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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

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.”

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.

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.”

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: 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.

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".

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.”

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”.

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.

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.”

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.

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.”

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