to eating the flesh of another human being’, a biblical expression.

      In due course, he may have compromised on socialism as a middle way between his religious beliefs and political convictions. An African brand of Socialism expressed in a terminology of creed believes in the equality of men and their right to dignity and respect- that all humans, regardless of their differences, are the purpose and justification for the existence of society, and all human activity in any given society. This philosophy demands that communities everywhere should enjoy and develop themselves within the context of freedom and democracy based upon good governance and social justice, policies that are not in opposition to church doctrine.

      It is significant that Nyerere’s religious allegiances and actions remain hotly contested. Two trends are discernible: literature condemning his actions and practices and defenses against those accusations. In my view, these trends are unhelpful in that they fail to acknowledge the struggle, personal or public, that Nyerere as a political actor went through to reconcile his beliefs with his political convictions. Moreover, they fail to provide an insight on how a public figure who is a member of a certain congregation works from that realization to infuse a more positive engagement with national issues.

      Perhaps part of the dilemma before Nyerere was his perceived support of a religious institution previously associated with maintaining the status quo considering that the churches in Tanganyika, according to al-Zinjibari, rejected TANU, twice in 1958 at Sumbawanga and in 1965 at Mbulu. Instead, they were scheming hand in glove with the British colonial government which groomed Nyerere to be the first president of Tanganyika. In fact just as Nyerere is seen not to distinguish the Arab from Islam, Muslim critics cannot separate his close ties to the Church to the sustained promotion of a Christian agenda in his political and socio-economic policies.

      But Nyerere’s relationship with the Church is not as black and white as some critics would suggest. In fact, Nyerere grappled with the question of a new role for the church amidst a new era of political dispensation. He wanted the church to serve all people- Christians but also non-believers. Likewise, he wanted the church to serve the whole person, mentally, spiritually, and physically and therefore saw an expanded role for the church i.e. in running schools, hospitals, and income generating projects, not just proselytize.

      Certainly, it could not be missed by Nyerere that at one point the Roman Catholic leadership in charge of St. Francis School at Pugu where he was teaching asked him to choose between teaching at their school and his work in politics. It is, therefore, no wonder that in his political life he would challenge the church to remember her responsibility to society calling for the church to recognize the need for a social revolution, and to play a leading role in it (Man and Development, p.98). In this vain Nyerere did not hesitate to nationalize mission schools in an attempt to secularize the institutions in order to expand educational opportunities to non- Christian students. Education would be a key strategy to realize his vision towards a unified nation.


      If religion was off limits during President Nyerere's tenure, it is very much present in his life after his passing. A connection with a religious agenda is very palpable in the writings available on Nyerere by both Muslim and Christian writers. Christian (especially church-based) writers want to associate Nyerere’s Christian values with his particular brand of politics whereas Muslim writers point out to such influence as blinding his worldview and preventing a more rational form of political culture from emerging. Academic writers on the other hand tend to support a move towards closer scrutiny of Nyerere’s policies and deeds, possibly to better appreciate the complexity he represented as a political leader.

      More interesting is the tendency to apply religious imagery or to converse in religious discourse of and about Nyerere. For instance it is telling that in one of the countless obituaries posted after his death Nyerere should be described in the following terms, “Julius Nyerere: Political messiah or false prophet?” This image of Nyerere as saviour produced a counter narrative that seeks to replace Nyerere with a Muslim Messiah in the form of Abdul Wahid Sykes emphasizing a male centric notion of leadership on the one hand and exposing entrenched yet silent religious misgivings on the other.

      Throughout his life Nyerere was known to most Tanzanian’s as Mwalimu (The Teacher). Upon his retirement he was granted the title of Baba wa Taifa (Father of the Nation), a concept of fatherhood probably meant to capture his status as an elder in African society. Nevertheless, it is impossible to miss the connotation the term ‘Father’ has in the Church. Descriptions by veteran journalists like James Mpinga who describes a ritual of Nyerere ‘breaking bread’ with children in his hometown every morning evokes in the minds of non-Christians the preoccupation of the Church in making Nyerere not a national figure but a Christian figure defeating his own dream of creating a unified nation not overly consumed by religious figures or preoccupations. Of course, ongoing efforts to canonize Nyerere confirm the suspicions that Nyerere was not a disinterested party in religious matters.

      Accordingly, numerous publications reviewed zealously credit Nyerere with achievements purportedly forming part of a grand divine plan. Muslims, on their part, oppose the image of Nyerere as the single handed liberator of Tanganyika and question the ambivalent role of missionary educated Tanganyikans in the liberation struggle. Other allegations are less conspicuous. For example, Malambugi alleges that for the sake of religious tolerance, Nyerere helped to formulate articles guaranteeing freedom of religion in Tanzanian constitution.

      Of course the above account differs from that given by al-Zinjibari who observes that the Constitution drafted by the British colonialists, which was unilaterally used by the Tanganyikan Government as the Interim Constitution of Tanzania, did not contain freedom of religion as an independent clause to the detriment of the Islamic State of Zanzibar as pointed out Professor David Westerlund:

      “In such a religiously divided country, the issue of religion was a sensitive one, and in 1965 the situation was no different from 1961 in this respect. In fact, it could be argued further that it was even more sensitive after the revolution in Zanzibar in 1964, when the Arab Sultan was overthrown and the Islamic State of Zanzibar ceased to exist...”(p. 90).

      Church affiliated writers also advance the idea that Nyerere’s efforts to cultivate mutual relationships with and between Christians and Muslims religious leaders ensured religious tolerance in Tanzania since independence. However, authors like Fairoz, al-Zinjibari and Said Mohammed, see Nyerere as a serious bulwark against the flourishing of Islam in Tanzania. Foremost they take issue with close association between Islam and slavery in the persona of the Arab in the country’s political rhetoric and condemn the elevation of the role of the missionary and its institutions in Tanganyika’s liberation.

      Additionally, they accuse Mwalimu for relenting to the churches wishes in decisions detrimental to Muslims in Tanzania. To back their claims they list various incidents where Muslim leaders and institutions have been singled out by Nyerere, seriously compromising Muslim progress in Tanzania. Chief among them is the expulsion of numerous Tanganyikan Muslims from the executive leadership of TANU. Also, the incarceration of Muslims political, religious and community figures at various times in Tanzania’s political history evidenced an uncomfortable relationship between Nyerere and Muslims.

      Nyerere clamped hard on Muslim institutions beginning by banning the All Muslim National Union of Tanzania and later the Muslim Education Union on February 25, 1965, an institution founded to train Muslims who were not allowed into the government primary schools. In 1968 he banned the EAMWS. Whereas political dissent among Muslims was stifled during Nyerere’s reign, the right to free expression of the church – the Catholic Church in particular – was unhindered and constituted a formidable source of critique against government policy e.g. in publications like a Letter to my Superiors (See Sivalon; Mukandala et al.; Anderson)

      Such singling out can, however, be contested as it was not just Muslims who were snubbed by Nyerere. Such a fate also befell some of his close friends like Oscar Kambona and Chief David Kidaha Makwaia, the latter a Roman Catholic. One of the most influential chiefs in East Africa, Chief Makwaia, facilitated the political rise of his long-time college friend Julius Nyerere by winning him British support as well as by securing the allegiance of Sukuma chiefs to TANU. Upon attaining uhuru Nyerere abolished the role of chiefs, and banished Chief Makwaia to the remote Tunduru District of the Southern Province for undisclosed reasons (Awam Amkpa, 2007). Kambona on his part was exile in Britain able to return to Tanzania after Nyerere resigned both the presidency and party headship.

      Nevertheless, an anti-Islam agenda can still be imputed to Nyerere. He is, for instance, quoted in a book Development and Religion in Tanzania by J. P. van Bergen as saying that he established in TANU a department of political education in which he deliberately appointed a Christian minister, Reverend Mushendwa, to head it not because he was a strong politician but because of his Catholic Faith. Also, while Nyerere was well aware of disparities between Muslim and Christians in areas of education, executive appointments and social organizations he did very little to bring about structural transformation such that the disparities not only persist but 40 years after independence continued to be explained as part of the country’s historical legacy.

      Alhaj Aboud Jumbe, among others, the second president of Zanzibar who fell out with Nyerere in 1984 similarly criticizes Nyerere’s religious policies. In his 1994 book The Partner-ship: Tanganyika-Zanzibar Union: 30 Turbulent Year, Jumbe asserts that “Muslim were deliberately under-represented in education” and provides statistics to back up his assertion. He indicates that this “could be a source of future conflict between Muslims and Christians” (p. 120). A United States Agency for International Development (USAID) sponsored Flash Points Study notes that an increasing number of Tanzanians are excluded from mainstream political and economic life, a section of (i.e. Muslims) which perceives its exclusion on the basis of its social and religious identity. Such concerns were also captured at the advent of multiparty politics in 1995 by one M.I. Marisi in a letter to the editor entitled Tusiwatete wanasiasa kwa misingi ya dini (‘Let religion not dictate our affiliation to political leaders’). Surely, the voicing of such concerns indicate continued vestiges of religious divisions even after over two decades of single party dominance propounding a people centered socialist ideology.


      President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, in a speech delivered at Boston University on September 25, 2006 reiterates the dominant position with regards to Mwalimu’s legacy in managing religious diversity in a democratic environment. President Kikwete attributed to the remarkable foresight of Mwalimu Nyerere, specific actions taken to engender tolerance in matters of faith and manage potential cracks to Tanzania mainly through equitable policies, institutional innovations, political messages, and legal constitutional provisions. But sustained objections, raised by diverse voices, put such allegations to question. And as feelings of exclusion intensify and disparities between Muslims and Christians continue unabated, many questions are being asked about this bag puzzle (See al-Zinjibari).

      It is inescapable that race and religion are inextricably linked in the minds of Tanzanians i.e. colonialism as being a Christian vestige and slavery an Islamic vestige; or Tanganyika being a missionary bastion while Zanzibar a Muslim bastion. Certainly, Tanzania’s inability to overcome vestiges of racial and religious exclusion exposes the government and the ruling party’s inability (or unwillingness) to address racial and religious discrimination that continues to dominate Tanzania’s political culture in a forthright and objective manner. Can such reluctance be understood as promoting tolerance? More importantly, the fixation with Muslim vs. Christian in a democratic society begs the question of the status of the other Tanzanians who are neither Muslim nor Christian in this equation. Don’t they also have legitimate grievances premised on their right of belief or non belief?

      Nyerere’s policies may have been conceived to promote national unity but undue preoccupation with conflict suppression in order to compel cooperation across ethnic, religious and racial lines may have stifled genuine coexistence and the positive acknowledgement of difference in Tanzania’s multi racial and multi religious from evolving. Inherent racial and religious tensions became more pronounced since the early 1990s resulting in the sowing of seeds of discord among the people and communities given that, as argued by Chachage, it defends politics of exclusion and inclusion, privileges and denials whereby citizenship, rather than nationalism, patriotism and pan-Africanism became the real stuff.

      Perhaps, then, Tanzania’s current political outlook stifles the possibility of a unified nation, one that accepts difference of race, religion as well as opinion as integral to its political legacy. The challenge for future inter and intra racial and religious relations rests on the nation’s ability to overcome racial and religious suspicion, as well as acknowledging residual institutional and individual biases impeding in the country’s quest to forge a collective future.


      * Salma Maoulidi is an activist and the executive director of the Sahiba Sisters Foundation in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
      * This article will be a contributing chapter to a forthcoming Pambazuka Press book entitled 'Nyerere's Legacy', edited by Chambi Chachage and Annar Cassam.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Africa News Online (1999) “Nyerere: The Early Years”, 8 November 1999

      Africa: Black Resentment for the Asians, Times Magazine, Friday Feb. 24, 1967,9171,899418-1,00.html

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      Alexander MacDonald (1966) Tanzania: Young Nation in a Hurry, Hawthorne Books Inc

      Alistair Boddy-Evans, Julius Kambarage Nyerere Father of Tanzania

      Amani Thani Fairoz (1995) Ukweli ni Huu (kusuta uwongo), Dubai Emirates

      Angolwisye Isakwisa Malambugi, “Julius Kambarage Nyerere1922 to 1999
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      Anne Hope, 2007, “Nyerere Annual Lecture on Life Long Learning”, University of Cape Town 29 August 2007

      Arthur Wille, “Maryknoll and Politics in Tanzania”, available at

      Awam Amkpa (2007) “Chief David Kidaha Makwaia: Tanzanian politician, businessman and head of the Sukuma”, Guardian (UK) Thursday May 31, 2007

      Chambi Seithy Chachage & Chachage Seithy L. Chachage (2003) “Nyerere: Nationalism and Post-Colonial Developmentalism” paper prepared for the 30th Anniversary of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA), Dakar, Senegal, 08-11 December, 2003

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      Majira, “Tusiwatete wanasiasa kwa misingi ya dini”, Aprili 27, 1995

      Mohammed Said (1998) The Life and Times of Abdul Wahid Sykes (1924-1968) the untold story of the Muslim Struggle against British Colonialism in Tanganyika, Minerva press

      Julius K. Nyerere (1967) Freedom and Development, Oxford University Press.

      Julius K. Nyerere (1974) Man and Development, Oxford University Press.

      Rwekaza Mukandala, Saida Yahya-Othman, Samwel Mushi and Laurian Ndumbaro (eds.) (2006) Justice,, Rights and Worship- Religion and Politics in Tanzania, REDET

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      Mwalimu Nyerere’s ideas on land

      Ng’wanza Kamata


      cc K Muurling
      Ng’wanza Kamata critically reflects on Nyerere’s foresight on the land issue. To Nyerere, he notes, “land cannot, under any grounds, be transformed into an item for sale in the market.” That is why he advocated for a leasehold system instead of a freehold one that would create a perpetual class of landlords and tenants. However, he laments, Nyerere’s government did not go one step further to abolish the colonial Land Ordinance’s tenet of vesting land in the control of the state and not the people. As a result bureaucrats “were and are able to evict people from their lands.” Kamata thus recalls Nyerere’s earlier clarion call for the masses to resist a method that enables a few people to claim ownership of what belongs to all – land.

      Mwalimu Nyerere’s thoughts on land can be understood at two levels. The first level is his perception of land which is based on African traditions. The second level is his belief that land is the basis of development but equally, if not checked, the basis of differentiation, inequality and consequently political instability, especially in poor and underdeveloped societies like Tanzania. It is around these two levels of perceptions that we explore and discuss Nyerere’s thoughts on land.


      Nyerere’s views on land begin with his rejection that land is a commodity. As such land cannot, under any grounds, be transformed into an item for sale in the market. A related view is that land cannot be privately owned, i.e. land is and cannot be a private property. The first time his views were articulated comprehensively was, perhaps, in 1958 when he published a pamphlet entitled Mali ya Taifa (National Property), which was a comment on the colonial government proposal for a new legislation regarding land holding. In this pamphlet he discarded any idea which attempted to commodify or privatise land. The basis for his position is his belief that land, like water and air, is the gift of God to his living creation. Humans do not create or add to land, they are born to find it there and die to leave it there.

      All human beings, be they children brought up in poor or rich families, or belonging to sinners or saints, or even those whose parents are either slaves or free men, were born to find land in existence. They can neither add to it or reduce its extent. It is God’s gift, given to all His creation without any discrimination ... (Nyerere 1974: 53).

      Nyerere underscores this point later on in his Ujamaa-The Basis of Socialism. Here he argued that “... we don’t need to take degrees in Economics to know that neither the worker nor the landlord produces land. Land is God’s gift to man-it is always there” (Nyerere 1977: 4).

      One observation can be made about Nyerere’s worldview on land. First, his views are in many ways similar to those of Karl Polanyi on what he calls fictitious commodities. Polanyi differentiates between real and fictitious commodities. For him, a commodity is something that has been produced for sale on a market. By this definition, land, labour and money are fictitious commodities because they were not originally produced to be sold on a market (Polanyi 200: xxv). But Nyerere, unlike Polanyi, misses the point that under certain conditions of production systems both land and labour may be transformed into commodities. The commoditisation of labour, land, and money, Polanyi explains is a result of “the development of a factory system” (Polanyi 2001: 79) which is organised “as part of a process of buying and selling”. He further notes that:

      [L]abor, land, and money had to be transformed into commodities in order to keep production going. They could, of course, not be really transformed into commodities, as actually they were not produced for sale on the market. But the fiction of their being so produced became the organizing principle of society (Polanyi 2001: 79).

      It is important here to note that for labour what is actually transformed into commodity is labour power, not labour; and for land to be transformed into capital, it must first be transformed into commodity. The process that transforms both labour and land into commodities begins, as Karl Marx noted, with the complete separation of the labourer from the means of production. Marx wrote:

      The capitalist system pre-supposes the complete separation of the labourers from all property in the means by which they can realise their labour. As soon as capitalist production is once in its own legs, it not only maintains this separation, but reproduces it on a continually extending scale. The process, therefore, that clears the way for the capitalist system, can be none other than the process which takes away from the labourers the possession of his means of production; a process that transforms, on the one hand, the social means of substance and production into capital, on the other, the immediate producers into wage-labourers (Marx 1974: 668).

      The process Marx is talking about began during a period he refers to as that of primitive accumulation of capital. But under the neoliberal era even money itself becomes a commodity, as Polanyi alludes to. Originally money (M) in possession of a capitalist would be used to buy capital goods (C) and at the end of a cycle of production process the capitalist would have earned more money than originally invested (M1) and hence Marxist formulation of M – C – M1 where M1 is greater than M. Under neoliberalism, because of the shift from economics of production to economics of speculation, money buys money and hence the formulation M – M – M1. This has been part of the gambling (casino capitalism) economies dominating the neo- liberal economic practices.

      On the basis of the foregoing observation, Nyerere is right, that by its nature, land is not a commodity. But this can only be true under certain conditions and systems of production and distribution of wealth in society. It cannot be true in all conditions and systems of production. “Just as labour, by nature, is not a commodity”, writes Issa Shivji, “so land, by nature, is not capital” (Shivji 2006: 8). Under capitalist both land and labour becomes commodity and capital respectively. The conditions upon which land becomes capital include the establishment of “a monopoly of access to land called ownership”, and negotiability (Shivji, ibid).

      There is a point in which Nyerere seems to understand the conditions upon which land may become a commodity. His understanding, however, is a bit ambiguous. It is first considered alien to Africa introduced by the colonialists, and secondly it is a “capitalist attitude ... foreigners introduced – the concept of land as a marketable commodity” (Nyerere 1977: 7). Here Nyerere is completely oblivious of the dialectical connection between colonialism and capitalism. It is correct that the system of land tenure the colonial government wanted to promote was alien to a non-capitalist society, which, as Walter Rodney would say, was following an independent path of development. But obviously the system was not alien to capitalism and its imperial interests in the colonies. It was thus not just an attitude of mind of capitalism, as Nyerere tries to suggest, but a historical outcome of the process which brought into being private property, commodification, and expropriation of the masses within the capitalists countries and overseas.

      For lack of this understanding, Nyerere’s rejection of the idea of land as a commodity was but based on moral appeal. And as Fred Block suggests, such moral appeal suggests that “it is simply wrong to treat nature (land) and human beings (labour) as objects whose price will be determined entirely by the market. Such a concept violates the principles that have governed societies for centuries” (in Polanyi 2001: xxv). The basis of Nyerere’s morality is the African tradition life, which in itself would not prevent capital transforming land into a commodity and a private property.


      Apart from the moral appeal Nyerere had other concerns regarding privatisation of land. This was with respect to what would happen in Tanganyika if land was to be made private property. On this he said:

      [I]f people are given land to use as their property, then they have the right to sell it. It will not be difficult to predict who, in fifty years time, will be the landlords and who the tenants. In a country such as this, where, generally speaking, the African are poor and the foreigners are rich, it is quite possible that, within eighty or a hundred years, if the poor African were allowed to sell his land, all the land in Tanganyika would belong to wealthy immigrants, and the local people would be tenants. But even if there were no rich foreigners in this country, there would emerge rich and clever Tanganyikans. If we allow land to be sold like a robe, within a short period there would only be a few Africans possessing land in Tanganyika and all the others would be tenants (Nyerere 1974: 55).

      Nyerere’s fear of having all land alienated to non-natives was expressed as early as 1955, at the 15th Session of the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations. He said:

      We shall also welcome immigrants who come to our country for the purpose of setting up specific industries or for doing business with us ... But we are opposed to the farmer class of immigrant, which is largely European, and the general class of immigrant, which is largely from Asian ... Vast tracts of land have been alienated to non-Africans. We have never advocated that those non-Africans should be deprived of this land. But we have insisted that the period of ninety-nine-year leases is too long; that in those ninety-nine years the population of the country will have more than trebled itself; and that therefore leases ought, from the very beginning, to have been granted for shorter periods of thirty-three years; and that before being renewed the needs of the indigenous people should be considered first ... (Nyerere 1974: 38).

      There is no doubt that land was being alienated in Tanganyika during that time. One classical example that Nyerere referred to in passing just after his statement above is that of the famous Meru Land Case. The Report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into Land Matters shows that some 2.3 million acres were alienated between 1949 and 1957 (Tanzania 1994: 15). This was done under the powers vested to the Governor who, Under the Land Ordinance of 1923, was “empowered to dispose of land either to a native or a non-native ... In practice, this power was used almost exclusively to alienate land to non-natives” (Tanzania 1994: 13). If this was to continue unchecked, and later on this, according to the proposal, was to be converted into freehold, it was obvious who would be the landlord and who the tenant.

      Nyerere’s opposition to land as a private property was also based on two other considerations. The first is a possibility of social differentiation, class contradictions, conflicts and bloodshed. He was troubled by the very fact that freehold would cause the emergence of “a small group of landlords and a large group of tenants”. This would create “antagonism among peoples” (Nyerere 1974: 56). He drew experiences from other countries where such developments caused violent conflicts. The most recent experience is the Zimbabwe land question and reform process and classical one is the Mau Mau struggles for land in Kenya in the 1950s. On this regard Nyerere is right and his ideas echoes those of Polanyi and others before and after him who believed that commodification of fictitious property would be resisted.

      The second consideration is exploitation. In a society like Tanzania, which he deemed to be classless, and where he envisioned building a socialist based on African Traditions, which was a non-exploitative society, private ownership in land would defeat this goal. In a freehold system he lamented: “We will get a group of people working to fulfil God’s law of earning one’s living through one’s own labour. But there will be another group of idle people who will not be doing any work but will simply be waiting to exploit the energies, and suck the blood of the poor workers. And these bloodsuckers will not even allow the poor workers to earn fair wages for their labour” (Nyerere 1974: 56). This is a class that exploits because it owns land, and in the Arusha Declaration nomenclature this is the class of the makabaila (landlords).

