Julius Kambarage Nyerere (13 April 1922 – 14 October 1999)
Julius Kambarage Nyerere was a Tanzanian statesman who served as the leader of Tanzania, and previously Tanganyika, from 1960 until his retirement in 1985.
Born in Tanganyika to Nyerere Burito (1860–1942), Chief of the Zanaki, Nyerere was known by the Swahili honorific Mwalimu or 'teacher', his profession prior to politics. He was also referred to as Baba wa Taifa (Father of the Nation). In 1954, he helped form the Tanganyika African National Union, which was instrumental in obtaining independence for Tanganyika.
In 1967, influenced by the ideas of African socialism, Nyerere issued the Arusha Declaration, which outlined his vision of ujamaa (variously translated as "familyhood" or "socialism"; not to be confused with the Swahili word Umoja which means "unity"). Ujamaa was a concept that came to dominate Nyerere's policies. However, his policies led to economic decline, systematic corruption, and unavailability of goods. In the early 1970s, Nyerere ordered his security forces to forcibly transfer much of the population to collective farms and, because of opposition from villagers, often burned villages down. This campaign pushed the nation to the brink of starvation and made it dependent on foreign food aid.
In 1985, after more than two decades in power, he relinquished power to his hand-picked successor, Ali Hassan Mwinyi. Nyerere left Tanzania as one of the poorest and most foreign aid-dependent countries in the world, although much progress in services such as health and education had nevertheless been achieved. As such, Julius Nyerere is still a controversial figure in Tanzania. He remained the chairman of the Chama Cha Mapinduzi for another five years until 1990. He died of leukemia in London in 1999.
Kambarage Nyerere was born on 13 April 1922 in the town of Butiama in Tanganyika's Mara Region. He was one of 26 children of Nyerere Burito (1860–1942), Chief of the Zanaki. He began attending Government Primary School in Musoma at the age of 12 where he completed the four-year programme in three years and went on to Tabora Government School in 1937. He later described Tabora School as being "as close to Eton as you can get in Africa." In 1943 he was baptised as a Catholic. He took the baptismal name of Julius, which eventually became his given name. He received a scholarship to attend Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Here he founded the Tanganyika Welfare Association, which eventually merged with the Tanganyika African Association (TAA), which had been formed in 1929. Nyerere received his teaching diploma in 1947. He returned to Tanganyika and worked for 3 years at St. Mary's Secondary School in Tabora, where he taught Biology and English. In 1949, he received a government scholarship to attend the University of Edinburgh, where he earned an undergraduate Master of Arts degree in Economics and History in 1952. In Edinburgh he encountered Fabian thinking and began to develop his particular vision of connecting socialism with African communal living.
On his return to Tanganyika, Nyerere took a position teaching History, English and Kiswahili, at St. Francis' College (currently Pugu secondary school), near Dar es Salaam. In 1953 he was elected president of the Tanganyika African Association (TAA), a civic organisation dominated by civil servants, that he had been involved with while a student at Makerere University. In 1954 he transformed TAA into the politically oriented Tanganyika African National Union (TANU). TANU's main objective was to achieve national sovereignty for Tanganyika. A campaign to register new members was launched, and within a year TANU had become the leading political organisation in the country.
Nyerere's activities attracted the attention of the Colonial authorities and he was forced to make a choice between his political activities and his teaching. He was reported as saying that he was a "schoolmaster by choice and a politician by accident". He resigned from teaching and travelled throughout the country speaking to common people and tribal chiefs, trying to garner support for movement towards independence. He also spoke on behalf of TANU to the Trusteeship Council and Fourth Committee of the United Nations in New York. His oratory skills and integrity helped Nyerere achieve TANU goal for an independent country without war or bloodshed. The cooperative British governor Sir Richard Turnbull aided the effort for independence. Nyerere entered the Colonial Legislative council following the country's first elections in 1958–59 and was elected chief minister following fresh elections in 1960 when Tanganyika was granted responsible government. On 9 December 1961, Tanganyika gained independence as a Commonwealth realm and Nyerere became its first Prime Minister. When Tanganyika became a republic in 1962, Nyerere was elected as the country's first president. A month later, Nyerere declared that to further the interests of national unity and economic development, TANU was now the only legal political party. However, the country had effectively been a one-party state since independence. During the first years of his presidency, Nyerere used "preventive detention" to eliminate trade unions and opposition political forces. He was reelected unopposed every five years until his retirement in 1985.
