From Godfrey Mwakikagile, Africa and America in The Sixties, First Edition, New Africa Press, 2006.
WRITING about the sixties has been a personal odyssey for me.
I grew up in the sixties. I was ten years old at the dawn of the
decade and the euphoric - and turbulent - sixties were an integral part of my life. And they always will be.
Therefore I write from personal experience. Much of what I have written
in this book is what I knew, and even experienced, when I was growing up in the sixties.
But a lot of it also comes from other sources I have cited to complement
my work. And for that I am very grateful to all the individuals and institutions whose material I have used in this study
to help me look at the sixties from a better perspective I otherwise would not have.
I am also grateful to the people of my generation and others who
were there in those days for inspiring this work. It was, in many ways, a collective experience. And it is, indeed, a decade
Wednesday, 27th September 2006.
IT WAS a decade of triumph and tragedy, of wars and assassinations,
and much more. It was also the dawn of a new era for both Africa and America.
In Africa, we witnessed the end of colonial rule. In America, legal
segregation was consigned to the dustbin of history following the triumph of the civil rights movement.
For us in Africa, the sixties ushered in the dawn of a new era in
more than one way. While we celebrated the end of colonial rule, we also witnessed wars in the Congo which became the bleeding
heart of Africa; and in Nigeria where a civil war became the bloodiest conflict in modern African history threatening the
survival of Africa's most populous nation and one of the richest.
The Nigerian civil war was also one of the bloodiest in modern world
history. And there were other conflicts on the continent.
But while the end of colonial rule signalled the dawn of a new era
of independence under which we would be masters of our own destiny, the democracy we were supposed to enjoy was compromised
by the emergence of a new phenomenon on the African political landscape: military coups which led to the institutionalization
of militocracy, and dictatorship even under civilian rule, as the most powerful institution in most countries on the continent
for almost three decades well into the nineties.
We also had a rude awakening to the harsh realities of nationhood,
as we struggled to build our nations and consolidate our independence.
In America, around the same time, the nation's commitment to
democracy and racial equality was severely tested in the streets and in the courts as the civil rights movement gained momentum
throughout the decade, reaching its peak in 1968 with the passage of one of the most important civil rights laws in the country's
history: the Opening Housing Act. Two others had been passed earlier, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights
Act of 1965. Together they constituted the most comprehensive civil rights legislation in the nation's history.
The triumph of the civil rights movement coincided with the
achievement of independence in Africa. By 1968, most African countries had won independence. The countries which had not won
freedom by then included South Africa, the bastion of white rule and supremacy on the continent; the British colony of Rhodesia;
the Portuguese colonies of Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde, Sao Tome and Principe; and the Seychelles, the
Comoros, and French Somaliland which became Djibouti.
It was a decade of triumph and tragedy, of hope and despair.
In America, it was also the decade of the Vietnam war which bitterly divided the nation; of the counterculture, and much more.
But above all, it was a decade of optimism.
In Africa, we were highly optimistic of the future after we
won independence. And in America, many people saw the triumph of the civil rights movement as the dawn of a new era for the
nation in which people would "not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character," to quote Dr.
Martin Luther King.
And from a personal perspective, the sixties were for me a
period of political awakening as I followed the struggle for independence and other political developments in Africa and for
racial equality in the United States. I grew up in the sixties. I was then in my teens.
When our country, what was then Tanganyika, won independence
from Britain at midnight on 9 December 1961, I was 12 years old. I was born at 6 a.m. on Tuesday, 4 October 1949, in the town
of Kigoma, a port on Lake Tanganyika in western Tanganyika which for decades especially after independence has been a haven
for refugees from neighbouring Congo, Rwanda and Burundi.
I was baptised Godfrey on Christmas day, 25 December 1949,
as a member of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) but grew up as a member of the Moravian Church in my home district of Rungwe
where German missionaries established themselves in the 1880s.
Twelve years after being baptised, I witnessed the end of British
colonial rule and the birth of a new nation, Tanganyika, the first in East Africa to attain sovereign status.
One of my mother's elder brothers, uncle Johanne Chonde Mwambapa
who was a primary school teacher, took me on his bicycle to see fireworks and witness the lowering of the Union Jack at midnight
at a soccer stadium in Tukuyu, four miles away from our home.
The town was founded in the 1890s by the German colonial rulers
who preceded the British and named it Neu Langenburg. It was destroyed by an earthquake in 1910, and again by another earthquake
in 1919, but was rebuilt by the Germans and the British.
The town was renamed Tukuyu after German East Africa -Deutsch Ostafrika - became
a British colony called Tanganyika following the end of World War I.
Throughout colonial rule, German and British,
the small town was and still is the capital of Rungwe District, my home, in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania in Mbeya Region
in the southwestern part of the country on the border with Malawi, formerly Nyasaland, and Zambia, formerly Northern Rhodesia.
District lies in the Great Rift Valley and is ringed by misty blue mountains except the southern part which is bordered by
Lake Nyasa, also known as Lake Malawi.
In Tanzania, we still call it Lake Nyasa
as it was during colonial rule because part of the lake belongs to Tanzania. The border runs in the middle of the lake and
was established before 1914 between the British colony of Nyasaland and German East Africa (Tanganyika). It was never changed
or disputed by the British who ruled both Tanganyika and Nyasaland which was renamed Malawi after independence, although they
put the lake under the jurisdiction of Nyasaland for administrative purposes since there was no separate administration for
the Tanganyika portion.
And since the boundary between the two
countries was established by two colonial powers, Germany and Britain, Britain alone had no legal authority to redraw the
map and change the border. They were in control of both countries after the end of World War I and they knew the boundary
that was agreed upon by both Germany and Britain ran in the middle of the lake.
It's the government of Malawi under President
Kamuzu Banda which renamed the lake, Lake Malawi, contending that the entire lake belongs to Malawi. Tanzania contends otherwise
and has done so since colonial times. The lake belongs to both Tanzania and Malawi and to Mozambique as well.
Colonial rule caused a lot of problems
for us and this is just one of them. Before colonial rule, the people on both sides shared the lake without any problems.
There was no such thing as German East Africa (Tanganyika) or British Nyasaland. There was just Africa, and Africans, free
to migrate anywhere and share the resources – including fish in Lake Nyasa – without hindrance or being accused
of taking what did not belong to you. It belonged to all of us.
And unfortunately, when colonial rule ended,
many of the problems which had been caused by colonialism remained with us – including border disputes.
As I witnessed the end of colonial rule
on 9 December 1961, little did I realise that I would be living in a new country only about two-and-a-half years later. It
was the new nation of Tanzania formed after Tanganyika united with Zanzibar on 26 April 1964. The new country was called the
United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar and was renamed Tanzania on October 29 the same year.
The leader of the newly independent country
was Julius Nyerere. When he led Tanganyika to independence in 1961, he was 39 and the youngest leader in the world. He became
the country's first prime minister.
On 9 December 1962 on the country's first
independence anniversary, Tanganyika became a republic. And Julius Nyerere became president.
A towering intellectual yet a humble leader
committed to equality for everybody, especially to the well-being of the masses probably more than anybody else, he tried
to transform Tanzania into a classless socialist society, although not with much success, and even sent his children to local
schools instead of sending them overseas as was the case with many other leaders and other highly privileged members of society
across the continent.
I went to school with his eldest son, Andrew.
And he lived in the same student hostel with the rest of us when we were at Tambaza High School in Dar es Salaam where I completed
standard 14, or Form VI, which would be equivalent to the 14th grade in the United States had the American school system been
structured to go that far before one goes to college or university.
More than 30 years later,
Andrew contributed generously towards completion of a project I was working on and which had direct bearing on his family.
I wrote a book about his father, President Nyerere, entitled Nyerere and Africa: End of An Era, and
he answered all the questions I asked him and helped me with other things. He also wrote quite a few comments on different
subjects which I included in the second edition of the book published in January 2005. The book has now gone through four
And a strange coincidence
occurred when I started writing this book: Africa and America in The Sixties: A Decade That Changed The Nation
and The Destiny of A Continent. Just one day after I started writing the book, I learnt that
one of my former colleagues at the Daily News in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in the
early seventies had died. His name was Stanley Kamana.
He was the first journalist
with whom I covered President Nyerere for the first time not long before I started working full-time as a reporter at the
News which was Tanzania's largest and oldest newspaper and one of the four largest and most influential
in East Africa together with the Daily Nation and the East African Standard, both
Kenyan newspapers based in Nairobi; and the Uganda Argus, based in Kampala, Uganda.
journalist since the late sixties, Stanley Kamana was one of the best and most seasoned news reporters and political commentators
Tanzania has ever produced and will be sorely missed.
I read the news of his
death in a Tanzanian newspaper on the Internet when I was in the United States. The story was published in the Guardian, Dar
es Salaam, Tanzania, 13 October 2005, with the headline, "Kamana Laid to Rest":
"Hundreds of people attended the burial
ceremony of veteran journalist, the late Stanley Kamana, yesterday at Kinondoni cemetery in Dar es Salaam.
Relatives, friends, and journalists from
various media houses had earlier tearfully paid his body the last respects at his house in Tandika, Dar es Salaam.
The IPP (a Tanzania media company) Executive
Chairman Reginald Mengi, former Prime Minister Joseph Sinde Warioba, Habari Corporation Chairman, Jenerali Ulimwengu, CCM
Union presidential candidate Jakaya Kikwete (now president of Tanzania), NCCR-Mageuzi presidential candidate Sengondo Mvungi,
were among the many dignitaries who attended the burial ceremony.
James Mpinga representing the staff from
the IPP said the death of Kamana was a hard blow to the media fraternity: 'He was a hard working man. I don't think that his
gap will be easily replaced. His contribution was of great impact on the development of the country.'
Reverend Samson Kameeta of the Tanzania
Assemblies of God (TAG), Tandika Mabatini Parish, in his sermon, told the mourners that they should invest in the kingdom
of God by committing good deeds.
Many people described Kamana as a man of
He left behind six children and a widow
Kamana died of a heart attack at Temeke
Municipal Hospital in Dar es Salaam last Thursday aged 58. Until his death, he was working for IPP Media as a sub-editor."
Kamana was one of the reporters
with whom I worked closely at the Daily News, as I did with many others.
But long before I became a news reporter,
I had other career ambitions which had nothing to do with journalism.
I wanted to be a doctor but changed my
mind when our American Peace Corps biology teacher at Songea Secondary School, Mrs. Gallagher whose husband taught history
at the same school, showed us how to dissect a frog.
That was in 1968 when I was in standard
12, my final year, before I went to Tambaza High School (standard 13 and standard 14, usually known as Form V and Form VI)
after passing the dreaded final exams taken by all the students in all the three East African countries of Kenya, Uganda and
Tanzania. We took the same exams, on the same day, throughout East Africa.
wanted to be a lawyer and then a writer, goals I felt I could easily achieve now that we had won independence from Britain
and would be masters of our own destiny, especially with the free education for everybody provided under the leadership of
President Julius Nyerere all the way to university. Medical service was also free for everybody under Nyerere as were other
I was 13 years old when
our country became a republic on 9 December 1962, and had no idea where I was headed in life. Ten years later, I ended up
in the United States as a student after working as a news reporter at the country's largest newspaper, the Daily News, formerly
the Standard, and
briefly as an information officer at the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in the nation's capital Dar es Salaam.
President Nyerere became
our editor-in-chief after the Standard was nationalized in 1970 and renamed Daily News. But
he did not serve in any executive capacity and played only a ceremonial role as the head of this government-owned newspaper
and public institution.
The executive role was played by our managing
editor, Sammy Mdee, who later became President Nyerere's press secretary. He was succeeded by Benjamin Mkapa, whom we simply
called Ben Mkapa. Mkapa also became President Nyerere's press secretary and held other high government positions through the
years, including ambassadorial and ministerial posts. He once served as Tanzania's ambassador to the United States in the
eighties and later became Tanzania's minister of foreign affairs.
When I left for the United
States, Mkapa was our editor at the Daily News. And it was he who helped me to go
to school in the United States. He later became president of Tanzania and served two five year-terms from 1995 to 2005.
I left Tanzania for the
United States on a flight from Dar es Salaam to London around 8 a.m. on Friday, 3 November 1972, and arrived in New York around
4 p.m. the next day. It was the first time I had set foot on American soil. I was 23 years and exactly one month old when
I landed in New York on November 4th.
I have lived in the United States since
then and longer than I did in Africa, which partly explains why I have decided to write about America during her turbulent
years in the sixties.
But I have done so mainly from an African
perspective and in relation to the events which unfolded in Africa during the same period where comparative analysis is warranted
in the study of the events on both sides of the Atlantic during those tempestuous times.
When I first arrived in America, Dr. Martin
Luther King had been assassinated only four years earlier in April 1968; the civil rights movement reached its peak in the
same year when Congress passed the Fair Housing - also known as the Open Housing - Act of 1968; and memories of riots in more
than 120 cities across the nation which had been sparked by King's assassination were still fresh in the minds of most people,
including my sponsors in Detroit where I attended Wayne State University.
I was sponsored by the Pan-African Congress-USA,
an organization founded in 1970 by a group of African Americans in that city to forge and strengthen ties between Africa and
Black America, among other things. Sponsoring African students was one of the ways of achieving this goal.
first student to be sponsored was Kojo Yankah. He attended Wayne State University during the same time I did and later the
University of Michigan. He returned to Ghana where be became a member of parliament and a cabinet member under President Jerry
We arrived in America as students at a
time when the country was still going through dramatic changes as a result of the civil rights movement and the reaction to
the racial injustices black Americans had been subjected to for centuries. Many of them, especially the young, had reacted
by rioting in the sixties.
Detroit itself had been the scene of some
of the worst riots in the nation's history which erupted in 1967 soon after Newark exploded only a few days earlier, and not
long after Watts went up in flames in 1965. It was badly scarred and gutted buildings were a common sight in many parts of
the city including the area where I lived, not far from 12th Street where the riots started.
In 1975, 12th Street was renamed Rosa Parks
in honour of "the mother of the civil rights movement" whom I had the chance to meet in the same year, together with US Congressman
Charles Diggs from Detroit, at an African event at Wayne State University where a member of the Pan-African Congress, the
organization which sponsored me, showed a documentary he had filmed in Angola showing the brutalities perpetrated by the Portuguese
colonial forces against innocent civilians in villages during the liberation struggle.
The film had many gruesome scenes, including
gaping wounds, I will never forget. One old man had virtually been scalped. Others were burnt with napalm.
And there was much more that we saw in
Rosa Parks, her husband Raymond, and her
mother Leona McCauley moved from Montgomery, Alabama, to Detroit in 1957 at the urging of Rosa's younger brother Sylvester
and amidst death threats - they also lost their jobs - because of her refusal to give up a seat to a white man on a city bus
on 1 December 1955; an act that precipitated the modern civil rights movement but whose spirit had been harboured in the hearts
and minds of most blacks across the nation for years.
Her courageous act also catapulted a little
known Baptist minister, Dr. Martin Luther King, into the spotlight after she and others sought some help from him.
Dr. King was her pastor at the Dexter Avenue
Baptist Church and was new in Montgomery. Only 26 years old, he was chosen to lead the Montgomery Improvement Association,
a new organization formed to direct the nascent civil rights struggle in that city.
It included a bus boycott by blacks because
of the city's refusal to treat them as full citizens with the same rights as whites to whom they were routinely forced to
give up their seats on the city buses; an act of injustice and humiliation they could no longer tolerate. The boycott lasted
for 381 days.
In December 1956, one year after the boycott
started, the United States Supreme Court outlawed segregation on city buses, declaring it unconstitutional. The ruling gave
momentum to the battle against segregation laws which were enforced throughout the southern states in public accommodations
Rosa Parks died years later at her home
in Detroit on Monday, 24 October 2005, at the age of 92 and was buried in the same city. Her husband Raymond also died in
Detroit before her in 1977. Her mother also died before her in Detroit. And both were buried in the same city.
Rosa Parks' long life and commitment to
racial equality and dignity remained a source of inspiration to many people of all races who continued to carry on the struggle
for justice across America and elsewhere. It is a struggle I have witnessed through the years.
For more than 30 years, I have been an
integral part of American life and have had the opportunity to observe and study events in this country just like millions
of other people have and continue to do; but with one exception in my case and of many others whose background is similar
to mine as an African. I also look at those events from an African perspective. It is a perspective that goes way back to
the sixties. And I have seen a lot as a part of that history myself as an observer and as a participant like millions of others.
Africa at The Dawn of The Decade
THE YEAR 1960 stands out in the history
of Africa in one fundamental respect. It was the year in which the largest number of African countries won independence, a
feat that was not duplicated in any of the following years.
A total of 17 African countries won independence
in 1960. Almost all of them were former French colonies with the exception of Nigeria which was once a British colony and
won independence on 1 October 1960.
But they were not the first countries on
the continent to emerge from colonial rule. They had been preceded by Egypt which won independence from Britain in 1922; Libya
from Italy in 1951; Morocco and Tunisia from France in 1956; Sudan from Britain and Egypt also in 1956; and by Ghana and Guinea.
Ghana became the first country in black
Africa to emerge from colonial rule. Formerly known as the Gold Coast, Ghana won independence from Britain on 6 March 1957
under the leadership of Kwame Nkrumah. And Guinea under Sekou Toure became the first French colony in sub-Saharan Africa to
win independence on 2 October 1958.
Guinea made a dramatic entry into the community
of free nations which angered the former colonial power, France, similar to what happened in the Congo when Prime Minister
Patrice Lumumba gave a fiery speech on independence day denouncing Belgian colonial rule which the Belgian king at the ceremony
tried to portray as benevolent to Africans.
Although he was the prime minister and
the country's elected leader chosen by parliament of several parties to be the head of government, Lumumba had not even been
scheduled to speak on that day - President Joseph Kasavubu was - and many observers say his fiery speech sealed his fate which
ended in his brutal assassination only a few month later. As he stated in his speech in Congo's capital, Leopoldville, on
June 30, 1960:
"Men and women of the Congo,
Victorious fighters for independence, today
victorious, I greet you in the name of the Congolese Government.
All of you, my friends, who have fought
tirelessly at our sides, I ask you to make this June 30, 1960, an illustrious date that you will keep indelibly engraved in
your hearts, a date of significance of which you will teach to your children, so that they will make known to their sons and
to their grandchildren the glorious history of our fight for liberty.
For this independence of the Congo, even
as it is celebrated today with Belgium, a friendly country with whom we deal as equal to equal, no Congolese worthy of the
name will ever be able to forget that is was by fighting that it has been won [applause], a day-to-day fight, an ardent and
idealistic fight, a fight in which we were spared neither deprivation nor suffering, and for which we gave our strength and
We are proud of this struggle, of tears,
of fire, and of blood, to the depths of our being, for it was a noble and just struggle, and indispensable to put an end to
the humiliating slavery which was imposed upon us by force.
This was our fate for eighty years of a
colonial regime; our wounds are too fresh and too painful still for us to drive them from our memory. We have known harassing
work, exacted in exchange for salaries which did not permit us to eat enough to drive away hunger, or to clothe ourselves,
or to house ourselves decently, or to raise our children as creatures dear to us.
We have known ironies,
insults, blows that we endured morning, noon, and evening, because we are Negroes. Who will forget that to a black one said
not as to a friend, but because the more honourable vous was reserved for whites
We have seen our lands seized in the name
of allegedly legal laws which in fact recognized only that might is right.
We have seen that the law was not the same
for a white and for a black, accommodating for the first, cruel and inhuman for the other.
We have witnessed atrocious sufferings
of those condemned for their political opinions or religious beliefs; exiled in their own country, their fate truly worse
than death itself.
We have seen that in the towns there were
magnificent houses for the whites and crumbling shanties for the blacks, that a black was not admitted in the motion-picture
houses, in the restaurants, in the stores of the Europeans; that a black travelled in the holds, at the feet of the whites
in their luxury cabins.
Who will ever forget the massacres where
so many of our brothers perished, the cells into which those who refused to submit to a regime of oppression and exploitation
were thrown? [applause]
All that, my brothers, we have endured.
But we, whom the vote of your elected representatives
have given the right to direct our dear country, we who have suffered in our body and in our heart from colonial oppression,
we tell you very loud, all that is henceforth ended.
The Republic of the Congo has been proclaimed,
and our country is now in the hands of its own children.
Together, my brothers, my sisters, we are
going to begin a new struggle, a sublime struggle, which will lead our country to peace, prosperity, and greatness.
Together, we are going to establish social
justice and make sure everyone has just remuneration for his labour [applause].
We are going to show the world what the
black man can do when he works in freedom, and we are going to make of the Congo the centre of the sun's radiance for all
We are going to keep watch over the lands
of our country so that they truly profit her children. We are going to restore ancient laws and make new ones which will be
just and noble.
are going to put an end to suppression of free thought and see to it that all our citizens enjoy to the full the fundamental
liberties foreseen in the Declaration of the Rights of Man [applause].
We are going to do away with all discrimination
of every variety and assure for each and all the position to which human dignity, work, and dedication entitles him.
We are going to rule not by the peace of
guns and bayonets but by a peace of the heart and the will [applause].
And for all that, dear fellow countrymen,
be sure that we will count not only on our enormous strength and immense riches but on the assistance of numerous foreign
countries whose collaboration we will accept if it is offered freely and with no attempt to impose on us an alien culture
of no matter what nature [applause].
In this domain, Belgium, at last accepting
the flow of history, has not tried to oppose our independence and is ready to give us their aid and their friendship, and
a treaty has just been signed between our two countries, equal and independent. On our side, while we stay vigilant, we shall
respect our obligations, given freely.
Thus, in the interior and the exterior,
the new Congo, our dear Republic that my government will create, will be a rich, free, and prosperous country. But so that
we will reach this aim without delay, I ask all of you, legislators and citizens, to help me with all your strength.
I ask all of you to forget your tribal
quarrels. They exhaust us. They risk making us despised abroad.
I ask the parliamentary minority to help
my Government through a constructive opposition and to limit themselves strictly to legal and democratic channels.
I ask all of you not to shrink before any
sacrifice in order to achieve the success of our huge undertaking.
In conclusion, I ask you unconditionally
to respect the life and the property of your fellow citizens and of foreigners living in our country. If the conduct of these
foreigners leaves something to be desired, our justice will be prompt in expelling them from the territory of the Republic;
if, on the contrary, their conduct is good, they must be left in peace, for they also are working for our country's prosperity.
The Congo's independence marks a decisive
step towards the liberation of the entire African continent [applause].