      He also feared that the freehold system would create a parasite class, a class surviving on speculation on land markets. To him these “exploiters will rob the workers of everything they raise from their labours by charging exorbitant land rents, leaving them only what is barely adequate for a hand-to-mouth existence, and for keeping them fit to continue serving the masters” and as a result one “group will therefore reap what it did not plant, and the other group will plant but will not reap anything” (Ibid). The logic behind his opposition to this speculative practice is succinctly captured in the following illustration:
      I could take a few square miles of land, call them ‘mine’ and then go off the moon. All I had to do to gain a living from ‘my’ land was to charge a rent to the people who wanted to use it. If this piece of land was in an urban area I had no need to develop it at all; I could leave it to the fools who were prepared to develop all the other pieces of land surrounding ‘my’ piece, and in doing so automatically to raise the market value of mine. Then I could come down from the moon and demand that these fools pay me through their noses for the high value of ‘my’ land – a value which they themselves had created for me while I was enjoying myself on the moon! (Nyerere 1977: 7)

      The consequences of privatisation or of letting loose private interests on land are indisputable. Ten years after his death land disputes and cases of displacement of masses of people are common in Tanzania. This is a logical consequence of liberalism. One could, however, argue that even under his rule this happened. The case of Basuto and Mulbadaw villages in Hanang districts versus the then National Agricultural and Food Cooperation (NAFCO) attests to what happened. However, the difference is that land under Ujamaa was acquired for what was regarded as ‘state’ farms, and today, it is ‘grabbed’ for private interests, particularly a group known as ‘wawekezaji’ (investors).

      Moreover, what is happening today has its roots in the colonial past. Much as Nyerere was opposed to privatisation, and believed that land should be controlled by the people, he embraced the colonial Land Ordinance of 1923 unchanged. The Ordinance ‘statised’ land in Tanzania, and established the basic principle of land tenure. These were not changed even after the 1999 land laws reforms. It would appear that Nyerere’s major problem with the colonial system was freehold, and not that the ordinance vested land into the state, which was an alien state. He seems to have believed that once freehold is abolished, as it was done in 1962, and leasehold is introduced, and once the state was no longer alien land will remain under the control of the people. On this he was wrong, as government’s bureaucrats replaced the people, and the laws, such as the Land Acquisition Act of 1967, allowed it. This way they were and are able to evict people from their lands.


      What then should be done to prevent privatisation and commoditization of land? In his thoughts Nyerere ascribed a special role to people’s Government, the people themselves, and in the establishment of leasehold instead of freehold.

      Throughout history people have resisted expropriation of their lands and other rights to resources. People have fought wars, and excessive forces have been used to evict the masses from their means of production. This was rampant in colonial Tanganyika. But it was evident that alienation did not go down well with the people as the Meru case exemplified. In 1950s Nyerere was arguing that the Meru land should be returned. He stated:

      But there is one case of already-alienated land where nothing can satisfy my people except the complete return of the land to the people concerned. I mean the Meru land. I realise the delicacy of this matter, and therefore I do not intend to dwell upon it. I only want to emphasize that we are opposed to the purpose and the manner in which this land was alienated, and we hope that it shall be returned to the people concerned (Nyerere 1974: 38).

      In the 1970s Nyerere, as President of Tanzania, was faced with a more or less similar situation. The manner in which the land in Hanang was alienated was brutal and unjust. But his reaction to it was completely different from how he reacted to the Meru case. A witness to the Mulbadaw Village Case had this to say when they went to see Nyerere and other leaders:

      We complained to Government and party Leaders in Babati, Arusha, Dodoma and Dar es Salaam. We were not given any help. We were told “poleni sana”. ... We said we had become like chicken – when the NAFCO farms are harvested we follow behind like chicken and pick up left over wheat. They told us that as the case was in Court we would be helped there. We met His Excellency the President himself. He said he did not want to make any decision as the matter was in Court.

      The judgement for this case was delivered on 3rd December 1984, a year before Nyerere stepped down as president. NAFCO appealed to the High Court and the judgement was delivered in June 1985, eight months after Ali Hassan Mwinyi became president. The land did not go back to the people, and even after NAFCO failed, the land was privatised.

      When the land in Hanang was alienated the people resisted and Nyerere’s government sent the police to evict them by force. Somewhere in his ideas he seems to suggest that people should not be ready to voluntarily accept enslavement. This in our view suggests that people need to – and should – resist. On refusing enslavement Nyerere wrote:

      When a lot of people accept the introduction of a method which will enable a few people to claim ownership of a thing which is actually God’s gift to all His people, they are in actual fact, voluntarily accepting slavery. It is not necessary to be bought in order to be someone’s slave. You can be a slave of whoever is able to rob you of the products of your labour on the pretext that you are using his land … any country which allows this practice by law is accepting voluntary slavery (Nyerere 1974: 56).

      The context of this statement was colonialism and the state was nakedly alien. Thus it was obvious and easy to convince the masses who would be the master and who the slave. But this could happen and might be happening now; of course the state is not nakedly alien. Yet it is headed and run by citizens of a comprador class who might be leading their people and their countries in ‘voluntary’ enslavement. It would appear to us that Nyerere would be surprised if the masses would let this happen. The underlying clarion call on the quotation above is for the masses to resist and fight against this. This is despite the fact that he could withstand the masses resistance himself.

      The other solution to freehold system was to put in place a leasehold system. Nyerere was of the view that this is the only way to refuse to distribute land on a freehold basis as did our forefathers (Nyerere 1974: 56). Leasehold gives land to everybody who needs land. However, those given land do not own it but have a usufruct right to use land under certain conditions stated in the leasehold agreement, which would lay down instructions to be followed by one using and maintaining that land. This system, according to Nyerere, “gives a person three things; sufficient land, security and a way of raising capital”, meaning he has the right to use land as security to raise a loan (Nyerere 1974: 56&57). Land, though, remains a property of the public and a leaseholder will return the land to the public immediately when he stops using it. This way will also “prevent greedy people from accumulating land for themselves without being able to use it” (Nyerere 1974: 57).

      Nyerere however, recognises the right for persons to claim compensation for land, which under certain circumstances, has to be disposed of to the public for other use or users. The basis of this claim is, in his view, the labour invested in clearing and developing a piece of land. He argues that: “when I use my energy and talent to clear a piece of ground for my use it is clear that I am trying to transform this basic gift from God so that it can satisfy a human need” (Nyerere 1974: 53). He elaborates this point further in the following way:
      But it is not really the land itself that belongs to me but only the cleared ground which will remain mine as long as I continue to work it. By clearing that ground I have actually added to its value and have enabled it to be used to satisfy a human need. Whoever then takes this piece of ground must pay me for adding value to it through clearing it by my own labour (Nyerere 1974: 54).

      A more solid view along these lines is that of Vandana Shiva, who dismisses the Western conception of property which respects only capital investment and not the fact that conception of non-western indigenous communities and cultures recognise that investment can also be of labour and nurturance“ (Shiva 2001: 44). Although Nyerere held this view, in practice his government acted to the contrary. Like the colonial state before him, more and more land, especially of the pastoralist communities was alienated. This was based on:

      The misconception that pastoralists wander randomly gives rise to the belief that pastoral claims to particular land are fluid and temporary. This and the supposition that land not grazed at any one time is ‘free’, have resulted in the pastoralists losing a great deal of land without receiving compensation (Lane 1998: 155).

      Finally on the Government. Nyerere hoped that a government of the people would be the custodian of land on behalf of all. We have discussed that. But one point that needs to be emphasised here is that as long as land continue to be controlled by the state (and its bureaucracy) the majority would be robbed of their lands. In no time the consequences Nyerere predicted some fifty-one years ago may happen. It has been suggested in Tanzania, and it is important to reiterate that suggestion, that land especially that which belongs to the people, should be vested in the people and the people who depend on land live in village communities. The body which represents them all is the village assembly, so legally village land should be vested in this organ.


      One of the immediate tasks of the independent government was development. After five years of a development path which heavily relied upon foreign aid/assistance the government realised that it had to rethink and redefine its path to development and the means of achieving that. The attempt to redefine the path and means of development came in 1967 in the form of the Arusha Declaration (AD). The AD placed a lot of emphasis on land and thus agriculture as the way to development, and development defined in terms of meeting the needs of the majority. The AD categorically stated that there are four prerequisite for development which are (i) People; (ii) Land; (iii) Good Policies; and (iv) Good leadership (Nyerere 1977: 29).

      Why did Nyerere put a lot of emphasis on land? The answer rests on two reasons, first his abhorrence of a tendency, after independence, of heavy reliance on money as the basis of development. The AD makes it clear that money was not the basis of development:

      [I]n the past we have chosen the wrong weapon for our struggle, because we chose money as our weapon. We are trying to overcome our economic weakness by using the weapon of the economically strong ... by our thoughts, words and actions it appears as if we have come to the conclusion that without money we cannot bring about the revolution we are aiming at. ... It is as if we have said that ‘money is the basis of development (Nyerere 1977: 18).

      This tendency, however, did not go away completely with the pronouncement of the AD. Tanzania continued to receive even increasing foreign aid after 1967. Mwesiga Baregu (1987: 3) shows that in 1967 Tanzania dependency on foreign aid was nearly 26 percent and it stood at nearly 70 percent in ten years after the AD. This suggests that the “question of aid dependency was never really quite resolved” (Baregu, ibid: 5). The tendency has survived not only the AD but Nyerere himself as the leadership which succeeded him shamelessly parade to foreign countries proudly holding their leaking begging bowls.

      The second reason why land was given a central place is that dependency on money, especially through foreign aid, would endanger the country’s independence. This is because since the country could not raise all the money it required for its development then it had to seek for foreign aid. The reason why this was wrong is because, on the first hand, “independence means self-reliance, that a country cannot really be independent if it depends on other nations for its development” (Nyerere 1977: 23), and on the other hand “even if we could get all that we need, such dependence upon others would endanger our independence and our ability to choose our own political policies” (Ibid, p. 25). There is no doubt about this but to really be able to address this question it was not enough to disqualify the need for foreign aid without addressing and restructuring the dependent economy, a survival of the colonial economy, designed to serve imperial interests. It is partly because of failure to address structural dependency that Tanzania was brought to its knees by the World Bank and the IMF in the 1980s for it was compelled to adopt Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs). The reason was the Government could not survive without foreign aid.

      To avoid the problems related with money, Nyerere saw the route to development being the rural area, land being the basic means towards it. He was convinced that this was possible because Tanzania had good land for producing a variety of crops for food and export, and for grazing cattle, goats and other stocks (Nyerere 1977: 29).

      His conception of development was centred on meeting the needs of the majority and of this food came first. He also believed that apart from food all other needs could be realised if more efforts was placed on food production:
      And because the main aim of development is to get more food, and more money for our other needs, our purpose must be to increase production of these agricultural crops. This is in fact the only road through which we can develop our country – in other words, only by increasing our production of these things can we get more food and more money for every Tanzanian (Nyerere 1977: 29).

      From this there is another point he is introducing, and that is land based production was the basis for capital accumulation. In other words, industrial development and development in other sectors would be based and dependent on the growth of agriculture. This point is further elaborated in the following statement:

      Because the economy of Tanzania depends and will continue to depend on agriculture and animal husbandry, Tanzania can live well without depending on help from outside if they use their land properly. Land is the basis of human life and all Tanzanians should use it as a valuable investment for future development (Nyerere 1977: 33).

      For “future development”, Nyerere meant industrialisation and ‘modernity.’ However, he envisaged some undesirable outcome if ‘national development’ (industrialisation and modernity) would depend on rural areas. This is what he described as “exploitation” of the rural areas by the urban areas. This was based on his analysis that neither industrialisation nor foreign aid could be paid up by people other than those engaged in agriculture, the rural people. He was aware that if Tanzania was to industrialise the capital would come from agriculture, and even if the money was a loan from external sources its repayment would not be made from “urban and industrial development” but from the rural areas (Nyerere 1977: 27). To prevent this he discouraged industrialisation. His argument was that industrialisation should be an outcome of development not the means for development. The reason is the “mistake we are making is to think that development begins with industries. It is a mistake because we do not have the means to establish many modern industries in our country. We do not have the necessary finances or the technical know-how” (Nyerere 1977: 26).


      Nyerere held very strong views against land commoditization and privatisation. This augured well with his vision for building Ujamaa – African Socialism – in Tanzania. Unfortunately though, he did not manage to put in place mechanisms which would prevent what he did not desire from happening. There were many positive reforms on land which he made while in power, but did not manage to transform the major issues whose legacy would have helped in ensuring that land was, and remained, under the control of the people. Out of power Nyerere looked back and reflected. The good thing is that he knew where he went wrong or he did not do enough. In an interview with Ikaweba Bunting in 1998, Nyerere was asked:

      “What were your main mistakes as Tanzanian leader? What should you have done differently?”

      And his response, which concludes our discussion, was:

      There are things that I would have done more firmly or not at all. For example, I would not nationalize the sisal plantations. This was a mistake. I did not realize how difficult it would be for the state to manage agriculture. Agriculture is difficult to socialize. I tried to tell my government that what was traditionally the family's in the village social organization should be left with the family, while what was new could be communalized at the village level. The land issue and family holdings were very sensitive. I saw this intellectually but it was hard to translate it into policy implementation. But I still think that in the end Tanzania will return to the values and basic principles of the Arusha Declaration (Bunting 1999) (emphasis added).


      * Ng’wanza Kamata is a political science lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam and the board chair of the Land Rights Research and Resources Institute (LARRRI/HAKIARDHI).
      * This article will be a contributing chapter to a forthcoming Pambazuka Press book entitled 'Nyerere's Legacy', edited by Chambi Chachage and Annar Cassam.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Bunting, Ikaweba (1999). “The Heart of Africa. Interview with Julius Nyerere on Anti-Colonialism” New Internationalist Magazine, issue 309, January-February 1999
      Baregu, Mwesiga (1987). “The Paradox of the Arusha Declaration”; The African Review; Vol. 14, No. 1 & 2.
      Civil Appeal No. 3 of 1986; National Agriculture and Food Corporation Versus Mulbadaw Village Council and Others.
      Civil Case No. 10 of 1981; Mulbadaw Village Council and Others versus National Agriculture and Food Corporation
      Lane, Charles R. (ed.) (1998). Custodian of the Commons; Earthscan Publications; London.
      Marx, Karl (1981). Capital; Progress Publishers; Moscow.
      Nyerere, Julius, K. (1974). Freedom and Unity; Oxford University Press; Dar es Salaam & Addis Ababa.
      Nyerere, Julius, K. (1977). Ujamaa: Essays on Socialism; Oxford University Press; Dar es Salaam & Nairobi.
      Polanyi, Karl (2001). The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origin of Our Time; Beacon Press, Boston.
      Shiva, Vandana (2001). Protect or Plunder: Understanding Intellectual Property Rights; Zed Books; London and New York.
      Tanzania (1994). Report of The Presidential Commission of Inquiry Into Land Matters; Ministry of Land, Housing and Urban Development and The Scandinavia Institute of African Studies; Tanzania and Uppsala Sweden.
      Shivji, Issa G. (2006). Lawyers in Neoliberalism: Authority’s Professional Supplicants or Society's Amateurish Conscience; Valedictory on the occasion of formal retirement from the University of Dar es Salaam.

      Mwalimu Nyerere: The artist

      Vicensia Shule


      © Zanzibar Heritage
      From the perspective of a fellow artist, Vicensia Shule, Mwalimu Nyerere’s role in the promotion of art and the welfare of artists is reviewed in this article. “Mwalimu”, Vicensia observes, “produced various pieces of theatre works” and “in his mission to decolonized theatre” he translated Shakespeare plays into Kiswahili. She further notes that he was able to link his Ujamaa philosophy with fine arts, as the case of renaming the famous ‘Dimoongo’ Makonde sculpture ‘Ujamaa’ illustrates. However, Vicensia asserts, Mwalimu “was not lucky enough to nurture his fellow politicians especially in his party to appreciate art out of political propaganda.” She thus calls for the re-implementation of Mwalimu’s ideas on art.

      There are many issues in Africa and beyond that Mwalimu Julius Nyerere can be acknowledged for his contribution and participation. They range from social and political issues to international affairs. The aim of this article is not only to show Nyerere’s intellectualism and his artistic skills, but also to demonstrate how he used arts to express his philosophy and ideas. Using his artistic creativity, he managed to produce and identify the potentials of the arts in building an independent nation soon after independence. This article thus discusses Nyerere as an artist and his initiatives to protect art. It also analyses how the shift of ideology from socialism to neoliberalism has affected the arts.

      Historically, both German and the British colonial governments were keen to destroy theatre and other cultural activities because for them they were ‘demonic’ and ‘barbaric’. Germans, for example, neither established a theatre institution nor impressed their aesthetics upon the local population. “Because of ignorance and because for the most part it suited them, they denigrated local performances as ‘uncivilized’ activities” (Lihamba, 2004, p. 236). Mollel (1985) and Lihamba (1985a) explain how the British occupation resulted in the introduction of colonial theatre in Tanganyika in the 1920s. Lihamba (2004) regards the British colonialism as the beginning of “a period of aggressive introduction of Western theatre” which was “facilitated through two major channels; schools and expatriate drama clubs” (pp. 236-237). Western theatre performed in racially segregated schools, used proscenium arch stages, and expensive costumes (Mollel, 1985, p. 23).

      The period between 1945 and 1952 was marked by the aggressive return of colonial theatre after a lull in the years from 1922 to 1940s, when Britain was economically ‘strangled’ as Chachage (1986) elaborates. There was the re-introduction of western theatre performance such as those of William Shakespeare, Bernard Shaw, Gilbert and Sullivan (Lihamba, 2004, p. 237). Although such western performances could not trace any roots in Africa, they were considered to be a ‘universal’ model of theatre, as Mollel (1985) argues. The Little Theatre was established by the British in Dar es Salaam and Arusha in 1947 and 1953 respectively. They were used as a model to show ‘elite’ Africans or ‘black Europeans’ (as Nyerere referred to them) the quality and value of western theatre (Mlama, 1991, p. 100).

      Missionaries and the church had a similar perception on African performing arts. Apart from their moral plays, traditional African theatre was seen as demonic and repugnant. There have been two schools of thought on why colonialists and missionaries were keen to suppress traditional African theatre in favour of western theatre. There were those scholars such as Plastow who believed that missionaries did not fully understand African performing arts and theatre. Theatre, along with other performing arts, was associated with witchcraft and was thus classified as demonic. She argued:

      Traditional performance was often related to indigenous religion, to sexuality and to alcohol-all things which the Church strove to deny the African people. Moreover, traditional African culture must have been extremely frightening to many imperialists. They generally understood neither its language nor its form, and had been so indoctrinated in the ‘savage’ nature of ‘primitive’ Africa that a firelight ngoma may well have been transmuted in their eyes into a pagan ritual of frightening barbarity (1996, p. 45).

      Scholars like Bakari & Materego (2008), Kerr (1995), Mlama (1985) and Nsekela (1984) offered an alternative view. They argued that the banning was not ‘an accident’. Colonialists knew that theatre was a simulacrum of culture and for the Christians, they suppressed African performing arts when “they realised culture held the symbolic key to the religious and moral bases of indigenous societies” (Kerr 1995, p. 18). Nsekela explained in detail how colonial education provided by the missionaries was used to encourage people to accept “human inequality and domination of the weak by the strong” as one of the fundamental elements of being civilized (1984, p. 58). Even the process of putting forward religion before colonial administration had a specific mission. Mlama (1985) argued that “in capitalist systems, the mind of the exploited was turned to accept exploitation” and religious “songs for example, especially those of Christianity, have been extensively used by capitalists to make people accept worldly material poverty in the hope of receiving heavenly spiritual salvation” (p. 9).

      Before the end of the World War II, cultural activities including traditional dances – ngoma were seen as obscene, barbaric and one of the activities which propagated tribalism (Plastow, 1996). Later in 1948, the British colonial government changed its cultural policy to allow and encourage cultural activities including ngoma (Rubin & Diakante, 2001, p. 302). The British provided a list of 20 ngoma which were acceptable (Lange, 1995, p. 46). This could be seen as a difference between the Germans and the British, but in actual fact the point in time when the British government decided to allow certain ngoma was a time when nationalism and liberation movements had begun and the colonial administration was in no position to say otherwise (Askew, 2002, p. 168). This freedom was to satirically “distract them from the mounting opposition to colonial domination in the empire” (Mlama, 1991, p. 58).

      Despite this incursion, it was clear that the colonialists could not manage to wipe out African traditional performing arts (Lihamba, 2004, p. 236). As the colonial government banned various traditional performances due to their ‘barbaric’ nature, certain theatre groups resisted this ‘cultural invasion’ and fought for their cultural freedom whereby beni ngoma was one of them. This developed primarily by taking various elements from the social, political and colonial organizations. The dancers put on the imitation of colonial military costumes. The music performed (brass band) and even the dancing itself (parade), imitated military drill practices. Beni practiced in the form of associations, well-known ones included Marini against Arinoti and Kingi against Scotchi (Askew, 2002, p. 45; Chachage, 2002; Lange, 2002; Edmondson, 2007).

      Surprisingly, colonialists were attracted because they could see that Africans had understood the kind of performances they were supposed to perform. “The imitation of European dress and drills, especially by the African civil servants, teachers and soldiers, was seen as a civilizing process for the local people” (Lihamba, 2004, p. 238). Thus, the notion that ngoma and other traditional performances were ‘barbaric’ was well comprehended within beni. However, Beni, as any other theatrical form, was a result of the oppressive administrative structure between the rulers and the ruled struggling to fit within the created administrative systems. As Ngugi clearly shows, the consequences of any submissive domination is the birth of a culture of resistance (1997, p. 127).

      Later, the colonial government decided to regulate beni because they thought it could bring political consciousness as it contained abusive elements and those which question the legitimacy of colonial administration (Chachage, 1986). For the colonialists, beni became a communist society (Lihamba, 2004, p. 238). Hence the colonial government started to charge tax for each performance so as to discourage people from dancing. As was expected, some members of beni associations were part of the nationalist movement which gave birth to the Tanganyika African National Union –TANU, the party which fought for independence (Lihamba, 1985a, pp. 29-30).

      To mark the attained ‘pseudo’ independence on the eve of 9th December 1961, Mwenge wa Uhuru (Freedom/Uhuru Torch) was placed on the top of Mount Kilimanjaro by Alexander Nyirenda as a symbol of freedom. Here, I wish to argue that, the ritual of placing the torch and the annual Uhuru Torch race (Mbio za Mwenge wa Uhuru) represent Nyerere’s admiration of the performing arts and its role in shaping people’s consciousness towards a common goal.

      The establishment of the Ministry of Culture and Youth could be traced to 1962 President’s Inaugural Address. In this speech, Nyerere outlined the roles of the ministry, including facilitating the process of enabling Tanzanians to regain their cultural pride (Nyerere, 1966, p. 187). In the same speech to the parliament, Nyerere indicated his concern on how colonialism dehumanised African arts. His speech became the blueprint of Tanzania’s ‘cultural policy’ and led to various art reformations. This included the ‘institutionalization’ of National Art Groups (NAGs). The aim of institutionalizing NAGs was to fulfil Nyerere’s quest for the renaissance of Africanness in the arts and culture (Bakari and Materego, 2008).

