JULIUS NYERERE 1922-1999
|President Julius Nyerere official portrait (1965, Library of Congress)|
The aftermath of WWII saw the appearance of dozens of newly independent states and with them the birth of "Third World Socialism," a hybrid of Communism and social democracy that was seen as the surest path up from poverty for nations at the bottom of the economic ladder. This approach was personified by Kambarage Nyerere, the son of the second favorite among the 23 wives of Zanaki chief, Nyerere Burrito in Tanganyika. Converted to Christianity at a mission school, and taking the baptismal name of Julius, Nyerere discovered socialism while studying at the University of Edinburgh.
In 1961, Tanzania won its independence with Nyerere as its president. He was known by Tanzanians as “Mwalimu,” swahili for teacher. Nyerere blended the socialism of his university days with the communal village traditions of his childhood. In 1967, Nyerere issued the Arusha declaration, which announced a program of collectivization called Ujamaa or “familyhood.” Nyerere’s vision of African socialism won the admiration of many in the West. As the Cold War intensified, many saw it as the best alternative to Soviet-style Communism in the Third World. Moral and financial support poured in.
When Tanzanians didn’t move into the ujamaa villages the way he had hoped, Nyerere began losing patience with voluntary socialism. Nyerere veered toward Mao Zedong’s China as a more appropriate model for a developing country. In 1973 he began forcefully relocating villagers, uprooting communities in the middle of the agricultural season and moving them to new locations that didn’t always have a supply of water. The harvest suffered. By 1976, Tanzania had gone from being one of Africa’s largest exporters of agricultural products to its largest importer. Clashes with Uganda in the 1970s and the global oil crises only exacerbated the failing cycles of agricultural production. Nyerere retired in 1985, and Tanzania began to reverse some of the socialist policies that led to Tanzania’s economic collapse.
For more information, read interviews with:
Rev. Christopher Mtikila
National Chairman, Democratic Party of Tanzania
Pastor, Full Salvation Church
Former Press Secretary to Julius Nyere