Sire, Excellencies, Mesdames, Messieurs,
my dear fellow countrymen, my brothers of race, my brothers of struggle-- this is what I wanted to tell you in the name of
the Government on this magnificent day of our complete independence.
Our government, strong, national, popular,
will be the health of our country.
I call on all Congolese citizens, men,
women and children, to set themselves resolutely to the task of creating a prosperous national economy which will assure our
Glory to the fighters for national liberation!
Long live independence and African unity!
Long live the independent and sovereign
militancy had been preceded elsewhere, in Guinea, under another fiery and uncompromising African nationalist Ahmed Sekou Toure.
Both were dynamic leaders but it was Ahmed Sekou Toure's militancy which became one of the most prominent features in the
early years of the African independence struggle when he defied French wishes and refused to keep his country in the French
community in 1958, about two years before Lumumba led Congo to independence on June 30, 1960.
Sekou Toure's militancy started early in
his life. He did not go far in school in terms of formal education but was well-read and very knowledgeable like a number
of other African leaders who also never got the chance to go to college.
Zambian president, Kenneth Kaunda, was
one of them. He completed standard six, what Americans call sixth grade, and worked as a school teacher before entering politics.
Yet he successfully led his country to
independence and was one of the most prominent, and most knowledgeable, leaders in post-colonial Africa. Sekou Toure was another
one among several.
Born in 1922 of peasant origin like most
of his contemporaries including the majority of African leaders, Sekou Toure received primary school education but was expelled
from a trade school for leading a food strike when he was only 15 years old.
A firebrand, he became actively involved
in trade union activities and rose to prominence as a national leader of the African trade-union federation he formed after
breaking away from the Communist French trade-union confederation.
Sekou Toure also formed the Democratic
Party of Guinea. His party lost the 1954 elections which were rigged against him by the French colonial authorities. But in
1957, he won complete control of the Guinea National Assembly, clearing the way for him to lead his country to independence.
In the referendum of September 1958, he
won endorsement - by an overwhelming majority - of his position for immediate independence and led Guinea to become the first
African French colony to emerge from colonial rule; and by doing so, helped blaze the trail for African emancipation together
with Kwame Nkrumah who, only the year before in 1957, became the first black African leader to lead his country to independence.
The independence struggle which had already
been going for many years in different parts of Africa was finally beginning to bear fruit, with the sixties being the most
important years in the history of African decolonization.
But with decolonization came problems as
was tragically demonstrated by the events in the Congo when the country descended into chaos only eleven days after country
won independence from Belgium, tirggered by the secession of Katanga Province under the leadership of Moise Tshombe backed
by Western interests.
Therefore, while 1960 was hailed as the
dawn of a new era for Africa when 17 countries on the continent won independence in that year, it was also a sign and a warning
of things yet to come and about which African countries could do very little to avert the catastrophes that befell the continent
in subsequent years.
Some of those events were linked to or
influenced by what was going on in the United States during that period. The Congo crisis was one of those events in which
the United States was actively involved in pursuit of its national and geopolitical interests as the main rival of the Soviet
Union in Africa and other parts of the Third World.
Another event was the civil rights movement
in the United States which had a lot in common with the African independence struggle.
As we look at the chronology of the main
events on the African continent through the years, we see that Africa has come a long way since the sixties. And she still
has a long way to go in terms of achieving the goals she set out to achieve at the dawn of independence in the 1960s.
We also going to look at some of the major
events in the United States in the 1960s, especially when they complement our analysis of what took place on the African continent
during those years.
But we are also going to look at the events
which unfolded in the United States during the turbulent sixties on their own merit even if they are not in any way linked
or related to any of the events which took place in Africa during the same period since this work is a study of both - Africa
and America - and what happened in both places in what is probably one of the most important decades in the history of the
world since the end of World War II.
The Sixties and Seventies
From Godfrey Mwakikagile,
under Mwalimu Nyerere: Reflections on an African Statesman, New Africa Press, 2006:
Tanganyika after Independence
TANGANYIKA was the first country to win independence in East Africa. It was followed by Uganda
in October 1962, and by Kenya in December 1963. On May 31, 1962, the government of Tanganyika announced that the country would
become a republic in December that year and continue to be a member of the Commonwealth.
It became a republic on December 9, 1962, on the first independence anniversary, and Julius Nyerere
who had served as prime minister until then became the country's first president.
A new constitution was adopted and was in many ways similar to that of Ghana under Kwame Nkrumah
whom Nyerere admired. In fact, in the first official portrait after independence, Nyerere and some of his cabinet members
wore Kente cloth like Nkrumah, his ideological compatriot, and his colleagues did and just like many other Ghanaians still
The new constitution of Tanganyika after independence outlawed strikes and greatly increased presidential
powers. A preventive detention act aimed at curbing subversive activities had been passed by parliament a few months earlier
in the same year, 1962, and greatly enhanced the authority of the government in many areas, although it was viewed with apprehension
by some people as an oppressive instrument.
To consolidate national unity, parliament passed a law in 1965 and made Tanganyika a de jure one-party
state; the year before, in 1964, Ghana also became a one-party socialist state after a controversial referendum and Nkrumah
was declared life president, something Nyerere refused to accept when some members of parliament proposed that he should be
made life president.
Even before 1965, Tanganyika had been operating as a de facto one-party state
because it had no opposition in parliament following the devastating defeat of the radical African National Congress (ANC),
the main opposition party, in previous elections. The African National Congress was led by Zuberi Mtemvu who left TANU to
form the opposition party in pursuit of Africanization which, according to his definition, would virtually exclude non-blacks
from the new dispensation as equal members of society.
Soon after independence, Tanganyika faced serious problems in many areas - economic development,
education, medical services, civil service, communications and transport, among others - because it did not have enough qualified
people to provide much-needed high-level manpower for the young nation. When it won independence, it had only 120 university
graduates, among whom were two engineers, two lawyers, and 12 doctors in a country bigger than Nigeria in terms of area, or
the size of Texas, Oklahoma and West Virginia combined.
Tanzania is one of the 10 largest countries in Africa in terms of area and population; yet one
of the poorest even in Africa itself, and one of the 25 poorest in the world, with a population of about 40 million people
in 2006 roughly the same as Canada's.
To solve some of the country's problems, Nyerere instituted a self-help programme and preached
self-reliance as national policy under which people volunteered to build roads, bridges, schools, clinics and work on other
projects to develop the nation. Teams of volunteers worked across the country and succeeded in completing many of these projects.
The campaign also included adult literacy. People who could read and write volunteered to teach
others. The adult literacy campaign was so successful that within a few years, Tanganyika, later Tanzania, had the highest
literacy rate in Africa and one of the highest in the world, over 90 percent. Yet it remained poor, very poor.
To tackle poverty, Nyerere introduced the policy of ujamaa, a Kiswahili
word which means familyhood. It was a policy of socialism with a human face, unlike that of the Marxist brand.
People established communal villages to work on communal farms and other projects but without much
success. It was, in fact, a disaster in economic terms and retarded Tanzania's economic growth for more than a decade since
its introduction in 1967.
But it also had notable success in many areas. People lived closer together, making it easier for
the government to provide them with social services including clinics and schools. The people also built primary schools in
their own areas and other facilities which could not have been built had they lived miles apart before ujamaa was
The policy also help to instill egalitarian values and ideals which played a critical role in keeping
the people united without accentuating cleavages so typical of capitalist societies which propagate elitism as a virtue, leading
some people to feel that they are better than others.
Without such egalitarianism
achieved under ujamaa, Tanzania would not be what it is today as a stable, peaceful
country where the majority of the people treat each other as brothers and sisters on equal basis in spite of grinding poverty
among millions of them. Under Nyerere, ostentatious display of wealth was shunned and even despised. And everything possible
was done to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor.
I remember how life was under Nyerere.
All of us were involved in development projects, one way or another, sometimes working without being paid. People worked as
volunteers on many public projects including farming, the mainstay of the economy. Others were involved in adult education,
teaching adults in towns and villages how to read and write. And those of us who had just finished secondary school or high
school went into National Service which was mandatory for us in order to participate in development projects instead of simply
waiting to get office jobs or go for further education.
We were not paid when we were in National Service. But we were provided with all the basic necessities
- food, shelter and clothing. Our induction into National Service was one of the most successful policies which fostered egalitarian
values among the elite, including us, many of whom felt they were better than the poor and illiterate peasants and workers,
the very same people who paid for our education with their tax money.
I went to Ruvu National Service in January 1971, about 25 miles from Dar es Salaam, and underwent
rigorous training which included military training. Other trainees included volunteers from different parts of the country.
Most of the volunteers had very little formal education or none. Yet we lived together in the same tents and ate together
at the same table without discrimination.
I remember there were some young men and women, fresh from secondary school and high school, who
felt that they were better than the illiterate volunteers. They also resented the fact that our participation in National
Service was mandatory. But they were a minority. The majority of us accepted the poor and illiterate young men and women from
the rural areas as equal to us and we worked together on different projects without any problems.
From Ruvu, I was sent to Bulombora National Service camp in Bukoba district in northwestern Tanzania
for further training. The camp was located very close to the shores of Lake Victoria, only a few minutes' walk.
Altogether, the training in National Service camps lasted for six months.
After that I went to Dar es Salaam to work for the ministry of information and broadcasting as an
information officer in July 1971 and then went back to the Daily
News,where I had worked before. I stayed at the
ministry of information and broadcasting only for a short time.
Our participation in National Service continued after we left the training camps. We were required
to wear National Service uniforms at work, and a large chunk of our salaries, I think about 40 to 60 percent, was deducted
to go towards national development projects as mandated by the government.
It was a two-year programme, from the time we first went in, and it taught us discipline and helped
instill in us not only egalitarian values but a strong sense of patriotism. We already loved our country. But we were at the
same time constantly reminded that there were enemies within, working with enemies outside, to try to destroy our country,
sabotage our economy and independence, and we should always be on guard against such fifth columnists. "Be vigilant," we were
always reminded in speeches and patriotic songs.
Some of the patriotic songs we sang in National Service training camps concerned apartheid South
Africa and other white minority regimes in southern Africa and in Portuguese Guinea in West Africa. They were pretty violent
songs, ready to irrigate our land with the blood of the enemy, reminding ourselves that we were on the frontline of the African
liberation struggle and should be ready to defend our country, anytime, and at any cost, and be prepared to fight alongside
our brothers and sisters still suffering under colonialism and racial oppression anywhere on the continent.
And all that had to do with the leadership of President Julius Nyerere as a staunch Pan-Africanist
and strong advocate of African unity who took an uncompromising stand on those issues. And he remained that way until his
Apartheid South Africa was the primary target as the most powerful white minority regime on the
continent and as the most stubborn. And it evoked some of the strongest feelings among us because of the diabolical nature
of the regime and its abominable institution of apartheid.
The Portuguese colonial rulers in Mozambique, our neighbour on the southern border, were not saints,
either, and triggered an equally hostile response from us; our anger fuelled by attacks on our country including aerial bombings
and planting of deadly mines on our soil by the Portuguese colonial forces because of our uncompromising support for the liberation
struggle in Mozambique led by FRELIMO - a Portuguese acronym for Front for the Liberation of Mozambique - waging guerrilla
warfare against the colonial forces.
All this was done because of Nyerere's strong commitment to the liberation of Africa and to the
independence of Tanganyika, later Tanzania, as a self-reliant nation whose prosperity depended on the people themselves: us.
His Pan-African commitment galvanized him into action probably more than anything else. As he stated
in an interview with the New Internationalist: "I have always said that I was African first and socialist second. I would rather
see a free and united Africa before a fragmented socialist Africa."1
The humiliation of Africa by our European conquerors also played a major role
in shaping his attitude towards them. As he told Rolf Italiaander, the author of The New African Leaders
(1961), "I have learned to be a moderate through observing the inflexible behaviour of the Europeans."2
He made those remarks shortly before independence and they defined his policies after we won independence
when he welcomed Europeans and others to stay and live on the basis of equality with us. Jomo Kenyatta expressed similar sentiments
shortly after he came out of prison in 1961 but in more strident a tone. As he stated on October 14th
the same year: "Non-Africans who still want to be called 'Bwana' should pack up and go, but others who are prepared to live
under our flag are invited to remain."3
On January 28, 1962,
Kenyatta went a little further, with the stipulation that it is non-Africans who now had to learn to call Africans, "Bwana."
The literal translation of "Bwana" is "Mister." But it has deeper meaning, implying "Sir," and someone above you, our European
conquerors, for example, in our case.
And that is exactly what Jomo Kenyatta meant when he said on that day in January that Europeans and
other non-Africans should not only stop expecting to be called "Bwana" by Africans but should, from now on, learn to call
Africans "Bwana." As he put it: "I want Europeans, Asians and Arabs to learn to call Africans 'Bwana.' Those who agree to
do so are free to stay."4
Nyerere argued along similar lines saying the first thing we got when we won independence was dignity.
But he also warned against retaliation by Africans now that we were free. It was obvious that many of them including some
leaders were in a vindictive mood. As he stated: "Many of the leaders suffered from discrimination themselves, and some have
been unable to achieve that degree of objectivity which would enable them to direct their hatred towards discrimination itself
instead of at the racial group which the discriminators represented."5
He saw Europeans who remained in Tanganyika and other non-black citizens such as Arabs and Asians
as an integral part of the nation not only in terms of equal rights but also in terms of participation in national development
and in other areas of national life on equal basis; unlike in neighbouring Kenya where they were marginalized and relegated
to the periphery of the mainstream after black Africans assumed power following independence. As the leader of Tanganyika,
later Tanzania, Nyerere wanted to see the country develop but without compromising its independence and losing its African
personality and culture by becoming a carbon copy of Europe.
Without development, nothing else - fighting poverty, ignorance and disease - could be achieved. And
development demanded hard work and a lot of sacrifice; hence the Swahili slogan, Uhuru na Kazi, meaning
Freedom and Work, Nyerere and other leaders used constantly to exhort us to achieve our nation's goals as one people regardless
of race, tribe, colour, creed or national origin. We were all Tanganyikans, later Tanzanians, and we were all Africans. Indians
were in India, Europeans in Europe. Those in Africa were African like us. And they still are.
But Nyerere also believed that the country
could not develop if its economy and resources were controlled by foreigners. If they did, then they would continue to dictate
policy to us as we also continued to delude ourselves into believing that we were truly independent and masters of our own
destiny. We just couldn't be independent if our country was controlled by foreigners.
And no country can claim to be truly independent
if its economy, not just its government, is controlled or dominated by others. In fact, you can't even have an independent
government if you are not economically independent or are told what to do by outsiders. That is why in the mid-sixties Nyerere
asked West Germany to withdraw all of its aid from Tanzania when it made such aid conditional. He could not accept anyone
dictating terms to us. I remember that time. We lost the assistance that we needed but it was worth the sacrifice.
One of the main reasons Nyerere was able to get the support he needed to implement his policies
was his determination to ensure mass participation in the political process from the grassroots level all the way to the top
leaving out nobody. And this helped to make even the poorest, illiterate peasants in the remote interior feel that they were
a part of the decision making process which affected their lives and that of the entire nation. Thus imbued with a sense of
patriotism, millions across the country were prepared to make great sacrifices when asked to do so, or did so simply on their
own when they felt that something had to be done in their communities or for the benefit of the country as a whole.
They came to embrace a national cause as their own and felt that whatever they did at the local
level was also for the good of the country. And they did so because they sincerely believed that Nyerere who encouraged them
to do so was deeply committed to their well-being and that of the entire nation. And he was.
The Tanganyika I knew after independence was one of extraordinary peace and tranquility in spite
of poverty; and one of caring for the least endowed amongst us. I remember the free education, the free medical service, and
the free transport we were provided with as students going to and coming from our boarding schools.
We did not pay one cent. For example, I remember the warrant we were given to go to Songea Secondary
School and back home during holidays (vacation) in the months of June and December every year from 1965 to 1968. A warrant
was a free bus ticket given collectively to a group of students going to the same destination. Those of us from Rungwe district
were given one for the round trip to and from school, with one student being responsible for keeping it; students from Mtwara
district were given theirs, as were the others.
If you went alone in one direction, you were also given yours. For example, I was given one when
I travelled from Tukuyu to Dar es Salaam in 1969 to go to Tambaza High School and continued to get it until I finished Form
VI, or standard 14, in 1970.
The first decade of independence under Nyerere was also noted for its euphoria and optimism among
the people across the country. Most had not yet enjoyed the fruits of independence but there was a sense of hope and strong
belief that we now at least had the freedom and opportunity to do what we wanted to do as a free people. That is something
we had not been able to do before when we were under colonial rule.
Besides getting free medical service, many schools including the University of Dar es Salaam were
also built during the first decade of independence in the sixties; universal primary education was vigorously pursued, and
the people in villages and towns were brought into the political process to participate in decision making to ensure justice
and equality for all on a scale unprecedented anywhere else in Africa. As Nyerere said back in the late 1950s about his commitment
to equality: "Our struggle has been, still is, and always will be a struggle for human rights....Our position is based on
the belief in the equality of human beings, in their rights and their duties as citizens."6
Rights came with responsibilities, and responsibilities entailed discipline. I remember when President
Nyerere visited our school, Songea Secondary School, one evening in 1966. He had been touring Songea district and came to
speak to us before flying back to Dar es Salaam that night. He did not have much time and spoke for only a few minutes after
he was introduced by our headmaster, Paul Mhaiki who, only a few years later, became head of adult education in Tanzania.
The one and only thing the president emphasized
in his speech to us that evening was discipline. He told us, we could not succeed in school, or do anything else constructive
or be productive in life, without discipline. And just before he left, he said, "You must have discipline. Always remember
discipline." And he knew exactly what he was talking about, not only as the leader of our country but as a former secondary
school teacher himself before he went into politics to lead Tanganyika to independence. As he once said, he was a teacher
by choice and a politician by accident.
The first decade of independence
for Tanganyika, later Tanzania, under President Nyerere witnessed some of the most dramatic changes in the direction of our
country which had an impact beyond our borders. Probably the most memorable ones, and the most profound in terms of impact,
were the adoption of the one-party system and the promulgation of socialist policies enunciated in the Arusha Declaration whose
implementation led to nationalization of the country's major assets and to the establishment of ujamaa villages.
One interesting thing about
Declaration is that many people who criticized it had not even read the document; not
only Tanzanians but others as well, including some African students from other parts of Africa whom I went to school with
at Wayne State University in the United States in the early and mid-seventies.
Because they did not like
socialism and ujamaa villages, they automatically dismissed the Arusha Declaration as
a deeply flawed document in all its aspects.
Some of them, if they get the chance to
read this book, may have second thoughts after they read the Declaration reproduced in the book in its entirety.
Throughout the document, one theme constantly
comes up. And that is Nyerere's deep concern for the well-being of the poor, the peasants and the workers, especially the
peasants, who constitute the vast majority of the population of Tanzania and those of other African countries and others in
the Third World.
The Arusha Declaration earned Nyerere a reputation as one of the most prominent socialist thinkers
in the world and one of the most articulate spokesmen of the poor and the oppressed. It was also one of the most important
political and economic documents to come out of the Third World.
In the context of Tanzania, it had far-reaching consequences. Almost everybody in Tanzania was affected
by the Arusha Declaration. And its impact is still felt today even after it was abandoned and virtually
repudiated in this era of globalisation and free market policies.
But the masses and the poor will always remember the Arusha Declaration as
a political manifesto and an economic blueprint whose implementation enabled them to be accorded dignity as equal citizens
entitled to the same rights as the rich; made it possible for them to get a lot of benefits including free education and free
medical service provided by the government; and, in the case of workers in factories and elsewhere including government offices,
they were guaranteed job security under the guidance of workers' committees - which monitored and sometimes even disciplined
employers - without fear of being summarily dismissed or terminated without just cause.
In fact, in the late 1990s and beyond, many people demanded a return to the status quo ante when the
Arusha Declaration was in force because of the neglect they now suffered in a free market economy.
The one-party system was also renounced after the adoption of capitalism. But, like the Arusha Declaration, it also played a critical role in maintaining national unity by instilling egalitarian ideals and providing equal
access to the political process for all citizens under one umbrella which would have been impossible under divisive politics
so typical of multiparty democracy in the African context where political parties are no more than interest groups formed
on tribal and regional basis to promote the interests of their members and supporters at the expense of the nation.
Tanzania under Nyerere was spared the agony of civil wars and ethnic conflicts which have devastated
many African countries because of the inclusive nature of the one-party system under his leadership.
After multiparty democracy was introduced in 1992, the country was rocked by violence a few years
later, even if only on a limited scale, because of the partisan nature of the political parties appealing to ethnoregional
allegiances to the detriment of national unity, peace and stability; with each striving to get the biggest chunk of the national
In terms of social justice, it was a golden
era under Nyerere. It is a by-gone era we will never see again.
From Godfrey Mwakikagile,
and Africa: End of an Era, Fourth Edition, New Africa Press, 2008:
The Last of the Independence Leaders: Life under
Nyerere from a Personal Perspective: End of an Era
THE DEATH of Julius Nyerere in October 1999 marked the end of an era in more
than one way.
He was one of the pioneers in the struggle to end colonial rule after the end
of World War II. He was also one of the first African leaders who led their countries to independence in the late fifties
and in the sixties. And he was one of the last surviving leaders who spearheaded the struggle for African independence; among
them, Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Sekou Toure, Modibo Keita, Patrice Lumumba and others. And he outlived
most of them.
The only surviving former African presidents
who led their countries to independence in the sixties, and who outlived Nyerere, were Leopold Sedar Senghor, a Francophile,
who died in France in December 2001 at the age of 95; Ahmed Ben Bella of Algeria, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, and Dr. Milton
Obote of Uganda who were also his ideological compatriots like Dr. Nkrumah, Sekou Toure, Modibo Keita, and Lumumba. Dr. Obote,
who was living in exile in Zambia, died at a clinic in Johannesburg, South Africa, in October 2005 where he went for emergency
treatment. He was 80.
Nyerere will also be remembered –
by those who knew about it – as a member of the OAU's “inner circle” known as The Group of Six together
with Nkrumah, Nasser, Sekou Toure, Ben-Bella and Modibo Keita. As Ben-Bella said in an interview in 1995, the six presidents
worked together secretly within – and outside – the Organization of African Unity (OAU) – in pursuit of
Pan-Africanist goals and an activist agenda including the liberation of southern Africa and on the Congo crisis among many
other goals which some Africa leaders may have perceived to be too radical or militant or offensive to the big powers.