      The institutionalized groups included the National Ngoma Troupe (1963), National Acrobatic Group (1969) and National Drama Group (1972). These groups were designed to act as a model of performing arts in Tanzania. For example, the National Ngoma Troupe had 30 artists recruited from the various regions in Tanzania, comprising of both musicians and dancers (Lange, 2002, p. 55). It should be noted that the process of building a national culture through theatre groups dates back to the birth of TANU in 1954 when Hiari ya Moyo under Suleiman Mwinamila participated effectively in creating a national theatre (Semzaba, 1983). From the beginning of TANU formation, decolonization movement started and Hiari ya Moyo was forced to put forward nationalism and liberation concepts that is, to fight against colonialism and (cultural) imperialism. Amka Msilale (Wake up, don’t sleep) was their first recorded performance in 1954.

      Amka Msilale (Wake up don’t sleep)
      Msiwe wajinga mu Tanganyika (Don’t be stupid, you are in Tanganyika [territory])
      Tanganyika ni mali yetu (Tanganyika is our property)
      Tukidai tutapewa (If we demand it, we’ll be given)
      (Semzaba, 1983, p. 22)

      The multiplication of NAGs trickled down to the village levels. The process did not only end with the establishment, but also facilitation of their existence which were meant to be the foundation of the national artistic pride. These groups performed in political rallies, state banquets and meetings at all levels. Members of the NAGs were state employees. Since the state subsidized most of the costs and paid for their monthly salaries, the groups were not allowed to charge or receive extra payment for their performances. The focus was on the promotion of national unity and on echoing state’s Ujamaa policies. One of the positive outcomes of such initiatives was to make theatre an active activity at various levels of the society (Mlama, 1985, p.103).

      The union ‘ritual’ between Tanganyika and Zanzibar of 26th April 1964 pictured above, can be referred to as another artistic performance. Nyerere mixed the soil of the two countries in addition to the common approach of signing the treaty that is, the exchange of the Articles of Union. The costumes and the process of mixing the soil symbolised how Nyerere valued and treasured arts and his belief on the content of traditional theatre.

      Mwalimu, as Nyerere commonly known, also produced various pieces of theatre works. It should be noted that, in his mission to decolonize theatre, Mwalimu at various times, translated the so-called famous Shakespeare plays in Kiswahili. According to Rubin and Diakante (2001, p. 301) the translated plays were Julius Caesar as ‘Julius Kaizari’ (1968), Macbeth as ‘Makbeth’ (1968) and The Merchant of Venice as ‘Mabepari wa Venisi’ (1969).

      One of the explanations of why Nyerere translated those works could be that by unfolding what was within the ‘famous’ English based theatre – The Shakespeare’s – he could add value to people’s theatre and ‘regain their pride’. He believed that Kiswahili readers could better understand the content and context of the Shakespeare’s plays and have an opportunity to compare African/Tanzanian and foreign/western theatre in the process of regaining their pride. Secondly, for Mwalimu, it was important to promote Kiswahili as the language of theatre (Rubin and Diakante, 2001, p. 302). Thirdly, perhaps it was a way of proving to the world that what the majority were glorifying as holy literature, a simple person – a proletarian (as he preferred to call himself) could read, understand and even translate. In fact in his 1962 speech to the parliament, Nyerere lamented how the European education dwelled more on teaching people how to dance fox trot, waltz and rock ‘n’ roll. He asserted that this made educated people unable to dance traditional dances such as gombe sugu, the mangala, kiduo or lele mama whereby some have not even heard about them (Nyerere 1966, p. 187).

      Looking at how Mwalimu translated the works, one has to read between the lines so as to get a sense of his inner motive. For example the The Merchant of Venice could literally be translated as Mfanyabiashara (or Wafanyabiashara in plural) wa Venice. The word mabepari (bepari in singular) means capitalist(s). Perhaps after reading the book, he realized that the merchant behaviours could not be differentiated from those of the capitalists. In addition, it might be that he wanted to concisely deliver the point home since, being a self-proclaimed African socialist (Mjamaa), he was anti-capitalist. As noted, he purposely used the plural form of the title as opposed to its singular ‘merchant’. It can also been observed that the years when he translated the works that is, between 1967 and 1969 reflects the promotion of the then dominant ideology – Ujamaa. Perhaps he wanted to emphasise it to people. All these translations and initiatives indicated, arguably, his stance against imperialism and its various manifestations. He saw imperialism as the cause of misconceived African history and arts.

      Mwalimu was also able to link his Ujamaa philosophy with fine arts. The famous Makonde sculpture known as Dimoongo by Robert Yakobo Sangwani was renamed as Ujamaa in the 1960s after The Arusha Declaration of 1967. The sculpture Dimoongo demonstrated a Makonde strength or power. Looking at the way the sculptor had been able to construct one person at the bottom supporting others and how those who have been supported support themselves as group, translated itself to Mwalimu’s idea of Ujamaa (Erick, 2009). It is said that it was Mwalimu who renamed it to Ujamaa after seeing its structure.

      The Tanzanian Coat of Arms as one of the national symbols represents the artistic creativity contained in other symbols such as the flag, national anthem and the Uhuru Torch. It is moulded to embrace the warrior’s shield in the midst of elephant tusks mounted on top of Mount Kilimanjaro. One can also see the man on the left and the woman on the right, standing in balanced postures on the sides of the warrior’s shield with cloves and cotton on their feet respectively. The warrior’s shield has the Uhuru Torch, Tanzanian flag, crossed axe and hoe, spear and water sign. All these symbolises the beneath motto of Uhuru na Umoja (Freedom and Unity) – this is a title of Nyerere’s (1966) book. It is important to notice the demonstrated warrior’s shield which depicts various historical battles for freedom. The man and woman reflect the respect for human equality regardless of gender, colour or any other social aspect.

      As pointed out earlier, the establishment of the Ministry of Culture was the earliest post-independence initiative to fight against cultural imperialism. According to Ngugi:

      Cultural imperialism in the era of neo colonialism can be a dangerous cancer because it can take new, subtle forms. It can hide under cloaks of militant nationalism, calls for dead authenticity, performances of cultural symbolism, and even under native racist self-assertive banners that are often substitute for national self criticism and collective pride in the culture and history of resistance (1997, p. 18).

      As Ngugi explained, it is evidently that Nyerere knew the consequences and magnitude of cultural imperialism and he took measures to overcome it. He believed that a people’s language was an important factor in this struggle. He devised subtle modalities to absorb imperialist influences in theatre. The immediate approach was to provide artists with the theme of their performances i.e. Ujamaa. Since artists looked at Nyerere as a national and international role model, they could easily transform his actions and decisions into theatrical works. The philosophical speeches and arguments which Nyerere preferred to deliver probably were among the ones which influenced the artists.

      The other theatrical landmark was the birth of Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) in 1977. This was the merger of TANU and Afro Shiraz Party (ASP). After the birth of CCM, Hiari ya Moyo made a composition titled Leo Sio Sherehe Tunaanza Chama (Today is not a ceremony, we are inaugurating a party).

      Kufa kwa TANU na Afro (The death of TANU and Afro [ASP])
      Sio kufikiwa kwa Ujamaa kamili (Is not the attainment of Ujamaa)
      Wametimiza yao waliyoyaweza (They have fulfilled what they could)
      CCM lake ni kuendeleza (CCM has the responsibility to take over)
      Kwenye Ujamaa kutufikisha (So as to reach Ujamaa)
      (Semzaba, 1983, p. 26)

      This was the time when we were told chama kimeshika hatamu – party supremacy. Therefore even artistic works especially songs and performances by the NAGs were geared towards party supremacy and the promotion of Ujamaa. Mlama adds, “the ideological intention behind the promotion of these groups [NAGs] resulted to the development of a theatre for propaganda which … is an attempt to domesticate the theatre to serve interest of the ruling ideology” (1991, p. 103).

      Despite all these efforts by Nyerere, there was no defined socialist cultural policy (Mlama , 1985). The 1962 and subsequent speeches were taken as part of the art/cultural policy. The so-called policy was based on the state officials’ statements. It thus was taken for granted that the growth of culture would go hand in hand with the success of Ujamaa:

      This argument ignores the fact that the economic base and the cultural superstructure determine and influence each other and cannot therefore be separated. It also ignores the fact that while the country is waiting for socialist culture to come it is under constant exposure to the influences of capitalist and imperialist culture which is part and parcel of the imperialist struggle against socialism. There is a tendency to think that the war against imperialism is only an economic one, and a failure to realise that imperialism is fighting the war against socialism both economically and culturally (Mlama, 1985, p. 5).

      Unfortunately, the ministry or department which was designed for arts and culture shunted in several places since 1962. By 1995, the ministry or its culture component has been shifted in about 11 ministries and offices (Askew, 2002, p. 186). This movement has been taken to mean lack of seriousness about matters which have to do with culture especially arts (Askew, 2002; Lange, 2002; Lihamba, 1985b; Mlama, 1985). Instead of working on a clear cultural policy which could comply with Ujamaa, the responsible ministry for culture was busy sending groups to perform in party-state meetings and functions. This is partly due to the influence of Ujamaa ideology and party supremacy. Giving several examples Mlama confirmed that this puppet attitude has resulted into the art of parroting (Mlama, 1985, p. 14).

      To protect the party supremacy, Radio Tanzania – Dar es Salaam (RTD) and the National Music Council (BAMUTA) ended up in direct censorship which was done by cultural officers at all levels (Mlama, 1985, pp. 14-15). Mlama noted that “such control betrays a misguided view of the role of art in ideology. Art can be critical and yet contribute positively to ideological development. Parrot art does not contribute to the socialist construction because it does not analyse problems and point out solution” (1985, p. 15).

      Although Mwalimu was an artist, fond of art and a good teacher, he was not lucky enough to nurture his fellow politicians especially in his party to appreciate art out of political propaganda. Nyerere speeches were misinterpreted to mean sending a group of ngoma to the airport or to the national stadium, dancing on the harsh sun, negotiating to show themselves to the guests of ‘honour’ while security officers are busy strangling their movements and tempering with their emotions even before they start to perform. It was on the same time of implementing Nyerere’s ideas when political slogans like kazi si lele mama (‘work is not a dance of lele mama’) which directly abuse arts came up (Mlama, 1985 p.17).

      Mwalimu’s love for the art was not spared by imperialism either. The proposition to re-structure the economy through the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank’s Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) necessitated the downsizing of state expenditures. Apart from other artistic and political challenges of the NAGs, the government could no longer subsidise them by the end of the 1970s. The focus was to repay debts through the withdrawal of budget allocation to social services such as theatre and ‘ploughing’ towards development, modernity and universalism i.e. complying with neoliberal policies.

      Thus it is important to emphasise that the project to build national culture through theatre was dismantled when the state had to downsize its expenditures according to IMF and World Bank neoliberal conditions. “Throughout the country, government-owned institutions were either scrapped, had to curtail their activities or were later privatised. Cultural troupes owned by such organisations ceased to function” (Lihamba, 2004, p. 243). At the end, “liberalisation policies pursued from the early 1980s made theatre a commodity for sale like any other” (Rubin and Diakante, 2001, p. 304).

      The state dissolved NAGs and instead, formed a National Art institute in 1980. This institute was situated in Ilala Sharif-Shamba in Dar es Salaam, in the current National Art Council (BASATA) premises. In 1981, the institute was transformed and shifted to Bagamoyo and became Bagamoyo College of Arts (BCA) and currently it is known as the Institute of Arts and Culture, Bagamoyo or TaSUBa (Makoye, 1998, p. 95).

      To ensure sustainability of art, Nyerere created opportunities for artists to produce and survive on their own. Despite the fact that there was no clear policy, in his speeches which were mostly translated as policy directives one could sense his idea, creativity and passion for art. He established Nyumba ya Sanaa in 1974, positioning it in the middle of Dar es Salaam. He believed that if it could be efficiently utilized, it would reduce the artists’ begging syndrome to donors and the state, which enslaves them. It is surprising to note that even Nyumba ya Sanaa has been one of the places the state want to privatise while at the same time struggling to secure funds to build other places of the same nature in Bagamoyo (Naluyaga, 2009).

      The ‘Zanzibar Declaration’ of 1991, which replaced the Arusha Declaration (1967), could be regarded as the ‘marketisation of arts’ like any other product (Rubin and Diakante, 2001). Artists, who are supposed to compete in this market, were not well equipped to cope with the changes in terms of competition and producing quality works. Art education could be one of the state’s supports to assist them. The 1997 Cultural Policy’s clauses 2.1.2 (p. 4) and 6.2.5 (p. 19) stated the necessity of introducing arts (music, fine art, sculpture and the performing arts) as examinable subjects in both primary and secondary schools. It was not until 2008, when the government implemented such provision.

      Although the outcomes are yet to be realised, a number of challenges could be identified. Students are being oriented in the English language which prevents them from understanding arts as a simulacrum of their culture which is mainly reflected in the Kiswahili language. Insufficient teachers, teaching and learning materials are some of the other challenges (Mmasy, 2009). One might question what was the responsible ministry getting prepared for?

      While artistic works, like in any other sector are expected to be market-driven, piracy has remained a major setback for the artists and the national economy. Perhaps, if Tanzania could strengthen tax collection and protection of artistic works, this could have contributed to the national economy. Borrowing the Nigerian example, the video industry is the third contributor to GDP preceded by oil and telecommunications industries (Palmberg, 2008). This implies that, if Mwalimu’s ideas could be well implemented, there would be no need for artists to wait for the mercy of donors or depend on state. Instead, artists could support themselves and the collected taxes could contribute to other developmental projects. Thus Mwalimu’s ideas could cope with the challenges brought about by the market-driven forces.


      * Vicensia Shule is a performing artist and an assistant lecturer at the Department of Fine and Performing Arts, University of Dar es Salaam.
      * This article will be a contributing chapter to a forthcoming Pambazuka Press book entitled 'Nyerere's Legacy', edited by Chambi Chachage and Annar Cassam.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

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      Lihamba, A. (1985b). The Performing Arts and Development. Utafiti Vol. 7 (1) , 30-39.
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      Mlama, P. O. (1985). Tanzania's Cultural Policy and Its Implications for the Contribution of the Arts to Socialist Development. Utafiti Vol. 7 (1) , 9-19.
      Mmasy, G. (2009). Setbacks on Implementing New Theatre Art Syllabus. Retrieved September 16, 2009, from
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      Plastow, J. (1996). African Theatre and Politics. The Evolution of Theatre in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. A Comperative Study. Amsterdam: Rodopi.
      Rubin, D., & Diakante, O. N. (Eds.). (2001). The World Encyclopaedia of Contemporary Theatre: Africa. London: Routledge.
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      Wizara ya Elimu na Utamaduni. (1997). Sera ya Utamaduni. Dar es Salaam.

      Reading history backwards with Mwalimu

      Seithy Chachage


      cc W Warby
      Whenever Mwalimu Nyerere felt he did not understand something, Seithy Chachage writes in this week's Pambazuka News, he sought to "read history backwards". Experience has continually shown us that it is not poverty per se which is the real problem of the world, but rather "the division of mankind into rich and poor", a division which allows a small minority to persistently dominate all others. If attempts at poverty eradication are not to simply replicate seemingly timeless inequalities, Nyerere stressed, social and political development must go hand in hand with economic growth, or indeed even before. What are needed, Chachage concludes, are "historical forms of knowledge" to encourage Africans to intervene in response to their marginalisation and to break from a "life devoid of all forms of arbitrariness—whether class, gender, race [or] communal exclusivity".

      Looking back on the events of the 1960s in the early 1970s, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere at some point said in an interview that he usually looked back on earlier events in the light of what he had learned recently: “If there is something I don’t understand,” he told the interviewer, “I begin to read history backwards.”(Smith 1973: 191) Mwalimu Nyerere understood that history can tell us something about the present; that people learn from the past.

      Mwalimu Nyerere was a teacher of biology and history at St Mary’s College in Tabora after completing his studies at Makerere in 1945, with a diploma in education. By this time, he had already acquainted himself with some philosophical works that sharpened ideas and thinking in general. He had already read even the essays of the British economist-philosopher, “John Stuart Mill, on representative government and on the subjugation of women” which had a great influence on him (ibid 47).[1] At Edinburgh University where he graduated in 1952, Mwalimu Nyerere had studied history, economics and philosophy.

      Therefore, Mwalimu Nyerere understood very well that “although the past does not change the present does; each generation asks questions of the past, and finds new areas of sympathy as it relives different aspects of the past" (Hill 1978: 15). It was within the spirit which was succinctly summarized by Michael Banton (1977: 3): “…people interpret their own time in the light of their beliefs about the past, and if they misunderstand the past they cannot properly understand the present. In human affairs there is a continuous interrelation between the present and the past….”


      If history is important, the basic questions that befuddles one when examining the present are: How do we stand in regard to the past? What are the relations between the past, present and future? What have we actually learnt from the past experience of attempts to build a free and egalitarian society, which is self-reliant? Does the past still stand as a model for the present and the future?

      Is there anything like wisdom that was represented by Mwalimu Nyerere, which can be considered to be part of a collective memory of how things were and should be done and therefore ought to be done? In sum what have we learnt from the past in the course of adopting the neo-liberal policies since late 1980s apart from feeling proud or celebrating some arbitrary choice of landmarks such as “unity and togetherness” or what we consider to be the “good” heritage left by the Father of the Nation?

      Obviously, although the present is an offshoot of the past, it stands quite far apart from it. It was the problems of development and equity that preoccupied Nyerere throughout his life. The recognition that the country’s majority were rural dwellers made him concentrate on rural development – a term almost unheard of in contemporary political and economic discourse. As a leader, he had respect for Spartan living that took frugality seriously and consciously because he stood for the defence of the poor and the marginalized.

      In his thinking then, corruption was one of the biggest dangers at the top. He considered it to be “the silent scramble for Africa. Make yourself rich as quickly as possible!” This was not desirable: “But the big scramble for personal wealth in Africa is not going to help. There is not enough wealth on this continent. It will all be at the top, and the people will be left with nothing.” (Smith op cit: 22)

      The 1960s and early 1970s were years of high enthusiasm, optimism, hopes and dreams of a bright future society devoid of all forms of arbitrariness, domination, exploitation, oppression, etc; unlike in the contemporary times when we are invited, day in day out, to celebrate the present as the best of all possible worlds. Many of the concepts, in circulation then, which expressed the relations of inequality between the Mammonites[2] and Lazaruses[3] of this world and rebellions against such relations, are no longer chic in contemporary times. Most of us shirk from using them for fear of being labelled politically incorrect or at worst, mavericks and old-fashioned or dinosaurs.[4] In those times, statements such as the following, made by Mwalimu Julius Nyerere to the Maryknoll Sisters in New York on 10th October 1970, were simple and straightforward:

      Poverty is not the real problem of the modern world. For we have the knowledge and resources which would enable us to overcome poverty. The real problem—the thing which creates misery, wars and hatred among men—is the division of mankind into rich and poor.

      We can see this division at two levels. Within nation states there are a few individuals who have great wealth and whose wealth gives them great power; but the vast majority of the people suffer every degree of poverty and deprivation….

      And looking at the world as a collection of nation states, we see the same pattern repeated. There are a few wealthy nations which dominate the whole world economically, and therefore politically; and a mass of smaller and poor nations whose destiny, it appears, is to be dominated. (Nyerere 1974: 82)

      Such erudition and elucidation! Contemporary ‘conceptualisation’ of poverty, its history, causes and remedies, is done imprudently, lacking organic links with the accumulated knowledge and experiences of our societies. People from Iringa have an adage which goes: “Ikitele ikilovela sa kisunga kikavaandikilwa’’ – “An old pot may be used again to keep milk.” This ancient wisdom has been completely buried today!

      The people’s enemies then were conceptualised in terms of poverty, disease and ignorance, resulting from historically evolved forms of inequalities, domination and exploitation. Then it was understood that the poor were poor because they were exploited, powerless, dominated, persecuted and marginalized, while the rich were rich because they lived off the sweat of others! That is, human constructed social economic relations induced poverty for majority of the people, while enriching a few.

      In practice during that period, the assault on poverty was premised on the belief of possibilities of poverty eradication.[5] It was believed that democracy as a form of practice was more or less linked to the whole question of poverty eradication and access and control of productive resources that enable people’s self-reproduction socially as well as to ensure more equal and equitable social development, rather than simply the existence of a multiparty system and their competition for manning state power.

      In those years, the contemporary mythology of what has become trendy now – globalization, was explained in terms of a world system of capitalist relations, which had become more interlinked than ever before as a result of the communication and technological revolutions. But for Mwalimu Nyerere and those who stood for emancipation modes of politics nationally and continentally, this was resulting into an intensification of the exploitative relations; and, rather than the emergence of one world the process was resulting into the fragmentation of the world nationally and internationally between the poor and the rich – the former being the majority and the latter the minority. In his words:

      The world is one in technological terms. Men have looked down on the Earth and seen its unity. In jet planes I can travel from Tanzania to New York in a matter of hours. Radio waves enable us to talk to each other – either in love or abuse – without more than a few seconds elapsing between our speech and the hearing of it. Goods are made which include materials and skills from all over the world – and are then put in sale thousands of miles from their place of manufacture.

      Yet at the same time as interdependence of man is increased through advance of technology, the divisions between men also increase at an ever increasing rate…So the world is not one. Its people are more divided now, and also more conscious of their divisions, than they have ever been. They are divided between those who are satiated and those whoa re hungry. They are divided between those with power and those without power. They are divided between those who dominate and those who are dominated; between those who exploit and those who are exploited... (Nyerere op cit 86-7)

      For him, “Free enterprise” between dwarfs and giants was considered to be an illusion. “Injustice and peace are in the long run incompatible; stability in a changing world must mean ordered change towards justice, not mechanical respect for the status quo.” (ibid: 84) In 1977, he was to explain to the Press in Atlanta (USA) that, what was needed to overcome poverty was “a system of trade which does not have a built-in mechanism, which transfers wealth from the poor to the rich. This is what happens now. At present, there is a built-in mechanism which transfers wealth from the poor to the rich. We want this changed.” (Nyerere 1978: 56)

      Rather than “governance” (that is to govern or rule and not to lead), as it is fashionable now, in those times, the prerequisite for development was people, land, good policies and good leadership (Nyerere 1968 op cit: 243). Mwalimu Nyerere told the Maryknoll Sisters that development had to be accompanied by equitable distribution of wealth. It was not “simply an increase in the national income figures of the poor countries, nor listing of the huge increases in the production of this or that industry,” new roads, factories, farms etc – which were quite essential: these were not enough in themselves.