In 1964, Nyerere was instrumental in the union between the islands of Zanzibar and the mainland Tanganyika to form Tanzania with himself as president of the unified country. This was precipitated by the Zanzibar revolution on 12 January 1964 which toppled the Sultan of Zanzibar Jamshid bin Abdullah. The coup leader, a stonemason from Lira, Uganda, named John Okello, had intended Zanzibar to join Kenya. Nyerere, unnerved by a failed mutiny of the Tanganyika Army a few days later, ensured that Okello was barred from returning to Zanzibar after a visit to the mainland.
When in power, Nyerere issued the Arusha Declaration, which called for the implementation of an economic programme influenced by African socialist ideas. He also established close ties with the People's Republic of China under Mao Zedong, and introduced a policy of collectivisation in the country's agricultural system, known as ujamaa, "socialism" in the sense of "familyhood" or "extended family"—the Swahili word for socialism comes from the word Jamaa—which literally mean "familyhood" and the "extended family".
In 1967, nationalisations transformed the government into the largest employer in the country. The state expanded rapidly into virtually every sector. It was involved in everything from retailing to import-export trade and even baking. This created an environment ripe for corruption.
The private sector suffered from the multiplying cumbersome, bureaucratic procedures and excessive tax rates. Enormous amounts of public funds were misappropriated and put to unproductive use. Purchasing power declined at an unprecedented rate and even essential commodities became unavailable. A system of state permits (vibali) required for many activities allowed officials to collect huge bribes in exchange for distributing the vibali. Nyerere's policies laid a foundation for systemic corruption for years to come. The ruling party's officials became known as Wabenzi ("people of the Benz"), referring to their taste for Benz cars.
Collectivization was accelerated in 1971. Because much of the population resisted collectivisation, Nyerere used his police and military forces to forcibly transfer much of the population into collective farms. Houses were set on fire or demolished, sometimes with the family's pre-Ujamaa property inside. The regime denied food to those who resisted. A substantial amount of the country's wealth in the form of built structures and improved land (fields, fruit trees, fences) was destroyed or forcibly abandoned. Livestock was lost or stolen, or fell ill or died.
In 1975, the Tanzanian government issued the "ujamaa program" to send the Sonjo in northern Tanzania from compact sites with less water to flatter lands with more fertility and water; new villages were created to reap crops and raise livestock easier. This "villagization" (coined by W.M. Adams) encouraged the Sonjo to use modern irrigation techniques such as the 'unlined canals' and man-made springs (Adams 22–24). Given the diversion of water from the Kisangiro and Lelestutta Rivers by dams, river water can flow by canals into the irrigation systems to alleviate the hardships of smallholder farmers and livestock owners.
Farming practices towards tea and cloves had increased for subsistence farmers. By 1974 ujaama programs and the IDA (International Development Association) worked hand in hand; while villagisation organized new villages to farm, the IDA financed projects to educate farmers to grow alternate crops and granted loans to farmers with added credit to small farmers (Whitaker 206). For example, only 3 tons of tea had been produced in 1964 yet by 1975, 2,100 tons of tea was the net output of smallholder farmers mostly by Nyerere's policies have given the communal villages the opportunity to grow tea leaves despite the long history of tea being only grown in estates (208). Although these statistics come from the late 1970s, one may understand agricultural growth through reorganising traditional farms and investing into non-staple agriculture (especially through educating farmers how to grow tea and improve farming methods. One may look upon another example of Tanzanian government's extensive services in training farmers to grow tobacco and improve farming methods, which aided significantly in tobacco yields 41.9 million pounds in 1975–1976. By 1976, Tanzania became the third-largest tobacco cultivator in Africa (207). Therefore, when the Tanzanian government used extensive services in agriculture, they achieved positive results and crop yields' growth, especially in tea and tobacco smallholder farming whose prices are cheaper for Tanzanian villages to consume than purchase products within the cities.