Unfortunately, the group did not last very long after the OAU was founded in
May 1963. It lost its members. Ben-Bella was overthrown in June 1965,Nkrumah in February 1966, and Modibo Keita in November
1968. And Nasser died in September 1970. Only Nyerere and Sekou Toure remained. And the two leaders remained very close and
continued to work together until Sekou Toure died in March 1984 during an emergency heart operation at the Cleveland Clinic
in the United States. And Nyerere stepped down from the presidency about a year later in November 1985 after being in power
for 24 years.
It was the era of “Big Men,” the founding fathers, and the life
of Julius Nyerere as a political leader of international stature epitomized the best among them, despite a number of failures
during their tenure. They will be remembered as the leaders who not only led their countries to independence but who also
maintained national unity, especially in the early years after the end of colonial rule, laying the foundation for the nations
we have across the continent today.
They will also be remembered as the leaders who - besides Azikiwe and a few
others - introduced the one-party system to fight tribalism and consolidate nationhood, and socialism to achieve economic
Nyerere will be remembered for both, probably
more than any other African leader. His one-party state was probably the most successful in transcending tribalism and maintaining
national unity. Tribalism never became a prominent feature of national life in Tanzania under Nyerere, unlike in other African
countries wracked by war and other conflicts. And besides Nkrumah, he was also the most articulate exponent and theoretician
of one-party rule. A firm believer in socialism until his last days, he was also one of the strongest proponents of socialist
policies for decades. And he lived and died as a socialist probably more than any other African leader.
Even after his socialist
policies failed to fuel and sustain Tanzania’s economic growth, he remained a firm believer in socialism, and responded
to his critics in rhetorical terms: “They keep saying you’ve failed. But what is wrong with urging people to pull
together? Did Christianity fail because the world isn’t all Christian?”1
It is not the purpose of this chapter to examine the successes
and failures of Nyerere’s socialist policies but to look at how life was under Nyerere in one of the poorest and most
ethnically diverse countries in Africa and, indeed, in the entire world. These are my reflections on Tanzania, the land of
my birth (it was then called Tanganyika and still a British colony), and on the life and death of Julius Nyerere, a leader
my fellow countrymen and I came to know through the years as a patron saint of the masses and as one of the world’s
most influential leaders in the twentieth century.
His socialist policies were mostly a failure, but not his ideals of equality
and social justice. My life in Tanzania, like that of millions of other Tanzanians, was shaped and guided by those ideals.
It is these ideals which sustained Tanzania and earned it a reputation as one of the most stable and peaceful countries in
Africa, and one of the most united; a rare feat on this turbulent continent. It was Nyerere’s biggest achievement, as
he himself said. And it was, even more so than the unification of Tanganyika and Zanzibar in 1964, although this also was
a feat of singular significance on a divided continent.
Tanzania stands out as the only country in Africa formed as a union of two
independent states. No other union has been consummated on the entire continent, setting Nyerere apart. It was he who engineered
the union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar. And it was he who played the biggest role in maintaining stability of the union, and
even in sustaining the union itself because of his sense of fairness and extraordinary ability in consensus building as a
basis for national unity. Although the union was indeed a big achievement, there was no question that Nyerere had other goals
in that area. His biggest failure, he said, was that he did not succeed in convincing his fellow leaders in neighbouring countries
to form an East African federation.
But in fairness, it must be stated that it was the other East
African leaders who failed to live up to their Pan-African commitment to form the federation. Kenyatta and Obote agreed with
Nyerere in June 1963 to form the East African Federation before the end of the year, but never did. The other two leaders
were not as enthusiastic as Nyerere was. Kenyatta was the least enthusiastic. Obote was ideologically close to Nyerere and
in his commitment to a political union of the three East African countries and, in fact, went with Nyerere to see Kenyatta
and asked him if he was ready to unite. They also told him that he should be the president of the new macro-nation once the
three countries united. But Kenyatta refused, as Nyerere said in an interview with the New Internationalist2 in December 1998 we cited earlier.
So, Obote would probably have united Uganda with the other two countries. But
internal opposition to his rule, especially from the Buganda kingdom, precluded any possibility of fulfilling his Pan-African
commitment to form the East African Federation.
Although failure to form the East African Federation was one of Nyerere’s
biggest disappointments in the Pan-African sphere and in foreign policy, he also had one major achievement in these two areas
as the most prominent and relentless supporter, among all African leaders, of the liberation movements in southern Africa.
And he lived up to his commitment. Tanzania under his leadership became the headquarters of all the African liberation movements
and provided material, diplomatic, and moral support to the freedom fighters through the years until the end of white minority
But without strong domestic support, Nyerere’s efforts to help free southern
Africa and pursuit of his foreign policy initiatives would not have been successful. It was Tanzania’s stability and
mass support for Nyerere as a national leader, which made the realization of these goals possible. And it is to this domestic
arena that we now turn, in my reflections on Tanzania and on the life and death of Julius Nyerere.
My life as an African has a lot in common with the lives of my fellow Africans
across the continent. We all live in countries affected by one form of strife or another, differing only in degree. And we
all, at least most of us, belong to one tribe or another. I am a Nyakyusa, one of the few tribes or ethnic groups in Tanzania
- including the Sukuma, the largest, with more than 7 million, the Nyamwezi, the Chaga, the Hehe, the Haya - with more than
one million people in a country of 126 different tribes.
Yet I am a Tanzanian first and foremost, transcending my tribal identity. Still,
the tribe is an enduring entity and an integral part of Africa. You cannot define Africa without it, or even begin to understand
Africa without comprehending its nature and the central role in plays in life across the spectrum in most African countries.
Call it an ethnic group, a term sometimes more acceptable than tribe because
of the latter’s derogatory connotation applicable mostly in the African context, while deemed inappropriate and irrelevant
in Europe despite the existence of tribes there as well, but which Europeans and others prefer to call ethnic groups to set
them apart from “primitive” Africa. Or call it a clan like in Somalia. It is still a tribe in all its manifestations
in terms of malignancy associated with tribalism.
Therefore countries like Kenya and Nigeria, Rwanda and Burundi, which have
had serious ethnic conflicts ignited and fuelled by power struggle between different groups, are not unique in this continent
of polyethnic societies. They all face basically the same problems, but differ in the way they tackle them, if at all. In
many cases, they do nothing.
But there are a few, in fact very few, exceptions where tribalism has not been
a major problem in Africa. Tanzania is one of them. Growing up in Tanganyika - later Tanzania - in the sixties was a unique
experience in this part of Africa where many of our neighbours were going through turmoil, rocked by tribal conflicts and
other forms of strife, during the very same time when we were enjoying relative peace and stability in my country.
The Hutu and the Tutsi in neighbouring Rwanda and Burundi were at each other’s
throat, killing each other, a perennial problem in these two countries. The town of Kigoma, where I was born and which is
on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, became a hub for refugee activities; and for decades the entire western region of Tanzania
has been a sanctuary for refugees from Rwanda and Burundi as well as Congo.
The former Belgian Congo, another neighbour, was also torn by civil war, ignited
and fuelled by ethno-regional rivalries, secession, and intervention by outside powers including the United States and other
Western countries especially Belgium, France, and apartheid South Africa as well as Rhodesia both of which also belonged to
the Western camp. The Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China also intervened in the Congo.
All these highly combustible elements in one of Africa’s biggest, potentially
richest and most strategically located countries which slid into anarchy soon after independence on June 30, 1960, would have
been too much for any leader to handle without solid national support for a strong central government. The Congo had neither.
The country was split along ethno-regional lines, making it impossible for any leader to mobilize national support for central
authority. And the central government itself was weak, and national allegiance to it tenuous at best.
I remember listening to short-wave radio broadcasts from Congo’s capital,
Leopoldville (renamed Kinshasa by Mobutu in 1971), and from Elisabethville (now Lubumbashi), capital of the secessionist Katanga
Province under Moise Tshombe which is about 300 miles west from my home province, Mbeya Region, on the Tanzania-Zambia-Malawi
border in southwestern Tanzania. I was in Rungwe District then, in the Great Rift Valley, ringed by misty blue mountains in
this region in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania.
The broadcasts were in Kiswahili, the national language of
Tanzania and one of the languages spoken in Congo, and the war in that country dominated the news in the sixties. The Simba
rebellion (simba means lion in Kiswahili), the capture
of Stanleyville (now Kisangani) by Belgian paratroops with American support; the “disappearance” and subsequent
assassination of Lumumba; the Kwilu rebellion led by Lumumba’s heir-apparent Pierre Mulele and his subsequent assassination
by Mobutu’s henchmen (he was reportedly chopped up and his body pieces fed to crocodiles in the Congo River in October
1968); the battle for Katanga between Tshombe’s army as well as mercenaries and the United Nations peacekeeping forces;
these are some of the most memorable events I can easily recall even if I don’t cherish the memory because of the devastation
wrought in this bleeding heart of Africa.
Those were the turbulent sixties when the Congo was in the news everyday. Besides
the radio broadcasts coming directly from Leopoldville and Elisabethville everyday about the war, we also got ample news about
the same events on our national radio, TBC (Tanganyika Broadcasting Corporation), Dar es Salaam, later renamed RTD (Radio
Tanzania, Dar es Salaam). The conflict in the Congo was one of the dominant stories even in Tanganyika, almost everyday. But
there were other crises in the region.
Uganda, another neighbour of Tanzania and Congo, also had to contend with separatist
threats by the Buganda kingdom; although not as serious as those in the Congo but serious enough to prompt Prime Minister
Milton Obote to use military force to contain the danger. In May 1966, he swiftly deposed Kabaka (King) Edward Frederick Mutesa
II (who was Uganda’s president, but only as nominal head) and declared a state of emergency in Buganda kingdom. And
in June 1967, he abolished all four kingdoms and declared Uganda a republic. That was when he also became president.
The other traditional centres of power in the kingdoms of Toro, Ankole, and
Bunyoro, and in the princedom of Busoga - as well as the region of Teso - had their own well-established political institutions
like the Buganda kingdom and were equally suspicious of the national government which wanted to centralize power under a unitary
state; thus stripping traditional rulers of authority over their own people. But they did not pose as big a threat to national
unity as Kabaka Edward Mutesa did.
Another neighbour, Kenya, under the leadership of Mzee Jomo
Kenyatta, had just emerged from Mau Mau, and the Kikuyu were consolidating their position as the dominant tribe across the
spectrum at the expense of their rivals, the Luo, and other tribes; culminating in the assassination of 39-year-old Tom Mboya,
a Luo and Kenyatta’s heir-apparent, in July 1969. I remember the day he was assassinated in broad daylight in Kenya’s
capital, Nairobi. It was Saturday afternoon, and I was at work then, as a reporter at the Standard, Dar Es Salaam. The assassination is still vivid in my memory because of
the magnitude of the tragedy itself. It was also one of the major assassinations in East Africa and, indeed, in the entire
continent in the post-colonial era.
Tom Mboya’s assassination threatened to plunge Kenya into chaos, a country
already rife with ethnic tensions and rivalries. No one knew how members of his tribe, the Luo, and other Kenyans opposed
to Kenyatta’s leadership and domination by the Kikuyu, would react. Nashon Njenga Njoroge, a Kikuyu and the man arrested
and accused of shooting Tom Mboya, said after he was captured: “Why don’t you go after the big man?”
The implication of who exactly “the big man” was, besides Kenyatta
himself and other Kikuyu political heavyweights of national stature such Mbiyu Koinange who was also close to Kenyatta, added
to the confusion as tempers flared especially among the Luo, Mboya’s fellow tribesmen. Large-scale violence was a distinct
Fortunately, nothing of the sort happened, much of this domestic tranquility
attributed to Kenyatta’s dominant personality as the revered father of the nation and to his tight grip on the nation
he ruled with an iron fist.
But from then on, a cloud hung over Kenya,
and prospects for peaceful co-existence between the country’s two main ethnic groups and their allies remained bleak.
The problem was compounded by the mistreatment
of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, another prominent Luo politician of international stature who resigned as Kenya’s vice president
under Kenyatta and in March 1966 formed the opposition party, the Kenya People’s Union (KPU). But he was effectively
neutralized as an opposition leader.
His passport was withdrawn, preventing
him from going to the United States in 1968 to deliver a lecture at Boston University, entitled, “Revolution As It Affects
Newly Independent States.” He was also denied permission to go to Tanzania where he had an ideological compatriot, President
On October 27, 1969, Oginga Odinga was
put under house arrest following an anti-government demonstration by KPU supporters and, three days later, the KPU was banned,
leaving the Kenya African National Union (KANU) led by Kenyatta as the only legal party in the country. And on November 11,
1969, Kenyatta was re-elected to a second term. All this took place only about three months after Mboya was assassinated in
July. Yet, Oginga Odinga was one of Kenya’s most revered politicians.
He was also one of the most prominent leaders of the independence movement,
not only in Kenya but in Africa as a whole. And it was he who led KANU when Kenyatta was in prison and could have very easily
become Kenya's first president had he decided not to step aside when Kenyatta was released. It was also Oginga Odinga, together
with Tom Mboya, who led the Kenyan delegation to the constitutional talks in London on Kenya’s transition from colonial
rule to independence.
Many Kenyans and others also remember him as the author of
the best-selling book, Not Yet
Uhuru,3 meaning “Not Yet Freedom or Independence”
(uhuru means freedom or independence in Kiswahili),
which he wrote after he resigned as Kenya’s vice president. President Julius Nyerere wrote the introduction to the book,
as he did years later to that of President Yoweri Museveni who said he considers himself to be a disciple of Nyerere. But
although Odinga was silenced, he remained a highly respected leaders in Kenya. And he remains a revered figure in Kenyan politics
even today on the same level with Kenyatta.
There were more crises in the region. In Zambia, formerly Northern
Rhodesia before independence, just across the border from my home region in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania, violence also
erupted on a significant scale. The country had just won independence from Britain on October 24, 1964, highly optimistic
of the future under the leadership of Kenneth Kaunda, a former school teacher and an apostle of non-violence and author of
a book, Zambia Shall Be Free.4
Yet, just before and after independence, the country was rocked by violence
instigated by members of an anarchist independent church movement known as the Lumpa Church led by a prophetess, Alice Lenshina,
which claimed hundreds of lives and disrupted the lives of thousands of people. The church members refused to pay taxes and
rejected secular authority. They clashed with the government and fortified their villages, and refused to surrender to security
forces. And they invoked the Scriptures to justify their defiance and refusal to submit to temporal authority.
The Lumpa Church and its leader Alice Lenshina became “household”
names. And clashes between government forces and the church members was one of the major stories in the early sixties in that
part of Africa, with the short-wave radio as an indispensable medium. Zambia also had to contend with separatist threats in
the western province, also known as Barotseland, which was and still is a powerful kingdom, and in the southern part of the
country, which was also the opposition stronghold of Zambia’s main opposition leader Harry Nkumbula of the African National
Maluniko Mundia, leader of the United Party (UP), was another prominent opposition
figure. He came from Barotse Province - Barotseland - where he was allied with the powerful traditional rulers including the
king of the Barotse people. His party was banned in 1968 because of its sectarian politics, threatening national unity.
And just 30 miles from my home in the misty blue mountains of Rungwe District
in the Great Rift Valley, across the border in Malawi (known as Nyasaland until July 6, 1966, when it won independence from
Britain and changed its name), Life-President Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda had instituted a reign of terror, persecuting and
killing his former compatriots, including leading cabinet members some of whom sought asylum in Tanzania. They included Yatuta
Chisiza, Malawi's former home affairs minister in Banda's cabinet, who was assassinated in October 1967 by security forces.
Malawian officials claimed he entered the country from Tanzania in order to subvert the government with the help of the Tanzanian
Another one was Malawi’s Minister of Foreign Affairs
Kanyama Chiume who also sought asylum in Tanzania. When I was a reporter at the Daily News in Dar es Salaam, Kanyama Chiume was at The Nationalist, a daily newspaper owned by the ruling party TANU (Tanganyika African National Union), where
he worked as a features writer and editor, together with Ben Mkapa who was the managing editor before President Nyerere appointed
him editor of the Daily News. Years later, Mkapa himself was elected
president of Tanzania for two five year-terms from 1995 to 2005.
In fact, Kanyama Chiume spent his early years in Tanganyika. He came to Tanganyika
when he was a young boy to live with his uncle in Morogoro. He later moved to Dar es salaam. He also attended school in Dar
es Salaam and later went to Tabora Secondary School in Tabora, western Tanganyika, and finally to Marerere University College
His children also grew up in Tanzania. Two were born in Nyasaland but came
to Tanzania when they were small. The rest were born in Tanzania and are Tanzanians.
Kanyama Chiume himself was, for all practical purposes, a Tanzanian since he
spent most of his life in Tanganyika and later Tanzania. He returned to Malawi following the introduction of multiparty democracy
after living in Tanzania for more than 30 years since he left in 1964. And he had, of course, lived earlier in Tanganyika
as a young boy and as a young man. He also spoke perfect Kiswahili, product of the many years he spent in Tanganyika and later
Tanzania. He was also very close to President Nyerere.
Under Nyerere, Tanzania became a haven for asylum seekers and refugees from
many African countries and others; and I attended Songea Secondary School in Ruvuma Region in the southern part of the country
with some of the sons and relatives of these exiled cabinet members from Malawi, such as Henry Chipembere, who was minister
of education under President Banda.
Other students at the school included the nephews of former Tanzanian Minister
of Foreign Affairs Oscar Kambona who came from that region and who himself went into exile in Britain in July 1967 where he
continued to be a fierce critic of Nyerere until his death in 1997. He returned to Tanzania in 1992 to form an opposition
party after the introduction of multiparty democracy but did not get much support. He was already a spent force, having lived
in exile for so many years.
And at our newspaper, the
News, we also had reporters from other countries including South Africa, Rhodesia (renamed Zimbabwe
at independence in April 1980), Zambia, Kenya, Nigeria (from former Biafra), and Britain.
Dr. Banda also claimed
substantial parts of Tanzania, including my home district - Rungwe - and the rest of Mbeya Region in southwestern Tanzania,
as Malawian territory. He also claimed the entire Eastern Province of Zambia, provoking a curt response from Zambia’s
president, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, who challenged Banda to “Go ahead and declare war on Zambia.”5
And President Nyerere dismissed Banda’s claim to large
chunks of Tanzanian territory as “expansionist outbursts, which do not scare us, and do not deserve my reply.”
The outlandish claim also drew a sharp response from Nyerere who said Dr. Banda was “insane.” But, he warned,
“Dr. Banda must not be ignored; the powers behind him are not insane.”6
So, that was the situation in these neighbouring countries in the sixties when
I was in my teens, and thereafter.
The situation in Mozambique, another neighbour, was somewhat different but
equally explosive. Mozambique was still a Portuguese colony, and, because Tanzania gave full support to the freedom fighters
who used our country as an operational base and headquarters of their liberation movement FRELIMO (Portuguese acronym for
Mozambique Liberation Front), the Portuguese attacked parts of southern Tanzania, especially Mtwara Region, as well as Ruvuma
Region where I attended Songea Secondary School from 1965 to 1968. But the attacks only strengthened our resolve to support
the freedom fighters; an unwavering commitment that continued until Mozambique finally won independence on June 25, 1975,
after almost 500 years of Portuguese colonial rule.
One of the casualties of this liberation struggle was Dr. Eduardo Mondlane,
founder and first president of FRELIMO, who was assassinated in Dar es Salaam on February 2, 1969, when he opened a parcel,
rigged with a bomb and mailed to him from Japan. The bomb, hidden in a book of Russian essays, was traced back to the Portuguese
secret police in Lisbon.
I was then a student at Tambaza High School (formerly H.H. The Aga Khan High
School) in Dar es Salaam. I was in standard 13 (Form V) that year. Our high school system had two grades, standard 13 and
standard 14 (Form V and Form VI), covering two years, what Americans would call grade 13 and grade 14, after completion of
secondary school in standard 12. This is roughly equivalent to what Americans call junior college, but with a concentration
in three subjects, after which you went to university if you passed the dreaded final exams in standard 14. It was patterned
after the British school system we inherited from our former colonial masters.
Many students, including myself, attended Mondlane’s funeral at Kinondoni
Cemetery within walking distance from our high school. President Nyerere was at the grave-site, together with Mondlane’s
widow Janet and their two little children, a boy and a girl. Leaders of all the African liberation movements based in Dar
es Salaam and members of the diplomatic corps also attended the funeral, one of the saddest moments in our history.
But the assassination of Dr. Mondlane did not in any way interfere with the
liberation struggle. President Nyerere, who had asked Mondlane to come to Tanganyika and establish an operational base in
our country for the liberation of Mozambique when the two met at the United Nations where Mondlane worked and when Nyerere
argued our case for Tanganyika’s independence (he went to the UN for the first time in February 1955), vowed to continue
supporting the freedom fighters until Mozambique was finally free. Mondlane returned to Africa in 1962 and settled in Dar
es Salaam, Tanganyika, where he went on to unite the various Mozambican nationalist groups to form FRELIMO, one of the most
successful liberation movements in colonial history. Nyerere’s invitation to the freedom fighters was typical of him.
As he stated in his address to the Tanganyika Legislative Council (LEGCO) on October 22, 1959, even before our country became
“We the people of Tanganyika, would like to light a candle
and put it on top of Mount Kilimanjaro which would shine beyond our borders giving hope where there was despair, love where
there was hate, and dignity where before there was only humiliation.”7
And he went on to fulfill that pledge. Without Tanzania functioning as a rear
base and as a conduit for material support to the freedom fighters, Mozambique would probably not have won independence when
it did, and the liberation of other countries in southern Africa including the bastion of white rule on the continent, South
Africa, would have been equally affected, only in varying degrees. In spite of her poverty as one of the poorest countries
in the world, Tanzania still contributed a significant amount of resources to the liberation struggle far more than many other
and richer African countries did.
Many people used to say that Tanzania contributed far more than its share;
let other countries play their part. For instance, I remember talking to a Malawian surgeon, Dr. Geoffrey Mwaungulu, in Detroit,
Michigan, in the United States when I was a student there in the early seventies, who said “Tanzania is doing too much,”
overburdening herself, while many other African countries - including his, Malawi - are doing nothing or very little to support
the liberation struggle in southern Africa and Portuguese Guinea (Guinea-Bissau) in West Africa. A graduate of Temple University
in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he worked at Ford Hospital in Detroit, and was one of a large number of African immigrants
living in Detroit, including professors, lawyers, engineers and other professionals in the city and other parts of the metropolitan
There were even some people in Tanzania who said President Nyerere was devoting
himself too much to the liberation struggle and pursuits of other foreign policy goals while overlooking domestic problems.
Yet there was no contradiction between the two. His commitment to the well-being of Tanzania was not in any way compromised
by the active role he played in the international arena.
