The fight for independence led by Mwalimu Nyerere in the then Tanganyika (Tanzania
mainland) was a peaceful affair. Even in those very early days, Mwalimu had the foresight
and vision of harnessing utilising all the human resources available to him regardless
of race, religion or gender. One of his top lieutenants in the struggle was Bibi
Titi Mohammed (above right, with Mwalimu), a woman and a Muslim. He practised equality
long before the word had entered general consciousness. In the picture below, Mwalimu
with members of the Omani community in Tanganyika whose support and that of other
communities he actively sought. Behind, on the wall, can be seen the portrait of
Queen Elizabeth ll, emphasizing the colonial rule.
Mwalimu Julius Nyerere of Tanzania: The early days
Mwalimu Nyerere criss-crossed the country mobilising people for the fight for independence.
He had to give up work as a teacher and devote himself fully to this . This was not
easy as the whole struggle was financed by ordinary people who were quite poor and
largely made up of subsistence peasants. There was no foreign support of any kind.
At the end of the second world war in 1945, there were only 92 schools in the whole
country. At independence in 1961, the task of nation building was formidable as
the British had made little effort to prepare the country for self governance. Over
80% of the population were illiterate. There were only 120 indigenous university
graduate in a country of 10 million people. These included a grand total of 12 qualified
medical doctors. His work was cut out. This may have partly been the reason why Mwalimu,
throughout his presidency stress on education as the principle vehicle of social
transformation. At retirement in 1985, the adult literacy rate was well over 80%,
much higher than in most developing counties. This rate has since slipped significantly.
Independence arrived on December 9, 1961. Major Nyirenda hoisted the flag of the
newly independent nation on Uhuru peak, the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro as seen in
this iconic picture (bottom left). To the right is Mwalimu Nyerere’s first official
portrait as Prime Minister of newly independent Tanganyika as it was then known.