As a result of this centralised government-controlled focus on tobacco and tea dominating arable land with only cash crops beneficial to the central government, food production plummeted, and only foreign aid prevented starvation. Tanzania, which had been the largest exporter of food in Africa and was always able to feed its people, became the largest importer of food in the continent. Many sectors of the economy collapsed. There was a virtual breakdown in transportation. Goods such as toothpaste became virtually unobtainable.
The deficit in cereal grains was more than 1 million tons between 1974 and 1977. Only loans and grants from the World Bank and the IMF in 1975 prevented Tanzania from going bankrupt. By 1979, ujamaa villages contained 90% of the rural population but only produced 5% of the national agricultural output.
Nyerere announced that he would retire after presidential elections in 1985, leaving the country to enter its free market era — as imposed by structural adjustment under the IMF and World Bank – under the leadership of Ali Hassan Mwinyi, his hand-picked successor. Nyerere was instrumental in putting both Ali Hassan Mwinyi and Benjamin Mkapa in power. He remained the chairman of Chama Cha Mapinduzi (ruling party) for five years following his presidency until 1990, and is still recognised as the Father of the Nation.
Nyerere left Tanzania as one of the poorest, least developed, and most foreign aid-dependent countries in the world. Nevertheless, Nyerere's government did much to foster social development in Tanzania during its time in office. At an international conference of the Arusha Declaration, Nyerere's successor Mwinyi noted the social gains of his predecessor's time in office: an increase in life expectancy to 52 years, a reduction in infant mortality to 137 per thousand, 2600 dispensaries, 150 hospitals, a literacy rate of 85%, two universities with over 4500 students, and 3.7 million children enrolled in primary school.
Nyerere's foreign policy emphasised nonalignment in the Cold War and under his leadership Tanzania enjoyed friendly relations with the People's Republic of China, the Soviet bloc as well as the Western world. Nyerere sided with the Chinese in the Sino-Soviet rivalry.
Nyerere claimed Tanzania to be the first country to recognise Biafra soon after it declared independence from Nigeria, but was criticised for not consulting on this within his government first, as it could cause division in its relationship with Nigeria at the time.
Nyerere, along with several other Pan-Africanist leaders, founded the Organisation of African Unity in 1963. Nyerere supported several militant groups active in white minority African states, including the African National Congress (ANC) and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) of South Africa, FRELIMO when it sought to overthrow Portuguese rule in Mozambique, MPLA when it sought to overthrow Portuguese rule in Angola, and ZANLA in its war with the Smith government of Rhodesia. From the mid 1970s on, along with President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, he was one of the leaders of the Front Line States which campaigned in support of black majority rule in southern Africa. In 1978 he led Tanzania in war with Uganda, defeating and exiling the government of Idi Amin.
Nyerere was instrumental in the Seychelles military coup in 1977, in which soldiers trained by Nyerere deposed the country's democratically elected president James Mancham and installed a repressive one-party regime.
In an interview with Hubert Fichte from Frankfurter Rundschau, Nyerere commented that homosexuality was alien to Africa and therefore homosexuals cannot be defended against discrimination. His comments were omitted from the publication. Despite it being illegal, persecution was rare during his tenure.
He was criticised[by whom?] for his vindictive actions after unsuccessfully appealing to the Pan Africanist Congress to adopt dialogue and détente with Pretoria instead of armed revolution. He supported a leadership coup that installed David Sibeko but after Sibeko's assassination he crushed PAC resistance at Chunya Camp near Mbeya on 11 March 1980, when Tanzanian troops murdered and split up the PAC army into detention camps. Nyerere then pressured the Zimbabwe government to arrest and deport PAC personnel in May 1981. The PAC never recovered and despite rivalling the ANC from 1959–1981 quickly declined. Its Tanzanian controlled remnant gained only 1.2% in the South African freedom election of 1994.