And he could not have succeeded
in the pursuit of his foreign policy objectives - including support of the liberation movements - without the unwavering support
of the vast majority of Tanzanians. As David Martin, a renowned British journalist with The Observer, London,
who was the deputy managing editor of the Standard, Tanzania, and the one
who first hired me as a reporter in June1969 when I was still a high school student, stated in December 2001, two years after
“I arrived in the Tanzanian capital
of Dar es Salaam as a journalist on 9 January 1964. Three days later there was a revolution in Zanzibar by the African majority
against the Arab minority put in power by the retreating British colonialists just one month earlier. An African-driven union
between Tanganyika and Zanzibar followed three months later and the country’s name was changed to Tanzania. Despair,
hate and humiliation had begun the painfully slow process of retreating.
Dar es Salaam in those days was the headquarters of the Organization of African
Unity (OAU) Liberation Committee. Living in the city were the leaders of the liberation movements of southern Africa such
as the ebullient Eduardo Mondlane from Mozambique, more taciturn poet, Dr. Agostinho Neto, and a host of others. Nyerere was
their beacon of hope.
He was uninhibited by the paranoid attitudes that gripped the east and west
at the height of the Cold War. And although he was not adverse to using westerners to achieve his vision, he sought for the
continent to have African solutions created by African people. He did not tolerate fools and was a masterly media manager.
He could go for months without seeing the press. But, when he had something to say, as he did in 1976 during two visits by
the US Secretary of State, Dr. Henry Kissinger, he astutely ensured that his version of events got across.
I remember one day sitting in his office questioning that a number of African
countries had not paid their subscriptions to the OAU Liberation Committee Special Fund for the Liberation of Africa. He looked
at me for some moments, thoughtfully chewing the inside corner of his mouth in his distinctive way. Then, his decision made,
he passed across a file swearing me secrecy as to its contents. It contained the amount that Tanzanians, then according to
the United Nations the poorest people on earth, would directly and indirectly contribute that year to the liberation movements.
I was astounded; the amount ran into millions of US dollars.
It was the practice among national leaders in those days to
say that their countries did not have guerrilla bases. Now we know that Tanzania had many such bases providing training for
most of the southern African guerrillas, who were then called ‘terrorists’ and who today are members of governments
throughout the region.... Tanzania was also directly attacked from Mozambique by the Portuguese. But, in turn, each of the
white minorities in southern Africa fell to black majority political rule and Nyerere saw his vision for the continent finally
realized on 27 April 1994 when apartheid formally ended in South Africa with the swearing in of a new black leadership.”8
Mozambique was the first country in the region to win independence
by armed struggle, six years after Dr. Mondlane was assassinated. His assassination in February 1969 was one of the two major
political killings in the region that year, followed by the assassination of Tom Mboya only a few months later in July, about
a month after I was first hired as a news reporter of the Standard, renamed Daily
in 1970. I started working full-time on the editorial staff in 1971 after completing high school and National Service.
As a reporter, I used to go to the headquarters of the Mozambique Liberation
Front, FRELIMO, on Nkrumah Street in Dar es Salaam for the latest developments on the guerrilla war in Mozambique and to pick
up press releases. The office of the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa was also on the same street, on the opposite
side, not far from FRELIMO’s, just a few minutes’ walk, probably not more than five minutes. The person I always
spoke to when I went to FRELIMO’s office was Joaquim Chissano who became president of Mozambique after the tragic death
of President Samora Machel in a plane crash in October 1986.
President Machel and his entourage were on their way back to Mozambique from
Harare, Zimbabwe, when the plane crashed just inside the South African border not far from Maputo, the Mozambican capital.
The South African government was immediately implicated in the crash, and subsequent investigations showed that the “accident”
was an act of sabotage by the apartheid regime. The South African government was also behind the assassination of Swedish
Prime Minister Olof Palme on February 28, 1986. Palme, who was shot by a gunman as he was walking home with his wife from
a movie theater, was a strong supporter of the African liberation movements in southern Africa, as was his country, which
- especially under his leadership - reportedly contributed more than $400 million to the liberations struggle in terms of
financial and non-military support.
Chissano was in charge of the FRELIMO office in Dar es Salaam, and became Mozambique’s
minister of foreign affairs after his country won independence. He held the same ministerial post until he became president
after Samora Machel was killed. Marcelino dos Santos who also used to live in Tanzania during the struggle for Mozambique’s
independence, remained vice president, under Chissano, as he was under Samora Machel.
Our interaction with the FRELIMO office in Dar es Salaam as reporters was facilitated
by Chissano because he also spoke English, besides Portuguese. He also learned and spoke Kiswahili, our national language.
So, it was easy for us to communicate with him, as much as it was with most of the freedom fighters from other countries at
their headquarters in Dar es Salaam who also spoke English, and some of them Kiswahili.
Dar es Salaam during those days was the center of seismic activity
on the African political landscape and beyond. The list of the names of those who came to the city, who lived there, and those
who just passed through during the liberation wars, is highly impressive to say the least. It was here, in Tanzania, where
Nelson Mandela first came in 1962 to seek assistance for the liberation struggle in South Africa. And Nyerere was the first
leader of independent Africa he met. Tanganyika was also the first country in the region to win independence, in 1961.
Mandela also had his first taste of freedom after he arrived
in Mbeya, a border town in southwestern Tanzania (then Tanganyika) and the capital of the Southern Highlands Province (later
split into Mbeya and Iringa Regions) where, as he states in his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom, he was not - for the first time in his life - subjected to the indignities
of colour bar as he automatically would been in his native land.9 He was met by John Mwakangale who was the most prominent leader
of Tanganyika's ruling party from that region which was then known as the Southern Highlands.
Almost all the leaders in southern Africa who waged guerrilla
warfare to free their countries from white minority rule, lived or worked in Tanzania at one time or another. Thabo Mbeki,
who became vice president and then president of South Africa, first sought asylum in Tanganyika when he fled the land of apartheid
in the early sixties. So did others, including many leaders in South Africa today besides Mbeki. They include the Speaker
of the South African Parliament Dr. Frene Ginwala who once was editor of our newspaper, the Daily News, appointed by President Nyerere before Sammy Mdee replaced her. She lived
in Tanzania for many years and is the person who received Mandela in Dar es Salaam when he first came to Tanganyika in 1962.
President Robert Mugabe also lived in Tanzania and Mozambique during Zimbabwe’s
liberation war. So did Dr. Agostinho Neto, the first president of Angola, and Sam Nujoma, president of Namibia, and many of
their colleagues in government. I remember interviewing Sam Nujoma in 1972 at the office of his liberation movement, the South
West African People’s Organization (SWAPO), on Market Street in Dar es Salaam, only a few minutes’ walk from our
newspaper office on Azikiwe Street and from the offices of three other liberation movements: Zimbabwe African National Union
(ZANU), Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), and the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC) of South Africa.
I talked to Nujoma just before he left for New York to address the United Nations
Decolonization Committee and speak in other forums in his quest for Namibian independence. Looking very serious, and highly
articulate on the subject, he was very optimistic about the future. He was, of course, vindicated by history. But little did
he or anybody else back then know that it would be almost 20 years before Namibia would be free.
Many other leaders found sanctuary in Tanzania. They include
those from the Seychelles and the Comoros, two island nations on the Indian Ocean east and southeast of Tanzania, respectively;
and President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda who attended the University of Dar es Salaam and lived in Tanzania for many years
and who - after he became president - continued to express profound respect and admiration for Nyerere whom he acknowledged
as his mentor.7 When he was a student at the University of Dar es Salaam, Museveni was a member of a study group led by Dr.
Walter Rodney. Mwalimu Nyerere even wrote an introduction to one of President Museveni’s books, What Is Africa’s Problem?10
The late President Laurent Kabila of the Democratic Republic
of Congo also lived in Tanzania for more than 20 years since the sixties after the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, his hero,
and even owned houses in Dar es Salaam where he was also known by different aliases, prompting his neighbours and other people
to suspect that he was a government agent. His son Joseph Kabila who succeeded him as president was born and raised, and attended
school in Dar es Salaam and in Mbeya, Tanzania.
In fact, many Congolese refused to accept him as their leader
when first became president because they saw him as a foreigner, a Tanzanian, who did not even speak Lingala or French, the
main languages spoken in Congo, but instead spoke only English and Kiswahili, Tanzania’s national language, although
Kiswahili is also widely spoken in Congo.
Even President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia
forged ties with Tanzania early in his life. He spent some time in Mbeya in the southwestern part of what was then Tanganyika,
and with his friend Simon Kapwepwe who also spent some time in Mbeya and later became his vice president, used to dream of
the day when Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) would be free one day. The two were childhood friends in Chinsali - their hometown
and district in the Northern Province - in Northern Rhodesia renamed Zambia.
The list of people who found asylum in
Tanzania goes on and on. They include many who became leaders in Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan, Ghana,
Nigeria, Guinea, Congo, Zambia, besides those in southern Africa - Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, South Africa - and
Even Che Guevara spent months in Tanzania.
He was in Dar es Salaam for about four months from November
1965 to February 1966, besides the time he spent in the western apart of the country during his Congo mission. And it was
when he was in Dar es Salaam that he wrote his famous book, the Congo Diaries,11 while staying at the Cuban embassy during those critical months. In fact, before he embarked
on his Congo mission, it was Che Guevara himself who recommended Pablo Ribalta - his friend and compatriot since their guerrilla
war days in the Sierra Maestra during the Cuban revolution - to be Cuba’s ambassador to Tanzania because he felt that
Ribalta’s African ancestry would facilitate his mission to the Congo.
And during his military engagement in the Congo, Che sometimes used Kigoma
in western Tanzania as one of his sanctuaries. But he had a very low opinion of Laurent Kabila - whom he said had no leadership
qualities and lacked charisma - and other Congolese nationalist leaders including Gaston-Emile Sumayili Sumialot. He accused
them of abandoning their troops in eastern Congo preferring, instead, to live in comfort in Dar es Salaam.
But in spite of the fact that Tanzania was the headquarters of all the African
liberation movements, and a place which attracted many liberals and leftists from many parts of the world including black
militants from the United States such as the Black Panthers (among them Black Panther leader Pete O'Neal and his wife Charlotte
who have lived in Tanzania since 1972), and Malcolm X who also visited Tanzania and had a meeting with President Nyerere and
attended the OAU conference of the African heads of state and government in Cairo, Egypt, in July 1964 (where he almost died
when his food was poisoned, probably by CIA agents who followed him throughout his African trip); our country still enjoyed
relative peace and stability, not only during the euphoric sixties soon after independence, but during the seventies as well,
when the liberation wars were most intense in southern Africa, with Dar es Salaam, our capital, as the nerve centre.
Therefore, besides the raids by the Portuguese from their colony
of Mozambique on our country; a sustained destabilization campaign by the apartheid regime of South Africa whose Defence Minister
P.W. Botha said in August 1968 that countries which harbor terrorists - freedom fighters in our lexicon - should receive “a
sudden knock,”12 a pointed reference to Tanzania and Zambia, and by the white minority government of Rhodesia (Prime Minister
Ian Smith called Nyerere “the evil genius” behind the liberation wars), all of whom had singled out Tanzania as
the primary target because of our support for the freedom fighters; the influx of refugees from Rwanda, Burundi, and Congo
into our country; and Malawian President Banda’s claims to our territory; in spite of all that, Tanzania was, relatively
speaking, not only an island of peace and stability in the region but also an ideological center with considerable magnetic
pull, drawing liberal and radical thinkers from around the world, especially to the University of Dar es Salaam which became
one of the most prominent academic centres in the world with many internationally renowned scholars who strongly admired Nyerere
and his policies.
Among the scholars drawn to Tanzania was the late Dr. Walter
Rodney from Guyana who first joined the academic staff at the University of Dar es Salaam in 1968 and, while teaching there,
wrote a best-seller, How Europe
Underdeveloped Africa;13 the late distinguished Professor Claude Ake from Nigeria who died in a mysterious plane crash in his home country
in 1996; Professor Okwudiba Nnoli, also from Nigeria (secessionist Biafra); Professor Mahmood Mamdani from Uganda and one
of Africa’s internationally renowned scholars; Nathan Shamuyarira who - while a lecturer at the University of Dar es
Salaam - was also the leader of the Dar-es-Salaam-based Front for the Liberation of Zimbabwe (FROLIZI) headed by James Chikerema,
a Zimbabwean national leader. Shamuyarira went on to become Zimbabwe’s minister of foreign affairs, among other ministerial
Many other prominent scholars from many countries around the world, and from
all continents, were also attracted to the University of Dar es Salaam. C.L.R. James from Trinidad & Tobago, one of the
founding fathers of the Pan-Africanist movement who knew Kwame Nkrumah when Nkrumah was still a student in the United States,
and who introduced him to George Padmore when he went to Britain for further studies before returning to Ghana (then the Gold
Coast) in 1947 with Ako Adjei, was also attracted to Tanzania. So was Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o, disenchanted
with the Kenyan leadership, and Ghanaian writer Ayi Kwei Armah, an admirer of Nkrumah and Nyerere, who has also called for
the adoption of Kiswahili as the continental language just as Wole Soyinka has.
Besides Malcolm X, other prominent black American leaders who came to Tanzania
included Stokely Carmichael (originally from Trinidad) who as Kwame Ture lived in Guinea for 30 years until his death in November
1998. When in Dar es Salaam, Stokely used to stay at the Palm Beach Hotel, not far from the Indian Ocean beach and our high
school hostel, H.H. The Aga Khan, in an area called Upanga; while Malcolm X and Che Guevara used to go to the New Zahir restaurant.
But while Malcolm X was in Tanzania only for days, Che spent about four months in Dar es Salaam. Angela Davis of the Black
Panther Party and others in the civil rights movement including Andrew Young, Jesse Jackson, and Robert Williams who organized
some blacks for self-defence in North Carolina, also came to Tanzania.
I also remember when Robert Williams came to our editorial
office at the Daily News in Dar es Salaam. I saw him again in 1975
when I was a student at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, USA. He came to Detroit and spoke to Wayne State University
students who were members of the Young Socialist Alliance (YSA). I was at that meeting as an observer and reminded him of
his visit to our newspaper office in Tanzania, which he remembered very well, as we went on to talk about a number of subjects
including the influence of President Nyerere in a Pan-African context. He lived in Baldwin, Michigan, and died in 1996.
Some of the prominent leaders in the American civil rights movement who lived
in Tanzania for a number of years include Charlie Cobb and Robert (Bob) Moses. They were active in Mississippi and other parts
of the Deep South during the turbulent sixties when they almost got killed. Bob Moses was one of those who got a thorough
beating in Mississippi for trying to organize blacks to vote. The White Citizens Council, founded in Greenville in Mississippi,
the Ku Klux Klan and other racist groups could not tolerate that. Cobb had similar close calls. Both eventually moved to Africa.
After they returned to the United States, they continued to be involved in civil rights activities and organizing communities
for their collective well-being.
They co-authored Radical Equations: Math Literacy and Civil Rights and developed an algebra curriculum also designed to mobilize
communities to achieve common goals. Launched in 1982, the Algebra Project now operates in many cities and communities across
the United States, and their book, Radical
describes the project's creation and implementation.
The project involves entire communities to create a culture of literacy around
algebra, a crucial stepping-stone to college math and opportunity, especially for blacks and other minorities who lag behind
in preparation for college work because of the low quality of education they get in inner-city schools. Bob Moses, who was
a secondary school teacher in Tanzania, began developing the Algebra Project after becoming unhappy with the way algebra was
taught to his teen-age daughter. He saw algebra as a major obstacle for black students trying to go to college.
Charlie Cobb was a field secretary for the Student Non-violent
Coordinating Committee (SNNC), once headed by Stokely Carmichael, in Mississippi from 1962 to 1967 where he developed the
idea for the Freedom Schools that SNNC operated. The schools taught basic literacy skills to black children and became a model
for many new approaches to education still used today across the United States. He also helped found the National Association
for Black Journalists and became a senior writer for allafrica.com, the web site of AllAfrica Global Media. The site posts
hundreds of news stories about Africa everyday from more than 80 African media organizations and its own reporters.
The years the two civil rights activists
and many others spent in Tanzania helped strengthen ties between Africa and Black America, and is strong testimony to Tanzania's
hospitality to oppressed people from around the world who found sanctuary in Tanzania during Nyerere's tenure. The relationship
between Tanzania and Black America has also been demonstrated in many other ways. For example, when Malcolm X returned to
the United States from Africa, FBI agents were waiting for him at the airport in New York.
He was seen going into a car with a diplomatic
license plate which was traced to "the new African nation of Tanzania." The car took him to the residence of the Tanzanian
ambassador to the United Nations, trailed by FBI agents the same way Malcolm X was followed by CIA agents throughout his African
President Nyerere also forged ties with Black America soon after independence
when he instructed the Tanzanian ambassador to the United States to recruit skilled African-Americans to work in Tanzania
to help the country meet its manpower requirements and as act of Pan-African solidarity. There are also schools and other
institutions in black communities in the United States named after Nyerere and other African leaders such as Nkrumah, Lumumba
And Kiswahili, Tanzania's national language, is the most popular African language
among African-Americans; much of this popularity attributed to the influence and stature of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere as an eminent
Pan-Africanist who was embraced by the African diaspora as much as Nkrumah was. Many African-Americans came to Tanzania because
of Nyerere and his policies. Others viewed their trip as a pilgrimage, a spiritual journey, and a return to the motherland
in the spirit of Pan-African solidarity.
One of the African-Americans who was among the earliest to settle in Africa
was Bill Sutherland, like Dr. W.E.B. DuBois and George Padmore, both of whom he knew and worked with in Ghana where they also
lived and died. He came from Glen Ridge, New Jersey, and lived in Tanzania for decades. He knew and worked with Nyerere and
was still in Tanzania when Nyerere died. Influenced by Mahatma Gandhi as a youth, he became a pacifist and worked for the
Quaker-affiliated American Friends Service Committee after he graduated from Bates College in Maine. From 1942 to 1945, he
was in a federal penitentiary as a war resister.
He first went to Africa in 1953 and settled in Ghana where
he worked closely with Kwame Nkrumah. And through the years, he met or worked with many other African leaders including Nyerere,
Kaunda, Lumumba, Tom Mboya, Mandela; others in the diaspora such as Frantz Fanon, and Malcolm X whom he interviewed extensively;
as well as the leaders of the liberation movements in southern Africa, all of whom were based in Tanzania. In his book he
wrote with Matt Mayer, Guns
and Gandhi in Africa: Pan-African Insights on Nonviolence, Armed Struggle and Liberation in Africa, Sutherland has a lot to say about Nyerere
whom he knew and worked with for more than 30 years.
He moved to Tanganyika after he fell out with Nkrumah and left Ghana following
his criticism of Nkrumah's increasing dictatorial tendencies and abandonment of nonviolence in the struggle for African liberation.
When he settled in Dar es Salaam, he became involved in politics - as he had always been - and worked in the office of Prime
Minister Rashidi Kawawa who became vice president of Tanganyika under Nyerere, and later second vice-president of Tanzania;
with the president of Zanzibar, Abeid Karume, serving as first vice-president as stipulated by the constitution of the United
Republic of Tanzania.
As with Nkrumah, Bill Sutherland also disagreed with Nyerere on the same subject
of non-violence and quotes him in his book. As Nyerere explained his support for armed struggle to liberate southern Africa:
"When you win, the morale of the African freedom fighters will go up and the morale of their opponents throughout southern
Africa will go down. I said that's what we should do, demonstrate success, which we did." Sutherland also quotes Nyerere as
saying that although the struggle for Tanganyika's independence was non-violent, he was not opposed to the use of violence
if that was the only way to win freedom.
Therefore his opposition to violence or support of armed struggle was not based
on principle but dictated by circumstances. As Nyerere told Sutherland about the non-violent struggle for Tanganyika's independence:
"The nonviolence of our movement was not philosophical at all...My opposition to violence is [to] the unnecessary use of violence."
And Zambian President Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, once a pacifist himself, asked Sutherland and co-author Matt Meyer if they had ever
run a country on pacifist principles. As he put it: "Have you tried running a country on the basis of pacifist principles
without qualification or modification, or do you know anyone who has?" As Sutherland states in the book, the discussion went
well into the night, "but the upshot was that nobody had a clear and definable answer. We were not really able to respond
I remember talking to Bill Sutherland in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA, in the
summer of 1977 when he spoke about the liberation struggle in southern Africa. He also talked about other African subjects
including Idi Amin, saying Amin did what he did in many cases just "for a little bit of publicity," as he put it. He also
happened to know well some of the people, including national leaders, I knew in Tanzania. I was still a student then, in the
United States, following closely the events in Africa including the liberation wars in southern Africa. We agreed on almost
everything except the armed struggle. I supported it. But even he as a pacifist was ambivalent about it, especially in the
context of southern Africa.
He understood the necessity of armed struggle but, as a pacifist, could not
as a matter of principle support the use of violence. I saw it as the only viable option; a concession he grudgingly made
in conversations with the freedom fighters in Tanzania and elsewhere, and even with Nyerere and Kaunda, although they also
agreed to disagree.
Yet he also realized that he could not really oppose the use of violence in
southern Africa, considering the nature of the situation. Nor could he justify the use of non-violence in a situation where
the oppressor did not have the slightest compunction shooting and killing unarmed, defenceless, and innocent men, women and
children for no other reason than that they were demanding basic human rights, including the sanctity of life pacifists themselves
invoke to justify non-violence.
Yet, he was a dedicated Pan-Africanist who made Tanzania his home, a country
which became the most relentless supporter of armed struggle in southern Africa. And he settled in Tanzania because of Julius
Nyerere who was already, even back then in the 1950s, becoming increasingly influential in African affairs, especially in
the liberation of our continent from colonialism and imperialism.
A number of revolutionary thinkers from Latin America, Europe, and Asia were
equally drawn to Tanzania and lived in Dar es Salaam which was the center of ideological ferment and provided an environment
conducive to cross-fertilization of ideas stimulated by Nyerere’s policies and ideological leadership. And Tanzania’s
prominent role in the African liberation struggle and world affairs because of Nyerere’s leadership put the country
in a unique position on a continent where few governments looked beyond their borders, with most of them content to pursue
goals in the narrow context of “national interest,” which really meant securing and promoting the interests of
the leaders themselves.
Tanzania was therefore an anomaly in that sense, on the continent, as a haven
and an incubator for activists and revolutionaries from around the world. And it remained that way as a magnet throughout
Nyerere’s tenure. It was also his leadership more than anything else, which played a critical role in forging and shaping
the identity of our nation and in enabling Tanzania to play an important role on the global scene, far beyond its wealth and
size, especially in promoting the interests of Africa and the Third World in general.
