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Tanzania: The facts.





Mwalimu Julius Nyerere


The peace and stability of Tanzania is largely credited to its founding president, Julius Nyerere who was the country’s leader until retiring voluntarily in 1985. Even though his socialist economic experiment is largely acknowledged to have been a failure, his upstanding moral principles, genuine humility and integrity guided the nation in a direction that makes it find itself where it is.


Despite its obvious poverty, Tanzania remains far more influential in the continent than its economic muscle would allow. Retired President Nyerere died aged 77 in 1999. In Tanzania and many parts of Africa he is still revered as one of the greatest African visionaries in history. Nyerere’s leadership qualities were recognised early on in his presidency and he was the first ever African leader to grace the cover of Time magazine in the United States back in March 1964, barely 2 years into his presidency.


Even though Nyerere pursued politics of the Left economically, he was demonstrably non-aligned and was an active member of this grouping of nations. He was as vocal a critic of Soviet expansionism as he was of the United States foreign adventures.



Unlike most post-independence African rulers, President Nyerere never sought personal wealth, he led a simple life, shunned corruption and gave up power voluntarily. He was also a vocal advocate and supporter of the struggle for independence in those countries which were still under colonial rule. He hosted many of the freedom fighters from Southern Africa including future leaders such as the late Samora Machel of Mozambique. For the 14 years after his retirement from the presidency, he continued to work for economic emancipation of the developing countries chairing the South Commission. He also put a lot of energy in solving the Burundi civil war working tirelessly as a mediator for the warring factions.


Nyerere, who has always been referred to as Mwalimu (teacher) by his people is acknowledged and officially recognised as the Father of the Nation. In Africa, he is held in the same regard as Nelson Mandela of South Africa. Ten years after his death, Julius Nyerere remains one of the most revered African statesmen in history.


His passing, from leukaemia, in October 1999, 14 years after he left office was marked by a genuine outpouring of grief by his people and millions beyond the borders of Tanzania. Among those who paid tribute to Mwalimu was the then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Annan said: “He was a passionate and eloquent advocate for Africa and for the entire developing world, as well as a friend and ally of the United Nations. Above all, Mwalimu Nyerere, as the founding father of Tanzania, played a key role in promoting African independence, nation-building and unity, and his willingness to step down from office voluntarily after long service to his people should be a model to all leaders. Both before and after leaving office, he gave unstintingly of his strength and wisdom in the quest for African peace and freedom. Even in his last month, he worked tirelessly to bring peace to the troubled people of Burundi”.


The then president of the United Nations General Assembly was the Namibian Foreign Minister Theo Ben-Gurirab paid his tribute by saying: “Thirty-six years ago, I arrived in the then Tanganyika, as a young lad fired on from inside by a powerful force of Pan-Africanism. The Mwalimu I met was the liberator, thinker, strategist, organizer and our kinder and gentler teacher on the politics of liberation, African unity, nation-building and internationalist solidarity with the people of the Third World. It was Mwalimu who, together with the great Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, strengthened decisively my own commitment for Namibia's liberation and national independence”.


The president of South Africa at the time, Thabo Mbeki said: “Today the wretched of our continent have begun to walk with a firm tread in their step, confident of a better future for themselves and for the African motherland. They walk tall, with straight backs, no longer afraid to look into the eyes of those who had sought to set themselves up as rapacious demi-gods. On the shoulders of these generations rests the duty to answer the drawn-out cries of those who were enslaved and colonized by strangers and abused by their own kith and kin. They rest on firm ground because they stand on the foundation of stone that Mwalimu Julius Nyerere built”.                                                      Next Page


In it are infused the passions which constituted his wealth ­ love for the people and loyalty to their cause; commitment to the cause of peace; attachment to principle; honesty, simplicity, humility and personal integrity; courage and a great intellect; the capacity to sustain hope at the most difficult moments; the determination to ensure that the sun shone over Africa, to banish the dark centuries which have been our heritage.






Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, the first president of Tanzania and one of the foremost African statesmen  in history. He is revered as a visionary and, above all, for his unquestioned integrity and moral authority