Julius Kambarage Nyerere;
Was born on April 13, 1922 in Butiama, on the eastern shore of lake Victoria in north west Tanganyika. His father was the chief of the small Zanaki tribe. He was 12 before he started school (he had to walk 26 miles to Musoma to do so). Later, he transferred for his secondary education to the Tabora Government Secondary School. His intelligence was quickly recognized by the Roman Catholic fathers who taught him. He went on, with their help, to train as a teacher at Makerere University in Kampala (Uganda). On gaining his Certificate, he taught for three years and then went on a government scholarship to study history and political economy for his Master of Arts at the University of Edinburgh (he was the first Tanzanian to study at a British university and only the second to gain a university degree outside Africa. In Edinburgh, partly through his encounter with Fabian thinking, Nyerere began to develop his particular vision of connecting socialism with African communal living.
As President, Nyerere had to steer a difficult course. By the late 1960s Tanzania was one of the world’s poorest countries. Like many others it was suffering from a severe foreign debt burden, a decrease in foreign aid, and a fall in the price of commodities. His solution, the collectivization of agriculture, villigization (see Ujamma below) and large-scale nationalization was a unique blend of socialism and communal life. The vision was set out in the Arusha Declaration of 1967 (reprinted in Nyerere 1968):
"The objective of socialism in the United Republic of Tanzania is to build a society in which all members have equal rights and equal opportunities; in which all can live in peace with their neighbours without suffering or imposing injustice, being exploited, or exploiting; and in which all have a gradually increasing basic level of material welfare before any individual lives in luxury." (Nyerere 1968: 340)
A committed pan-Africanist, Nyerere provided a home for a number of African liberation movements including the African National Congress (ANC) and the Pan African Congress (PAC) of South Africa, Frelimo when seeking to overthrow Portuguese rule in Mozambique, Zanla (and Robert Mugabe) in their struggle to unseat the white regime in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). He also opposed the brutal regime of Idi Amin in Uganda. Following a border invasion by Amin in 1978, a 20,000-strong Tanzanian army along with rebel groups, invaded Uganda. It took the capital, Kampala, in 1979, restoring Uganda’s first President, Milton Obote, to power.
The battle against Amin was expensive and placed a strain on government finances. There was considerable criticism within Tanzania that he had both overlooked domestic issues and had not paid proper attention to internal human rights abuses. Tanzania was a one party state — and while there was a strong democratic element in organization and a concern for consensus, this did not stop Nyerere using the Preventive Detention Act to imprison opponents. In part this may have been justified by the need to contain divisiveness, but there does appear to have been a disjuncture between his commitment to human rights on the world stage, and his actions at home.
In 1985 Nyerere gave up the Presidency but remained as chair of the Party - Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM). He gradually withdrew from active politics, retiring to his farm in Butiama. In 1990 he relinquished his chairmanship of CCM but remained active on the world stage as Chair of the Intergovernmental South Centre. One of his last high profile actions was as the chief mediator in the Burundi conflict (in 1996). He died in a London hospital of leukaemia on October 14, 1999.