The fact that Nyerere himself was chosen
as chairman of the South Commission, a forum for action and dialogue between the poor and the rich countries on how to address
problems of economic inequalities in a global context, is strong testimony to that. And it was in this crucible of identity,
a country that would not be what it is today had it not been for Nyerere that my own personality was shaped.
In some fundamental respects, it is an
identity and an ethos like no other on the continent: an indigenous national language, Kiswahili, transcending tribalism and
not claimed by any particular ethnic group as its own - all the tribes and racial minorities contributed to its creation and
growth, a unique phenomenon; social equality as an egalitarian ideal implemented by Nyerere through the decades; national
unity - and stability - that has virtually eliminated tribalism and racism as major problems in national life, and in a country
where speaking tribal languages in front of other people who don’t understand those languages is frowned upon. Kiswahili
helped Tanzania’s 126 different tribes and racial minorities - Arab, Asian, mostly of Indian and Pakistani origin, and
European - to develop a sense of national unity and identity which has remained solid through the years regardless of what
the country has undergone since independence in 1961.
And the egalitarian policies of President Nyerere reduced social inequalities
across the nation and guaranteed equal access to health, education, and other services on a scale unequalled anywhere else
on the continent.
But probably more than any other asset, it was Nyerere’s
leadership which proved to be most useful at a time when we needed it most to forge a true sense of national identity, maintain
national stability, and consolidate our independence; as much as Mandela’s magnanimity and wisdom proved to be an indispensable
asset in South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy at a time when the country could have exploded, engulfing
it in a racial conflagration.
The pundits and laymen alike who predicted this were proved wrong largely because
of Mandela’s astute leadership, like Nyerere’s. Therefore it’s not surprising that they are the only two
African leaders who are favourably compared to each other with equal international and moral stature - hence Nyerere’s
honorific title, “The Conscience of Africa.” There is nobody else in their league.
I remember Nyerere well. Cordially known as Mwalimu, which means Teacher in
Kiswahili, he led by example; his humility equalled by his commitment to the well-being of the poorest of the poor, yet without
ignoring the rights of others. And he asked all to make sacrifices for our collective well-being. As he put it, “It
can be done. Play your part.”
His dedication and identification with the masses, and his passion for fairness,
were evident throughout his tenure as the nation’s leader. When he became president, he worked and lived with them in
their villages, slept in their huts, and ate their food. He spent days, and weeks, working with them in the rural areas in
all parts of the country. He mingled with the peasants so well that you wouldn’t even know who the leader was in the
group, let alone be able to identify him as president of a country if you didn’t know how he looked like. I know this
because I worked as a news reporter in Tanzania.
No other African leader lived the way he did, and worked in
the rural areas as much as he did, clearing and tilling the land for hours with ordinary peasants. He was one of them and,
they said, “He’s one of us.” Not a detached, arrogant leader and intellectual who felt it was beneath him
to soil his hands like the poor, illiterate peasants did. I also know how humble he was, because of what I witnessed years
before I even became a national news reporter, first at the Standard, next at the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting as an information officer, and then at the Daily News.
I remember Nyerere when he was campaigning for independence. It was in the
late 1950s when I first saw him. He had already been to the United States, and even appeared on American television with Eleanor
Roosevelt in 1956 when he was interviewed by Mike Wallace, a prominent American television journalist and interviewer who
was still on the air in 2003 and beyond, although in his eighties.
Nyerere went to the United States to present our case for independence at the
United Nations where he appeared more than once in the late fifties, and before American audiences including academic gatherings
such as the one at Wellesley College in Massachusetts in 1960 where he participated in a symposium and delivered a lecture,
“Africa and the World.”
I was just a little boy then, under ten, when he came to our home district
in the late fifties more than once. I first saw him around 1958. He was about 36 years old. But in spite of my age - I was
born on 4 October 1949 - what I saw then remains vivid in my memory as if it happened only yesterday. I was a pupil at Kyimbila
Primary School, about two miles from Tukuyu. Founded by the German colonial rulers and named Neu Langenburg, Tukuyu was our
district headquarters for Rungwe District.
The town was destroyed by earthquakes in 1910 and in 1919 but was rebuilt.
It had been the district headquarters since the German colonial rulers built it when they first came to the area in the early
When the British took over Tanganyika - then known as German East Africa which
included Rwanda and Burundi as one colony - after the Germans lost World War I, they continued the tradition and kept the
town (whose name was changed from Neu Langenburg to Tukuyu) as the headquarters of Rungwe District headed by a British District
Commissioner, simply known as DC, who lived there.
Nyerere came to Tukuyu one afternoon and our head teacher, who also happened
to be a relative of mine, led us on a trip from our school to Tukuyu to listen to him. As life was then, and as it still is
today across Africa for most people including children, we walked the two miles to Tukuyu to hear him speak; a man who, we
were told, was our leader and who was going to be president of Tanganyika in only about three years, replacing the British
I was then too young to understand the complexities of politics and political
campaigning all of which to us at that age seemed to be expressed in esoteric terms. Yet we were old enough to understand
what Nyerere was saying in general; a message delivered in his usual simple style everybody, including children my age, was
able to understand. And he knew there were children at the rally. He saw us.
He arrived in an open Land Rover, standing in the back, waving at the crowd.
The people were just as jubilant. He stepped out of the Land Rover and walked to the football (soccer) field to address the
mass rally. He wore a simple short-sleeved light-green shirt and a pair of long trousers (pants), and started speaking, using
It was a cloudy afternoon and, after he spoke for only a few minutes, it started
raining. The leading local politician of the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU), Mr. Mwambenja, a formidable personality
and relentless campaigner for independence, who welcomed Nyerere at the rally tried to hold an umbrella over him. But he refused
to accept it and continued to speak. He even joked about himself implying that he was a non-entity, an insignificant personality,
and said something to the effect that the colonialists and other detractors were now, with all that rain saying, “Just
let him get soaked and washed away.”
The subtle message in this self-deprecating humor was that he was not going
to fade into oblivion and give up the struggle for independence. And it kept on raining. But the rain did not dampen his spirits.
We also stayed as almost everybody else did, impressed by his humility and simplicity despite his status as the most prominent
and acknowledged leader of Tanganyika, besides the British governor Sir Edward Twining who was later succeeded by Sir Richard
Turnbull, the last governor. He got soaked in the rain just like the rest of us and continued to speak until he finished addressing
It was such humility, devotion and simplicity, which remained
the hallmark of his life and leadership. And it was evident even among some members of his family. I attended school with
his eldest son, Andrew, at Tambaza High School, the former H.H. The Aga Khan High School which had been exclusively for students
of Asian origin, mostly Indian and Pakistani, almost all of whom were Tanzanians. There were also some Arab students. And
there were only a few of us, black students. We were among the first to integrate the school as mandated by the government
under Nyerere. In fact, Mwalimu himself had experienced racial discrimination, what we in East Africa - and elsewhere including
southern Africa - also call colour bar. As Colin Legum states in a book he edited with Tanzanian Professor Geoffrey Mmari,
Mwalimu: The Influence of Nyerere:
“I was privileged to meet Nyerere while he was still a young teacher
in short trousers at the very beginning of his political career, and to engage in private conversations with him since the
My very first encounter in 1953 taught me something about his calm authority
in the face of racism in colonial Tanganyika. I had arranged a meeting with four leaders of the nascent nationalist movement
at the Old Africa Hotel in Dar es Salaam. We sat at a table on the pavement and ordered five beers, but before we could lift
our glasses an African waiter rushed up and whipped away all the glasses except mine.
I rose to protest to the white manager, but Nyerere restrained
me. ‘I am glad it happened,’ he said, ‘now you can go and tell your friend Sir Edward Twining [the governor
at the time] how things are in this country.’ His manner was light and amusing, with no hint of anger.”14
Simple, yet profound. For, beneath the surface lay a steely character with
a deep passion for justice across the colour line and an uncompromising commitment to the egalitarian ideals he espoused and
implemented throughout his political career, favouring none.
Years later his son, Andrew Nyerere, told me about an incident that also took
place in the capital Dar es Salaam shortly after Tanganyika won independence. Like the incident earlier when Julius Nyerere
was humiliated at the Old Africa Hotel back in 1953, this one also involved race. As Andrew said in a letter to me when I
was writing this book:
"As you remember, Sheikh Amri Abeid was the first mayor of
Dar es Salaam. Soon after independence, the mayor went to Palm Beach Hotel (near our high school, Tambaza, in Upanga). There
was a sign at the hotel which clearly stated: 'No Africans and dogs allowed inside.' He was blocked from entering the hotel,
and said in protest, 'But I am the Mayor.' Still he was told, 'You will not get in.' Shortly thereafter, the owner of the
hotel was given 48 hours to leave the country. When the nationalization exercise began, that hotel was the first to be nationalized."15
Such insults were the last thing that could be tolerated in newly independent
Tanganyika. And President Nyerere, probably more than any other African leader, would not have tolerated, and did not tolerate,
seeing even the humblest of peasants being insulted and humiliated by anyone including fellow countrymen.
And his passion for equality was legendary. For example, he sent his son Andrew
to a local school - with the sons of peasants and workers - when he could have sent him abroad, as was customary among most
leaders across the continent. They either sent their children to exclusively private and expensive schools within their own
countries, or flew them overseas, and still do.
All this was in keeping with his commitment to social equality for all Tanzanians.
He said we are not going to build a society based on privilege; we are going to narrow the gap between the haves and the have-nots,
and abolish classes which accentuate cleavages and define some human beings as better than others.
At our high school, many people knew that President Nyerere’s eldest
son was one of the students. Yet he got no special favours. He was treated just like the rest of us, and we saw him as just
another student like us.
And he saw himself that way, and acted that way. You wouldn’t even know
he was the president’s son because of the way he behaved and carried himself, just as an ordinary student, and the way
the rest of us treated him. We lived in the same hostel, most of whose students were Tanzanians of Asian origin; ate the same
food at the same table, and worked on the farm together, tilling the land, as true sons of a nation of peasants and workers.
Our school in Dar es Salaam had a farm near Muhimbili National Hospital where
we were required to work to instill egalitarian values in our minds. We walked to the farm, about two miles round trip, carrying
hoes and sickles and other agricultural implements; a strong reminder that we were no better than ordinary peasants and workers
simply because we had acquired some education and were destined to become part of the nation’s elite. And Nyerere’s
son also walked around the city with fellow students and other friends, just like the rest of us, when many people would probably
have expected him as the president’s son to ride in a Mercedes Benz. But that was not the kind of society based on class
and privilege President Nyerere was trying to build. And to his son’s credit, he was just as humble and friendly with
Mwalimu Nyerere did not even force his children to toe the party line. One
of his sons, Charles Makongoro - different from another Makongoro who attended school with us at Tambaza and who was sometimes
mistaken for President Nyerere's son - left the ruling party founded by his father and, with the blessings of his family,
joined what then was the country's leading opposition party on Tanzania mainland; the Civic United Front (CUF) was the main
opposition party in Zanzibar, not on the mainland, as it still is today. In 1995, Charles Makongoro Nyerere was elected as
one of the few opposition members of parliament, but lost his seat following a court ruling before his five-year term expired.
He then rejoined the ruling party.
He returned to parliament in February 2004 after President Benjamin Mkapa appointed
him a member; one of the 10 members the president is empowered to appoint to the national legislature at his discretion as
stipulated by the constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania.
President Nyerere's eldest son Andrew also
joined one of the opposition parties, the Tanzania Labour Party (TLP), in 2005 and said at a meeting in Dar es Salaam when
he joined the party that he had never been a member of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM).
Our school was also fully integrated. We
lived in the same hostel with Asian and Arab students. We also had African, Asian and European teachers, most of them Tanzanian
citizens. Other schools across Tanzania were also fully integrated - student and faculty. At our school, students came from
all parts of the country and from many different tribes. We were not encouraged to attend school - except at the primary school
level - in our home districts, which were usually inhabited by members of our own tribes. We were, in fact, assigned to schools
and jobs after graduation far away from our tribal homelands in order to live and work with members of other tribes.
It was a deliberate effort by the government to break down barriers between
members of different tribes and races in order to achieve national unity. And it worked. This was probably Nyerere’s
biggest achievement - the creation of a cohesive political entity unique on a continent rife with ethnic tensions and torn
by conflict caused and fuelled by ethno-regional rivalries in the struggle for power and for the nation’s resources.
Our schools were a microcosm of what Tanzania became: a united, integrated, peaceful and stable nation.
It was also when I was in high school at Tambaza that I first
got hired in June 1969 as a reporter by the Standard, which became the Daily News the following year. I started working full-time in 1971 after I finished
high school (Form VI or standard 14) the previous year. Our managing editor was Brendon Grimshaw, a British, and the news
and deputy editor was David Martin, also British, who also worked for the London Observer for many years after he left Tanzania. David Martin also worked for the
BBC and even covered the Angolan civil war. I remember listening to him in a live report from Angola on the CBC (Canadian
Broadcasting Corporation, Toronto) radio when I lived in Detroit, Michigan, USA, in the seventies.
President Nyerere was our editor-in-chief. But he never served
in an executive capacity at the Daily
As an overall guardian of this publicly owned institution - the paper, the Standard, was renamed Daily
in 1970 when it was nationalized - he gave us the freedom to say what we wanted to say and even encouraged us to criticize
the government and its policies. And he meant what he said. We wrote what we wanted to write without any fear of retribution
or censorship. Others also testify to that. As Philip Ochieng', probably Kenya’s best known journalist and political
commentator who was attracted to Tanzania by Nyerere’s leadership and policies and joined our editorial staff at the
Daily News, stated in a tribute to Mwalimu, “There
Was Real Freedom in Mwalimu’s Day,” in The East African, 26 October 1999:
“I never really covered Mwalimu Nyerere. By the time I got to Tanzania to work for The Standard Tanzania, I had been an editorial pontiff in Nairobi’s Sunday Nation for upwards of two
And that was what I continued to do in Dar-es-Salaam, fulminating like Ezekiel from my armchair.
But one thing is true. Working for the president, between September 1970 and January 1973 was probably
the most enjoyable period of my entire journalistic career. There were at least two reasons for this. The first was that ours
was a community of ideas. The second, contrary to what was constantly claimed here in Nairobi and by the Western press, was
that the Dar-es-Salaam newspapers enjoyed a high level of freedom to publish. This reflected the fact that Tanzania enjoyed
an unprecedented freedom of speech. But it was never licentious freedom of the kind with which Nairobi’s alternative
press assails our eyes every morning.
Following the Arusha Declaration of 1967, Julius Kambarage Nyerere had, early in 1970, nationalised
The Tanganyika Standard from Lonrho and rechristened it The Standard Tanzania
as the official print organ of the government.
The Nationalist and
its Kiswahili sister Uhuru already existed as the organs of the ruling Tanganyika African National Union
(Tanu), with Ben Mkapa as its editor. Brought in from London as Managing Editor of The Standard was a tough-talking
South African woman of Asian origin called Frene Ginwala.
Ginwala, who is now the Speaker
of the South African Parliament in Cape Town, was a woman of strong left-wing convictions. She very soon collected around
her men and women from the international community with equally strong socialist views.
This was the context in which I left Nairobi for Dar-es-Salaam, invited by Ginwala. Mwalimu Nyerere
acted as our (non-executive) Editor-in-Chief. And yet every Friday I published an opinion column highly critical of his system.
I waxed critical especially of the recently nationalised commercial and industrial houses: the
corruption that was beginning to invade them and their umbrella organisations, the ineptitude, the apparent absence of development
Yet never once did Ginwala or myself receive a telephone call from or a summons to Ikulu
(State House), complaining about anything we had written. Of course, there were many murmurs in the corridors of power against
us. They accused us of being a bunch of communists, though we never were. But they dared not call a press conference to attack
us. Nyerere simply would not have allowed them to do so.
Were we really a den of communists? To be sure, Frene Ginwala herself and Tony Hall were members
of Joe Slovo’s Communist Party of South Africa and Iain Christie was a member of the British Communist Party.
There were were two other British imports – Richard Gott and Rod Prince – but they were
self-confessed anarchists. There was also myself. But, though I would soon be introduced to Marx, Engels, Lenin and Mao, my
leftism continued to be subsumed under liberalism. The rest of our newsroom – the corps of reporters and sub-editors,
practically all of them native Tanzanians – was solidly right-wing, paying lip service to Nyerere’s Ujamaa
tenets but either cynical about them or ignorant of their social import.
Yet, to me, Nyerere’s greatness does not lie in his Ujamaa ideology. Though
this ideology was what attracted most of us into Tanzania, it was what was to prove the economic bane of that country. Nationalised
property only fell into the jaws of a deeply venal class of vibwanyenye. The word, which means petty commodity owners, was a "technical translation"
by Tanzania’s Swahili Academy of the Marxist term petty bourgeoisie, namely, the peasants and the classroom-created
The Ujamaa Village institution itself proved nothing more than a stratagem for settling
rural people together so as to facilitate such social services as water, education and seed distribution by collectivising
them. It, too, would soon be vitiated by graft and lack of commitment.
Very soon, production would come to a standstill and distribution of what was produced would go haywire.
Nyerere, who was genuinely persuaded by and committed to the system, had included a leadership code in Azimio.
It banned corruption and prohibited a certain level of politicians, civil servants and parastatal employees from owning personal
businesses. But it did not cut much ice. And things went from bad to worse. From time to time, the president would hit back
through widespread sackings, decentralisations and shuffles. But he only succeeded in bringing in leeches more ravenous than
those he had sacked or decentralised.
Nyerere’s failing, then, stemmed both from objective conditions and from subjective weaknesses.
Objective because he never really came to grips with the forces – national as well as international – which he
was setting out to defeat. Western individualism had been internalised by practically all Tanzanians through the classroom
and the church. The African extended family system, which he was trying to reinstitute, had long been done to death by cash
payment and individualist callousness.
Mwalimu Nyerere just couldn’t see the vital link of this habit of thought with the very same
Western institutions whose property he was trying to socialise. Socialism, he claimed, was an attitude of the mind and so
he hoped to convert people merely by moral preachifying.
Like most other Third World petty-bourgeois radicals – Josip Broz Tito, Jawaharlal Nehru,
Cheddi Jagan, Kwame Nkrumah, Agostinho Neto – Mwalimu vehemently rejected the Marxist class analysis.
And this was the subjective aspect of his position. According to its founders, socialism can be
genuine only as an ideology of a class without any producer property, namely, the industrial proletariat and the agricultural
labourer. It stands to reason that no social group with any property can be interested in sharing it with everybody else.
Both the peasantry and the urban elite are propertied classes. As individuals, of course, they may, as Lenin hoped, be converted
into socialism. But, as a class, you can only force them into collectivisation with disastrous consequences. That was the
lesson the world should have learned from Stalin’s forced collectivism, in which tens of millions perished.
Yet, despite all these failings, Kambarage Nyerere remained one of Africa’s quintessential
men of the 20th century. His personal probity was unequalled. In Africa, he was equalled only by Muammar Gaddafi in his refusal
to use his immense power to enrich himself or his family.
It was his intellectual strength and moral fibre that enabled him, when he saw that his experiment
could not succeed, to admit openly that his life career had been a failure. When he nationalised The Tanganyika Standard, he gave us a charter which expressly challenged its new editors to criticise all social failings by whomever
they are committed. I had never been and would never be freer than when I worked in Dar.
This freedom of the press, as I say above, was only a mirror-reflection of the much more important
freedom of ideas throughout the country. Though Nyerere believed more than 100 per cent in Ujamaa, he never tried
to force it down anybody’s throat.
Nor did he ever issue The Standard Tanzania, The Nationalist or the latter’s Swahili daily and weekly counterparts Uhuru
and Mzalendo, with any instruction to print only Nyerereist ideas or to slant news in favour of that ideology
and its exponents.
If that had been the case, Tanzania’s amazing pluralism of ideas at that time would not have
reached the world. Yet it did reach the world, attracting into that country hundreds of intellectuals from all over the world.
The University of Dar-es-Salaam at Ubungo was Africa’s, perhaps the world’s, intellectual
Mecca. Dar-es-Salaam harboured all the radical liberation movements in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, Ireland, South-East
Asia, even the the United States. It was a crossroads of such celebrated freedom fighters as Agostinho Neto, Samora Machel,
Marcelino dos Santos, Jorge Rebello, Janet Mondlane, Yoweri Museveni, Sam Nujoma, Thabo Mbeki, Oliver Tambo, Gora Ebrahim,
Amilcar Cabral, Angela Davis and others, changing ideas with us, often hotly. For these were not uniform minds. There were
intellectuals – both native and alien – who expressed ideas so far to the right that they bordered on fascism.
Others expressed ideas so far to the left that again they bordered on fascism.
The humdinger, however, was that all these ideas were expressed freely and printed in the party
and government newspapers with little attempt at editorial slanting and chicanery.
In 1972 came the only time Nyerere intervened in The Standard Tanzania. Somebody had
tried to overthrow President Gaafar al-Numeiry of the Sudan, who had himself staged a coup with the help of the Communist
Party the previous year. He responded by killing hundreds of leaders of the same Communist Party.
In an editorial commentary, drafted by Richard Gott, The Standard accused
Numeiry of horrendous murder. At a Tanu meeting in Dodoma the next day, the right-wing, led by Prime Minister Rashidi Mfaume
Kawawa, was up in arms. Editor Ginwala was made to accept very many nasty names: including communist, woman and Mhindi
(Asian). They demanded her sacking on the spot because Numeiry, they said, was a good friend of Tanzania. Nyerere had to give
That was the end of Ginwala’s regime. It was about that time, too, that The Nationalist married The Standard to beget the present Daily News, with such successive
editors as Sammy Mdee, Ben Mkapa, the present President, Ferdinand Ruhinda and Joseph Mapunda. The merger was necessitated
by a reorganisation of the government’s information structures, with a party-based Press Council chaired by Daudi Mwakawago,
Tanu’s then Director of Information.
Composed totally of right-wingers, including Ben Mkapa, Information Minister Daniel Namfua, Uhuru
editor Costa Kumalija, Nationalist editor Ferdinand Ruhinda and Radio Tanzania Director Paul Sozigwa, it signalled
the end of radicalism and free expression in the press. It was then that I resigned to study in Germany.
Until his death, Nyerere, who was humble, self-effacing and selfless, continued to serve humanity
on many capacities – particularly his promotion of mutual South-South assistance to reduce dependence on Western alms
and his attempt to help bring about order in Burundi.