      The economic growth must be of such a kind, and so organized, that it benefits the nations and the peoples who are now suffering from poverty. This means that social and political development must go alongside economic development – or even precede it. For unless society is so organized that the people control their own economies and their own economic activity, then economic growth will result into increased injustice because it will lead to inequality both nationally and internationally...Political independence is meaningless if a nation does not control the means by which its citizens can earn their living. (ibid: 88)

      For Mwalimu Nyerere, societies were supposed to be organized in such a way that they served “social justice in what has been called the ‘revolution of rising expectations.’”

      In the pre-liberalization years, the government used to commit its resources in the service of ordinary working people. In practice, the government used to collect tax for purposes of public provision of social and developmental services in a bid to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor and fight against poverty, disease and ignorance. Thus, by 1982, there were schools in virtually all villages in the country and all children were going to school through universal primary education program – whether poor or rich on public financing.

      More significant was the fact that more than 95 percent of adults could read and write due to literacy campaigns that had been conducted over the years. Even medical services were being provided through public financing. There were no landless rural dwellers either, so to speak of. These were not “free services” as it is purported by the ideologues of the current dispensation who champion the virtues of private provisioning of such services: these were paid for collectively through taxation. It is such policies that were the really foundation of Tanzania’s unity, peace and togetherness.

      The post-independence government took over the provision of education, health and other social and economic services. The post-independence state became the sphere of moral “universalism”; with a development model whose tendency was towards economic development and social welfare policies. It was money from taxation that paid for the services – social and developmental. It was the poor who were being protected and not the rich and the powerful (the ‘investors’) as it is contemporarily done.

      As Mwalimu Nyerere pointed out to the Press in Atlanta (USA) again in 1977, “You can’t end poverty through charity. Within a single nation, you don’t end poverty through charity. You get people to work, you allow them to work, you get jobs for them, you get them trained and they work…. You tax people…” he illustrated. “Even in this country where I think the gap between the rich and the poor is very large,” he further observed “you still tax the rich more in order that you may get money…. But I’m saying the theory is accepted, that the rich are taxed in order that you may try to reduce the gap between the poor and the rich. They are taxed. They are not asked to pay voluntarily.” (Nyerere 1978 op cit: 55-6)

      Within the attempts to build an egalitarian society, Mwalimu Nyerere then championed the position that Tanzania’s identity was Africa. In the early 1970s, when asked about what sort of a country he expected Tanzania to be in 20 years time, he answered: “I hope there won’t be a Tanzania. If there is not an Africa, then at least I hope there will be an East Africa. But if we have failed to use African nationalism; if we have failed to take another step toward Pan-Africanism during that period; we should at least have a Tanzania that is committed to Pan-Africanism itself.” He summed up: “And by that time we should have a society of which the people are very proud; we should really have built a classless society. So, if there should still be a Tanzania twenty years from now, I hope it will be a classless society very committed to an African goal.” (Smith op cit: 202-3)

      Such a simple clarity is almost lacking contemporarily! In current times, a new mode of logic is hammered into our heads: “Mtaji wa maskini nguvu zake mwenyewe” (the poor person’s capital is his/her own efforts or, put in other words, the poor are poor because they are work-shy, and thus a problem for the rest of the society, since they cannot budget, save and invest). In other words, the problem with the poor is, they have low intelligence and will always be with us: thus the talk about poverty alleviation instead of eradication, as it was understood then. The underlying assumption is that there are individualist solutions to problem of poverty, couched in terms of competence, rational calculations and efficiency, within which there are winners and losers – nationally, regionally or internationally.

      Within this context, dazzling statistics about the “progress of the country”, given the unravelled investment rates – foreign and local – in commerce, trading, import and export trade, mining, tourism, fishery, natural resources, etc. are eloquently quoted to discredit some of the past experiences that sought to promote egalitarian social relations. In sum, economic growth has taken precedence over everything else, the degeneration of the population and the misery of the working people, as a result of exploitation, slave wages, exploitative terms of trade of rural produce, alienation of land, expropriation of natural and mineral resources, which have increased over the years notwithstanding.

      It is claimed that it is economics and not politics, which determine everything else in the contemporary world, since the “Cold War” is over, and the world has become one. Thus even Pan-Africanism is dead: fellow Africans from other countries are considered foreigners or some of those who have been living in the country for many years are declared non-citizens!

      Today, we are involved in the celebration of the present, an era in which production is no longer the determining aspect of social life, but the markets and stock exchanges. It is an era when it is said it is possible for the state to withdraw from social provisioning since the market can fill the vacuum created by its withdrawal. To the extent that markets can create conditions for development and human welfare, the state in its current form can only confine itself to management of law and order.

      In this regard, it no longer requires social policies for purposes of legitimating itself, as it was previously. Rather than the state playing statistics, it is now the upper class doing so, while the middle class play the stock market and the lower classes await for fortunes from bingo and beauty contests: the best person wins!

      These aspects of the past are worth an examination in their own right. What we require urgently are historical forms of knowledge, which can arm Tanzanians and Africans in general to intervene in the present circumstances which are marginalizing the majority of the people on an ever increasing scale. We are living in a period marked by the failure of most of us to think or even conceptualize about the historical possibilities of social transformations in terms of how to achieve/reach a stage of society where a man or a woman’s humanity is not contested. The human desire to live a life devoid of all forms of arbitrariness—whether class, gender, race, communal exclusivity, etc., is no longer problematized and it is taken for granted. Many of us have given up all struggles for search of alternative policy solutions and truths, which would lead to a construction of humane communities.


      * The late Seithy Chachage was a professor of Sociology at the University of Dar es Salaam.
      * This article is an extract from the introduction to Chachage's forthcoming book entitled "Against Historical Amnesia and Collective Imbecility: Essays on Tanzania’s Contemporary Transformations”.
      * This article will be a contributing chapter to a forthcoming Pambazuka Press book entitled 'Nyerere's Legacy', edited by Chambi Chachage and Annar Cassam.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      [1] The essay, ‘The Subjection of Women’, first published in 1869 under J.S. Mill’s name was actually written by his wife, Harriet Taylor, given the circumstances under which women found themselves when it came to publishing unconventional ideas.
      [2] False gods of riches. From the false God of riches and avarice, Mammon. Riches regarded as an object of worship and greedy pursuit; wealth as an evil, more or less personified. In Mathew vi.24 it is stated: “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”
      [3] The diseased beggar in Jesus’ parable of the rich man and the beggar: Luke 19-31.
      [4] Historically, dinosaurs may be extinct, but in the science fiction fables such as the movie, “The Jurassic Park”, these come back with a vengeance! It may be a fable, but the truth is usually, the ghosts of the past haunt the minds of the living like a nightmare, hence such fables.
      [5] Earlier on in February 1967, Nyerere had declared in a combative and militant language that “TANU is in a war against poverty and oppression in our country; this struggle is aimed at moving the people of Tanzania (and the people of Africa as whole) from a state of poverty to a state of prosperity.” Then followed the famous scintillating words which were an inspiration in those days: “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 us 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 exploited, oppressed, or humiliated.” (Nyerere 1968: 235)

      Banton, Michael (1977): The Idea of Race, Tavistock Publications, London.
      Hill, Christopher (1978): The World Turned Upside Down, Penguin, Ayres Bury.
      ILO, Towards Self-Reliance in Tanzania, Addis Ababa, 1978
      Nyerere, Julius K. (1968): Freedom and Socialism, Oxford University Press, Nairobi.
      Nyerere, Julius K (1973): Freedom and Development, Oxford University Press, Dar es Salaam
      Nyerere, Julius K. (1974): Man and Development, Oxford University Press, Nairobi.
      Smith, William E. (1973): Nyerere of Tanzania, TransAfrica Publishers Ltd, Nairobi.

      Reflecting with Nyerere on people-centered leadership

      Marjorie Mbilinyi


      cc Neils
      Drawing from Mwalimu Nyerere’s thoughts on colonialism and post-colonialism, Marjorie Mbilinyi critiques the current state of leadership. “Corruption and the lack of patriotic leadership”, she observes, “has increased during the last 20 some years, but not in a vacuum.” This is so because an “enabling environment was created for corruption, individualism and compradorial tendencies by neo-liberal ideology and macroeconomic reforms which successfully took a dominant position in Tanzania – and much of the rest of Africa – in the mid-1980s.” To bring an end to this leader-centered group leadership, Marjorie calls for a people-centered leadership whereby “group-centered leaders … are grounded within their organizations or institutions, or movements; and the groups/organizations/movements they lead are identified not by a particular individual, but rather by the collectivity and its vision and mission.”


      When talking about leadership, we need to ask three questions: leadership of what? Of whom? And for what? We are situated within a particular context which will be understood differently, depending in part on our own positions within society.

      How do we position ourselves in this moment of his/herstory, when Africa is undergoing another ‘scramble for Africa’, heightened by the global fiscal/economic crisis of 2008/09? When Eastern and Western powers are competing between and among themselves for natural resources and military/political hegemony. With unheard of violence against women and children. There is no neutrality here, no middle ground.

      Leadership ethics are relevant not only to formal big P politics as found in central and local government, and in political parties, but also to the way leaders conduct themselves within civil society organizations, including activist groups and the media, as well as within the commercial and corporate sector.

      My article is informed by Nyerere’s thoughts on colonialism and post-colonialism. It is also highly informed by my participation in women’s struggles for equality, justice and social transformation in Tanzania and Africa, beginning in 1967, and our efforts to build a transformative feminist movement. I remain a youth of the 1960s and a ‘child of Nyerere.’ As a teenager, I was already active in the civil rights movement in USA; and in 1967, 23 years old, I became a wife, a citizen of Tanzania, bore my first daughter, was active in the struggle for ‘socialism and self-reliance’ and challenged patriarchy at home and at work.

      In those days we were highly critical of Nyerere’s contradictions and government actions, but I continue to recognise and appreciate Mwalimu’s steadfast love for the people of Tanzania and Africa; his commitment to equity, justice and freedom; his enduring learning attitude and openness to new ideas; his political savvy. Mwalimu is sorely missed at this crisis moment in African/human history. I/we look for similar inspirational leadership in today’s youth who will carry on the struggle for an equitable, just, transformed world.

      Thus this article is written with certain assumptions in mind that ought to be set forth from the start. First, I believe that the major issue today is not corruption nor competent governance – these phenomena require explanation. The major issue remains that of exploitative and oppressive structures and relations of production and reproduction, which are over-determined by the further strengthening of imperialist relations. These imperialist relations underlie such problems as debt, unequal terms of trade, foreign exchange strangulation, and the growing power of multinational corporations within Tanzania’s economy, and that of Africa as a whole. Imperialist relations interact with capitalist, patriarchal, racist, traditionalist and fundamentalist structures, systems and relations – they cannot nor should they be separated from each other.

      Corruption and the lack of patriotic leadership has increased during the last 20 some years, but not in a vacuum. An enabling environment was created for corruption, individualism and compradorial tendencies by neo-liberal ideology and macro economic reforms which successfully took a dominant position in Tanzania – and much of the rest of Africa – in the mid-1980s. I propose therefore that the major challenge we face is: the abolition of unjust exploitative and oppressive structures and systems, and the creation and maintenance of structures and systems within the economy/polity which are characterized by equality and justice at all levels, beginning in the home and family, and extending to the regional and global level.

      To cite Mwalimu Nyerere, in his speech to the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs twenty-two years ago (1986):

      “Yet policy mistakes by our young governments, or the existence of shameful corruption in many countries, is not sufficient explanation for Africa’s current economic condition. Although all African Governments differ in ideology, policy, and structure … all countries have suffered a similar kind of economic regression and now face similar problems.

      I believe that the basic explanation for Africa’s present economic condition lies in the fact that no African country has yet managed to shake off the neo-colonial hold of industrialized nations over our economies. .. Africa therefore continues to have an unequal dependency relationship with the developed nations – mostly former colonial powers.” [pp 8-9]

      In the same speech, Mwalimu reminds us of the historical context leading up to the present situation, which was defined by the struggles of African peoples against colonialism and racism [and, I would add, against sexism]:

      “Our people’s demand for independence, however, derived its major strength from their demand for human dignity and freedom. They wanted to govern themselves, in their own interests. And while they were demanding improvements in their conditions of life and in the provision of social services, they also wanted freedom and peace in their villages and towns and in their own lives.” [pp 5-6]

      Mwalimu then goes on: “… on balance, it cannot be said that we have fulfilled our people’s hopes for democracy and Human Rights” [p. 6] – and that, I believe, ought to be the main focus of our deliberations today, whereby democracy is understood broadly to refer to participatory development and participatory democracy, in which all women and men participate equally in making key decisions on resource allocations, at all levels – in other words, they all lead; and they benefit equally; where there is no systematic discrimination against one or another social group on any grounds whatsoever, thus realizing the people’s demand for human dignity and freedom.

      While referring to individual demands for freedom and dignity, Mwalimu also emphasized the collective nature of these demands, and argued that the African people can only realize real democracy and freedom by uniting together so as to fight against ‘neo-colonialism’ [i.e. imperialism] and to struggle instead for equitable, just development and economic liberation.

      In the next section of this article, I will explore what leadership ethics means, highlighting the central question of positionality. Context issues are further examined in the third section, from the point of view of the most oppressed and exploited group in Tanzanian society. The final section seeks to answer the question, how do we shape a people-centred leadership which is accountable first to the people – meaning women, men and children – and not capitalist investors and ‘donors’ nor the local money merchants who pay for political parties and their elections.


      From a transformative feminist point of view, leadership ethics centres around the question of positionality and identity, as well as the question of transparency and accountability. What is the position of the leader, in terms of gender, class, rural-urban location, ethnicity/race, and nation/region, in the present context that has been summarized above? With whom does the leader [or the collective leadership] identify? We refer here to positionality and identity in practice, not in rhetoric. The measure of a leader’s positionality and identity will be that leader’s actions, behaviour, and thoughts in both private and public life. Government leaders in turn will be judged not by their policy statements but by actual implementation of policies, and resource allocations which reach the end user, for example, the nurse and the patient, the student and the teacher.

      Who is the leader accountable to? Again, accountability is measured by actions, not by mere rhetoric. How does the leader respond to the conflicting demands of different social categories in our society, in the context of the dominant relations of power and ownership of wealth? In whose interests does this leader serve – the big corporate investors and the global/multilateral/bilateral agencies which support them or the exploited and oppressed majority? Does the leader support conservative forces which seek to maintain the status quo with respect to gender, class, race and national relations – or revolutionary forces which seek to promote participatory democracy and development through emancipation of all oppressed and exploited groups? Again, the question needs asking not only of government and political leaders, but also the leaders of a media house, an activist organization, a student movement, a commercial enterprise or the leaders of a nuclear and/or extended family/clan.

      Another dimension of leadership ethics is the level of courage and commitment of a given leader. Is s/he prepared to stand up and voice his/her position on a given issue, regardless of the consequences, even when it means taking a minority position and challenging the might of the power structure within a given party, the government, a civil society organization, even a commercial company? Is s/he prepared to defend the interests of the dominated and oppressed and exploited majority vis-à-vis an increasingly voracious and wealthy and powerful minority at local and national – and regional and global level? Will s/he speak truth to power, without fear? And are we prepared to support her/him?

      In the views of many Tanzanians today, elected leaders – including most Members of Parliament (MPs) and District Councilors – are a bunch of sheep, afraid to speak out on injustice and inequalities, afraid to stand out alone and separate from the pack. Most elected leaders have no intention of serving the interests of the exploited majority – they bought their positions with big money provided by themselves or by their commercial benefactors, and have taken political power so as to enrich themselves – the very opposite of what Mwalimu’s philosophy called for, and exactly what he warned the people against.

      Where do people-centred leaders come from, the kind of committed leaders that Mwalimu spoke about who are wholly and completely dedicated to serving the majority of the people? I will argue here that they are not born as people-centred leaders – they are constructed in part by their birth and upbringing, and also by the social forces which define their circumstances. They are constructed by the structures and systems of organizing and leadership which are created and sustained within our respective families, communities, civil society organizations [including religious institutions, advocacy NGOs, grassroots movements], political parties and the government itself. Top down dictatorial leaders, on the other hand, are constructed by bureaucratic hierarchical structures and systems of organizing and leadership.

      Here I would like to distinguish between leader-centred groups and group-centred leaders, drawing on the inspiration of Ella Baker, a leader of the civil rights movement against racism and classism in the United States in the 1940s through the 1970s [Grant 1998] and the experiences of collective participatory decision-making in some feminist/women’s organizations, including that of Tanzania Gender Networking Programme (TGNP).

      Leader-centered groups – the vast majority in modern capitalist society – are characterized by the leadership of charismatic individuals with whom the organization or movement or party is identified. In a literal sense, these groups will be known as so-and-so’s organization, completely identified with a person, and not the collectivity contained within. A hierarchy of power is created, based on top-down decision-making, such that the majority of staff and/or members are excluded from participation in significant decisions about policy and resource allocations. Should that leader be removed, silenced or have left of her/his own accord, such organizations often fall apart. Most government structures in Africa are also organized in this way, where ideology, force and repression are relied upon to maintain the leader/party in power, as well as the granting of patronage and favours so as to maintain the support of specific power and pressure groups.

      Group-centred leaders, in contrast, are grounded within their organizations or institutions, or movements; and the groups/organizations/movements they lead are identified not by a particular individual, but rather by the collectivity and its vision and mission. Decisions are made in a collective and participatory way, through animation [participatory dialogue and debate] – which is time consuming but ensures that everyone concerned understands what the decision is about, what the implications are, and will be prepared later to abide by the decision of the majority, if not the consensus of all.

      Group-centred leadership also connotes a learning organization/institution which continually strengthens and enriches its understanding of the current reality of struggle and development because the dynamics allow for continual reflection and criticism, self-criticism and counter-criticism. People-centred leaders are nourished within group-centred leadership structures; mentored, supported and corrected when they begin to lose their way – be it in terms of positionality, identity, transparency or accountability. Corrective mechanisms are in place to immediately censure inappropriate behaviour and actions. Everyone has an interest in ensuring that openness, transparency and accountability prevail – because the organization or movement is ‘owned’ by its members and/or collectivity. They identify with the organization – the organization identifies with them – and not with one individual.

      Of course, this is an ideal, one which group-centred leadership organizations strive to achieve but it does make a difference.

      Having explored the meaning of leadership ethics in this section, I would like to analyse the contextual issues and circumstances in which we are carrying out this public dialogue today; the context which also partly determines what kind of leaders we get, what kind of organizations and government [centrally, locally, globally], and what kind of families. They also shape the forms of resistance and struggle which are emerging in Tanzania, and the growing power of contentious organizing and contentious discourse among the exploited and oppressed women and men in the rural areas and in town.


      At the broad level, today as we discuss leadership ethics, we are located within a particularly ugly moment of 'his'tory, very definitely a history dominated by imperial, capitalist, patriarchal, white supremacist and traditionalist structures of power and wealth. Global politics is heavily determined by the decisions/actions of a few powerful largely white men situated in advanced capitalist countries, and their collaborators and compradors in the increasingly subjugated and underdeveloped world – none more marginalized and subjugated than Africa. The imperial capitalist forces are frantic in their efforts to survive what is in reality a moment of crisis in capitalism. Instruments of force and repression are relied upon, including outright warfare and military domination – moreover, the military industrial complex has become one of the most powerful if not the most powerful sector of modern capitalist society. The capitalist economy depends on the military industrial complex, with myriad consequences in terms of research, ideology and discourse, including the discursive construction of particular forms of masculinity and femininity in a militarized society and world.

      Imperial capitalism also relies on ideological instruments to rule and dominate, including patriarchal values and beliefs, and here the battle for the minds, aspirations, emotions and dreams of women, men and especially youth and children looms large. The convergence between far right politics, undemocratic governance, religious fundamentalism and market fundamentalism has increased throughout the world. It informs dominant discourse in the media and popular culture [including the mindless popular corporate culture of cinema and song]. The politics of HIV&AIDS [condoms or abstinence] are one expression of the ideological struggle. Another is the transformation of African universities from radical centres of excellence in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, characterized by debate and innovative research, to the market-mainstreamed centres of mediocrity today, dependent on foreign donations of money and ideas.

      In the 1960s and 1970s, African governments – and none more than that of Tanzania led by Mwalimu Nyerere – sought to challenge Western imperial hegemony and to support popular movements for decolonization, and for social equality and justice for all. Whatever their personal inclinations, Tanzanian leaders of government and political parties were shaped by strong ideological forces and institutional mechanisms so as to abide by a certain level of respect for the ‘common people’. Wealth where it existed was not flaunted and in real terms, the gap between the powerful and the wealthy and the poor in Tanzania was among the lowest in Africa. Many leaders actively sought to serve their nation and the African continent; and they and the Tanzanian people had pride in who they were – Africans and Tanzanians. Regardless of differences of gender, class, race, ethnicity, religion, and rural-urban location – there was a real sense of Tanzanian pride.

      What is not understood is the degree to which this nationalist identity was constructed through the actions and thoughts of grassroots women politicians and activists who merged their struggles for individual dignity as women with that of a collective struggle for national autonomy and dignity as an African people. It is ‘TANU Women’ who forged alliances across ethnic and religious boundaries, who promoted Kiswahili as the medium of political discourse, who used local African cultural forms such as women’s songs and dance groups to energise the nationalist struggle and make it their own. Women anti-colonial agitators exemplified courage in the face of tremendous odds. They defied the power of the colonial state and the power of African patriarchy. They successfully fashioned non-violence methods with which to face colonial police forces, and were able to organize huge demonstrations with 40,000 people or more.
      Door to door campaigns to raise funds and increase party membership were led and composed by women members, and this provided the foundation for a national liberation movement which was not defined by political party politics – its horizons were far broader, the very construction of a free and independent nation.

      As argued by Susan Geiger in her life histories/herstories of TANU women activists (1997, 2005), this nationalist identity was strong enough to survive, not only the first twenty years of independence, with the many achievements in real economic growth and a better quality of life for all in the late 1960s and 1970s, but also the hard times of the 1980s. However, we must ask today, how much is left of that sense of pride in being a Tanzanian? Of being an African people?

      What do we have today? Horrendous gaps between the rich and the poor, the powerful and the powerless, with wealth and power being openly flaunted in the face of the excluded majority. In less than ten years Tanzania has witnessed the mallisation of society and economy. Shopping centres spring up with fences, gates and guards to lock out the poor majority, and an increasing number of the wealthy and the powerful now live in gated communities – also protected by fences, guards, and dogs – and thus Tanzanian society begins to resemble that of apartheid South Africa, that which once its leaders sought to demolish. Rich children attend elite private schools, while the poor majority attend low quality government and community schools that resemble, superficially, the old ‘native’ schools for Africans of the colonial period. I say superficially because those colonial native schools did teach their students how to read and write, whereas today how many primary school leavers remain functionally illiterate!

