11 November 2013

tanzania's teacher.

Ashley and I have been doing quite a bit of reading to prepare us for the transition to life in Tanzania.

The Fate of Africa provided a strong foundation of the continent's history since independence from colonialism.

The Fate of Africa by Martin Meredith

African Friends and Money Matters gave us great insight into friendships in Africa and the role of resources in those relationships.

African Friends and Money Matters by David Maranz

But pervasive throughout our "region studies" was the name of one particular politician: Julius Nyerere.

Julius Nyerere

Because of the frequency with which this man was mentioned - and the fact that he is up for sainthood - I decided to do some further reading on his life, including Mwalimu: The Influence of Nyerere.

Mwalimu: The Influence of Nyerere by Colin Legum

I think it's sufficient to say that the terms "politician" and "saint" seldom go hand-in-hand. This is precisely what makes Julius Nyerere such an important and interesting individual.


This post is in not meant to serve as either a commendation or critique of Nyerere's political agenda, but rather offer observations from my reading for those unfamiliar with this individual. It is the pure reality of a nation's president up for canonization that sparked my interest in writing this post, so here we go.

Julius Nyerere was one of Africa's key 20th century figures. He served as Tanganyika's first president in 1962, later becoming Tanzania after the unification of Tanganyika and Zanzibar in 1964.

Tanganyika + Zanzibar = Tanzania

Nyerere's political agenda was characterized by African-Christian socialism in which Nyerere attempted to combine socialist principles with those of the Catholic Church's social doctrine. It was important to Nyerere to leverage the African social fabric in forming political policy, rejecting the idea that an African country should depend on a western state once the colonial era had passed.

In contrast to many other states on the African continent, Tanzania was able to lean on rural agriculture to decolonize itself and peacefully gain independence from British rule.

map of african national independence

Central to Nyerere's political agenda was the concept of "ujamaa" (which he outlined in the Arusha Declaration). Ujamaa ("family hood") placed emphasis on "the fraternal spirit that is typical of African societies" and reflected a form of family communitarianism and collectivization of the country's agricultural system.

Nyerere wanted a system that would promote the spread of wealth horizontally, not vertically. For Nyerere, translating this into practice meant the formation of villages comprised of 50 to 500 Tanzanians which would live and work in a cooperative manner. Nyerere had tremendous faith in the rural African people and their values and way of life. Thus, ujamaa was structured around the extended family found in traditional Africa.

not sure who this guy is supposed to be…maybe Nyerere?

Nyerere believed in the equality of individuals, and strove to manifest this belief in his personal and political life. He was a devout Catholic and consciously chose (in sharp contrast to many other African leaders of the time) to not enrich himself at his nation's expense. He chose to live in a home versus the expected presidential palace. He dressed simply and modestly. He reduced his own income because he believed it was too high. He expelled university students for acting with an air of superiority over their fellow uneducated Tanzanians. And, with the realization that the Tanzanian economy did not flourish under his programs, Nyerere willingly and voluntarily stepped down from his Presidential post in 1985 - a truly unheard of move.

While some of Nyerere's policies proved disastrous for the economy, great strides were made in the fields of education and healthcare. Even after the so-called socialist experiment "failed" in the eyes of many, Nyerere was still regarded as a "worldwide moral authority" and a man of tremendous sincerity and integrity.

Eight years after his death, Julius Nyerere became a candidate for sainthood in 2006 when his cause of beatification was opened for living a life that earned him worldwide respect for his pan-Africanist vision.

Throughout his tenure as President, Nyerere was known by the Swahili word "mwalimu" meaning "teacher." The success of his presidential tenure can be debated, but the manner in which he practiced what he preached and taught others to do the same was truly extraordinary, particularly for the political leader of a nation, and especially for that time in the African continent.

Mwalimu Nyerere

Sometimes the best way to understand someone is to hear directly from the source, so I will end this post with a random collection of quotations from Julius Nyerere in no particular order.

"In Tanganyika we believe that only evil, Godless men would make the color of a man's skin the criteria for granting him civil rights."- Julius Nyerere addressing British Governor, General Richard Gordon Turnbull, at a meeting of the Legco, prior to taking up the premiership in 1960.
"The African is not 'Communistic' in his thinking; he is -- if I may coin an expression -- 'communitary'." - Julius Nyerere as quoted in the New York Times Magazine on 27 March 1960.
"Having come into contact with a civilization which has over-emphasized the freedom of the individual, we are in fact faced with one of the big problems of Africa in the modern world. Our problem is just this: how to get the benefits of European society -- benefits that have been brought about by an organization based upon the individual -- and yet retain African's own structure of society in which the individual is a member of a kind of fellowship." - Julius Nyerere as quoted in the New York Times Magazine on 27 March 1960.
"We, in Africa, have no more need of being 'converted' to socialism than we have of being 'taught' democracy. Both are rooted in our past -- in the traditional society which produced us." - Julius Nyerere, from his book Uhuru na Umoja (Freedom and Unity): Essays on Socialism, 1967.
"No nation has the right to make decisions for another nation; no people for another people." - Julius Nyerere, from his A Peaceful New Year speech given in Tanzania on 1 January 1968.
"In Tanzania, it was more than one hundred tribal units which lost their freedom; it was one nation that regained it." - Julius Nyerere, from his Stability and Change in Africa speech given to the University of Toronto, Canada, 2 October 1969.
"If a door is shut, attempts should be made to open it; if it is ajar, it should be pushed until it is wide open. In neither case should the door be blown up at the expense of those inside." - Julius Nyerere, from his Stability and Change in Africa speech given to the University of Toronto, Canada, 2 October 1969.
"[A] man is developing himself when he grows, or earns, enough to provide decent conditions for himself and his family; he is not being developed if someone gives him these things." - Julius Nyerere, from his book Uhuru na Maendeleo (Freedom and Development), 1973.
"...intellectuals have a special contribution to make to the development of our nation, and to Africa. And I am asking that their knowledge, and the greater understanding that they should possess, should be used for the benefit of the society of which we are all members." - Julius Nyerere, from his book Uhuru na Maendeleo (Freedom and Development), 1973.
"If real development is to take place, the people have to be involved." - Julius Nyerere, from his book Uhuru na Maendeleo (Freedom and Development), 1973.
"We can try to cut ourselves from our fellows on the basis of the education we have had; we can try to carve our for ourselves an unfair share of the wealth of the society. But the cost to us, as well as to our fellow citizens, will be very high. It will be high not only in terms of satisfactions forgone, but also in terms of our own security and well-being." - Julius Nyerere, from his book Uhuru na Maendeleo (Freedom and Development), 1973.
"To measure a country's wealth by its gross national product is to measure things, not satisfactions." - From a speech written by Julius Nyerere, The Rational Choice given on 2 January 1973 in Khartoum.
"Capitalism is very dynamic. It is a fighting system. Each capitalist enterprise survives by successfully fighting other capitalist enterprises." - From a speech written by Julius Nyerere, The Rational Choice given on 2 January 1973 in Khartoum.
"Capitalism means that the masses will work, and a few people -- who may not labor at all -- will benefit from that work. The few will sit down to a banquet, and the masses will eat whatever is left over." - From a speech written by Julius Nyerere, The Rational Choice given on 2 January 1973 in Khartoum.
"We spoke and acted as if, given the opportunity for self-government, we would quickly create utopias. Instead injustice, even tyranny, is rampant." - Julius Nyerere, as quoted in David Lamb's The Africans, New York 1985.

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