An intellectual of immense stature, a man of great personal integrity, a paragon of humanism, Julius
Kambarage will be hard to replace in Tanzania, in Africa and on the globe. I was privileged to know and work with such a man.
That is why, as I mourn, I ask, with Marcus Antonius, whence cometh such another?”15
Members of the entire editorial staff were fully aware of the
kind of freedom we had to criticize the government, although we worked for a government-owned newspaper. But the government
owned it on behalf of the people, wananchi.
we were free to criticize leaders and policies and express our views across the spectrum without being censured. President
Nyerere established that as a policy.
Our editors, first Sammy Mdee who later became President Nyerere’s press
secretary, and next Ben Mkapa who was elected president of Tanzania in 1995 and won a second five year-term in 2000, did not
violate this policy which was adopted after the newspaper was nationalized. They sometimes even invited reporters to write
or contribute to editorials. Self-criticism was also routine. Every morning before we went out on assignments, we had a post-mortem
of the paper presided over by the editor, dissecting the stories we wrote the previous day.
Such was the camaraderie, the ambiance and egalitarian disposition, and freedom,
we enjoyed at our newspaper; the largest English daily in Tanzania and one of the three largest and most influential in East
Although we were independent and wrote whatever we wanted to
write, we were also at the center of a maelstrom because of the ideological ferment that the country was undergoing during
that period in its quest for socialist transformation in pursuit of the egalitarian ideals of Ujamaa (which means familyhood in Kiswahili) espoused by Nyerere: a political
theorist and philosopher, scholar and politician, without an equal on the continent in terms of intellectual depth and prowess
and pursuits among leaders with the exception of President Leopold Sedar Senghor of Senegal, a poet-philosopher - “I
feel, therefore I am,” he mused, reminiscent of Rene Descartes, “I think, therefore I am”; and Dr. Kwame
Nkrumah, president of Ghana and revolutionary thinker and theoretician.
But Nkrumah was overthrown in February 1966 in a CIA-engineered coup before
Nyerere enunciated his socialist ideology in the Arusha Declaration almost exactly one year later in February 1967 after the
Ghana coup. So, with Nkrumah gone - he died in April 1972, six years after he was overthrown - only Nyerere and Senghor remained
on the scene as the leading political thinkers among leaders on the continent.
I remember when Nkrumah
died. I was at work on that day at the Daily News when the bulletin about
his death came in on the telex in the evening in our editorial office. One of the first persons to express profound shock
was Karim Essack, about whom more later, but Dr. Nkrumah’s death equally affected the rest of us who read the news bulletin
that evening. The other reporters were gone by then.
Although Nkrumah’s death left on
the scene two towering intellectual presidents, Nyerere and Senghor, it was Nyerere who was the far more influential between
the two on the continent and in the international arena. Senghor was also seen as a white man in a black skin. But his unabashed
Francophilia did not diminish his stature as an intellectual, especially among his admirers, and even among some of his critics
who saw him as a black Frenchman who should have been born white and brought up in France. In 1980, he stepped down as president
of Senegal and went to live in France where he died in December 2001 at the age of 95.
He was one African leader - and there were many others - who was not admired
by many reporters on our editorial staff, anymore than Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda, the president of Malawi, was. I didn’t
know any on our staff who admired Banda.
Our newspaper, like the country itself, attracted not only reporters and revolutionary
thinkers from different parts of Africa and beyond but also reporters of different ideological interests within Tanzania itself.
There was, for instance, Karim Essack - a Tanzanian of Asian (Indian) origin - who was a leftist revolutionary and, like the
rest of us on our editorial staff who were not leftist although some were, also an uncompromising foe of apartheid and other
oppressive regimes. He also wrote a book about Dr. Eduardo Mondlane and the liberation struggle in Mozambique and maintained,
until his death in 1997, close ties with revolutionaries and radical thinkers around the world including many in Latin America.
As the socialist-oriented International Emergency Committee (IEC) - founded to defend the life of Dr. Abimael Guzman, a Peruvian
Marxist philosophy professor and leader of the revolutionary group Shining Path, captured and imprisoned in Peru in 1992 -
stated in October 1997 in its eulogy, “In Memory of Karim Essack”:
“The IEC coordinating committee was saddened to learn
that Karim Essack died this summer. He was a Tanzanian anti-imperialist who, for several decades, actively supported national
liberation movements across the world. Karim Essack was a friend of the Peruvian people and a supporter of the People’s
War in Peru who dedicated some of his writings to Dr. Guzman and other PCP fighters. He was a signatory to the IEC Call and
helped propagate the campaign in Africa. He will be missed.”16
Karim Essack was just one of the reporters of Asian descent on our staff, which
was fully integrated: black African being in the majority; Asian, mostly of Indian and Pakistani origin; Arab; and British.
This also reflected Nyerere’s ideals. As Tanzania’s president and editor-in-chief of our newspaper, he would not
have tolerated an editorial team that was exclusivist and intentionally did not reflect the racial and ethnic composition
of our society - although, for practical purposes, not every tribe could have been represented on our staff or any anywhere
else in the country. But the bedrock principle on which our society was built under Nyerere was that no one should be discriminated
against. And he meant what he said.
Few countries in the world can match Tanzania’s record
of inclusion. And it is not uncommon to hear people from other countries who have lived in Tanzania say, “There is no
racism and tribalism in Tanzania”; “Tanzania is the only country in Africa that has conquered tribalism,”
as Keith Richburg says in his book Out
of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa;17 “There is very little tribalism - and racism - in Tanzania”; “Tribalism
and racism are not major problems in Tanzania.” The last statement is closest to reality.
And in keeping with Tanzania’s policy of welcoming refugees
and promoting Pan-African solidarity as enunciated by Nyerere, members of our editorial staff from other African countries
were not only guaranteed equal rights and accorded full protection like the rest of us, but also career advancement like everywhere
else in Tanzania. So were other non-citizens from outside Africa.
In fact, in the 1970 general elections, people from other African countries
who were not citizens of Tanzania were allowed to vote. President Nyerere allowed that as one of the ways of promoting African
unity. And it is possible some of them even voted against him. But his gesture of goodwill was highly appreciated and resonated
far beyond our national borders.
At our newspaper, some of the foreign reporters who held responsible
positions included Tommy Sithole, sports editor, who returned to Zimbabwe and became managing editor of the state-owned Zimbabwe Herald after his country won independence under the leadership of
Robert Mugabe, himself of scholarly bent like Nyerere, although not of the same intellectual stature and influence as a Pan-African
There was also Philip Ochieng’, a Kenyan, who wrote a
weekly column, “The Way I See It.” He also served as a sub-editor, one among several, including Felix Kaiza, Pascal
Shija, Robert Rweyemamu, Uli Mwambulukutu, Abdallah Ngororo, Kassim Mpenda, Jenerali Ulimwengu, Emmanuel Bulugu, and a few
others. The news editor was Nsubisi Mwakipunda. Two senior reporters, Reginald Mhango - originally from Malawi - who later
in 2002 became managing editor of the Guardian,
of Tanzania’s leading daily newspapers, and Kusai Khamisa, also served as acting news editors in Mwakipunda’s
absence. All these were Tanzanians. Philip Ochieng’ eventually went back to Kenya - after further studies in Germany
- and served as editor of the government-owned Kenya
before returning to the Daily
Nairobi, where he worked before he joined our editorial staff at the Standard, later Daily
in Dar es Salaam. He also wrote a book, I
Accuse the Press: An Insider’s View of the Media and Politics in Africa.18
We also had sub-editors from South Africa, Nigeria, and Britain. The Nigerian
sub-editor came from Biafra and fled his country during the civil war and was one of the many Eastern Nigerians, mostly Igbos,
who sought asylum in Tanzania after the Eastern Region seceded from the Nigerian Federation. They included judges and professors,
many other professionals and others who came to live in Tanzania during that critical period. And many remained in Tanzania
after the war. It was Nyerere who extended such hospitality to them after Tanzania became the first country to recognize Biafra.
And in Dar es Salaam even today, there is a place called Biafra Grounds where mass rallies are held. There are also many Nigerian
doctors and other professionals in Tanzania.
They would not have been able to live and
work in Tanzania in such large numbers had it not been for Tanzania’s track record of hospitality initiated by Nyerere
way back in the sixties soon after Tanganyika won independence from Britain on December 9, 1961. And as Dr. M.O. Ene, chairman
of the Enyimba Pan-Igbo Think Tank, said about Nyerere when he died: "I saw the legend in 1966, and the memory still lives
His Pan-African commitment and achievements were internationally
acknowledged, despite his failed socialist policies. As Professor Harvey Glickman who made a study tour of Tanzania stated
in his article, “Tanzania: From Disillusionment to Guarded Optimism,” in Current History: A Journal of Contemporary World Affairs:
“Tanzania’s profile, in the life and career of President Julius
Nyerere, was poor, earnest, caring, and honest - at least until 1985, when Nyerere formally stepped aside in a peaceful constitutional
transition (which is extremely rare in Africa).
Tanzania’s government was stable while other African governments succumbed
to coups and civil wars. The country conducted consecutive national elections at regular five-year intervals. Other one-party
states ignored mass participation; Nyerere’s Tanzania devised a system of constituency primaries under the party umbrella,
controlled at the center, but offering a voice for localism.
Other African governments extolled the virtues of Pan-Africanism; Nyerere engineered
the union of his own country and an offshore neighbour. Other African governments denounced white racist governments on the
continent; Tanzania took action, cutting off relations with Britain over the issue of African rule in Rhodesia in 1965 (the
first country to do so), and offering shelter to the liberation parties and guerrilla forces of southern Africa.
While most African governments rejected the secession of Biafra
from Nigeria in 1967, Tanzania recognized Biafra’s short-lived government on moral grounds (and was the first to recognize
the secessionist region), arguing it was an act of self-defense against ethnic pogroms. While other African countries merely
denounced Idi Amin in Uganda in the 1970s, Tanzania’s army defeated him in battle in 1979 and drove him from the country.”19
And Nyerere’s policy of good neighbourliness and Pan-African solidarity
was also clearly evident at our newspaper which had an exchange programme with neighbouring Zambia and whose president, Dr.
Kenneth Kaunda, was Nyerere’s ideological compatriot and very close personal friend.
A reporter from the Times of Zambia, Francis Kasoma, now deceased, joined our editorial staff
while our news editor Nsubisi Mwakipunda went to Zambia to work at the Times. Kasoma covered some of the most important political events in the country just as we did.
It didn’t matter he and a number of other reporters were not Tanzanians. After working at the Daily News for quite some time, Kasoma returned to Zambia and years later became a
professor and head of the mass communications department at the University of Zambia. He also wrote some books including The Press and Multiparty Politics in Africa.20
Another member of our editorial staff who also wrote a book
was deputy editor Hadji Konde, deceased, who was one of the most renowned Tanzanian journalists with vast experience in the
profession. He wrote Press Freedom
His work was preceded only by Karim Essack’s among those
written by newsmen who worked at the Daily
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
Another reporter on our editorial staff, Clement Ndulute, also
became an author with the publication of his book, The Poetry of Shaaban Robert,22 published in 1994 by the Dar es Salaam University Press. It is a translation of the works
of Tanzania’s eminent poet from Kiswahili into English. Ndulute went on to pursue further studies at the University
of Indiana in the United States where he obtained his PhD in literature. He returned to Tanzania and became a lecturer in
literature at the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
He then went back to the United States and became an associate professor of
African literature at Mississippi Valley State University and later at Tuskegee University in Alabama.
Another member of our editorial staff who became a professor is Issa Kaboko
Musoke. He attended Michigan State University in the United States during the seventies when I was also a student in the same
state. He returned to Tanzania and joined the academic staff at the University of Dar es Salaam teaching sociology. He also
taught in Botswana for some time.
Yet another reporter from the Daily News who also attended school in Michigan around the same time
I did, was Deogratias Michael Masakilija. Both of us were sponsored by the Pan-African Congress-USA, an organization based
in Detroit and founded by a group of African-Americans in that city to strengthen ties between Black America and Africa and
promote African unity. Their Pan-African philosophy was based on the teachings of Kwame Nkrumah and Julius Nyerere who were
the ideological mentors of the organization.
They even had the pictures of the two leaders on the wall in their conference
hall, together with those of Ahmed Sekou Toure, Malcolm X and Patrice Lumumba. These were the five leaders they admired the
most and whose writings they studied for ideological guidance and inspiration.
Tanzania’s national dress, the dark suit with a collar-less jacket worn
by President Nyerere and other Tanzanian leaders, was the official attire of the male members of the organization.
Many Pan-African Congress members also took lessons in Kiswahili which they
regarded as a Pan-African language. Some of the members of the organization went to live or work in Tanzania, while others
simply visited the country, one of their favourites, together with Ghana. And a number of others attended the Sixth Pan-African
Congress under the stewardship of President Julius Nyerere held at the University of Dar es Salaam in Nkrumah Hall in 1974.
It was the first one held on African soil. The last one, the Fifth Pan-African
Congress, was held in Manchester, England, in 1945, and was attended by a number of future African leaders including Kwame
Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta, Nnamdi Azikiwe, and Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda. It galvanized the African independence movement. Dr.
Banda's residence in England became a meeting place for African nationalists including Nkrumah whom Dr. Banda cordially called,
"My boy." After Ghana won independence and Nkrumah became president, Banda went to live and work in Ghana before returning
Other students who were sponsored or supported by the Pan-African Congress-USA
and attended Wayne State University in Detroit during the same time I did were Kojo Yankah from Ghana who became a member
of parliament and cabinet member under President Jerry Rawlings in the 1990s; Amadou Taal and Mamadou Sohna, both from the
Gambia. Sohna became a professor in the United States.
When Amadou Taal returned to the Gambia, he became a high government official
and the country's leading economist appointed by President Dawda Jawara, Gambia's first president. He held the following posts
consecutively: Principal Planner in the Ministry of Economic Planning and Industrial Development; Permanent Secretary in the
Ministry of Agriculture, and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Lands.
Coincidentally, one of his closest friends, Hassan Jallow who got his law degree
from the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania in the early seventies, became Gambia's attorney-general and later minister
of justice under President Jawara. In 2003, Jallow was appointed by UN Secretary-General Kofi Anan and by the Security Council
as the UN chief prosector of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) based in Arusha, Tanzania.
And throughout his tenure, Amadou Taal represented the Gambia at international
conferences in many countries including Tanzania.
He served until Jawara was overthrown in a military coup in July 1994. He was
not sponsored by the Pan-African Congress-USA but was supported by the organization, as was Mamadou Sohna who later became
a professor at a university in Virginia in the United States.
Another student who was sponsored by the
Pan-African Congress-USA but did not attend Wayne State University and entered public life when he returned home was Kwabena
Dompre from Ghana. He was the third student to be sponsored by the organization after Kojo Yankah; and Olu Williams from Sierra
Leone who attended the University of Nebraska and obtained a doctorate in agricultural economics. Kwabena went to Western
Michigan University. After he returned to Ghana, he entered politics and worked as a high ranking official for President Hilla
Limann. He later became a lawyer in Ghana and in the United States.
We all lived in the same house owned by
the Pan-African Congress-USA which was also a meeting place for Pan-African Congress members, a number of African students
and others including members of the Republic of New Afrika, engaged in lively conversations about the liberation struggle
in southern Africa, African politics in general, the civil rights struggle in the United States and other subjects. It was
an environment highly conducive to cross-fertilization of ideas across the spectrum, and it left a lasting impression on me
My other schoolmates at Wayne State University who went into public life, but
who were not sponsored by the Pan-African Congress-USA, included Raphael Munavu who became a professor at Nairobi University
and then vice-chancellor of Moi University after he returned to Kenya. Although an academic, his position as vice-chancellor
of one of Kenya’s universities made him a leading educational authority and a public figure.
Another graduate of Wayne State University who was in a similar
position but who went to school there long before I did was Dr. Philemon Msuya from Tanzania, assistant dean of Muhimbili
Medical School in Dar es salaam headed by Dr. Nhonoli when I was a reporter at the Daily News. I once interviewed him and wrote a feature article about our country's
medical school in our newspaper; that’s how I learned that he was a graduate of Wayne State University Medical School,
the largest in the United States.
My interview with Dr. Msuya had to do with high-level manpower and how we would
meet our country’s needs in the medical field. The projections by the Tanzanian government that we would have enough
doctors by 1985 did not correspond to reality; a point I underscored in my article. Wayne State University also had ties to
Tanzania in other ways. Tanzania’s junior minister of health and - together with Bibi Titi Mohammed - one of the first
two female cabinet members in Tanganyika soon after independence, Lucy Lameck, also attended Wayne State University.
And there were two professors from Tanzania, Mark Kiluma and Mayowera, who
taught Kiswahili at Wayne State University when I was a student there in the seventies. And the head of the linguistics department,
Professor Sorensen, lived in Tanzania - what was then Tanganyika - for 25 years, and first went there before I was born. He
was, all those years, a Catholic priest in Morogoro where I also lived when I was under five years old.
Besides the two Tanzanians teaching Kiswahili, other African professors at
Wayne State University included Mxolisi Ntlabati from South Africa. An associate of Nelson Mandela and others who ended up
in the dock in the Rivonia Trial, he would have been one of them had he not fled the country via Tanganyika and gone to the
United States for further studies.
Tragically, he was killed in 1979 by the same apartheid regime he fled from,
after he left Detroit, Michigan, and returned to South Africa and was banished to a remote part of Ciskei, one of the homelands,
where the only job he could find was teaching at a secondary school and which severely limited his career opportunities in
a deliberate effort by the white racist government to destroy him. He died at the hands of the authorities.
A strong admirer of President Julius Nyerere and his policies, he named one
of his children Ujamaa in honour of Mwalimu Nyerere for his Pan-African solidarity and commitment to the liberation struggle.
Dr. Ntlabati also served as pastor of the People's Community Church, one of the largest black churches in Detroit which was
only a few yards away from the Pan-African Congress house where we lived. The church also sponsored one student from Ghana
who lived in the church building, with all his tuition and living expenses paid by the church members.
Another fellow African student at Wayne State University, Emmanuel Sendezera
from Malawi, also ended up in South Africa as a physics professor at Witwatersrand University and at another university in
Kwazulu/Natal Province. He and John Muhanji from Kenya were the only two black PhD students in physics at Wayne State University
in the seventies. They were also among the few students from East Africa on campus besides me, a few Kenyans, Ethiopians,
and one Ugandan nun. And like Raphael Munavu, John Muhanji also returned to Kenya.
Wayne State University also had students from many other African
countries. And our organization on campus, the Organization of African Students (OAS) of which I was president, had a monthly
publication called Ngurumo, which was also the name of a Swahili
newspaper in Tanzania.
The students, most of whom came from West Africa, chose the name because they
were attracted by its literal meaning, Thunder. And probably just as many said they liked the name because it reminded them
of Nkrumah, an embodiment of Pan-Africanism, which our organization also embraced as a unifying ideology.
My association with this publication was the last I would have as a journalist.
After I left Wayne State University, my life veered in another direction in terms of academic pursuits and career advancement.
Years later, I ended up writing books, mostly academic works.
While Musoke and I never returned to journalism after finishing
our studies in Michigan, Masakilija did. After he returned to Tanzania, he not only continued to work as a journalist but
went on to pursue other interests as well in the private sector. And one of our colleagues on the editorial staff at the Daily News, Abdallah Ngororo, who joined the government and became permanent secretary
- head of the ministry’s civil service - at different ministries under President Benjamin Mkapa, our former editor,
died in 2002.
And I came up way down the road as an author with my first
book published in 1999, 27 years after I left the Daily News. And unlike the works of my colleagues all of which dealt with the press, except Ndulute’s about poetry,
mine was about economics, entitled, Economic
Development in Africa,23 which also came to be used as a college textbook mainly for graduate (post-graduate) studies in colleges and
universities in the United States, Canada, Britain, Australia, South Africa and other countries, as have a number of other
books I have written including The
Modern African State: Quest for Transformation,24 and Africa
and the West.25
Although they are mostly found in university libraries around
the world, and in a number of public libraries, they are also intended for members of the general public. I never intended
to write them exclusively for the academic community. And I have taken the same approach in writing this book.
In Economic Development in Africa, I do acknowledge that our socialist policies failed, as President Nyerere
himself admitted when he stepped down in November 1985 as much as he did on other occasions in the following years. But I
also do know that Nyerere’s economic policies were not - total failure. We had significant achievements in a number of areas. As I state on Amazon.com in my review
of a book by George Ayittey, A Ghanaian professor of economics at The American University, Africa in Chaos:
“Ayittey has written an excellent book. In fact, I’m just as critical
of Africa’s despotic and kleptocratic regimes in all the books I have written. But I don’t entirely agree with
his assessment of Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, and Kenneth Kaunda.
He says his focus is not on the leadership qualities of any
of the African leaders but on their policies. It is true that socialism failed to fuel economic growth. But an objective evaluation
of what Nkrumah, Nyerere, and Kaunda did, shows that they had some success in a number of areas. Yet, Ayittey has almost nothing
good to say about them in his book, Africa
In fact, these are the three leaders of whom he’s most critical in his book, devoting several pages to them more than
any other African leader.
Under Nkrumah, Ghana had the highest per capita income in sub-Saharan Africa.
It was Nkrumah who laid the foundation for modern-day Ghana. He built the infrastructure that has sustained and fuelled Ghana’s
economic development through the years. It is true that there were also many failures under Nkrumah, and after he was gone;
for example, institutional decay and crumbling infrastructure. But who built those institutions and the infrastructure?
Nkrumah built schools, hospitals, roads, factories, dams and bridges, railways
and harbours. Tens of thousands of people in Ghana who are lawyers, doctors, engineers, nurses, teachers, accountants, agriculturalists,
scientists and others wouldn’t be what they are today had it not been for the educational opportunities provided by
Ayittey talks about quality, saying that what mattered during Nkrumah’s
reign was quantity, not quality. What’s the quality of the Ghanaian elite, including Ayittey himself, educated under
Nkrumah? Are they not as good as anybody else? What was the quality of education at the University of Ghana, Legon? Did it
admit and train students of mediocre mental calibre? Did it have inferior academic programmes? And an inferior faculty? Were
more people dying in Ghanaian hospitals than they were being saved? Did the schools, hospitals, factories, roads and other
infrastructure Nkrumah built do more harm than good? Would Ghana have been better off without them like Zaire under Mobutu?