      Now I want to dig down deeper to explore the view from below of the context in which a growing number of Tanzanians live and struggle. Imagine you are a 12 year old girl who has been sexually abused by your uncle, father, teacher or priest. Or a 16 year old pregnant girl, pulled out of school and married off by her father(s) to an old man without choice. Or a young 11 year old girl whose auntie brings her to town, promising her an education, and instead she winds up a domestic servant in a stranger’s house, raped by the ‘father’ and the ‘sons’, thrown out of the house when she gets pregnant by the mistress of the house, left to her own devices so what can she do but become a commercial sex worker.

      Or a female casual labourer on a tea plantation who makes barely Tshs 2000 a day plucking tea with a baby on her back from sun up to sun down. After five years’ work she asks about regular employment and is fired. Or a 32 year old woman in her sixth delivery who dies because she didn’t have the money to pay for transport to the district hospital, the only place where emergency delivery care would be found. What is the view of the collectivity of Tanzanian mothers, the vast majority of whom have experienced the death of at least one child because of malnutrition, the lack of safe clean water, the lack of quality health care, the lack of food security, the lack of a sustainable livelihood?

      And I ask you, what kind of leaders do we have in this nation who are so oblivious of the fact that systematically, every hour of every day, at least one woman dies because of complications of pregnancy and childbirth? Where more than 40% of young girls’ first experience of sex is violence [incest, rape – in the majority of case, by someone close to them]? Where today, more than 47 years after independence, this nation’s economy still depends on the headloads of women to provide fuel, water and foodstuff for their families and communities? And the hand hoe to feed this nation? Where the national economy continues systematically to exploit the unpaid labour of women and children to provide basic sustenance and reproduction of their families and the communities, and by extension, the labour force of the economy – added to which, we actually have an official government policy called Home Based Care which exploits this same unpaid labour to provide care and treatment for People Living with HIV (PLHIVs), with little or no resource allocations to support them?

      What kind of leadership in government but also in development and economic studies do we have, which contemplates without shame the fact that the most common form of employment right now for young women is commercial sex, along with domestic work and bar work? A government which talks about providing jobs and economic empowerment, but in practice demolishes the stalls and – by extension – the means of livelihoods of mama ntilies [women foodstuff sellers] and their brother wamachingas [street hawkers] in the bomoa bomoa campaign? What kind of leadership ethics do we have from the point of view of the mama nitilies, the raped girl child, or the girl student who is systematically discriminated against in school, home and the community not only on the basis of her sex, but also her class and her rural or poor urban location?

      Although these are individual stories, they reflect systematic discrimination, systematic male violence against women and girls, and systematic strategies to keep women in their place as the most exploited and oppressed group in our society. Underlying these stories is the state’s perpetuation of customary laws, for example, which rob women of their rights to property and the fruits of their labour. The state’s absolute failure to develop a coherent employment strategy for all so as to ensure that every woman – and man – has access to a sustainable livelihood with dignity and livable income. The state policy of privatization and cost sharing in social services, which denies citizens their rights to primary health care, safe and clean water, and basic education.


      At the beginning of this article, I argued that people-centred leadership is constructed – leaders of this nature are not born that way. Alternative organizing and leadership styles are essential which foster and reward women and men leaders who are patriotic, committed, dedicated, democratic and participatory in action. They are desperately needed to lead social movements for change, as well as to lead other institutions and organizations in civil society, as well as in political parties and government. On the other hand, strong and powerful social movements are needed to successfully demand people-centred leadership of elected officials, and a free and independent media.

      Transformative pedagogy is also a way to promote people-centred leadership, whereby each student feels compelled to do their best for the common good, as well as for their own individual achievement. Participatory methods and philosophy of learning, organizing and action research have been developed within the animation conceptual framework which is also refered to by some as participatory action research, or Paulo Freire’s pedagogy of the oppressed. Several activist organizations in Tanzania, for example, have adopted animation as the way they organize themselves, and also how they facilitate dialogue and debate among the communities in which they work [see Mbilinyi in Mbilinyi et al 2003]. A basic assumption of animation is that the role of a facilitator is to creatively listen and to learn from the oppressed, exploited groups with whom s/he works; and to create an interactive process of experiential learning whereby people assess their situation, analyse the basic causes, and act to change their circumstances on their own behalf. In this case, the educator does not teach, the educator facilitates a mutual learning process. Similarly, in the context of a political party or a movement, the political leaders do not preach and they do not command compliance – instead, they go to live and learn from the people, first, and later articulate the popular demands of the people, namely the oppressed and exploited women, men and children.

      Mwalimu’s thoughts on liberating education were inseparably linked with his conception of a more participatory political and development process. For example, in Education for Self Reliance (1967):

      “It would thus be a gross misinterpretation of our needs to suggest that the educational system should be designed to produce robots, which work hard but never question what the leaders in Government or TANU are doing and saying...Our Government and our Party must always be responsible to the people, and must always consist of representatives – spokesmen[sic] and servants of the people.” (Lema et al 2004).

      In ‘Adult Education and Development’ (1976), Mwalimu placed liberation of human beings as the centre and rationale for development, and not the production of goods. Warning against paternalistic attitudes and top-down structures of leadership, he also argued that [Ibid: 135]

      “… Man [sic] can only liberate himself or develop himself [sic]. He[sic] cannot be liberated or developed by another. For Man [sic] makes himself [sic]. ..The expansion of his[sic] own consciousness, and therefore of his[sic] power over himself [sic], his [sic] environment, and his [sic] society, must therefore ultimately be what we mean by development”

      This calls for transformative pedagogy – in Mwalimu’s words, “the first function of adult education is to inspire both a desire for change, and an understanding that change is possible.” [Ibid: 137] What is included?

      “It includes training, but is much more than training. It includes what is generally called ‘agitation’ but it is much more than that. It includes organization and mobilization, but it goes beyond them to make them purposeful.” [Ibid: 138]

      According to Mwalimu, political activists and educators “are not politically neutral; by the nature of what they are doing they cannot be. For what they are doing will affect how men [sic] look at the society in which they live, and how they seek to use it or change it ... Adult Education is thus a highly political activity. Politicians … therefore … do not always welcome real adult education” [Ibid].

      Mwalimu’s concept was of a contentious education process, which promoted revolutionary struggle, while at the same time fostering high standards of excellence in scholarship (Lema et al 2006):
      • Musoma Resolution: Directive on the Implementation of ‘Education for Self Reliance’ [1974]

      ‘… Education ought to enable whoever acquires it to fight against oppression…’

      ‘…we have not succeeded in liberating ourselves mentally, nor in having self-confidence, nor in selecting that which is most suitable to our objective conditions instead of continuing to ape the systems of other people whose economy and mode of life is totally different from ours’

      • Address at the Twenty Fifth Anniversary of the University of Dar es Salaam [1st July 1995]

      “... a University can only fulfill its functions if it is the hub of, and a stimulus for, the kind of scientific thinking which is a necessary preliminary to constructive action… a University – which in this context means its staff and students – must have untrammeled freedom to think, and to exchange thoughts, even if the thinking leads some of its members to become unorthodox in their conclusions…”

      “In addition to the University’s duties to the society, there is a particular obligation on University students as a result of their having what are in developing countries exceptional educational opportunities…In 1970, and in the context of a country committed to building socialism, I described this obligation as being a willingness to give service to the community ‘without demanding further privileges from the community.’ Whether Tanzania is still an aspiring socialist country or not, I stand by that statement.”

      “…no government is completely free in its choices… [it cannot] decide to privatize Universities (that is, to leave the provision of tertiary education to ‘the market’) without abandoning even the shadow of a commitment both to equal opportunity for all its citizens, and even to genuine university education … I fail to see how the prime purpose of making a profit is consistent with the academic freedom and excellence which is an intrinsic part of being a University.”

      I wish to close with a passionate speech which Mwalimu made to teachers in Dar es Salaam in 1969, ‘The Job of Teachers is Revolution’, which is befitting this commemoration of his life:

      “When we talk of change or revolution in education, teachers begin arguing: ‘Oh! You will lower standards!’ But whose standards? They are colonial standards – and of how much use have they been to us? If these standards were good and relevant to our situation, we would not be talking of weakness and poverty today. We must be able to see what is good for ourselves and only in this way can we change. You teachers therefore must accept to be revolutionary teachers, not teachers to make people go to sleep.”

      “Even if you are working in the village your job is to bring about African Revolution. You are carrying out your duty for the whole of Africa. Because history has given us Tanzania, we have to eradicate weakness and poverty in Tanzania. But we are not working for Tanzania alone. We are also working for Africa because of the suffering we have experienced as Africans.”

      “You are working for Africa and secondly you are playing your part in a world-wide revolution. A situation where the rich exploit the poor will go. All exploiters will be dealt with in the world.”

      “If you as teachers do not lead the poor African, when that day comes when there will be one to lead them out of poverty and misery you should agree to step down and accept to be led by an army of poor Africans. And I will be happy to see you trodden upon because you were useless as leaders. You must lead the poor…”


      * Marjorie Mbilinyi, a former professor of development studies at the University of Dar es Salaam, is based at the Tanzania Gender Network Programme (TGNP) in Dar es Salaam.
      * This is an updated version of an article published in TGNP’s Gender Platform in 2008.
      * This article will be a contributing chapter to a forthcoming Pambazuka Press book entitled 'Nyerere's Legacy', edited by Chambi Chachage and Annar Cassam.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Geiger, Susan 1997 TANU Women: Gender and Culture in the Making of Tanganyikan Nationalism, 1955-1965 Oxford, James Currey

      Geiger, Susan [popularization/trans Elieshi Lema] 2005 Wanawake wa TANU: Jinsia na Utamaduni katika Kujenga Uzalendo Tanganyika: 1955-1965

      Grant, Joanne 1998 Ella Baker: Freedom Bound New York, John Wiley & Sons

      Kitunga, Demere 2007a “Challenges of Feminist Organising and Movement Building” Ulingo wa Jinsia [July-September]

      Kitunga, Demere 2007b “Vuguvugu la Ukombozi wa Wanawake Kimapinduzi na Changamoto Zake” Ulingo wa Jinsia [Toleo Maalum]

      Kitunga, Demere and Marjorie Mbilinyi 2006 “Notes on Transformative Feminism” Ulingo wa Jinsia [July-Sept]

      Lema, Elieshi, Marjorie Mbilinyi and Rakesh Rajani eds 2004 Nyerere on Education Dar es Salaam, HakiElimu & E & D Limited

      Lema, Elieshi, Issa Omari and Rakesh Rajani eds 2006 Nyerere on Education II Dar es Salaam, HakiElimu & E & D Limited

      Mbilinyi, Marjorie 2007 “Achievements and Challenges in Feminist Participatory Organising and Movement Building” Ulingo wa Jinsia [July-Sept]

      Mbilinyi, Marjorie, Mary Rusimbi, Chachage S L Chachage and Demere Kitunga eds 2003 Activist Voices: Feminist Struggles for an Alternative World Dar es Salaam, TGNP & E&D Limited

      Nyerere, Mwalimu Julius K 1986 “Reflections on Africa and its Future” Address at the Nigerian Institution of International Affairs [8th December] mimeo

      Mwalimu Julius Nyerere: An intellectual in power

      Haroub Othman


      cc Wikimedia
      Pambazuka News brings to you the first Mwalimu Nyerere Memorial Lecture delivered by Haroub Othman on 14 October 2005 at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Haroub reminisces on the glorious days of the ‘Dar es Salaam School’, the massive impact it had on the liberation of Africa and the role that Mwalimu Nyerere played in shaping its development away from a colonial and Western intellectual mould. On his last visits to the University of Dar es Salaam, Haroub recounts, Mwalimu made “one very important point, that Africa South of the Sahara was on its own” and as such we “have to rely on ourselves, and to cooperate among ourselves.” Taking a leaf from that spirit of Pan-Africanism, Haroub reminds us that “the Southern African-subcontinent is facing a deep crisis”, urging its “present intelligentsia to transform our societies and to give content to human dignity”.

      I want first of all to thank the East African Students Society, and the University of Cape Town in general, for organising this occasion to commemorate the death of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere; and for inviting me to give this lecture on someone I very much respect and admire. In my life I have met many African leaders, and if I could mention a few, and in order not to cause offence, only dead ones: Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Ahmed Sekou Toure of Guinea, Ferhat Abbas of Algeria, Augustinho Neto of Angola, Samora Machel of Mozambique, Amilcar Cabral of Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde, and Oginga Odinga of Kenya. I have also met several South African leaders, including historic personalities such as Oliver Tambo, Yusuf Dadoo, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Alfred Nzo, Duma Nokwe and Joe Slovo. But Mwalimu Nyerere was not just a leader; he was a statesman. I have deliberately avoided calling him a politician, because politicians come and go. Statesmen live on - the impact of their presence in society is felt for many years after their death. If I can paraphrase William Shakespeare, the good they do lives after them. I found Mwalimu Nyerere to be most articulate, supremely good at putting complex issues in very simple language and very effective in relating to his audience.

      Many definitions have been rendered as to who is an intellectual. Is it somebody who has been to a university or, as Ali Mazrui once put it, “one who is excited by ideas and has acquired the ability to handle some of these ideas effectively”? Is it a professional or one who can stand up and talk on Picasso, Leo Tolstoy or Beethoven? Byron considered an intellectual not only a person attracted to ideas, but whose purpose in life, whose thought and actions were determined by those ideas. Issa Shivji holds that one of the important attributes of an intellectual is “the ability to laugh at ourselves”. I consider an intellectual as not only a person who is able to analyse the present but is also able to articulate ideas that would have a lasting impact on those who receive them. But whatever definition one might adopt, of importance is the fact that the role of an intellectual in any society is enormous.

      Western education in Africa, especially in Southern Africa, is a recent phenomenon. Pre-colonial African societies, with few exceptions, had no formal educational systems. But if the purpose of any education, as Julius Nyerere put it, “is to transmit from one generation to the next the accumulated wisdom and knowledge of the society, and to prepare the young people for their future membership of the society and their active participation in its maintenance and development”, then these societies had appropriate educational systems. The aim of western education, which came with colonialism, was to instil in the minds of its recipients an idolisation for the superiority of the colonial master. First it was the sons of chiefs and other traditional leaders that received this education; and later, with the expansion of the colonial economy, more and more people acquired it. Budo, Kisubi, Fort Hare, Makerere, were all created for that purpose. The aim was to produce clerks, teachers, priests, agricultural extension workers, hospital assistants, and others, to help in the running of the colonial machinery.

      University education was restricted to only a few. It was only after independence that education became accessible to more people. Of the few that received western education, not all acted according to the expectations of the colonial regime. Some turned out to be the most vehement opponents of the colonial system not only in the political and economic spheres, but also in the areas of education, culture, and others. The reasons are obvious.

      Colonialism affected both the traditional chief and the ordinary worker. It did not even allow the emergence of the native capitalist. While in the colonial possessions of Asia and semi-colonial China, a local compradorial class was allowed to exist, in most of Africa this class did not emerge. It is no wonder then that in most of the African states the harbingers of the nationalist movements were people coming from the colonial bureaucracy.

      The countries of Southern Africa are not a homogeneous group. There are differences in history, culture and experiences. Even those that were ruled by the same colonial power, like Zimbabwe and Tanzania, or Angola and Mozambique, have differences in their social compositions and levels of economic development. There are amongst them countries that attained independence peacefully, such as Tanzania and Swaziland, and others, like Mozambique, Angola and Zimbabwe, which attained it through the barrel of a gun.

      Due to the specific conditions of the countries of the region, each one traversed the independence path in her own way. And each country brought to the fore of the independence movements a group of individuals who by any definition can be called intellectuals. What was common in almost all the countries is the fact that this group comprised people with the highest commitment to the ideals of independence and dedication to their achievement.

      The backgrounds of this highly politically active intelligentsia vary. In the case of Tanzania Mainland whose economy was basically peasant-based and where education in the early colonial days was mostly provided by Christian missionary schools, the products of such a set-up were people whose vision did not go beyond the peasant collective. This was different from a place such as South Africa where a large section of the community had been uprooted from their land, a numerically strong working class had been formed and where an independent political organisation of this class existed. The logical tendency in this kind of situation would be to produce intellectuals who, to quote Amilcar Cabral, would know where the struggle for national independence ends and the struggle for social emancipation begins.

      One of the successes of the colonial system in the region was that it was able to produce an academia that was dependent on western intellectual production. This intelligentsia understood what was taking place in other societies, but lacked adequate knowledge of its own societies. This is what prevailed for a very long time in the African universities. Admittedly, a few individuals were to be found in the universities who went against the general mould, but the pattern was for the universities to be replicas of their western peers. As Mwalimu Nyerere stated, “Our universities have aimed at understanding Western society, and being understood by Western society, apparently assuming that by this means they were preparing their students to be – and themselves being – of service to African society”. The University of Dar es Salaam was the first in the region to break out of this mould.

      Started in 1961 as a constituent college of the University of East Africa (itself enjoying a cooperative status with the University of London), the University College of Dar es Salaam became a full university in 1970 when a decision was taken by the three East African states to each form its own national university. The University of Dar es Salaam in its curricula and research agenda tried to break away from the paradigms set up by others. It aimed at inculcating a sense of commitment to society, and tried to make all who came into contact with it accept the new values appropriate to the post-colonial society. There was a deliberate attempt to fight intellectual arrogance because it was felt that such arrogance had no place in a society of equal citizens.

      The University of Dar es Salaam also played its part in the intellectual development of the region. In the ten-year period from 1967 to 1977, the university was a major cooking pot of ideas, and provided a splendid platform for debate and discussion. No African scholar, leader or freedom fighter could ignore its environs. While the government brought its official guests to see its picturesque, Mount Olympus-like exterior, others came to seek knowledge or refine their ideological positions. Here, the East and West Germans, who officially were not talking to each other; the Chinese and the Americans, who officially could not stand each other; and the white and black South Africans, who at home could not even sit together in the same church, met in the seminar rooms built by Swedes and the British to debate not only on Tanzania’s development path but also the Vietnam war, the Palestinian Question, apartheid, the Chinese Cultural Revolution and countless other subjects. Very intense were these debates, and a huge number of discourses and manuscripts were churned out.

      That kind of atmosphere existed partly due to conditions created by the Arusha Declaration – the country’s policy document on Socialism and Self-Reliance – and partly due to the liberal-mindedness of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere who was the university college’s Visitor, and after the establishment of the University of Dar es Salaam, its first Chancellor. But one also must not under-estimate the impact that the presence of the liberation movements had on Tanzania’s intellectual development. These movements were not only engaged in struggles in their respective countries, but their leading cadres, as a result of these struggles, were forced to constantly refine their theories and assumptions; and they found the university campus an excellent testing ground for that exercise. Thus during the course of this process, the liberation movements not only brought in their towering figures, but also their dissidents and the harbingers of future conflicts. From FRELIMO of Mozambique came people like the religio-tribalist Rev Urio Simango, the liberal minded nationalist Dr Eduardo Mondlane, and the Marxist poet Marcelino dos Santos; from the ANC of South Africa, people like Duma Nokwe, Joe Jele and Ambrose Makiwane; PAC brought Lebalo and Gora Ebrahim; and the MPLA of Angola, Agostinho Neto and the future Nito Alves elements. The Communist Party of South Africa brought in its towering giants, Yusuf Daddoo, Moses Mabhida and Joe Slovo. Since I am in Cape Town, I should also mention that the Unity Movement also had its people appearing on the Dar es Salaam campus. Some of the most significant statements of these movements were made at the University Hill, including the famous one by Neto in 1974, before Angola’s independence, on ‘Who is the Enemy?’ that has remained to this day the MPLA’s weightiest document.

      Sometime the staff houses on campus were turned into seminar rooms or places for social interaction. There were even times when they were used as hideouts when some leaders of liberation movements did not want their presence in the country publicly known. I remember occasions when Yusuf Dadoo and Joe Slovo (and if my memory does not fail me, Thabo Mbeki, the present President of South Africa, too) came to the university to ‘reflect’.

      The Tanzanian press at the time provided a very useful platform for debate and discussion. The Nationalist (the ruling party’s paper) was under the editorship of Benjamin Mkapa, the current President of Tanzania; and the government newspaper, The Standard, was under the headship of Dr Frene Ginwala (the former Speaker of the South African Parliament}, as Managing Editor and Mwalimu Nyerere was the Editor-in-Chief. Apart from providing the news, these newspapers also published articles of high quality, and opened their pages for serious debates both on internal and international issues.

      People from different parts of the world came to teach at Dar es Salaam. They were brought by different reasons. There were some who simply needed an African experience, but in a surrounding appeasing to their consciences; there were others who were moved by the country’s revolutionary potential, and being internationalists, felt that they needed to contribute; and still others, taking pauses from their own struggles, needed breathing space and periods of reflection. It was definitely the most international university one could ever find in the Third World. Some of the people who came were directly from schools themselves and therefore Dar es Salaam constituted their ‘baptism’; others were accomplished academics with international renown. Names of South Africans that easily come to mind are those of Ruth First, Archie Mafeje, Denis Brutus, Willy Kogkositle (the former husband of the present Speaker of the South African Parliament), Harold Wolpe, Bob Leshoai, Sixghashe, Dan O’Meara and his former wife, Linzi Manicom and Tshabalala (the former husband of the present South Africa Minister for Health). From within the Eastern and Southern Africa region, there came Nathan Shamuyarira who later on became Foreign Minister of Zimbabwe; Ibbo Mandaza, Miti and Frank Mbengo, all also from Zimbabwe; Orton Chirwa, the first Justice Minister in Malawi, and his wife, Vera (now a member of the African Commission for Human and People’s Rights) and Mutharika, the brother of the present Malawian President; Tunguru Huaraka from Namibia; Mahmoud Mamdani (who is known to this university), Yash Tandon and Dan Nabudere from Uganda; and Yash Ghai from Kenya. But people came also from far flung areas, including Guyanese historian and political activist Walter Rodney; the Hungarian economist Tamás Szentes; the Nigerian political scientists Okidigbo Nnoli and Claude Ake; the Ghanaians Aki Sawyer and Emanuel Hansen; the British historians Terence Ranger and John Illiffe, political scientist Lionel Cliffe and economists John Loxley and Peter Lawrence; the Canadians, Cranford Pratt who in fact was the first Principal of the university college and John Saul; and many others from Denmark, the United States and other shores. When I was in the then German Democratic Republic in 1985 for a conference on African studies, I found out that many of their Africa specialists had been to Dar es Salaam.

      Many people, like Boutros Ghali, who was a university professor before he became a Minister in Egypt and later on the first African Secretary-General of the U.N., and Adebayo Adedeji, the former Executive Secretary of the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa, included a stopover at the University Hill in their schedule whenever they happened to be in Dar es Salaam. Yoweri Museveni, a few months before he marched into Kampala, went to the university campus to see his old friends; and on his first state visit to Tanzania, he went to deliver a public lecture at the university. The Rivonia heroes, after their release from Robben Island prison, passed through Dar es Salaam on their way to Sweden to meet Oliver Tambo, and they came to the university to talk to the community.

