“Mwalimu” Julius Nyerere, in the name of the tradition!: The first president of Tanzania was one of the most brilliant men of his generation. Baba was Taifa built a nation on the model of the African village. This is the story of an early Afrocentricity, with its successes and failures that we will talk about.

At the height of Tanzania’s history, we find the Swahili civilization, a collection of rich and sophisticated black cities that were – despite wonderful resistance – destroyed by Portuguese slavers in the 16th century. The country was then the main victim of the Arab slave trade, which caused millions of victims in the 19th century. It is a devastating territory which suffered the fierce law of the German colonists, through the repression of the uprising of Maji Maji and his 325,000 dead at the beginning of the 20th century

“Mwalimu” Julius Nyerere
“Mwalimu” Julius Nyerere
Nyerere and his partisans. We can admire his relaxation and his proximity with the people

Son of a traditional chief, Julius Kambarage Nyerere was born in 1922 in Tanganyika – mainland of Tanzania – then occupied by British segregationists. He studied education at the famous Makerere University in Uganda and inherited the Swahili name Mwalimu (teacher). He began his political activity in Makerere, and during his studies in Scotland he analyzed in depth the economic structure of traditional African society.

Back in Tanganyika, he took the head of the TANU (Tanganyika African National Union) party and established himself locally and internationally as the leader of the nationalist movement. English settlers, after forcing him to resign from his post as professor, finally begin to negotiate with him and begin the peaceful decolonization of Tanganyika, while they crush in rivers of blood the Mau Mau liberation movement in Kenya neighbour. Julius Nyerere became president of Tanganyika in 1962. He is Baba wa Taifa (the father of the nation). The president would then develop and apply an original and new vision, centered on the African experience and which resolutely breaks with colonial thought.

The president makes Swahili the official language of the country. KiSwahili, the Bantu language, the commercial language of all of East Africa during the imperial era, is defined by Nyerere – a man of the Zanaki people – as the first official black language of a decolonized African country. In 1964, Africans began a successful revolution on the neighboring island of Zanzibar to overthrow the repressive ruling class of Arab origin. Nyerere took advantage of the situation to unify TANganyika with ZANzibar. He gave birth to TanZania in 1964

Independance day of Tanganyika

On the continental level, it gives its unconditional support to the ANC in South Africa, to the nationalist movements of Zimbabwe and Mozambique, and intervenes militarily in Uganda and the Seychelles. As a determined pan-Africanist, he is favorable as Kwame Nkrumah to the birth of an African federal state. Nyerere was one of the founding fathers of the Organization of African Unity in 1963.

But it is especially on the economic level that Mwalimu will generate a legendary revolution, an afrocentricity before the African-American scientist Molefi Kete Asante theorizes this concept. This return centered on the African tradition, was symbolized in Tanzania by a word: Ujamaa


The thought

Julius Nyerere, in his manifesto Ujamaa, the basis of African socialism, explained his vision in 1962, which we can take up as follows:

Traditional African society ensures the security, material and moral protection of all its members. It is therefore a socialist society in contrast to capitalism, in which everyone fights alone without a safety net. The accumulation of wealth appropriate to traditional Western capitalism thus translates into a lack of trust in a society in which we are afraid of losing everything. Therefore, the African does not have to accumulate excessive wealth.
Traditional African society is egalitarian and all clan members are rich or poor. The distribution of wealth is fair.
It is not wrong to be rich and to live comfortably in traditional African society when this wealth is shared and when it is not used to dominate others.
The exploitation of humans by humans to make conspicuous assets is unacceptable in traditional African society.
The earth does not belong to anyone. It is a gift from God, it is essential for life. In traditional African society, the chief fairly distributes the land without owning or selling it. Landlords in the western capitalist tradition are lazy people who monopolize, rent, or sell God's property for profit.

Traditional African society is a hard working society. Nyerere explains: “In traditional African society (…) one of the most socialist results (…) is that we did not have this other form of the modern parasite: the loafers or the minimum that accepts the hospitality of society as theirs . ” “right”, but does not return anything (…) lazing around was an unthinkable shame. “Or according to a local saying Mgeni siku mbili; siku ya tatu mpe jembe (treat your guests like a guest for the first two days; give them a hoe on the third day)
The basic structure of traditional African society is the extended family. The extended family or Ujamaa in Swahili is therefore the African socialist doctrine, the economic and social doctrine of the TANU, which must be applied throughout Tanzania and even across Africa.