Outside of Africa Nyerere was an inspiration to Walter Lini, Prime Minister of Vanuatu, whose theories on Melanesian socialism owed much to the ideas he found in Tanzania, which he visited. Lecturers inspired by Nyerere also taught at the University of Papua New Guinea in the 1980s, helping educated Melanesians familiarise themselves with his ideas.
After the Presidency, Nyerere remained the Chairman of Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) until 1990 when Ali Hassan Mwinyi took over. Nyerere remained vocal about the extent of corruption and corrupt officials during the Mwinyi administration. However, he raised no objections when the CCM abandoned its monopoly of power in 1992. He also served as Chairman of the independent International South Commission (1987–1990), and Chairman of the South Centre in the Geneva & Dar es Salaam Offices (1990–1999).
Nyerere retained enough influence to block Jakaya Kikwete's nomination for the presidency in the country's first multiparty elections in three decades, citing that he was too young to run a country. Nyerere was instrumental in getting Benjamin Mkapa elected (Mkapa had been Minister of Foreign Affairs for a time during Nyerere's administration). Kikwete later became president in 2005.
In one of his famous speeches during the CCM general assembly, Nyerere said in Swahili "Ninang'atuka", meaning that he was pulling out of politics for good. He kept to his word that Tanzania would be a democratic country. He moved back to his childhood home village of Butiama in northern Tanzania. During his retirement, he continued to travel the world meeting various heads of government as an advocate for poor countries and especially the South Centre institution. Nyerere travelled more widely after retiring than he did when he was president of Tanzania. One of his last high-profile actions was as the chief mediator in the Burundi conflict in 1996.
Nyerere died in a London hospital of leukaemia on 14 October 1999.
In January 2005 the Catholic diocese of Musoma opened a case for the beatification of Julius Nyerere. Nyerere was a devout Catholic who attended Mass daily throughout his public life and was known for fasting frequently.
He received honorary degrees from the University of Edinburgh (UK), Duquesne University (USA), University of Cairo (Egypt), University of Nigeria (Nigeria), University of Ibadan (Nigeria), University of Liberia (Liberia), University of Toronto (Canada), Howard University (USA), Jawaharlal Nehru University (India), University of Havana (Cuba), National University of Lesotho, University of the Philippines, Fort Hare University (South Africa), Sokoine University of Agriculture (Tanzania), and Lincoln University (PA, USA).
In the late 1960s, Nyerere criminalised "decadent" forms of culture including soul music, unapproved films and magazines, miniskirts, and tight trousers.
Nyerere remained an influence upon the people of Tanzania in the years following his presidency. His broader ideas of socialism live on in the rap and hip hop tradition of Tanzania. Nyerere believed socialism was an attitude of mind that countered discrimination and entailed equality of all human beings. Therefore, ujamaa can be said to have created the social environment for the development of hip hop culture. As in other countries, hip hop emerged in post-colonial Tanzania when divisions among the population were prominent, whether by class, ethnicity or gender. Rappers broadcast messages of freedom, unity, and family, topics that are all reminiscent of the spirit Nyerere put forth in ujamaa. In addition, Nyerere supported the presence of foreign cultures in Tanzania saying, "a nation which refuses to learn from foreign cultures is nothing but a nation of idiots and lunatics...[but] to learn from other cultures does not mean we should abandon our own." Under his leadership, the Ministry of National Culture and Youth was formed to encourage Tanzanian popular culture, in this case hip hop, to develop and flower. As a result of Nyerere's presence in Tanzania, the genre of hip hop was welcomed from overseas in Tanzania and melded with the spirit of ujamaa. In 2009 his life was portrayed in Imruh Bakari's – The Legacy of Julius Kambarage Nyerere (Mnet, Great Africans Series, 2009).