      Many academics have achieved fame from intellectual works they produced while in Dar es Salaam. Walter Rodney’s legendary book, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, that of Clive Thomas, On Problems of Transition, and Tamás Szentes’ classic, The Political Economy of Underdevelopment, were all written in Dar es Salaam. The university was not only a haven for radical scholars and activists; the students also found it an exciting and productive experience. Issa Shivji, in his student days, had already produced Tanzania: The Silent Class Struggle; and the current President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, Kapote Mwakasungura who later on became Malawian High Commissioner to Zimbabwe, Salim Msoma, the present Principal Secretary in the Tanzania Ministry of Transport and Communications, and Andrew Shija who after graduation joined the Tanzania Army, left their classrooms and joined FRELIMO cadres in the liberated areas of Portuguese-ruled Mozambique. A Canadian political scientist, John Saul, when teaching at Dar es Salaam University, did the same thing. The students’ journal, Cheche [The Spark], subsequently Maji Maji, was very much sought after, and the teaching staff vied with each other to have their articles published in it.

      From its inception in 1961 as a university college until 1985 when he stepped down as the Chancellor, Mwalimu Nyerere played an important role in the shaping of the university, and took a keen personal interest in its intellectual development. I do not think there was any national institution that he visited as many times as the university.

      Mwalimu Nyerere was born on 13th April 1922 in the small village of Butiama among a minority ethnic group in Tanzania. He grew up in typical African village surroundings, and later on in life became the embodiment of the African struggle for freedom and national independence and a symbol of people’s aspirations for social emancipation and human fulfilment. It was at the age of 12 that he started going to school, and only after coming of age was he confirmed to Christianity. From Tabora School, the citadel of African education at the time in the then Tanganyika, he then proceeded to Makerere College in Uganda to acquire a Diploma in Education. Makerere was at that time the highest institution of learning in East Africa, and constituted an important period for Mwalimu Nyerere in formulating the objectives and principles that guided him later on in his life. After he left Makerere, he stated the following:

      While I was at Makerere I understood that my Government was spending annually something in the neighbourhood of 80 pounds on my behalf. But that did not mean very much to me: after all, 80 pounds is only a minute fraction of the total amount which is collected every year from the African tax-payers. But today that 80 pounds has grown to mean a very great deal to me. It is not only a precious gift but a debt that I can never repay.

      I wonder whether it has ever occurred to many of us that while that 80 pounds was being spent on me (or that matter on any of the past or present students of Makerere) some village dispensary was not being built in my village or some other village. People may actually have died through lack of medicine merely because eighty pounds which could have been spent on a fine village dispensary was spent on me, a mere individual, instead. Because of my presence at the college, (and I did nothing to deserve Makerere) many Aggreys and Booker Washingtons remained illiterate for lack of a school to which they could go because the money which could have gone towards building a school was spent on Nyerere, a rather foolish and irresponsible student at Makerere. My presence at the college therefore deprived the community of the services of all those who might have been trained at those schools, and who might have become Aggreys or Booker Washingtons. How can I repay this debt to the community? …… The community spends all that money upon us because it wants us as lifting levers, and as such we must remain below and bear the whole weight of the masses to be lifted, and we must facilitate that task of lifting.

      From Makerere, Mwalimu Nyerere taught briefly before he proceeded to do a Master’s degree in History at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. He was the first Tanganyika African to acquire an overseas degree. It was in Edinburgh that his political ideas were crystallised.

      Upon his return to the then Tanganyika he taught for some time in the Christian Mission schools before he threw himself fully into the nationalist struggle for independence. The Tanganyika African Association (TAA), founded in 1929 by traders and civil servants in urban areas, was basically a social organisation. Only in 1954 was it transformed into a political one, and was known as a Tanganyika African National Union (TANU); and Nyerere became its President.

      As I have stated, Julius Nyerere has dominated the Tanzanian political and intellectual scene for almost five decades, and even now with his death, his influence is still felt. I will try here to briefly look at some of his ideas.

      In his Ujamaa - The Basis of African Socialism, Mwalimu Nyerere dismissed the idea that classes had existed in pre-colonial African societies, claiming instead that these societies were living in tranquillity and peace and had experienced no antagonistic contradictions. He felt that it was possible for Africans, regardless of their social backgrounds, to come together in national movements and to retain that unity after independence. He not only dismissed the notion of the existence of classes prior to colonisation but did not see their evolution during the colonial period

      In 1967 Tanzania declared its intention to build socialism on the basis of self-reliance. Julius Nyerere was definitely the intellectual power behind the Declaration. In fact Jeanette Hartmann has stated that it was written by Nyerere himself, claiming that she had seen the draft in Mwalimu Nyerere’s handwriting. The Declaration attracted huge attention. To social democrats in Europe this heralded the possibility of seeing the realisation of their ideals in an African set-up. Imperialist powers, on the other hand, were afraid that Tanzania would set up an example to the rest of Africa. From 1967, then, Tanzania’s actions on the domestic and international arenas were judged in accordance with the terms of the Arusha Declaration. Its close relationship with China or its acceptance of aid from the then socialist countries of Eastern Europe was seen as tendencies to further integrate Tanzania within the socialist orbit. But, as Julius Nyerere kept reiterating, the Arusha Declaration should have been viewed as a statement of intent. Neither in 1967 nor in 1985 when he stepped down from the Presidency was Tanzania a socialist state.

      The Declaration was not without flaws and its implementation had been far from successful. There were reasons for this; but as a blueprint for development, it was something unique in Africa at that time. It was assertive and provided great hopes for millions of Tanzanians. In another paper – Socialism: The Rational Choice – Mwalimu argued that for a country like Tanzania, socialism was the only choice, but even if it wanted to build capitalism, that option was closed to it.

      What Mwalimu Nyerere succeeded in doing was to put socialism on the national agenda. One cannot therefore agree with Ali Mazrui and many others who say that socialism was a ‘heroic failure’ in Tanzania. The Wall Street Journal declared:

      “He fused Tanzania’s 120 tribes into a cohesive state, preventing tribal conflicts plaguing so much of Africa … Above all, he proved that it is possible to forge a nation whereby vicissitudes of ethnic affiliation are banished from social and political life. He created and promoted a powerful lingua franca, Swahili, which united and educated people”.

      He preached racial and religious tolerance. Following Mwalimu Nyerere’s departure from political power, the country collapsed into the arms of the IMF and the World Bank. When he left the per capita income was US$280. In 1998, thirteen years after he left, it was US$140; and school enrolment plummeted to 63%. Some of the progressive achievements of the Nyerere era are being eroded, but he will definitely be remembered in history as the person who raised the prospect of socialist development in Tanzania.

      Tanzania’s contribution on the question of Africa’s liberation is well known. Almost all the liberation movements in Africa had enjoyed sanctuary in Tanzania. The OAU Liberation Committee had its headquarters in Dar es Salaam from the time the OAU was established in 1963. Julius Nyerere cannot be separated from the Tanzania position. It should be remembered that as far back as 1960, when Tanganyika was not even independent, Nyerere published a pamphlet called Barriers to Democracy in which he castigated the white communities in Kenya, the Rhodesias and South Africa for rejecting the concept of a multiracial society based on African majority rule. Also in 1961, just before Tanganyika’s independence, in an article in the London newspaper The Observer, Nyerere made it clear to the British Government that the membership of independent Tanganyika in the Commonwealth will depend on South Africa either ending apartheid or withdrawing from the Commonwealth. Apartheid South Africa decided to withdraw from the Commonwealth.

      As stated before, there is no single African liberation movement that did not enjoy the support of Tanzania. FRELIMO was founded in Tanzania; the ANC, after its ban in South Africa, opened its first External Mission in Tanzania; and MOLINACO, MPLA, ZANU, ZAPU, PAC and many others had Tanzania’s full support. In the U.N. Decolonisation Committee (known as the Committee of 24), where Tanzania’s then Permanent Representative to the U.N., Salim Ahmed Salim, held the Chairmanship for several years, and in the Non-Aligned Movement, Tanzania was in the forefront in mobilising support to the liberation struggles.

      Tanzania’s support to the liberation movements was not only manifested in the political and diplomatic arenas but also in the material and military fields. The Tanzanian population was mobilised many times to give material support to the liberation movements. The Tanzania People’s Defence Forces trained thousands of military cadres of those liberation movements which wanted that kind of support. Tanzania was used as a facility for either storing or transporting different types of goods to the liberation movements. It is a known fact that several villages along the border with Mozambique were bombed by Portuguese planes during FRELIMO’s struggle for independence. All this testifies to the country’s firm position on the question of African liberation. But again it was Julius Nyerere who was able not only to give an intellectual basis to this position but also to effectively articulate it.

      Julius Nyerere was always non-racial in his perspective, and this at times got him into conflict with his colleagues both in the ruling Party and Government. During the days of the struggle for Tanganyika’s independence, he rejected the position of the “Africanists” within TANU who put forward the slogan “Africa for Africans”, meaning black Africans. In 1958 at the TANU National Conference in Tabora when some leaders strongly opposed TANU’s participation in the colonially-proposed tripartite elections, where the voter had to vote for three candidates from the lists of Africans, Asians and Europeans, Julius Nyerere stood firm in recommending acceptance of the proposals. This led to the “Africanists” marching out of TANU and forming the African National Congress. It is extremely worrying that this racist monster is reappearing now in Tanzania. Some politicians in their quest for power are using the racist card, as manifested both at last May’s Chimwaga Congress of the ruling party, CCM, and in the on-going election campaigns. It is very unfortunate that no stern measures are being taken against this trend, thus giving the impression that the country’s leadership is condoning it.

      Again, after independence, when a section of the leadership of TANU and that of the trade union movement, the Tanganyika Federation of Labour, were demanding Africanisation of the civil service, Julius Nyerere was talking of Tanganyikanisation, thus giving a non-racial content to the whole idea. His commitment to African Liberation stemmed not only from these anti-racist convictions but also from his strong belief that it is evil and wrong for a foreign power to colonise another people, and that it is equally wrong for a racial minority to oppress a racial majority. Mwalimu Nyerere had never doubted that whites in Zimbabwe or South Africa had the same rights as their black compatriots.

      Julius Nyerere believed in peaceful means in the struggle to achieve certain political ends. He tried very much during the Tanganyika independence struggle to steer the independence movement along peaceful lines. Even at those times when the temperature was high and militants either in TANU or TFL were calling for confrontation, Julius Nyerere continued to call for restraint. When, after being convicted of libel in a colonial court, he was faced with the option of going to prison or paying a fine, he chose the latter, not so much because he did not want to be a political prisoner, but because it was felt that in his absence things might go wrong and violence might erupt.

      However, when faced with a situation where all peaceful means were closed, Mwalimu Nyerere never hesitated to advocate the use of violence against an oppressive regime. A few months before Britain handed over power to the Sultan’s regime in Zanzibar, he appealed to the British Government, through its Colonial Secretary, to reconsider its intention because he felt that if the situation was not rectified to allow the majority to peacefully take over power, then violence was inevitable. And on this he was right, because four weeks after independence the Sultan’s regime was violently overthrown by opposition parties. Again, when nationalists in Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, the then Southern Rhodesia and South Africa were forced to take up arms against colonial and apartheid regimes, Mwalimu Nyerere committed both Tanzanian resources and his own personal prestige in helping the liberation movements to engage in the armed struggle, and found this to be in no contradiction with his non-violence convictions.

      Mwalimu Nyerere’s last visit to the University of Dar es Salaam was in December 1997 when he came to take part in the international conference on Reflections on Leadership in Africa – Forty Years after Independence. The conference was in honour of his 75th Birthday and was organised jointly by the Institute of Development Studies of the University of Dar es Salaam and the Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation. Nkrumah Hall at the university, with a capacity of 500 to 600 people, was full to overflowing. The organisers had expected not more than 100 people. Ministers, leaders of political parties, academics, students (even though the University was on Christmas vacation), NGO activists, foreign diplomats, media people – they were all there. It was obvious that the centre of attraction was Mwalimu Nyerere, and that they all came to see him and hear him.

      After the keynote address by Tanzania Vice-President, the late Dr Omar Ali Juma, Mwalimu Nyerere was asked to speak. He spoke for more than one and a half hours, entirely extempore. It was one of his best speeches, unfortunately the last one at the university. It was full of humour, but also deeply serious, thought provoking, and providing a sense of direction. The audience loved him. That speech has been produced in full in the book that I edited based on the conference papers called Reflections on Leadership in Africa – Forty Years After Independence, and was published in 2000 by VUB University Press in Brussels, Belgium.

      In that speech, Mwalimu was making one very important point, that Africa South of the Sahara was on its own. North America, meaning the United States and Canada, had to do something to help Mexico, otherwise the Latin wanderers would simply cross over even if a steel wall were erected. The Slavs, Croatians, Czechs and others in Eastern Europe would be attracted to Western Europe, and the North Africans would be interested in Southern Europe. The South East Asians would be looking to Japan. But Africans South of the Sahara had no ‘uncle’ to depend on. We were on our own. We have to rely on ourselves, and to cooperate among ourselves.

      After the opening ceremony, the conference went into workshops. In the workshops where Mwalimu Nyerere was participating, he was very active, speaking with his usual lucidity of elaboration and illustration. In one session, the audience was pensive, watching him exchanging views with Issa Shivji on the land question; and at another he explained why he had to ask a group of freedom fighters to leave the country, an issue that was raised in the paper presented by a Russian scholar on African affairs, Vladimir Shubin. After one of the sessions, Mwalimu Nyerere wanted the South African academic, Patrick Bond, and a few others to follow him to his Msasani residence to continue with the discussion. Bond had raised the issue of Afrikaner capital in the Southern Africa region and the way it was behaving.

      Mwalimu Nyerere’s last intellectual work was the translation into Kiswahili of Plato’s The Republic. As he was lying in bed at London’s St. Thomas Hospital, he went through the manuscript, made the necessary corrections and completed them before he died. Unfortunately the work has not yet been published.

      Mwalimu Nyerere was not a saint (though, according to press reports, there are discussions now amongst the Catholics in his native area to request the Church to start the process of beatifying him) and he did commit a number of mistakes. But his patriotism was unmistaken, his commitment and devotion to Africa unquestionable and his integrity outstanding. His achievements were many, and leaders in Tanzania (and in Africa), present and future ones, will be judged according to the yardsticks set by people like Mwalimu Julius Nyerere.

      At present the Southern African sub-continent is facing a deep crisis: legacies of colonialism and white domination, underdevelopment, debt problem, HIV/AIDS and natural and unnatural calamities. All these pose serious challenges to the intelligentsia of the region. The intellectuals of the colonial past could have been lured to the colonial trappings but decided to join the independence movement. The present intelligentsia have nothing to lure them into the post-colonial state. Our role is to transform our societies and to give content to human dignity. One should live so that in dying one can say: I gave all my strength for the liberation of humanity.


      * The late Haroub Othman was professor of Development Studies at the University of Dar es Salaam.
      * This lecture is reproduced here by permission and will be published in Othman's forthcoming book.
      * This article will be a contributing chapter to a forthcoming Pambazuka Press book entitled 'Nyerere's Legacy', edited by Chambi Chachage and Annar Cassam.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

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      ------- (1983). Committed Scholarship and the Search for a Progressive Development Path in Southern Africa, SADRA Congress, Maseru, Lesotho
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      The village in Mwalimu Nyerere's thought

      Issa G Shivji


      cc Quarsan
      Mwalimu Nyerere, writes Issa G. Shivji, “saw Tanzania essentially as a nation of village communities [that] was likely to be so for the foreseeable future.” He thus saw it as site of statist development and bureaucratic social service provision. Although there were “seeds of the conception of the village as a site of governance” in his thought, “there is no evidence that he advocated any consistent, political programme to evolve village governance.” Shivji thus calls on us take Mwalimu’s limited thought on the village one step further by placing the “restructuring of village governance on the centre stage” whereby it should be based on the rule of law and separation of power, not top-down administrative fiat. This will enable people’s development through a process of ‘accumulation from below’ in villages.

      The village was dear to Mwalimu's heart but not in any romantic sense, as his Western admirers would want to present it. 'Small-is-beautiful' or 'tradition-is-sacrosanct' were not part of Mwalimu's political practice, although one could find some isolated passages in his writings coming close to it. I want to suggest that Mwalimu's attitude to the village was, as a matter of fact, very pragmatic. He saw Tanzania essentially as a nation of village communities and was likely to be so for the foreseeable future. Very often, he rationalised and justified villagisation as a means of accelerating development and facilitating provision of health, education, water and other social services. But as is usually the case, the outcomes of history are not what the actors intended. In reality, the various villagisation programmes since independence became top-down centrist projects allowing more intense exploitation and siphoning off of surplus generated in the agrarian sector.

      There are three broad phases in Mwalimu's attitude/thought to the village. The basis of the first was the transformation approach recommended by the World Bank (Nyerere 1967, 183). This was the experiment in creating model farmers who were settled in a village and provided with technology and managerial cadre. As we know, the village settlement programme was a failure (Cliffe & Cunningham 1968). The Ujamaa village of the Arusha Declaration, where production would be communal, quickly gave way to the 'development village' and the forced villagisation of the early 1970s. There is no doubt that, while recognising some of the excesses of villagisation, Mwalimu considered villagisation as one of the important successes of the Arusha Declaration. In The Arusha Declaration Ten Years After, Mwalimu said:

      In my Report to the 1973 TANU Conference I was able to say that 2, 2028,164 people were living in villages. Two years later, in June, 1975, I reported to the next TANU Conference that approximately 9,100,000 people living together in 7,684 villages. This is a tremendous achievement. It is an achievement of TANU and Government leaders in co-operation with the people of Tanzania. It means that something like 70 per cent of our people moved their homes in the space of about three years! All these people now have a new opportunity to organise themselves for local democratic government, and to work with the Regional, District, and Central administrations to hasten the provision of basic educational, health, and the other public services, which are necessary for a life in dignity. Results are already becoming apparent. Universal Primary Education by the end of 1977, for example, would have been out of the question had the people not been living in village communities by now. As it is, we stand a good chance of achieving that objective. (Nyerere 1977 in Coulson 1979, 65).

      In many respects, Mwalimu's thought, and in particular his political practice, on the village complemented the conceptualisation of the village as a site of development, which I will discuss later. However, there are seeds of the conception of the village as a site of governance (such as, for example, the use of the phrase 'local democratic government' in the above quote) but these are fleeting references and, certainly, there is no evidence that he advocated any consistent, political programme to evolve village governance. The tendency of top-down state benevolence towards the peasant was strong in Mwalimu. No doubt he was sincere about it. His sincerity and personal devotion to uplift the life of village community accounts for the better standard of health, education, water etc. in the villages during the Arusha Declaration period.

      There is another interesting gap in Mwalimu's thought towards the village. This is the virtual absence of theorising village development as charting out a new path of development. In fact, there is an interesting consistency in Mwalimu's thought on one issue: He not only saw Tanzania as a country of village communities, but also, wanted them to be virtually undifferentiated communities. In other words, his vision of the rural Tanzania was essentially that of a middle peasantry. His hostility to the rich peasant was quite explicit. The Arusha Declaration, for example, describes the rich peasant as a feudal, (kabaila). We know that the rising rich peasantry in Ismani and Basotu, Hanang, was decimated. In the former case, by creation of Ujamaa villages, where Dr. Klerru played an important role and was assassinated by a rich peasant; in the latter case by alienation of land to the National Agricultural and Food Corporation (NAFCO). Of course, Mwalimu did not see NAFCO as a harbinger of capitalism, while the rich peasant was. Generally, Mwalimu did not make a distinction between national capitalism and comprador capitalism on the one hand, and private capitalism and state capitalism, on the other.

      There are some very interesting shifts in Mwalimu’s thought on the village after he stepped down from presidency. Unfortunately these were not developed to the full, nor have they been a subject of much discussion. I can therefore cite only one speech and one personal anecdote to illustrate this shift and hope that our intellectuals will revisit this period of Mwalimu's intellectual itinerary.

      Sometime around 1990, Mwalimu as a chair of the meeting of top government and parastatal executives, made an ex tempore closing speech. One part of that speech dwelt with an analysis of Ujamaa ideology as a legitimising ideology. I have dealt with this part elsewhere (Shivji 1995). For the present purpose, it is the other section, which is profoundly interesting, that concerns us. I quote the original Kiswahili without translation:

      Kwa Coca-cola kwa sababu Marekani wao wana nguvu sana kwa Coca-Cola.Marekani sasa anataka wote tuwe ni wanywa Coca-Cola.
      Ndugu Mengi mkipenda msipende mtatuuzia tu Coca-Cola basi Coca-Cola inauzwa tu. Sasa uchumi wetu basi ni uchumi tegemezi. Uchumi wa nchi zetu hizi zote una sifa hizo mbili. Hili tatizo letu kubwa la msingi. Uchumi wetu ni uchumi duni, lakini uduni peke yake si kitu sana lakini tatizo kubwa kabisa kabisa ni uchumi tegemezi.

      Kwa hiyo tunajivunia ule ugonjwa … tunajivunia ule ugonjwa wala hatuuonei haya … unaparedi silaha za wakubwa, unaparedi madege ya wakubwa, unaparedi bidhaa za wakubwa, unaparedi Macoca cola ya wakubwa na unajivunia tu unasema sisi tumeendelea. Ukimwambia umeendelea kwanini, anakuwambia njoo uone barabara yetu.

      Tunao uchumi tunaweza kuuita wa kisasa, na uchumi wa kisasa ni ule uchumi ulio chuma. Uchumi wa kisasa katika nchi hizi ni wa kigeni. Kwa hiyo ni Coca-Cola chombo cha kigeni ni mtambo unapokea tu pale
      Eh! Yuko mhindi mmoja Kiswahili chake kilikuwa kizuri sana kuliko cha Babu Patel. Aliniambia "Mwalimu e wewe sema nakwishakata mirija lakini bomba je kwisha kata? Sasa mabomba … sasa uchumi wetu ule wa kisasa ni wa mabomba mwanzo wake huko nje. (Mzalendo, date misplaced)

      In this, it seems to me, Mwalimu is distinguishing very graphically between a national capitalist and a comprador capitalist (or, what I later call, not quite exactly, 'accumulation from below' and 'accumulation from above').