In Tanzania, Nyerere also built schools, hospitals, clinics, factories, roads
and railways, dams and bridges, hydroelectric power plants and other infrastructure. Although his policy of Ujamaa (meaning
familyhood in Kiswahili) was not very successful, it did enable the country to bring the people together and closer to each
other in order to provide them with vital social services. The people had easier access to schools, clinics, clean water and
other services provided by the government, than they otherwise would have been, because they lived closer to each other; which
would have been impossible had they been spread too thin across the country, living miles and miles apart.
Also under Nyerere, education was free, from primary school all the way to
the university level. Medical services were also free, in spite of the fact that Tanzania is one of the poorest countries
in the world. Still, under Nyerere, it was able to afford all that. Everybody had equal opportunity.
Under his leadership, Tanzania also made quantum leaps in education. It had
the highest literacy rate in Africa, and one of the highest in the world, higher than India’s, which has one of the
largest numbers of educated people and the third largest number of scientists after the United States and the former Soviet
One of the biggest achievements under Nyerere was in the area of adult education.
Tanzania, on a scale unprecedented anywhere else in the world, launched a massive adult education campaign to teach millions
of people how to read and write. Within only a few years, almost the entire adult population of Tanzania - rural peasants,
urban workers and others - became literate. Almost everybody in Tanzania, besides children not yet in school, was able to
read and write. And the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania became one of the most renowned academic institutions in the
world, in less than ten years, with an outstanding faculty including some of the best and internationally acclaimed scholars
from many countries.
Provision of vital services even to some of the most remote parts of the country
- far removed from urban and social centres - was not uncommon although the services were, I must admit, curtailed through
the years because of economic problems. Yet, all that was achieved under Nyerere who sincerely believed, and made sure, that
everybody had equal access to the nation’s resources. I know all this because I am a Tanzanian myself, born and brought
up in Tanzania, and was one of the beneficiaries of Nyerere’s egalitarian policies.
Tanzania has come a long way, and still has a long way to go. But give credit
where credit is due, in spite of failures in a number of areas, and which must be acknowledged by all of us. I even admit
that in my books. But also look at where we were before: At independence in 1961, Tanganyika (before uniting with Zanzibar
in 1964 to form Tanzania) had only 120 university graduates, including two lawyers who had to draft and negotiate more than
150 international treaties for the young nation and handle other legal matters for the country.
With 120 university graduates, Tanganyika was, of course, better off than the
former Belgian Congo which had only 16 at independence in 1960, and Nyasaland (now Malawi) with only 34 at independence in
1964. Still, that was nowhere close to what Tanganyika would have been had the British tried to develop the colony; which
was never their intention.
None of the 120 university graduates got
their degrees in Tanganyika. There was no university in the country. The British never built one, and never intended to build
one. Tanganyika built one after independence, and it became internationally renowned as an excellent academic institution
in less than a decade.
The 120 university graduates Tanganyika
had at independence was nothing in terms of manpower for a country; not even for a province or region. As Julius Nyerere said
not long before he died:
‘We took over a country with 85 percent of its adults illiterate. The
British ruled us for 43 years. When they left, there were two trained engineers and 12 doctors. When I stepped down there
was 91 percent literacy and nearly every child was in school. We trained thousands of engineers, doctors, and teachers.’
Nyerere stepped down in 1985. And all that was achieved within
24 years since independence. No mean achievement.”26
The cornerstone of his economic policy for Tanzania’s development was
Ujamaa. And it was supported by the majority of Tanzanians, even if grudgingly by a significant number of them.
But even some of the skeptics wanted to give it a chance. And when it failed,
even Nyerere’s harshest critics admitted that he meant well; which explains his enormous popularity across the country
even after he stepped down, although the economy virtually came to a grinding halt especially during the last several years
of his presidency.
He remained as popular as he was through the decades since independence, and
was even admired by some of his most ardent critics. As Jonathan Power, who was highly critical of Nyerere’s policies
and one party-rule, stated in his article, “Lament for Independent Africa’s Greatest Leader”:
“Tanzania in East Africa has long been one of the 25 poorest countries
in the world. But there was a time when it was described, in terms of its political influence, as one of the top 25. It punched
far above its weight. That formidable achievement was the work of one man, now lying close to death in a London Hospital....
His extraordinary intelligence, verbal and literary originality... and apparent
commitment to non-violence made him not just an icon in his own country but of a large part of the activist sixties’
generation in the white world who, not all persuaded of the heroic virtues of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, desperately looked
for a more sympatheitc role model.
Measured against most of his peers, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Kwame Nkrumah of
Ghana, Ahmed Sekou Toure of Guinea, he towered above them. On the intellectual plane only the rather remote president of Senegal,
the great poet and author of Negritude, Leopold Senghor, came close to him.
Not only was Nyerere financially open, modest and honest, he was uncorrupted
by fame or position. He remained throughout his life, self-effacing and unpretentious. Above all, he inspired his own people
to resist the tugs of tribalism and to pull together as one people. To this day Tanzania remains one of the very few African
countries that has not experienced serious tribal division. Its continuously fraught relationship with the Arab-dominated
off-shore island of Zanzibar is another matter.
Later, discarding his earlier more pacifist
convictions, he was to become the eminence rise of the southern African liberation movements in Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia
and South Africa extending a wide open embrace to their operations. For this his country paid a heavy price, in material terms,
but also because Nyerere’s role as interlocutor with the West demanded enormous amounts of time and energy that often
led him to neglect his domestic responsibilities....
Nyerere was not an egomaniac who banged the table and surrounded himself only
with sycophants. He was simply the self-assured headmaster that he had been since his teaching days....
Tanzania remains one of the very poorest countries in the world.... Whereas
a once equally poor nearby country, Botswana, has progressed rapidly to the point where it is barely recognizable as the impoverished
backwater it was only thirty years ago, Tanzania remains mired in the rut of underdevelopment and only recently, since Nyerere
voluntarily retired in 1985, has begun to make up for lost time.
For most of Nyerere’s long period in office his country was in economic
difficulties. Inherited poverty, appalling weather, world recessions, crazed neighbours and war in southern Africa were all
parts of the problem, but in the end there was not a good excuse for such continuous failures....
Nyerere’s Christian socialist ideology dreamed of new ways of organizing
society when there were hardly the rudiments of modern structures.... His biggest mistake of all was what he called ‘ujamaa’
- a kind of African, Israeli kibbutz-inspired collectivisation....
Later Nyerere was to admit that even in his home village (Butiama), which he
often liked to visit, ujamaa had not really taken hold. In the end he was forced to put ujamaa on a back burner, but the damage
had been done.
Many of us will mourn Julius Nyerere when he is gone. He was,
without any doubt, second only to Nelson Mandela, the most inspiring African leader of his generation.”27
Although most Tanzanians - and millions of other Africans -
were indeed inspired by Nyerere, there were many who disagreed with him and did not like his policies, especially socialism
and one-party rule. And like the general population, our editorial staff at the Daily News was not a monolithic whole. Many reporters professed to be socialist or supported Tanzania’s
socialist policies. But some were clearly at the other end of the ideological spectrum, including a number of those who claimed
to be socialist and strong supporters of Nyerere’s ujamaa policies.
This dichotomy or ambivalence is probably best explained by Nyerere’s
sincerity and enormous popularity among the masses. Reporters were part of the elite. So, going against the president who
was the embodiment of the wishes and aspirations of the poor peasants and workers, and who articulated their sentiments, would
have been “treacherous” and “unpatriotic,” some of them felt; in spite of the fact that he encouraged
us to be critical and freely express our views.
Yet few people - anywhere across the country - wanted to be seen as uncaring,
betraying the masses. Therefore for some on our editorial staff, it was self-censorship, to identify themselves with the poor
peasants and workers who constituted the vast majority of the population and the backbone of our economy. They were the nation.
Many people including reporters found it hard to criticize Nyerere. His sincerity, humility, and deep concern for the masses
confounded even some of his most persistent critics, as did his disarming and startling candour.
And even after he stepped down from the presidency, he did not hesitate to
criticize his successor whenever he felt such criticism was warranted. And he was blunt about it, and applauded for his honesty
and deep concern for the well-being of the nation. Even newsmen, known for their distrust of politicians, applauded him:
“Former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere on Tuesday (March 13, 1995)
accused the government of President Ali Hassan Mwinyi of corruption and violating the constitution and urged Tanzanians to
vote differently in the next elections.
Addressing a gathering of local and foreign journalists at the Kilimanjaro
International Hotel here (in Dar es Salaam), Nyerere also accused Mwinyi’s administration of condoning religious differences
‘This would not only lead to the collapse of the now-sensitive 30-year-old
union between the twin-islands of Zanzibar and Pemba and Tanzania mainland, but would also plunge the country into chaos,’
Nyerere warned and urged Tanzanians to ensure that they voted for ‘a president able to correct the situation and put
the country on the right track.’
Nyerere, who ruled Tanzania for 24 years after independence from British colonial
rule in 1961, described Tanzania as a country ‘stinking with corruption.’
‘Corruption in Tanzania has no bounds. Every country I visit they talk
about corruption in Tanzania. Tanzania is stinking with corruption,’ Nyerere told journalists gathered at the Tanzania
Referring to a tax fraud in the country that recently led to aid suspension
by donor countries and organisations, Nyerere declared: ‘This was one quality of corruption. Any government that works
for the wealthy does not collect tax, it chooses to harass small-time dealers,’ Nyerere charged.
Nyerere, affectionately referred to as ‘Mwalimu (Teacher) and Father
of the Nation’ by Tanzanians, said he was speaking of qualities required of a future president to avoid plunging the
country into total collapse.
Comparing Tanzania to ‘a house that has just been completed,’ Nyerere
said ‘the country has been hit by a tremor, developing cracks which must be filled,’ and said the cracks were
‘the political union between Zanzibar and the mainland, corruption, religious tensions, tribalism, the constitutional
crisis and lack of rule of law.’
In an apparent reference to President Mwinyi himself, Nyerere told the journalists
that Tanzania needed a leader who will defend and promote the national constitution. ‘It can’t be a person that
gets advice from his wife, and tomorrow we see some decision has been made. You can’t have such a guy. You won’t
know what his wife will advise him,’ Nyerere said amid applause from more than 100 journalists attending the gathering.
Tanzania goes to the polls next October (1995) in the first
multi-party presidential and parliamentary elections since the country attained independence 34 years ago.”28
Much as Nyerere was revered, he remained humble until his last days. His humility
and genuine compassion for the masses was probably the most prominent quality of his long political career spanning almost
half a century. I particularly remember one incident in 1972 when another reporter, Stanley Kamana, and I were assigned to
cover the president.
More than 30 years later, Kamana was – until his death
in 2005 - still a journalist and one of the leading veterans in the profession in the country, together with my other former
colleagues at the Daily News, including Kassim Mpenda who became director
of Radio Tanzania, Dar es Salaam (RTD), and later Tanzania’s director of Information Services at the ministry of information
and broadcasting, as he still was at this writing. So was Charles Kizigha who was still at the Daily News, an enduring phenomenon at the paper for three decades after I left the
editorial staff; Reginald Mhango, a senior reporter for 30 years who was appointed editor of the Guardian, Tanzania, in 2002; Jenerali Ulimwengu, one of the two lawyers who were
reporters on our editorial staff, who became chairman and publisher, Habari Corporation, responsible for the publication of
several newspapers in Kiswahili; Pascal Shija who became managing editor of The Express; and our former editor Sammy Mdee who was appointed chairman of the Tanzania Broadcasting
Services (TBS) by President Mkapa in 2003.
By a strange coincidence, Stanley Kamana died one day after
I started writing another book, Africa
and America in The Sixties: A Decade That Changed The Nation and The Destiny of A Continent. A veteran journalist since the late sixties,
Stanley Kamana was one of the best and most seasoned news reporters and political commentators Tanzania has ever produced
and will be sorely missed.
I read the news of his death in a Tanzanian newspaper on the Internet
when I was in the United States. The story was published in The Guardian, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, 13 October 2005, with
the headline, "Kamana Laid to Rest":
of people attended the burial ceremony of veteran journalist, the late Stanley Kamana, yesterday at Kinondoni cemetery in
Dar es Salaam.
Relatives, friends, and journalists from
various media houses had earlier tearfully paid his body the last respects at his house in Tandika, Dar es Salaam.
The IPP (a Tanzania media company) Executive
Chairman Reginald Mengi, former Prime Minister Joseph Sinde Warioba, Habari Corporation Chairman, Jenerali Ulimwengu, CCM
Union presidential candidate Jakaya Kikwete (now President of Tanzania), NCCR-Mageuzi presidential candidate Sengondo Mvungi,
were among the many dignitaries who attended the burial ceremony.
James Mpinga representing the staff from
the IPP said the death of Kamana was a hard blow to the media fraternity: 'He was a hard working man. I don't think that his
gap will be easily replaced. His contribution was of great impact on the development of the country.'
Reverend Samson Kameeta of the Tanzania
Assemblies of God (TAG), Tandika Mabatini Parish, in his sermon, told the mourners that they should invest in the kingdom
of God by committing good deeds.
Many people described Kamana as a man of
He left behind six children and a widow
Kamana died of a heart attack
at Temeke Municipal Hospital in Dar es Salaam last Thursday aged 58. Until his death, he was working for IPP Media as a sub-editor.”
When my colleagues and I were together at the Daily News more than 30 years ago, covering the president with Stanley Kamana on that
day was one of the main assignments I was given, besides covering parliament which I did many times, only a few months before
I left for the United States to pursue further studies.
President Nyerere addressed a mass rally in Dar es Salaam where he criticized
the authorities of the Coast Region (Mkoa wa Pwani, in Kiswahili) for ordering the demolition of stands owned by hawkers on
a major street, Ilala, which feeds into Pugu Road that goes all the way to the national airport. Foreign dignitaries from
a number of countries were coming to Dar es Salaam in only a few days to attend a major conference.
But the regional officials, including Regional Commissioner Mustafa Songambele
who was also at the rally, did not want these dignitaries to see the peddlers and their stands on this major route they were
going to take on their way into the city from the airport. They felt ashamed and did not want to “humiliate” and
“embarrass” our country.
The hawkers and their stands were, in fact, more than any eyesore, according
to these officials. Such a spectacle could not be reconciled with our determination to maintain national dignity in spite
of all the poverty we had and still have in Tanzania. That was the twisted logic of these leaders.
In his public address, President Nyerere asked about the peddlers: “What
have they done wrong? What do you want them to do without income? What are you going to give them instead, once you demolish
the stands? That’s the only means they have to earn a living.” Some stands had already been demolished, but the
rest were not, after Nyerere’s speech.
What happened then reminds me of what happened in 1998 when American President
Bill Clinton visited Ghana and other African countries. Many government officials in Accra, Ghana’s capital, did not
want Clinton and his entourage to see the open sewage in the capital. President Jerry Rawlings ordered them to leave everything
as it was so that the Americans should “see the way we live.” Just covering it up won’t solve the problem.
Once the Americans are gone, the raw sewage will still be there.
Nyerere, for whom Rawlings had profound
respect, had the same attitude. Impressing foreigners was not part of his personality. His biggest concern was the well-being
of the poor, the downtrodden, the oppressed. With or without the stands on Ilala Street, the visiting dignitaries would probably
not even have noticed any difference, any way, and would not have been impressed either way. Nyerere’s response to the
callous indifference of the Coast Region government officials is an enduring memory I have always cherished. And it should
be a lesson for other African leaders who claim that they care about their people while they are busy doing exactly the opposite.
Another memorable but tragic occasion during
my career as a reporter in Tanzania was when I covered the country’s first vice president, Sheikh Abeid Karume, who
was also president of Zanzibar. Our constitution allowed that because Zanzibar was an autonomous - not a sovereign - entity
within the union. And it still is, although there have been some changes stipulating that the country shall have only one
vice president, not two as before (one from the isles and the other from the mainland), and that contenders for the presidency
and vice presidency can come from anywhere in the union without any restrictions except those prescribed by law. The changes
took place after multiparty democracy was introduced in the early 1990s.
I covered Karume in 1972 not long after I returned to Dar es
Salaam from Zanzibar where I had been sent with another reporter, Juma Penza, to cover the eighth anniversary of the Zanzibar
revolution of January 1964. A senior reporter at the Daily News, Penza later became an information officer of Tanzania’s ruling party (CCM) and still held that post
in the 1990s and beyond.
We were in Zanzibar for several days. Karume came to Dar es Salaam after we
got back from Zanzibar and gave a speech at the Police Officers’ Mess in Msasani, an area on the outskirts of the capital
where President Nyerere also lived in a simple house, away from his official residence, Ikulu (State House).
Speaking in Kiswahili, Karume told the officers to examine their inner selves
in order to conduct themselves in an exemplary manner when performing their duties.
That was his last speech in Dar es Salaam. He returned to Zanzibar and, not
long afterwards, was assassinated on April 7 in a hail of bullets. He was reportedly shot eight times at close range. Coincidentally
or not, he had also been in office for eight years as first vice president of Tanzania. The number of times he was shot may
have been deliberately calculated to symbolize the number of years he had been in office - one bullet for each year - if indeed
he was hit eight times.
Abdulrahman Mohammed Babu, a Zanzibari from Pemba Island and senior cabinet
member in the union government and one of the most prominent Tanzanian leaders, was accused by the Zanzibari authorities of
masterminding the assassination and detained on the mainland in connection with the murder. But President Nyerere refused
to send him back to Zanzibar where he probably would have been executed, as Kassim Hanga was, under a judicial system that
had little regard for justice and individual rights, let alone for those accused of killing the country’s first vice
As an autonomous entity, Zanzibar also had its own judicial system whose dispensation
of justice differed from what we had on the mainland in many fundamental respects. After Babu was released from detention
in 1977, he left Tanzania and became a professor at San Francisco State University, California, in the United States. He died
in Britain in 1996 and the Tanzanian government brought his body back home and assumed full responsibility for his funeral
expenses in acknowledgment of his status as a national leader, regardless of whatever differences he may have had with his
colleagues including President Nyerere himself.
Karume's assassination was the first of a Tanzanian leader since independence,
preceded by Tom Mboya’s in neighbouring Kenya only three years before in July 1969. Aboud Jumbe succeeded Karume and
became Zanzibar’s president and Tanzania’s first vice president under Nyerere, but resigned – other sources
said he was forced by Nyerere to resign - in 1984 because of his dissatisfaction with the two-government structure of the
union supported by Nyerere. He wanted three governments – one for the union, one for Zanzibar, and one for Tanganyika;
a three-government structure Nyerere said would break up the union.
Rashidi Kawawa, a veteran politician since independence who together with Nyerere
and Oscar Kambona constituted a trio and the most influential political team in Tanzania until Kambona went into self-imposed
exile in Britain in July 1967, was the country’s second vice president. President Nyerere continued to lead Tanzania
until November 1985 when he voluntarily stepped down after being in office for 24 years since independence from Britain on
December 9, 1961.
It was a long political career, marked by successes and failures.
A lot has been said about the failure of his economic policies.
But little has been said about his achievements. As he told the World Bank in 1998: “We took over a country with 85
percent of its adults illiterate. The British ruled us for 43 years. When they left, there were two trained engineers and
12 doctors. When I stepped down there was 91 percent literacy and nearly every child was in school. We trained thousands of
engineers, doctors and teachers.”29
He was painfully aware of our long, tortuous journey since independence, being
one of the few university graduates himself when he assumed stewardship of the nation. He was, in fact, the first African
from Tanganyika to obtain a master’s degree in 1952 at Edinburgh University in Scotland where he studied economics,
history, and philosophy. We had very few trained people and had to rely on expatriates in most fields. But because of his
excellent leadership, we were able to achieve a lot in only a few years.
I, myself, would not be what I am today had it not been for his leadership.
And you wouldn’t be reading this book or any of the others I have written. And the reason is simple: I would not have
been able to go to school. Under his leadership, education was free for everybody, unlike today. Medical service was also
free, again unlike today. Even transportation for us to go to boarding school, to any part of the country, was free, paid
for by the government; which means by the peasants and workers of Tanzania, with their tax money. We all had equal opportunity
to be the best we could be. Few countries can claim that, and mean it. Tanzania did that, because of Nyerere.
But none of this would have been possible had the country not been united.
There was a strong possibility back in the sixties and even in the seventies that our country could have fallen apart or been
plunged into chaos, fractured along tribal and regional and even religious lines, if we had poor leadership; especially under
the multiparty system which capitalizes on greed and partisan interests as has happened in Tanzania since the introduction
of multiparty politics, although it doesn’t have to be that way if the parties involved transcend sectarianism and ethno-regional
loyalties. As Nyerere said many years after his retirement:
“I really think that I ran the most successful single-party system on
the continent. You might not even call it a party. It was a single, huge nationalist movement....
I don’t believe that our country would be where it is
now if we had a multiplicity of parties, which would have become tribal and caused us a lot of problems. But when you govern
for such a long time, unless you are gods, you become corrupt and bureaucratic.... So I started calling for a multiparty system.”30
Neighbouring Kenya faced the same problem, regional fragmentation, when one
of the political parties, the Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU) led by Ronald Ngala - a former teacher and prominent politician
in the Coast Province - pursued a regionalist agenda which could have split the country along ethno-regional lines. Or it
could have weakened the central government so much that national leaders would not have been able to exercise any power over
the regions. His agenda was also supported by many other Kenyans who were not members of KADU, especially those from smaller
And there is still strong interest in majimboism (regionalism) even today in Kenya, mainly because of the political
dominance of the ruling party, the Kenya African National Union (KANU), which seemed to be destined to rule perpetually until
it was defeated in the 2002 general election by a coalition of opposition parties, NARC, ending almost 40 years of hegemonic
control of Kenya. Majimbo, a Kiswahili word, means provinces or
regions; jimbo being its singular form.
But Jomo Kenyatta succeeded in establishing a unitary state under a strong
central government to keep the country united like Nyerere did in Tanganyika, later Tanzania. The difference is that Kenya’s
ruling party, KANU, was dominated by the Kikuyu, Kenyatta’s tribe and the country’s biggest; while in Tanganyika,
the ruling Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) was pluralistic. No single tribe became dominant; another great achievement
Yet, Ngala’s quest for regional autonomy in Kenya seems to have been
vindicated by President Kenyatta himself because of his dictatorial instincts. He was highly sensitive to criticism and neutralized
his opponents quickly. That is what he did to his vice president, Oginga Odinga, who resigned and went on to form the opposition
party, the Kenya People’s Union (KPU), based on egalitarian ideals like Nyerere’s to pursue policies which would
benefit the masses, not just the elite like KANU’s under Kenyatta did.