The application

Baba wa Taifa expresses what Tanzania will be in the 1967 Arusha Declaration. He affirms the socialist goals of his country and is committed to human rights. From then on, Julius Nyerere placed all companies in the country or almost under the direction of the state. It is a nationalization that affects all sectors. The protection that Ujamaa provides is translated by free access to basic services.
Des femmes pratiquant thericricultural collective in the Ujamaa squad
Women practicing collective farming in Ujamaa

Under Mwalimu, health care is free, the health system is developed, life expectancy is improved and child mortality is reduced. Education is free, literacy rises to 85%. He trusts the great wisdom of the rural population and tries to unite the inhabitants of the villages scattered in the large organized villages, where they benefit from the services of the state and receive better training in agriculture.

The failure of Ujamaa

Nationalization attracts an increase in the number of state employees and an important wage bill that the state has to pay. These state officials and party leaders, who are not all honest, are involved in corruption for some. They are called Wabenzi by people, that is, by those who love and drive Mercedes Benz. In the villages, people do not understand or hold Ujamaa and some refuse to settle in the new villages. The president mobilizes the army to move them by force, and violence ends up exploding with deaths. In the newly organized villages, the absence in the fields breaks records, the basic food crops are abandoned.

The president Nyerere unifying Tanganyika and Zanzibar to found Tanzania in 1964

As a result, public debt is exploding, the administration is inoperable, the new villages are not reaching their agricultural production targets and the price of food crops is rising. Tanzania is changing from the status of the largest exporter to the status of the largest African food importer.

The economy collapses, Ujamaa is a failure in the economic plan. The president is forced to appeal for funding from the IMF, which imposes its famous capitalist restructuring that has harmed African societies. Julius Nyerere opposed the capitalist doctrine and did not represent himself in the 1985 elections to have his successor implement the IMF’s plans. Until his death in 1999, he will remain the country’s primary moral authority, give his opinion on politics, and support his two successors, whom he saw as responsible for the country.

The socialism of Nkrumah, had for difference the strictness of the administration and an ambitious industrial policy

Why did Ujamaa fail?

How has such an ambitious ideal, which has functioned formally in the African past, experienced such an economic setback? A liter of ink was born to analyze and explain Julius Nyerere’s economic failure. We can contain some elements modestly. First, the inadequacy of human labor and villagers, too, to convince them to stick to politics, that bureaucrats who weren’t looked at enough and who were almost impossible to fire, like Nkrumah did successfully with his socialism in Ghana.

Second, the speed of Ujamaa use, which may have been a patient and long-term job, including the sudden changes that embarrassed populations have rooted in their habits. Thirdly, insufficient investment in the industrial sector, which would have made it possible to better revitalize organized villages, while this sector was successfully the center of Nkrumah’s strategy. Finally, the lack of African money that would have allowed Tanzania to improve its finances and realign its policies without going through the IMF that ended Ujamaa.
Statue du Mwalimu Julius Kambarege Nyerere à Dodoma, the capital of Tanzania
Statue of Mwalimu Kambarege Nyerere in Dodoma, the capital of Tanzania

What is left of Julius Nyerere?

If Baba Wa Taifa fails economically, this man literally remains a monument in Tanzania. His integrity, sincerity, charisma, goodwill and humanism are recognized by most. He is the father of the nation. In Africa today a continental organization has left the African Union, which at least has the merit to exist. Above all, it gave us the most powerful black language in the world. kiSwahili, which today has the most resources to become the continental language, owes its expansion to Nyerere.

Eventually he left a politically stable and democratic nation in Tanzania with a sense of national unity around Swahili and the legacy of Ujamaa, in a region of the African Great Lakes and on a generally tormented African continent. Monuments to the glory of Julius Kambarage Nyerere throne in the country. It is all of Africa that will celebrate this man in the coming decades.

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