      Another, more relevant to our present discussion, is an anecdote. When we had completed our draft Land Commission Report, the Commissioners paid a visit to Mwalimu. This was sometime in 1991. I first explained to Mwalimu, in outline, the major recommendations of the Commission. As I explain later, our recommendations on the reform of the land tenure system were based on the model of 'accumulation from below'. I don't know if that is how Mwalimu understood it. But I remember his reaction, which I can only paraphrase in translation. [These are not his exact words]:

      Yes, chairman [referring to Shivji], tell them [meaning Government] …. Tell them. I know, they won't listen. But tell them…I have been telling them. Now you want 'commercial farmers' [in English] and you go to look for them in London [At the time the then Prime Minister was holding a meeting with investors in London] Why? Who is a commercial farmer? For me a commercial farmer is that blessed fellow who cultivates his land with an oxen-plough, produces food for his family and sales the surplus on the market. We have such commercial farmers … Look for them. They are there; you don't have to go to London to find them …

      I found this observation quite interesting, both in the light of what the Land Commission said it was going to recommend, and the Arusha Declaration attitude of Mwalimu to rich peasantry. As I already said, Mwalimu’s earlier attitude to rich peasant was hostile while in this quote he is obviously advocating for the rich peasant.

      It is, however, the political or governance side of the villagisation process, which was least developed in Mwalimu's thought, yet, his political practice left behind important village institutions, that I wish to reflect on in this article.


      During the Arusha Declaration period, in the mainstream conceptualisation and policy-making the village was seen as a 'site of development', not as a site of governance. Villagers, therefore, were recipients of development which, translated into bureaucratic terms meant, receivers of directives, resolutions and orders from the top (maagizo na maazimio), not decision-makers, much less self-governing units. Development was supposed to be directed by directors of development - that is what they were called, DDDs (District Development Directors) and RDDs (Regional Development Directors). Politically, villagers were supposed to be mobilised for development. The whole structure of governance was top-down, commandist, albeit politically populist. The Bongo Flava rap song, ndio mzee, perhaps captures the heart of this structure of governance far more accurately than any political treatise can do.

      As we know, the decentralisation programme of the early 1970s, planned and implemented at the behest of an American consultancy firm, MacKinsey (Coulson 1979, 12), which abolished local government, was a failure of no mean proportions. Decentralisation was in effect decentralisation of the central bureaucracy to lower levels. One of the achievements of the decentralised bureaucracy was the implementation of the forced villagisation of the 70s, Operation Vijiji. One of the decentralised civil servants linked decentralisation with operation vijiji. Explaining why the move was undertaken in 1973, a year after decentralisation, Juma Mwapachu said:

      The answer is linked to the TANU and government decision in June 1972 to overhaul the Governmental administrative structure. In particular, the regional administration was to move from its original law and order and revenue collection function into a more development-based management function with the people thoroughly involved at the grass-roots level in planning and implementation of development projects ….

      Therefore, one year after the decentralisation programme was effected, TANU and Government saw the need to reinforce the participatory development institution by creating a firmly established, participating institution - planned villages (Mwapachu 1976, 116)

      Populist rhetoric notwithstanding, there is substantial evidence that villages were anything but participatory. Yet, a potentially progressive institutional structure was created at the end of the villagisation period. The Villages and Ujamaa Villages (Registration, Designation, and Administration) Act of 1975 created two important organs, the Village Assembly (VA) and an elected body, the Village Council (VC). When the local government was reintroduced in 1982, these two bodies were incorporated in the local government structure. Thus villagisation established an irreversible structure, the village structure. Some fifteen years later, the Land Commission found that, by and large, the village as established through villagisation, was accepted and has become part of the administrative structure, albeit conceived by the state bureaucracy more as on the receiving end of the central and local government machinery, rather than the primary basis of democratic governance.

      The conception and rhetoric of the donor-funded Local Government Reform Programme (LGRP), which was launched in 1998, revolves around efficient provision of social services. Although, it deploys the rhetoric of devolution of power, transparency, accountability etc., the legal and institutional structure envisaged has little relationship with the rhetoric. As a matter of fact, typically, local government stops at the district level. In bureaucratic outlook, village is once again not a site of governance. If during the Arusha Declaration period it was the site of development, under the LGRP it is the site of delivery of social services and instead of political mobilisation, we have the apparently apolitical awareness raising and capacity-building of "ignorant" peasants by partners, meaning erstwhile NGOs and the so-called "development practitioners".

      The wisdom of hindsight, I believe, allows us to better identify certain positive and potentially progressive outcomes of the process of villagisation during the Arusha Declaration period.

      Firstly, the ideological context of the process was Ujamaa, a vision of constructing a society based on human equality and dignity. Such a vision integrated the Tanzanian society in the larger human project of social emancipation on the one hand, and provided a collective perspective on global and local contestations of power and wealth, on the other. This stands in sharp contrast to the current ambitions of becoming part of a globalised world, no matter if our humanity, equality and dignity are sacrificed in the process.

      Secondly, the process was firmly rooted in a developmentalist discourse. However, economistic it turned at times, yet it could not easily be reduced to empiricism. It created a terrain to raise and interrogate larger and broader trends in society and the direction of its movement. Nothing of this level of discourse is possible, or even attempted, within the current policy-dialogue, to use the obtuse jargon of modern-day consultants of "poverty reduction". Any one who has attended one of those "stakeholder workshops" knows the amount of intellectual and material energy foolishly spent on identifying, quantifying, tabulating, etc. the most vulnerable, and the poorest among the poor for the purposes of being "targeted" for “poverty alleviation”.

      Thirdly, the populist rhetoric of mass mobilisation, of necessity, had to be located on a political terrain and, therefore, inevitably brought in the contestation of power between vested interests in support of the status quo on the one hand, and agencies of change, on the other. The language of stakeholders, rapid rural appraisals, awareness-creating, capacity-building, and all that, pretend to be politically-free "dialogue" and "consultation" among, ostensibly, equal "partners" and "stake-holders"!

      Fourthly, institutionally, the Village Assembly and the elected Village Council, have a great potential as a site of democratic governance enabling organic contestations within village communities. This is the potential which was ironically suppressed by developmentalist and populist rhetoric of the Ujamaa period.

      As will be recalled, the Land Commission pegged its recommendations on land tenure reform around these organs and, in particular, its recommendation that village land be vested in the Village Assembly. I believe, the land tenure structure woven around village organs demonstrates the interesting and progressive potential in the Village Assembly to create a whole new vision and terrain of political and economic contestation under the present circumstances. In the next section, I briefly summarise how the reform of village governance, as part of the local government reform programme, could be structured around village organs.


      In a study done with a colleague on 'village democracy', we placed the restructuring of village governance on the centre stage. Our argument proceeded from the conceptual shift in the village as a site of development or delivery of social services to the village as a site of governance.

      Secondly, we argued, as a site of governance, the village constitutes the primary level or the third tier governance structure, the other two being the district and the national. It is at these three levels only that the elected organs of the people with legislative and executive powers and functions are to be found. In bureaucratic, and even popular consciousness and practice, the region, which is only the site of administration, not governance, has greater weight and power in relation to the district. Similarly, the ward (for example, Ward Development Committee), which is a co-ordinating level of administration, is more powerful than the village government, which is an elected body.

      Thirdly, we argued that the relationship between different tiers of governance should be based on law and not administrative fiat. Thus the jurisdictions of District Council and Village Council should be clearly demarcated in law.

      Fourthly, village governance should be based on rule of law and separation of power. Thus the venerable constitutional principles are applied at the village level with the VA as a legislative body and the VC as an executive body. This is diagrammatically represented at this link.


      What is the basis in political economy of village governance reform we are advocating? In other words, what development trajectory is envisaged by this reform? In this article, I cannot go into great details but would like to suggest tentatively the following theses for further investigation and reflection.

      First, Tanzania is and will continue to be in the foreseeable future a country of smallholder peasant and pastoral production. In other words, it is the agrarian and pastoral sector which will continue to provide the surplus and which constitutes the potential source of accumulation.

      Second, the feasible and sustainable path of development for the country is towards an integrated national economy producing largely for the national market. The key link in developing the economy in that direction is the agrarian (which includes pastoral) sector and within this the key link is the production of food for the national market and possible export of the surplus.

      In other words, what needs to be done is to create enabling conditions for not only production of surplus in the agrarian sector but accumulation in that sector. This is what I call 'accumulation from below.' Hitherto the colonial and post-colonial, including the current liberalised policies, are based on accumulation from above. Which means that although the agrarian sector generates surplus, this is siphoned off through various mechanisms and agencies, chiefly some or the other form of merchant capital (whether the state as under the Arusha Declaration, or private, as under liberalisation). As a matter of fact, under the so-called liberalised/globalised economy and new land tenure system, there is a trend towards a new form of "primitive accumulation", that is, pillage of natural resources, including genetic resources, mainly by foreign, in our case, South African, capital. This trend, in my view, is already happening and is groping for a stable political expression. One of the major effects of accumulation from above or merchant capital on the village community is to suppress and pervert internal differentiation.

      Thirdly, the governance suggested here is to create enabling political conditions for internal differentiation and ward off the predatory outside capital. Of course, this assumes complementary reforms in other sectors, including the state itself. But it is suggested that the key link in the restructuring of the state is the village.

      An interesting question that arises is on the social – class character – of such a state. Space does not allow us to go into the details of this. Suffice to say that what is envisaged is some kind of a national democratic state based on working people.

      Mwalimu’s thought did not capture the political economy aspect of his central emphasis on the village. I would dare suggest that this is because Mwalimu, unlike, for example, Nkrumah, did not fully understand or appreciate the political economy of imperialism. And, as it is well-known, he never accepted that building socialism was a process of class struggle. He did not therefore accept that the state he was the leader of had class character. He believed that the state could carry out the reforms he genuinely believed in so long as you had a self-less, committed leadership.


      * Issa G. Shivji is the Mwalimu Nyerere Professor of Pan-African Studies at the University of Dar es Salaam.
      * This article will be a contributing chapter to a forthcoming Pambazuka Press book entitled 'Nyerere's Legacy', edited by Chambi Chachage and Annar Cassam.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

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      Shivji, I. G. & C. M. Peter, 2000, The Village Democracy Initiative: A Review of the Legal and Institutional Framework of Governance at Sub-district Level in the Context of Local Government Reform, UNDP, November, 2000.
      Shivji, I. G., 1995, "The Rule of Law and Ujamaa in the Ideological Formation of Tanzania', in Social and Legal Studies, 4, 2:147-74.

      Nyerere’s vision of economic development

      Faustin Kamuzora


      cc Neil J S
      Faustine Kamuzora’s article looks at the vision that guided Mwalimu Nyerere’s economic policies. “Since the majority of the citizenry lived in rural areas,” the article notes, “rural development was accorded high priority in economic policies.” These policies had mixed results whereby “while a number of indicators of human development indices improved appreciably, productivity in some sectors did not improve resulting into an economic growth decline.” “Nevertheless,” the article concludes, “the underlying philosophy of Nyerere’s economic policies of building an egalitarian society has enabled Tanzania to attain a stable nation status.”

      After gaining independence in the early 1960s, many African countries tried various economic policies to bring economic development to their citizenry. The government of Tanzania, mainland to start with and later the entire republic, under the leadership of the Mwalimu Nyerere invoked economic policies which aimed to raise the living standard of all Tanzanians.

      The main objective of this article is to demonstrate that the first phase government under Mwalimu had an impeccable desire and commitment to reduce the level of poverty. It provides some historical account on economic policies that were employed to reflect a reality of striving to bring economic development to Tanzanians. Since the majority of the citizenry lived in rural areas, rural development was accorded high priority in economic policies. The policies had mixed successes but an underlying philosophy of building an egalitarian society cannot be challenged.


      Immediately after independence the Tanganyikan government under Mwalimu Nyerere declared three development problems, namely, poverty, diseases and ignorance. Using Tanganyikan and donor resources, the Development Plan for Tanganyika 1961/62 –1963/64 aimed at creating an enabling environment for rural development that would fight these problems. Accordingly the first development budget under this plan had the following allocation by major sectors: Agriculture (24%), Communication, Power and Works (28.8%), and Education (13.7%).

      This budgetary allocation clearly depicts the commitment of the government of the day in spearheading rural development. The agricultural sector that supported the livelihood of the majority of people of Tanganyika was allocated nearly a quarter of the development budget. In the same vein, communication, power and works – infrastructural sectors that support rural development were allocated a lion’s share of the budget too. Also, the education sector – important for fighting ignorance followed in weight in terms of developmental budget allocation.

      Similarly, the first Five Years Plan (1964 to 1969) aimed at reducing poverty through an Improvement approach in developing the agricultural sector but in the long run it employed a Transformation approach. The latter approach would involve settlement schemes where modern machinery would be provided and, if possible, irrigation facilities. Also, the plan encouraged private enterprise for economic development but cautioned that it would contract government intention to expand cooperatives and government activities in commerce and industry, as well as in agriculture (Government of Tanganyika, 1964).

      The growth of the economy seemed to be low in achieving the targeted objectives of poverty reduction. Between 1960/61 – 1967 the economic growth rate was 4.3% to 5% per annum. With an increase in the population growth rate of 2.7%, the real economic growth of 2.3% per annum was not sufficient to bring about tangible economic development. A drop in the price of sisal, lack of experts, poor implementation of the first development plan, and a lot of resources being expended on settlement schemes were the other factors that behind the country’s failure to meet its rural development goals.


      The above factors prompted the government to change the approach of rural development by declaring the Arusha Declaration in 1967 that resulted in the nationalisation of many pillars of the economy. Its original objectives of state ownership of major means of the economy were to ensure that the corporate sector of the economy was in national hands. Before nationalisation the control of the pillars of the economy was either in the hands of foreign investors or the minorities that enjoyed business dominance upon independence. At that time the economic policy assumed that public enterprises would perform in an environment of market accountability, management autonomy and incentive for efficiency.

      The focus, given the nature of the Tanzanian society, was still on rural development. People were encouraged to live and work on a co-operative basis in organized villages. The idea was to extend traditional values and responsibilities around kinship to Tanzania as a whole. A policy booklet on Socialism and Rural Development was released in 1968. It clarified more clearly the way the Arusha Declaration was to implement the rural development strategy in order to fight poverty. The following excerpts from J.K. Nyerere (1968) summarise the gist of the Arusha Declaration on Rural Development:

      It is particularly important that we should now understand the connection between freedom, development, and discipline, because our national policy of creating socialist villages throughout the rural areas depends upon it. For we have known for a very long time that development had to go on in the rural areas, and that this required co-operative activities by the people . . .

      When we tried to promote rural development in the past, we sometimes spent huge sums of money on establishing a Settlement, and supplying it with modern equipment, and social services, as well as often providing it with a management hierarchy . . . All too often, we persuaded people to go into new settlements by promising them that they could quickly grow rich there, or that Government would give them services and equipment which they could not hope to receive either in the towns or in their traditional farming places. In very few cases was any ideology involved; we thought and talked in terms of greatly increased output, and of things being provided for the settlers.

      What we were doing, in fact, was thinking of development in terms of things, and not of people ... As a result, there have been very many cases where heavy capital investment has resulted in no increase in output where the investment has been wasted. And in most of the officially sponsored or supported schemes, the majority of people who went to settle lost their enthusiasm, and either left the scheme altogether, or failed to carry out the orders of the outsiders who were put in charge – and who were not themselves involved in the success or failure of the project.

      It is important, therefore, to realize that the policy of Ujamaa Vijijini is not intended to be merely a revival of the old settlement schemes under another name. The Ujamaa village is a new conception, based on the post Arusha Declaration understanding that what we need to develop is people, not things, and that people can only develop themselves . . .

      Ujamaa villages are intended to be socialist organizations created by the people, and governed by those who live and work in them. They cannot be created from outside, nor governed from outside. No one can be forced into an Ujamaa village, and no official – at any level – can go and tell the members of an Ujamaa village what they should do together, and what they should continue to do as individual farmers.

      It is important that these things should be thoroughly understood. It is also important that the people should not be persuaded to start an Ujamaa village by promises of the things which will be given to them if they do so. A group of people must decide to start an Ujamaa village because they have understood that only through this method can they live and develop in dignity and freedom, receiving the full benefits of their co-operative endeavour . . .
      Unless the purpose and socialist ideology of an Ujamaa village is understood by the members from the beginning – at least to some extent it will not survive the early difficulties. For no-one can guarantee that there will not be a crop failure in the first or second year – there might be a drought or floods. And the greater self-discipline which is necessary when working in a community will only be forthcoming if the people understand what they are doing and why . . .

      As we can see from the above excerpt, there was a commitment to raising basic living standards (and an opposition to conspicuous consumption and large private wealth). The socialism Mwalimu Nyerere believed in was ‘people-centred’. To him, humanness in its fullest sense rather than wealth creation must come first. Societies become better places through the development of people rather than just the gearing up of production for sake of production. In addition, the aspiration was to attain a self-reliant, egalitarian and human-centred society where all members have equal rights and equal opportunities; in which all can live in peace with their neighbours without suffering or imposing injustice, being exploited, or exploiting; and in which all have a gradually increasing basic level of material welfare before any individual lives in luxury (Nyerere, 1968, p. 340).

      One has to acknowledge that these moral standards cannot be challenged even in today world where unregulated open market philosophy and a number of post-modernist tendencies are not empowering poor people to improve their socioeconomic wellbeing. As seen from the policy on socialism and rural development, ‘The development of a country is brought about by people, not by money. Money, and the wealth it represents, is the result and not the basis of development’ (Nyerere, 1968, p. 243). Similarly, it emphatically delineated what are the prerequisites of development. These were identified as people, land, good policies and good leadership.

      Thus, with an advantage of evidence from a number of Asian late comers in the development arena, the author of this article believes that of the four prerequisite, people and good leadership are the most critical missing parts of the development jigsaw. This is because there a number of countries and societies in today’s world which have managed to attain very high socioeconomic development without large land masses. Similarly, good leadership will definitely promote good policies and in normal thinking, leaders are usually a reflection of a society they are coming from. As Nyerere’s analogy attests, if you fetch a bowl of water from a dirty well, water in the bowl will definitely represent the quality of water in the well.


      Despite the fact that some of economic policies under Nyerere resulted into a reduction in productivity in some sectors, his focus on human development and self-reliance did bring some success in other areas of socioeconomic indicators as indicated by Human Development Index (HDI). The HDIs have been calculated annually by UNDP since 1960. It has been indicated by various authorities such as UNDP and the World Bank that the ranking of Tanzania has been declining in recent years in some socioeconomic development indicators.

      The contrary is true in Mwalimu Nyerere’s government when the HDI indices were improving. One good example is the illiteracy rate which was 90 per cent in 1960, it declined to the lowest levels in the mid 80s to 10% and figures for 2000-2007 period indicate that the rate has been estimated as 28%. In the so-called knowledge based economy world of today, illiteracy is one of severest constraints of socioeconomic development because illiteracy reduces chances of an individual exploring one’s God-given potential as national competitiveness.


      As seen above, efforts to curb poverty in Tanzania started right after independence in 196. Several strategies were employed to bring about rural development. These included the establishment of settlement schemes. In mid-1970s, the Villagisation programme was also a means the government considered could bring about rapid rural development after a slow pace of Ujamaa villages formation described above (Woods, 1975 and Ellman, 1975). Also, in 1970s, there was a decentralization of the government functions as described below.


      Three major problems emerged during the period 1961-1971, due to the organizational structure that Tanzania had inherited at independence. These problems were as follows:

      First, the lack of coordination between the four organizational systems, namely, the ministries, the local government, the then only political party, TANU, and the planning structure. Because of the overriding role in the development process of Tanzania played by the latter two systems (especially by the party), the ministries and the local governments were frequently confronted with policies and plans that could not be realistically implemented for lack of manpower, funds, equipment, organization and decision-making powers.

      Second, the lack of coordination within individual systems, especially those responsible for government administration and planning. Because of the more or less autonomous behaviour of ministries responsible for the various economic and social sectors, three minor problems were created. Firstly, it was difficult to plan and implement projects which involved more than one ministry and so one found agricultural projects without transport or marketing facilities, settlement schemes without extension staff or social services, etc. Secondly, there was very little coordination between different projects in the same area that is to say there was no regional integrated development planning. And thirdly, because of the tendency to consider development in sectoral rather than in spatial terms, relatively little attention was given to regional differences in resource endowments and needs, resulting in imbalanced regional development and the accentuation of regional inequalities.

      Third, powers of decision-making were over-centralized within political, planning and ministerial organizations. When the desire for national control and planning became dominant, especially after independence, the effects of over-centralization of power in ministerial headquarters of Dar es Salaam were to handicap the planning and implementation of projects on the spot, and to alienate the general public from the development process (Kamuzora, 2002).

      Government reorganisation in response to these problems aimed at the decentralization of a large part of the responsibility for planning and implementing development programmes, and at the dissolution of the traditional minister¬ial structure.


      The trend towards decentralisation resulted in the formulation of various Regional Integrated Development Programmes (RIDEPs). When the call for assistance towards RIDEPs was made in 1972, the administrative level responsible for people’s development was the region. The regions therefore became natural foci both in the planning and the implementation of development interventions.

      This wave of integrated rural development became the new fashion of both multilateral and bilateral development assistance agencies. By the financial year of 1974/75 all the then twenty regions in the country had received assured pledges of donor support from foreign donors except for the Rukwa Region. However, by the late 1970s, the government in collaboration with various donors was implementing only ten RIDEPS in the country. These were geographically located in Kigoma, Mwanza, Shinyanga and Tabora under the funding and management of the World Bank. Others were Tanga (The Federal Republic of Germany), Kilimanjaro (Japan), Iringa (EEC), Arusha (USAID) etc. (Ngasongwa, 1988). Kigoma’s RIDEP was later abandoned by the World Bank and subsequently ‘inherited’ by NORAD. Rukwa’s RIDEP was also funded by NORAD (Shio, et. al. 1994).

      The rationale of RIDEPs was to support multi-faceted development, on the assumption that the “trickle down” effect was an inefficient vehicle for distributing economic growth to the poor (Shio et. al, 1994). However, by the early 80s practitioners of integrated approaches particularly in Africa came to realize that IRDPs were also not a panacea. On the contrary, they appeared to impose strains on developing countries by their excessive demands on multiministry co-ordination. Due to these problems, the rate of donor dropout was so great that by 1986 only three regions were still operating integrated programmes with donor support, namely Iringa, Tanga and Kilimanjaro Regions (Ngasongwa, 1988).

      Another reason for the low success of RIDEPs was the fact that there was no vertical integration to ensure grassroots participation from the lower organs of the administrative structure that would enable them to interact freely and mutually with the target group in project implementation. They had to work through project officers as intermediaries and this lengthened the bureaucratic line, a fact that negates the good elements of an integrated plan.

      Horizontal integration was also weak. Given the limited expertise in the regions the programmes did not have enough personnel to implement them in a holistic way involving all the sector departments at a time.

      The Tanzanian political system had dismantled the local government system in early 1970s. With the re-installation of the local government in 1984, districts became the focal points of people’s development administration and the regions were relegated to coordinating organs of regional development. The results of these changes caused RIDEPS to be exposed to pressures from the local government and target groups, and programmes changed from a regional to a district focus.