Odinga accused Kenyatta’s government of ignoring and
exploiting wananchi, the people, and was neutralized, with Kenyatta claiming, “I have been
kind for too long.”31
Ronald Ngala also had a taste of Kenyatta’s bile in parliament
one day in a very distasteful way. As Mundia Kamau stated in his article, “A Nation in Distress,” in Kenya’s
“Jomo Kenyatta was not a democrat at all. He was the exemplification
and personification of the African ‘Big Man,’ a ruthless dictator. Jomo Kenyatta carried on where the British
left off, continuing with the plunder of public resources, and theft of public land. He mastered the art of oppression the
African way, by ruthlessly exploiting the ignorance, biases, and prejudices of most Africans, a trend that still sadly persists....
An example of Kenyatta’s ruthless intolerance comes out in Koigi wa Wamwere’s
autobiography when he states how Kenyatta once drew his gun in parliament intending to shoot the late Ronald Ngala for criticising
his government, and was only restrained by then Speaker, Humphrey Slade.
The myth that Kenyatta was a democrat and professional must
be dispensed with immediately, if we truly hope to solve the problems of this country. The only essential difference between
Kenyatta and his successor Moi, is that Kenyatta was more widely travelled and more eloquent in English.”32
Kenyatta may have been wrong in silencing Ronald Ngala and
his opposition party, KADU, the way he did in parliament by threatening to shoot the opposition leader. Yet, the threat to
national unity posed by extensive autonomy (majimboism, derived from majimbo) as advocated by
Ngala and his party KADU, and by the multiparty system, cannot be ignored if such devolution of power is not implemented within
prescribed limits and specifically designated areas of authority; and if multiparty democracy is allowed to thrive on ethno-regional
loyalties and partisan interests at the expense of the nation.
But this was not a major problem in Tanzania under Nyerere, although he decentralized
power under a unitary state, something rarely done - if at all - in most highly centralized states across the continent.
Tragically, tribalism is beginning to gain
a foothold in Tanzania, with tribal organizations emerging on the scene, tolerated or sanctioned by the state by invoking
pluralism. And appeal to tribal and regional sentiments has become a feature of national politics since multiparty democracy
was introduced in the early nineties. The resurgence of this ugly phenomenon was underscored by former Vice President Joseph
Sinde Warioba, also a distinguished jurist, in a speech in Dar es Salaam in March 2001. President Benjamin Mkapa himself was
fully aware of these sectarian threats and won his second term with a promise to keep the country united, transcending ethinc,
regional, racial and religious differences.
The introduction of multiparty politics,
which has exacerbated the situation prompted many people to re-evaluate the transition from one-partyism to multipartyism.
Many Tanzanians are probably having second thoughts about the wisdom of the decision by the national leaders who made this
fundamental change against what was generally perceived to be popular will. When the people across the country were asked
in the early nineties whether or not Tanzania should adopt the multiparty system, it was reported that the majority of those
who participated in the survey were opposed to the change.
This may be one of the reasons - besides poor organization,
lack of direction, and personal rivalries - why opposition parties have not been able to win significant support in Tanzania;
prompting one prominent opposition leader who rejoined the ruling party, CCM, in 2002 to say that CCM will rule Tanzania for
the next 500 years. As the old saying goes, if you can’t beat them, join them. A number of other opposition leaders
and members have taken this pragmatic approach, which may also help to maintain national unity and stability.
Although I am in favour of multiparty democracy if it works well, I sometimes
also have had strong reservations about the functional utility of the multiparty system in the African context because of
its divisive tendencies and potential for catastrophe. To contend otherwise, given Africa’s experience in many cases,
is rank dishonesty or sheer naiveté. In most cases, the multiparty system tends to fuel tribal and regional rivalries.
But the one-party system itself is not above reproach when
it discriminates against some groups and individuals as has been the case in most African countries - in Kenya under Kenyatta
and Moi, favouring members of their tribes, the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin, respectively; Malawi under Banda whose government
was dominated by the Chewa; Ivory Coast which was a de facto one-party state under Felix Houphouet-Boigny and Henri Bedie who favoured members of their Baoule tribe, as
did President Laurent Gbagbo, another Baoule; Togo under Gnassingbe Eyadema favouring members of his northern tribe, the Kabye,
who also constituted 70 percent of the national army, to name only a few.
However, the multiparty system, more than the one-party system, can promote
democracy in Africa if the people vote across tribal and regional lines to advance a common agenda. Yet, few African countries
can honestly claim to have a majority of such voters who have transcended ethno-regional loyalties; a strong case for federalism
and a limited number of parties as prescribed by law. Their interests are highly partisan. And they are not based on policy
differences, bringing together members of different tribes and social and economic classes to pursue common interests. Their
interests are defined by tribal and regional identities more than anything else.
The multiparty system is strongly advocated
as a safeguard against corruption and dictatorship. It can, indeed, serve as a watchdog for the underdog to expose corruption,
ensure transparency, and end dictatorship in African countries; but only if the parties don’t, however surreptitiously,
appeal to their regional constituencies to win elections.
So, limit the number of political parties to broaden their base across the
nation. Have three parties at the most, or may be even two. And this will, in fact, strengthen the opposition because, more
often than not, governments thrive on a divided opposition, making it easy for incumbents to win elections by fair means or
foul. Therefore the opposition should be the first to support limiting the number of political parties, since this will help
government opponents to mobilize forces into a cohesive bloc even if it is based on a coalition of interests, as is the case
in politics in general. Politics is based on compromise.
But dominant political parties which are in power in African countries will
probably be the last to support limiting the number of political parties, since this will help unite their opponents; unless
a limited number of political parties is going to benefit them somehow, for example, by co-opting the opposition, thus reducing
it to nothing.
The argument for a limited number of political parties is validated by experience.
There are very few truly national parties in Africa. And if we can’t form such parties which attract substantial numbers
of people from all the tribes across the country as TANU - and even CCM - did under Nyerere and his successors, without lopsided
membership, then only the one-party system can claim to be truly national; but only if it also embraces members of all tribes,
is liberalized, and decentralized to curb autocratic instincts.
Under Nyerere, I remember when students openly questioned, without fear of
retribution, the merits of the one-party system. For example, at Tambaza High School in Dar es Salaam, we had such free discussion
- risky, and even deadly, in most African countries - in class conducted by our headmaster, Mr. Lila (pronounced as Lee-la),
a highly articulate man with profound insight into political theory and mass participatory politics.
He had thorough command of the subject and explained Nyerere’s ideology
well. And he supported it, yet was open to criticism; which was very encouraging and reassuring to the students. We were not
We also knew the kind of opportunities
we had. There were Asian (mostly Indian and Pakistani), Arab, and African students in my class. Yet, despite the fact that
Tanzania was under a black majority government, the Asian and Arab students knew they had equal opportunity just like the
rest of their fellow countrymen because of the kind of leadership and moral vision provided by Nyerere. He led by example.
Many students of different tribes and races went on to lead successful lives in different areas because of the equal opportunities
provided by Nyerere. That was not the case in most African countries, including neighbouring Kenya, where discrimination was
rampant as it still is today.
In his cabinet since independence - and even before in 1960 when Tanganyika
won self-government with Julius Nyerere as chief minister but still under colonial rule - he had members of all races, including
women; for example, Derek Bryceson, an Englishman, who came to Tanganyika in 1951; Amir H. Jamal, an Indian; Abdulrahman Mohammed
Babu, an Arab; Salim Ahmed Salim, also an Arab; Bibi Titi Mohammed, the first female cabinet member appointed as junior minister
of community development soon after independence; Lucy Lameck, appointed as junior minister of health, also in the sixties
and, together with Bibi Titi, one of Tanzania’s most prominent leaders.
There was also Dr. Leader Stirling who was the oldest cabinet member and who
outlived them all - those just mentioned including President Nyerere - and who was one of the first leaders of the independence
movement in Tanganyika. Born in Britain in 1906, Dr. Stirling was a missionary doctor who came to Tanganyika in 1935. He worked
as a doctor in Masasi - home district of President Benjamin Mkapa - in southern Tanganyika for 24 years before entering politics.
His political career began in 1958 when he became a member of the pre-independence
parliament - known as LEGCO (Legislative Council) - as a representative of the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU), the
party which led the country to independence. He served as minister of health from 1975 to 1980, and died in Dar es Salaam
in February 2003 at the age of 96. And these are only a few examples of the rainbow leadership of Tanzania, and a microcosm
of what our country came to be, under President Nyerere.
There were many others - across the racial spectrum - in high government positions
including the diplomatic service. In fact, Salim Ahmed Salim, former Tanzania’s permanent representative to the United
Nations, was recalled by Nyerere and given a succession of senior cabinet posts through the years. He once served as defence
minister, minister of foreign affairs, and as prime minister.
He then went on to become secretary-general of the Organization of African
Unity (OAU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He served for 12 years from 1989 to 2001; an unprecedented term, longer than any of
his predecessors did, and was the last OAU secretary-general before the organization was transformed into the African Union
(AU) at the last OAU meeting in June 2001 in Lusaka, Zambia. But the actual transition was a gradual process, and the AU did
not start functioning until later, after being formally launched in Durban, South Africa, in July 2002 under the chairmanship
of South African President Thabo Mbeki.
When Salim Ahmed Salim was Tanzania’s ambassador to the UN, he was almost
elected UN secretary-general and won the support of the majority of the members in the General Assembly. But the big powers
had their own agendas and preferences and blocked his election.
The United States did not want him at the helm because of Tanzania’s
relentless support of the People’s Republic of China through the years to get the world’s most populous nation
admitted into the UN, instead of pretending that it did not exist, with Ambassador Salim being one of the strongest advocates
even when he served in a neutral capacity as president of the UN General Assembly - he was still Tanzania’s ambassador.
And the Soviet Union did not want him because the Russians
felt that he was too independent and would not bend to their wishes. And it is possible he could even be elected president
of Tanzania one day.
the death of Tanzania’s Vice President Omar Ali Juma in July 2001, it was reported that Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim was the
favourite of the political heavyweights in the country’s ruling party, CCM, to succeed him but did not become vice president
because he turned down the offer. Others claimed that because of his high international profile, he would have overshadowed
President Benjamin Mkapa, and therefore turned down or was not given the post; although it is highly unlikely that Mkapa would
have been eclipsed by Dr. Salim.
Mkapa is a man of such high intellectual
calibre, strong personality and self-confidence, that it would have been virtually impossible to overshadow him; qualities
which helped propel him to the highest position in the country as president with the full support of Nyerere. In fact, it
was Nyerere who recommended him to be the presidential candidate of the ruling party, CCM, although he almost lost the nomination
to Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, a favourite among the younger members of the party, and won it by a small margin.
Whatever the case, Salim remained a formidable political personality and had
a chance to be elected president in the future. He ran for president in 2006 but was defeated by a younger and more popular
contender, Jakaya Kikwete, who was chosen as the ruling party's presidential candidate in spite of Dr. Salim's formidable
credentials and the strong support he had among many political heavyweights especially older ones.
There is evidence everywhere across Tanzania showing that Nyerere built a truly
pluralistic society with equal opportunity for all. My classmates are some of the beneficiaries, regardless of their tribal
and racial identities. For example, one of them, Mohammed Chande Othman - he was simply called Chande - of Arab extraction,
once served as a senior prosecution attorney and chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR)
established by the UN in Arusha, Tanzania.
He earned his law degree at the University of Dar es Salaam, one of the best
law schools in Africa, and the first to be established in East Africa. After working at the UN court in Tanzania, he was assigned
to East Timor where he was appointed general prosecutor - UN’s chief prosecutor - to help the young southeast Asian
nation establish its judicial system under UN auspices.
He was later appointed by President Jakaya Kikwete as a judge on the high court
And there are countless other Tanzanians, of all races and tribes, who have
reached the pinnacle of success through the years at home and abroad because of the foundation laid by Nyerere that has sustained
Tanzania as a peaceful, stable country, with opportunities for all. And he did that with humility and simplicity which characterized
his political career more than any other leader on the continent.
After Nyerere voluntarily stepped down as president of Tanzania
in November 1985, it was with a simple bicycle that he returned to his home village of Butiama in northern Tanzania near the
southeastern shores of Lake Victoria, to live and work on the farm; and eat simple breakfast of porridge with the children
from poor families in the area. He did it every morning. As James Mpinga wrote in The East African:
“There is little to show that Butiama, the birthplace of Julius Nyerere,
raised one of Africa’s greatest sons. Mud huts surround the Catholic Church where Nyerere used to pray, and both the
church and the mud huts tell a story. From the mud huts came the children who knew exactly when Mwalimu would have his breakfast,
and dutifully came to share it with him every morning, and in the church their parents shared a common faith and prayer.
‘At first it was bread and butter for both Mwalimu and
the kids. Soon I couldn’t cope with the increasing numbers of children joining him for breakfast, so I downgraded it
to porridge and kande (a boiled mixture of maize off the cob
and pulses),’ recalls Mwalimu’s former housekeeper, Dorothy Musoga, 74, now living in retirement in Mwanza in
a house built for her by Mwalimu....
She was worried...about the future of his family and what she called Mwalimu’s
‘other children’ who loved to share his breakfast. ‘With Mwalimu dead, free breakfast for poor villagers
will become a thing of the past,’ Dorothy reflected.... The poverty of their parents remains, as does the lack of infrastructure
at Butiama, which Mwalimu didn’t want to transform into an edifice to be envied....
On Saturday, October 23 (1999), when Mwalimu was buried, Butiama may well have
started to slip back into oblivion, to become what it once was, an unknown village in the middle of nowhere.... The process
may, indeed, have started earlier, with Mwalimu’s own house...(which) bears marks of his self-denial. Children fetch
water from a public standpipe and their mothers wash clothes in the open. The house itself could do with a fresh coat of paint....
Judging from the relatively wealthier homestead of the chief (nearby), Mwalimu was no more than a peasant....
When I later visited the compound of Mwitongo, where Mwalimu was buried not
far from the graves of his parents, only a few insiders and the late Nyerere’s close family members had remained, among
them his former press secretary Sammy Mdee....
When Chairman Mao was asked what he thought about the French Revolution, a
century and a half after it had taken place, he retorted: ‘It’s too early to say.’
Few in Tanzania can give a better answer about the impact of
Nyerere’s death. For the poor children of Butiama, however, the days of free breakfast with their beloved grandpa are
gone. It is hard to imagine what will follow.”33
It is indeed hard to imagine what will follow, in a world where there are few
such men and women. Nyerere embodied the best that man can achieve in the service of fellow men, but which few are willing
to do. He was not a saint, in the religious sense, but may deserve to be called Saint Julius because of his selfless devotion
to the poor in the tradition of saints. He sacrificed so much, yet got so little in return, and did not expect or want anything
in return. He just did his job, what he knew had to be done, for his people and others, no matter what the cost.
He was the least paid head of state, earning $500 per month, yet one of the
most revered; Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso followed him in his footsteps when he himself became the least paid head of state
after Nyerere stepped down. And, instead of living in magnificent splendor, and in the president’s official residence,
the State House (Ikulu, as we call it), President Nyerere chose to live a humble life in a simple house on the outskirts of
the capital in an area called Msasani.
He did not even have a pension to live on when he retired,
until parliament hastily voted for one to help sustain him. As Newsweek stated soon after he died: “The world has lost a man of principle.”34 Unlike most leaders, including religious
leaders, he practised what he preached. And he admitted his mistakes, a rare quality among leaders, almost all of whom equate
such admission with weakness. Yet it’s probably the most important quality of leadership on which everything else depends.
Perhaps it is worth remembering that even some of his ardent
critics acknowledged his contributions and paid him lasting tribute. Probably no other African scholar kept up a lively debate
on the merits of Nyerere’s policies as Ali Mazrui did; although he never questioned his commitment and integrity, and
powerful intellect, and remained friendly with him until Mwalimu’s final days, despite differences between the two.
In a tribute to Mwalimu and on the special bonds between the two, Professor Mazrui had a lot to say in his article in Voices, Africa Resource Center, entitled, “Nyerere and I”:
“In global terms, he was one of the giants of the 20th Century.... While
his vision did outpace his victories, and his profundity outweigh his performance, he did bestride this narrow world like
an African colossus....
As personalities, what did Julius and I have in common? He was a politician
who was sometimes a scholar. I was a scholar who was sometimes a politician.... Nyerere and I were trying to build bridges
between Africa and great minds of Western civilisation.... With his concept of Ujamaa, Nyerere also attempted to build bridges
between indigenous African thought and modern political ideas....
‘The two top Swahili-speaking intellectuals of the second half of the
20th Century are Julius Nyerere and Ali Mazrui.’ That is how I was introduced to an Africanist audience in 1986 when
I was on a lecture-tour of the United States to promote my television series: The Africans: A Triple Heritage (BBC-PBS). I
regarded the tribute as one of the best compliments I had ever been paid. In reality, Mwalimu Nyerere was much more eloquent
as Swahili orator than I although Kiswahili was my mother tongue and not his.
In the month of Nyerere’s death (October 1999), the comparison between
Mwalimu and I took a sadder form. A number of organisations in South Africa had united to celebrate Africa’s Human Rights
Day on October 22. Long before he was admitted to hospital, they had invited him to be their high-profile banquet speaker.
When Nyerere was incapacitated with illness, and seemed to be terminally ill,
the South Africans turned to Ali Mazrui as his replacement. I was again flattered to have been regarded as Nyerere’s
replacement. However, the notice was too short, and I was not able to accept the South African invitation.
It is one of the ironies of my life that I have known the early presidents
of Uganda and Tanzania far better than I have known the presidents of Kenya (my country). Over the years, Julius Nyerere and
I met many times. (Ugandan President) Milton Obote was one of the formative influences of my early life, in spite of our tumultuous
Let me also refer to Walter Rodney. He
was a Guyanese scholar who taught at the University of Dar es Salaam and became one of the most eloquent voices of the left
on the campus in Tanzania. When Walter Rodney returned to Guyana, he was assassinated.
Chedi Jagan, on being elected President
of Guyana, created a special chair in honour of Walter Rodney. Eventually I was offered the chair and became its first incumbent.
My inaugural lecture was on the following topic: ‘Comparative Leadership: Walter Rodney, Julius K. Nyerere and Martin
Luther King Jr.’
After delivering the lecture, I subsequently met Nyerere one evening in Pennsylvania,
USA. I gave him my Walter Rodney lecture. He read it overnight and commented on it the next morning at breakfast. He promised
to send me a proper critique on my Rodney lecture on his return to Dar es Salaam. He never lived long enough to send me the
Nyerere’s policies of Ujamaa amounted to a case of Heroic Failure. They
were heroic because Tanzania was one of the few African countries, which attempted to find its own route to development instead
of borrowing the ideologies of the West. But it was a failure because the economic experiment did not deliver the goods of
On the other hand, Nyerere’s policies of nation-building amount to a
case of Unsung Heroism. With wise and strong leadership, and with brilliant policies of cultural integration, he took one
of the poorest countries in the world and made it a proud leader in African affairs and an active member of the global community.
Julius Nyerere was my Mwalimu too. It was a privilege to learn
so much from so great a man.”35
A man of high integrity and an enormous and astonishing intellect,
he was one of the most exalted, yet extremely humble. He was, indeed, a man of the people. Such is the mark of true genius,
a rare breed among men. As former American President Jimmy Carter said: “Julius Nyerere should be remembered as one
of the greatest leaders of this century.”36
It is a fitting tribute, although somewhat of an understatement.
The world has, in fact, produced only a few such men and women in a span of centuries. And he had few peers on the African
continent who could equal his stature; a point underscored by Ali Mazrui in another tribute to Nyerere at Cornell University,
although he disagreed with him on a number of fundamental issues. He last saw Nyerere when both were among the main speakers
in different forums during the inauguration of Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo in May 1999. As he stated in his lecture
at Cornell, also published in Kenya’s Daily
“Most Western judges of Julius Nyerere have concentrated on his economic
policies and their failures. Ujamaa and villagisation have been seen as forces of economic retardation, which kept Tanzania
backward for at least another decade.
Not enough commentators have paid attention to Nyerere’s achievements
in nation-building. He gave Tanzania a sense of national consciousness and a spirit of national purpose. One of the poorest
countries in the world found itself one of the major actors on the world scene. Nyerere’s policies of making Kiswahili
the national language of Tanzania deepened this sense of Tanzania’s national consciousness and cultural pride....
Above all, Nyerere as president was a combination of deep intellect and high
integrity. Leopold Senghor’s intellect was as deep as Nyerere’s, but was Senghor’s integrity as high as
Nyerere’s? Nelson Mandela’s integrity was probably higher than Nyerere’s, but was Mandela’s intellect
as deep as Nyerere’s?
Some East African politicians might have been more intelligent than Nyerere.
Others might have been more ethical than Nyerere. But Julius K. Nyerere was in a class by himself in the combination of ethical
standards and intellectual power. In the combination of high thinking and high ethics, no other East African politician was
in the same league.
He and I deeply disagreed on the merits of Ujamaa. He and I once disagreed
on East African federation. I thought his socialist policies harmed East African integration. He and I disagreed on the Nigerian
civil war. He and I disagreed on the issue of Zanzibar. I thought Zanzibar was forced into a marriage, which was not of its
And yet Nyerere and I were committed to the proposition that patriotic Africans
could disagree and still be equally patriotic. I saw him in Abuja in Nigeria, just before the inauguration of President Olusegun
Obasanjo late in May 1999. Julius Nyerere and I gossiped in Kiswahili. He looked well - deceptively well, considering his
He and I were keynote speakers at a workshop to inaugurate
Nigeria to a new era of democracy in 1999. We were voices from East Africa at a major West African event. We were voices of
Pan-Africanism on the eve of the new millennium. Nyerere’s voice was one of the most eloquent voices of the 20th Century.
It was a privilege for me to stand side-by-side with such a person to mark a momentous event in no less a country than our
A man whom Mazrui also once hailed as “the most original
thinker in English-speaking Africa,” a tribute he also paid to Senghor with regard to Francophone Africa,38 Nyerere will always remain an inspiration
to millions, including some of his critics.
Mazrui, himself a leading critic of Nyerere’s policies yet an admirer
of Nyerere’s intellect and integrity, drew fire through the years from some of the most vociferous defenders of Nyerere
and his policies.
They included the late Dr. Walter Rodney from Guyana who taught
at the University of Dar es Salaam when I was a reporter at the Daily News; other professors and students at the university as well as a number of Tanzanians including
some reporters at the Daily
and The Nationalist in Dar es Salaam.
To many of them, his criticism of Tanzania’s egalitarian
policies in a nation of poor peasants and workers amounted to a case of Tanzaphobia by one of Africa’s leading academics,
and probably the most well-known in international circles besides his nemesis Wole Soyinka....