      Despite the fact that there had been the reduction in productivity in some sectors as described earlier, Tanzania registered substantial growth in a number of sectors in the late 1960s and early 1970s period. The growth was attained in food security, income, education and health services in the late 1960s and early 1970s. However, from mid 1970s, a series of natural, internal and external events that occurred disrupted the economic growth trend. These events included drought in 1973 and 1974, oil crisis in 1973, more droughts in 1974 and 1975, the breaking up of the East African Community in 1977 and the war between Tanzania and Uganda in 1979.

      On the other hand, at a global level, in contrast to a friendly relationship which a number of countries such as the Scandinavian ones which had showered Nyerere’s government with unconditional economic assistance, the ideologies of economic superpower turned against countries such as Tanzania from the late 1970s and early 1980s. This is due to the fact that the ideologies of Thatcherism (Margaret Thatcher was elected the Prime Minister United Kingdom in 1979) and Reaganism (Ronald Reagan was elected the President of United State of America in 1981) contributed to the reduction of the role of government and established conservative agendas (even though they left their postwar welfare state programs intact).

      Faced with unprecedented economic woes arising from the above conservative agenda, Tanzania tried homegrown economic recovery programmes: the National Economic Survival Programme (NESP) between 1981 and 1983. Another economic policy that was undertaken before Mwalimu Nyerere stepped down voluntarily from power in 1985 was the trade liberalization of 1984.


      Even though there are so many things Mwalimu Nyerere is remembered of at the global level, in the economic front, it is an estimation of the author of this article that it is the showdown with the IMF which is the most classical. Bolstered by the above conservative agenda, International Financial Institutions (IFIs), particularly the World Bank and the IMF veered from their initial objectives and decided to advance the Liberalise, Marketise and Privatise (LIMP) agenda to developing countries. With a more keen foresight than the majority of leaders, Mwalimu questioned ‘Who made the IMF the International Ministry of Finance?’

      Tanzanians of all persuasions, including the author who was in Form Five in 1981, were organized to match against the IMF conditionality countrywide. Even though Nyerere’s dissident voice was not properly heard due to a cacophony of proponents of market fundamentalism, recent events in world economic system have put IMF at a spotlight once again. When IMF failed to provide candid solution to the Far East (Asian) financial crises in the late 1990s, pundits re-questioned the efficacy of such a body. Similarly, in the current financial crisis which climaxed in September 2008 due to the thicket of insurance scams, sub-prime bubbles and derivative trading in major economies, the same old question on the efficacy of the IMF has been raised once again.

      It can be concluded that after trying the LIMP approach and similar approaches commonly undertaken under the “Washington Consensus” banner in many developing countries with little results, the IFIs seem to have now shrewdly toned down. Way back in 1998 Mwalimu Nyerere questioned the efficacy of IFIs’ agendas and dispositions. In his interview with Ikaweba Bunting on that year he thus contrasted the pre and post Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) eras:

      I was in Washington last year. At the World Bank the first question they asked me was `how did you fail?' I responded that we took over a country with 85 per cent of its adult population illiterate. The British ruled us for 43 years. When they left, there were 2 trained engineers and 12 doctors. This is the country we inherited.

      When I stepped down there was 91-per-cent literacy and nearly every child was in school. We trained thousands of engineers and doctors and teachers.

      In 1988 Tanzania's per-capita income was $280. Now, in 1998, it is $140. So I asked the World Bank people what went wrong. Because for the last ten years Tanzania has been signing on the dotted line and doing everything the IMF and the World Bank wanted. Enrolment in school has plummeted to 63 per cent and conditions in health and other social services have deteriorated. I asked them again: `what went wrong?' These people just sat there looking at me. Then they asked what could they do? I told them have some humility. Humility - they are so arrogant! (Bunting, 1999).


      Let us end this article by briefly revisiting the status of world’s current economic situation. From the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, it seemed to a number of people that Western liberalism had gained a universal triumph to the extent of declaring “end of history.” However, the current financial meltdown has just proved right those who had never ceased to question the sustainability of a capitalist system that had continued to be hinged on “irrational exuberance,” greed and the weak regulatory systems.

      However, to a significant extent, the capitalist system (at least in the West) is relatively more responsive to realities on the ground. For example, after realizing fault lines in unregulated market capitalism, we are witnessing how practically the Western economies are embracing the major tenets of socialism policies. Examples of such policies include some sort of nationalization of critical economic systems such as financial institutions (at least for a while or pouring massive amount of public funds to ensure the institutions work), provision of generous welfare benefits, and nationalization of health care.

      The article has therefore pointed a number of economic policies under Mwalimu Nyerere which were deployed to bring about socioeconomic development to Tanzanians. These policies had mixed results. While a number of indicators of human development indices improved appreciably, productivity in some sectors did not improve resulting into an economic growth decline. Due to a number of factors, including a lack of quick policy response to economic feedback such as the declining economic growth, the Tanzanian economy took a long period to recover.

      Nevertheless, the underlying philosophy of Nyerere’s economic policies of building an egalitarian society has enabled Tanzania to attain a stable nation status. Therefore, a key lesson from Nyerere’s economic policies is that in order to deliver desirable socioeconomic development and stability to the citizens, the economic policies must aim at increasing productivity in all sectors and be egalitarian as well. This is because it is undisputed fact that there is no nation which has ever developed without increasing the productivity. Equally, sustainable egalitarian distribution of national wealth can be attained if there is sufficient economic growth wrought by the increased productivity.


      * Faustin Kamuzora is the deputy vice chancellor (administration and finance) and associate professor of economic development and development informatics at Mzumbe University.
      * This article will be a contributing chapter to a forthcoming Pambazuka Press book entitled 'Nyerere's Legacy', edited by Chambi Chachage and Annar Cassam.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Bunting, I. (1999). The Heart of Africa: Interview with Julius Nyerere on Anti-Colonialism. New Internationalist Magazine. Issue 309, January-February.
      < >

      Ellman, A. (1975). Development of Ujamaa Policy in Tanzania in Rural Cooperation in Tanzania (edited by Cliffe and Lawrence). Tanzania Publishing House. Dar es Salaam.

      Government of Tanganyika (1964). Tanganyika Five-Year Plan for Economic and Social Development 1st July, 1964/65—30th June, 1969. Government Printer. Dar es Salaam.

      Kamuzora, F. (2002) An Evaluation of Rural Development During Mwalimu Nyerere's Government Using Sustainable Livelihood Approach. Uongozi Journal of Management Development (Nyerere Special Edition), 76-98.

      Ngasongwa, J. (1988). Foreign-Assisted Regional Integrated Development Projects in Tanzania. 1972-1987). Conference Paper. DPPC. University of Bradford.

      Nyerere, J.K. (1968). Ujamaa: Essays on Socialism. Oxford University Press. Oxford.

      Shio, L. et al. (1994). Rural Development Strategies in Tanzania: The Case of Rukwa Development Programme. Agder College – Institute of Development Management Collaboration Research Report no. 3.

      Woods, R. (1975). Peasants and Peasantry in Tanzania and their Role in Socio-political Development in Rural Cooperation in Tanzania. Tanzania Publishing House. Dar es Salaam.

      Mwalimu in our popular imagination: The relevance of Nyerere today

      Chambi Chachage


      cc Wikimedia
      Looking back on Mwalimu Nyerere's tremendous intellectual influence, Chambi Chachage considers the enduring importance of the leader. Noting Nyerere's prescience in arguing against nations surrendering their "power of decision making" to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Chachage stresses that the leader's legacy is rooted in stimulating impassioned public debate around positive socio-economic change.

      His is still the most popular name in Tanzania today. He nowadays elicits citizenry sentiments on any contemporary issue. Himself, a humble man, Nyerere would shy away from such glory.

      It was just the other day I was on my way from Dar es Salaam to Arusha. I overheard and interesting conversation. In the bus the driver was discussing current issues of national concern with some passengers.

      The name Nyerere came up over and over again. This Mwalimu, one passenger quipped, is responsible for what is happening now in our society. There followed a deafening silence.

      Well, I thought here goes again a popular Nyerere bashing with no defence whatsoever as the passenger went on and on, attempting to show how a man who died 10 years ago set into motion what is happening today. While I was thinking the battle for a balanced view on Nyerere had been lost another passenger chipped in. What he said affirmed what I think is the main legacy of the Mwalimu in Nyerere: The ability to generate public debate on issues of importance to the society.

      So, suddenly the discussion shifted to the other side of the story as this other passenger started to narrate another conventional history of how Nyerere fostered unity and tranquillity. Some other passengers also supported his narrative by noting how Mwalimu promoted Kiswahili to that end. Surprisingly, the earlier critic seemed to switch camps as he exclaimed and nodded in agreement especially after the driver cited Nyerere’s call to let our minerals remain in the ground until we have educated our engineers to be well equipped to mine them for our own benefit as a nation.

      To those of us who are interested in local popular knowledge it was such an intellectually stimulating and socially activating moment to hear the driver link what Nyerere said with the ongoing plunder of our natural resources by multinationals such as Barrick Gold and Anglo Gold Ashanti. This shows to what extent our popular imagination is becoming highly conscious of the pitfalls of the neoliberal reform strategy of making us LIMP, that is, Liberalize, Marketize and Privatize. Those words recited by the driver, by the way, have many popular versions such as:

      “Nyerere once said, ‘we will leave our mineral wealth in the ground until we manage to develop our own geologists and mining engineers…’” – A Comment in Taifa Letu Blog

      “They have the law behind them – but should a stone that is found in Tanzania only be monopolised by a foreign company? President Nyerere said that this is the property of our children!” – Mererani citizen at a community meeting, quoted in CMI Report 2006:11

      Ironically, this popular quote, which I have not yet located its original source, is invoked by politicians who in one way or another have been behind the LIMP-ing of the mining sector. In parliamentary sessions its variants have been quoted more than once. Interestingly, even the immediate former Prime Minister once paraphrased it when he was addressing mining investors.

      You can indeed pick virtually any topical issue – from Agriculture to Zimbabwe – and Nyerere the Teacher will have something to do with it. Yes, there are tumultuous historical moments of our times, such the post-September Eleven ‘War on Terror’ that he did not live to see and comment on. Yet in a prophetic way he thus addressed matters related – and that led – to these moments way back in 1976 in The World: Message to America from Tanzania's President Julius K. Nyerere Message to America as published in the Time Magazine of those times:

      We watch with respect, sympathy and anxiety – and sometimes almost with despair – as Americans endeavor to cope with the political and moral results of their own wealth-creating economic system, and to give international meaning to the principles laid down by the founding fathers of their nation… Americans have created a power which is frequently abused internally and externally. But Americans continue to struggle against these abuses and for the survival of the universal principles enunciated in 1776. There is therefore still hope that America's great power will be used for human beings everywhere, rather than simply for the preservation and creation of American national wealth.

      What about the ongoing economic crunch one may ask – did he also foresee it? We may have not understood his ‘stiff-necked’ attitude in the wake of the Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) especially when he said ‘No to IMF Meddling’ in 1980. Wasn’t he that far ahead of his time – way beyond the era of the crestfallen neoliberal project – when he said the following stinging words in that address to the diplomats during the Arusha Conference on Restructuring the International Monetary System which was ahead of its time – to the time of the current crisis?

      When did the IMF become an International Ministry of Finance? When did nations agree to surrender to it their power of decision making?

      Your Excellencies: It is this growing power of the IMF and the irresponsible and arrogant way in which it is being wielded against the Poor that has forced me to use my opportunity to make these unusual remarks in a New Year Speech to you. The problem of my country and other Third World countries are grave enough without the political interference of IMF officials. If they cannot help at the very least they should stop meddling.

      That was Nyerere at his best. The Mwalimu we are commemorating today as we reflect on the popular themes that preoccupied his lifelong learning life. This is how the other Chachage captured our Pan-African imagination when we mourned his physical departure 10 years ago:

      On 14th October 1999 Mwalimu passed away after battling against chronic leukemia – the decease which killed Frantz Fanon in 1961. The millions of the oppressed people of Africa and the world mourned his loss with profound sadness and a sense of loss, because he is among those people who in words and deeds worked for the empowerment of the powerless. It is for this reason that his influence has never been comforting for those who would like to see people revolt against the noble human ideals he extolled. SAFM (the radio station for the well informed!) announced his death first on 28th September and 11th October 1999. In both occasions, it apologized for the wrong information. Tim Modise of the same radio station in his “famous” show on 18th October 1999 quipped cryptically: “People will ask why should somebody who died in another country concern us so much? Why not go on with our own business?”

      South Africans were indeed concerned so much because of the role he played in the fight against Apartheid among other social vices. SABC – South African Broadcasting Corporation – even showed his funeral live. Such is how one of the finest sons of Africa permeated their imagination.

      In sum, the durability of the legacy of Nyerere in generating passionate public debate aimed at bringing positive social and economic change is what the ‘Mwalimu in Our Popular Imagination’ is all about. I think it is thus fitting to close this reflection on him with one of his motto that has been popular appropriated across his ideological divide. “It can be done, play your part”!


      * Chambi Chachage is an independent researcher, newspaper columnist and policy analyst based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
      * This article will be a contributing chapter to a forthcoming Pambazuka Press book entitled 'Nyerere's Legacy', edited by Chambi Chachage and Annar Cassam.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Mwalimu Nyerere and the challenge of human rights

      Helen Kijo-Bisimba and Chris Maina Peter


      cc Wikimedia
      Helen Kijo-Bisimba and Chris Maina Peter review the highly complex position that Mwalimu Nyerere had on human rights. On the one hand, they write, there “is Mwalimu the individual – a God fearing and religious family person who respects and champions rights of all people”. Yet on the other there is “Mwalimu – the President of the United Republic – signing a few death warrants, detaining people in custody without trial” and “deporting citizens of Tanzania from one part of the country to another”. This apparent complexity, they assert, had to do with his belief that “the community was far more important than the individual” and thus an “individual could be sacrificed but not the community.” Kijo-Bisimba and Peter thus conclude: “Whatever Mwalimu did that could be interpreted as violating human rights can always be explained in wider benefits to the community.”

      It is not easy to write about Mwalimu Nyerere and human rights without sounding and looking rather confused and ridiculous. This is because Mwalimu’s position is highly complex. Here one is confronted by two quite different personalities. There is Mwalimu the individual – a God fearing and religious family person who respects and champions rights of all people. Then there is the other Mwalimu – the President of the United Republic – signing a few death warrants, detaining people in custody without trial applying the 1962 Preventive Detention Act and also deporting citizens of Tanzania from one part of the country to another by invoking an old colonial law – the Deportation Ordinance of 1938.

      It is also true that some of the negative aspects of Mwalimu’s time in office are underplayed because by all standards he was the best president that Tanzania has ever had and may be will ever have. He set such high standards that all his successors look like dwarfs before the performance of the master.

      Mwalimu was a patriot. He considered himself first as an African and then secondly as Tanzanian. He valued the general and not the particular. For him, the general was the community and the particular the individual. In his opinion, the community was far more important than the individual. The individual could be sacrificed but not the community. It is this philosophical position which was clearly reflected in his position on human rights. This was both at individual level as Mwalimu Julius Nyerere or as Head of State. What is important was the fact that he was never wavering! He said what he believed in and practised the same.


      As an individual, Mwalimu was deeply religious. This made him a moderate person. He had enormous powers in a newly independent state. The majority of the people were ignorant but he never at any point in time attempted to take advantage of them and of the high office he occupied. He worried about them and their future throughout his tenure as the Head of State.

      One of the strongest beliefs which guided him in his work and in his interaction with other people was equality of all human beings. This belief runs through all his writings, speeches and arguments. It was the cardinal rule in the Constitution of the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) – the nationalist party he with others established in 1954 and which led the country to independence in 1961. The same sentiments about equality of all human beings is to be found in the Arusha Declaration of 1967 and the policies that followed on agriculture, education etc. It is also this deep belief in equality of human beings that guided Mwalimu in his approach to human rights.

      Mwalimu articulated this position well:

      The people and the Government of the United Republic are aiming to build a just society of free and equal citizens, who live in healthy conditions, who control their own destiny, and who co-operate together and with other people in a spirit of human brotherhood for mutual benefit. This is the goal. [Nyerere – Freedom and Unity, Dar- es- Salaam, Oxford University Press, 1966, p. 311]

      Equality of all human beings made Mwalimu question colonialism, apartheid and other policies which promoted class differentiation in human beings. Thus Mwalimu became the backbone of the liberation struggle in Southern Africa and the Front Line States. He thus invited and hosted freedom fighters in the country without any question. All these actions were guided by his belief in equality of all human beings.


      Much as Mwalimu loved human beings and wanted them to be treated equally and without any discrimination, he did not do that blindly. He was guided by the need to give priority to the community against the individual. Therefore, unlike most of the western thinkers and philosophers in the human rights field who gave priority to individual rights, Mwalimu relegated them to a lower level. For him, the rights of the majority – the community and their rights were his priority and not the individual.

      It is therefore not surprising that when the Heads of State and Government of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) decided to establish a human rights regime, Mwalimu’s influence could not be missed. In the human rights document adopted in Nairobi in 1981 – the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights community rights, in the form of peoples’ rights, were adopted for the first time in an international treaty. The rights falling in this category included the right to peace, the right to self-determination, the right to a clean and satisfactory environment etc.


      Notwithstanding the fact that Mwalimu was highly religious, loved the people and so on, still fingers are always pointed by the many incidents of violation of human rights in Tanzania during his reign as Head of State.

      It is pointed out that it is under Mwalimu that the nationalists negotiating for independence of Tanganyika in London and Dar es Salaam rejected the inclusion of a Bill of Rights in the independence Constitution of 1961 The same position was repeated during the Republican Constitution of 1962; the Interim Constitution of 1965; and the Permanent Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania of 1977. The Bill of Rights was eventually incorporated in the Constitution in 1984 – a year before he left office due to the pressure from the people.

      Apart from rejecting a Bill of Rights which could have guaranteed most of the fundamental rights and freedoms to the individual, it is also pointed that Mwalimu supported the extension and use of some of the oppressive colonial laws and allowed the enactment of new laws which also curtailed freedoms and rights and individuals.

      Among the colonial legislation which were allowed to continue in use include the Penal Code of 1945; Collective Punishment Ordinance, 1921; the Townships (Removal of Undesirable Persons) Ordinance, 1944; and the Deportation Ordinance of 1938 which allowed the Head of State to deport citizens from one part of the country to another. This law was to be declared unconstitutional by the High Court of Tanzania in the case of Chumchua s/o Marwa v. Officer i/c Musoma Prison and Another in 1988. Controversial legislation enacted by the government with Mwalimu at the helm include the Preventive Detention Act, 1962 which allowed detention without due process and discussed at length in the case of Ahmed Janmohamed Dhirani v. Republic (1979); Regions and Regional Commissioners Act, 1962 and Areas and Area Commissioners Act, 1962 which allowed these two important representatives of the government in the regions to curtail the freedoms of the individual for specific periods also without due process.

      It is also pointed out that apart from legislation, Mwalimu and his ruling party declared a one-party rule and thus curtailing the right of the people to organise, to form and join political parties of their own choice. It is not only political parties which were curtailed but also civil society organisations were also organised around the party and mass organisations under the party. These were for workers, women, youth, parents and co-operatives. It is argued that if Mwalimu was a democrat, then why did he block all routes to freedoms of the people?

      Another issue on which Mwalimu is blamed on and indicated as a clear violation of rights of the people was the villagisation programme of 1970s. This programme involved moving thousands of citizens around the country into over 10,000 villages established around the country.


      It is important to concede that all the complaints made against Mwalimu are valid. That is to say, these events did take place and they are not fabrications. However, they have explanations. They are not actions of a dictator wanting to oppress his people in order to stay in power by all means – as is the case in most states in the continent.

      It is almost impossible to indicate any personal gain or interest in anything which Mwalimu did. It is the interests of the wider community which guided Mwalimu always in his decisions and actions. At times, when the wider interests of the community and those of the individual clashed – Mwalimu made his choice and definitely there were complaints.

      At times, Mwalimu agonised to explain. For instance, trying to justify the existence of detention without trial through the Preventive Detention Act, 1962, Mwalimu said:

      Take the question of detention without trial. This is a desperately serious matter. It means that you are imprisoning a man when he has not broken any written law, or when you cannot be sure of proving beyond reasonable doubt that he has done so. You are restricting his liberty, making him suffer materially and spiritually, for what you believe he intends to do, or is trying to do, or for what you believe he has done. Few things are more dangerous to the freedom of a society than that. For freedom is indivisible, and with such opportunity open to the Government of the day, the freedom of every citizen is reduced. To suspend the Rule of Law under any circumstances is to leave open the possibility of the grossest injustices being perpetrated. [Nyerere – Freedom and Unity, Dar es Salaam, Oxford University Press, 1966, p. 312]

      Mwalimu then goes on to justify the use of this harsh law so that a handful of individuals are not allowed to put the nation in jeopardy and reduce to ashes the effort of millions. He further adds that “it becomes a question of emphasis and priorities”. This statement by Mwalimu summarises his position on individual versus the wider community.


      Mwalimu thought and exercised women’s rights long before many women’s rights activists began to campaign on those rights. In some of his written work Mwalimu was of the view that women have to enjoy rights like fellow citizens and for the development of the country women have to be given a chance to exercise their rights. On the issue of education for all Mwalimu made a strong insistence on giving girls a chance to be educated.


      Interestingly, in retirement Mwalimu became almost like an activist. He criticised the government of the days for actions he seemed to do at ease during his time as President. It would seem that retirement gave the former President time to reflect of many issues he had been taking for granted while in Office. Also, Mwalimu, unlike many of his contemporaries, studied carefully the signs and the mood of the times.

      It is therefore not surprising that Mwalimu was the force behind the re-introduction of the multi-party political system in Tanzania in 1992 which came following the recommendations of the Nyalali Commission. Also, supporting the decision of the High Court of Tanzania in the case of Rev. Christopher Mtikila on the role of the independent candidate in elections in Tanzania, Mwalimu spiritedly argued for the country to allow people who were not necessarily supported by political parties to stand for elections. Unfortunately, to date, the ruling party has blocked this avenue for accessing public office.


      There is no doubt that Mwalimu Nyerere and human rights will remain a controversial topic for ages. However, those wanting to study this topic further, two issues are important. Firstly, appreciating Mwalimu’s strong and unwavering position on equality of all human beings as his guiding principle; and secondly, the clear distinction between the individual and the community.
      Mwalimu loved the community – the general as opposed to the individual. Whatever Mwalimu did that could be interpreted as violating human rights can always be explained in wider benefits to the community. Also, gratifying is the fact that later in life, Mwalimu was honest to concede and acknowledge mistakes and make good of them. Few human beings are capable of doing that!


      * Helen Kijo-Bisimba is the executive director of the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) and Chris Maina Peter is a professor of law at the University of Dar es Salaam.
      * This article will be a contributing chapter to a forthcoming Pambazuka Press book entitled 'Nyerere's Legacy', edited by Chambi Chachage and Annar Cassam.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

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