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Julius Kambarage Nyerere (April 13, 1922 - October 14, 1999) served as the first President of Tanzania and previously Tanganyika, from the country's founding in 1961 until his retirement in 1985.

Born in Tanganyika to Nyerere Burito (1860-1942), Chief of the Zanaki, Nyerere is known by the Swahili name Mwalimu or 'teacher', his profession prior to politics. He was also referred to as Baba wa Taifa (Father of the Nation). In October of 2009, Nyerere was named "World Hero of Social Justice" by the United Nations General Assembly.


Kambarage Nyerere was born on April 13, 1922. He began attending Government Primary School in Musomamarker at the age of 12 where he completed the 4 year program in 3 years and went on to Tabora Government School in 1937. He received a scholarship to attend Makerere University in Kampalamarker, Uganda where he obtained a teaching Diploma. He returned to Tanganyika and worked for 3 years at St. Mary’s Secondary School in Tabora, where he taught Biology and English. In 1949 he got a scholarship to attend the University of Edinburgh (he was the first Tanganyikan to study at a British university and only the second to gain a university degree outside Africa ) where he obtained his Masters of Arts degree on Economics and History in 1952. In Edinburghmarker, partly through his encounter with Fabian thinking, Nyerere began to develop his particular vision of connecting socialism with African communal living.

Political career

On his return to Tanganyika, Nyerere took a position teaching History, English and Kiswahili, at St. Francis' College, near Dar es Salaammarker. In 1953 he was elected president of Tanganyika African Association (TAA), a civic organization dominated by civil servants, that he had helped found while a student at Makerere University. In 1954 he transformed TAA into the politically oriented Tanganyika African National Union (TANU). TANU's main objective was to achieve national sovereignty for Tanganyika. A campaign to register new members was launched, and within a year TANU had become the leading political organization in the country. Encyclopædia Britannica's Guide to Black History: Julius Nyerere

Nyerere's activities attracted the attention of the Colonial authorities and he was forced to make a choice between his political activities and his teaching. He was reported as saying that he was a schoolmaster by choice and a politician by accident. He resigned from teaching and traveled throughout the country speaking to common people and tribal chiefs, trying to garner support for movement towards independence. He also spoke on behalf of TANU to the Trusteeship Council and Fourth Committee of the United Nations in New York. His oratory skills and integrity helped Nyerere achieve TANU goal for an independent country without war or bloodshed. The cooperative British governor Sir Richard Turnbull was also a factor in the struggle for independence. Nyerere entered the Colonial Legislative council in 1958 and was elected chief minister in 1960. In 1961 Tanganyika was granted self governance and Nyerere became its first Prime Minister on December 9 1961. A year later Nyerere was elected President of Tanganyika when it became a Republic. Nyerere was instrumental in the union between the islands of Zanzibarmarker and the mainland Tanganyika to form Tanzania, after a coup in Zanzibar in 1964 toppled Jamshid bin Abdullah, who was the Sultan of Zanzibar.

Positions held
  • 1954 A Founder Member of TANU
  • 1958-1960 Member of the Legislative Assembly in the first elections in which Africans were allowed to vote.
  • 1958 Leader of the Opposition in Parliament.
  • 1960 Chief Minister of the first Internal Self-Government Administration.
  • 1961 Prime Minister of the first Government of Independent Tanganyika
  • 1962 Elected President of Tanganyika when it became a Republic.
  • 1963-1970 Chancellor of the University of East Africa.
  • 1964-1985 President of the United Republic of Tanzania.
  • 1970-1985 Chancellor of University of Dar-es-Salaam.
  • 1977-1990 Chairman of Chama Cha Mapinduzi which was formed by a merger between TANU and the Afro-Shiraz Party of Zanzibar. CCM was born in Zanzibar on February 5, 1977.
  • 1984-1985 Chancellor of Sokoine University of Agriculture.
  • 1985: Retired from Presidency.
  • 1999: Died of leukemia in London and was buried in Butiama(Musoma) - Tanzania.

Economic policies

Symbolic mixing of Soils from Zanzibar and Tanganyika in 1964
When in power, Nyerere implemented a socialist economic programme (announced in the Arusha Declaration), establishing close ties with Chinamarker, and also introduced a policy of collectivization in the country's agricultural system, known as Ujamaa or "familyhood."

Although some of his policies can be characterised as socialist, Nyerere was first and foremost an African, and secondly a socialist. He was what is often called an African socialist. Nyerere had tremendous faith in rural African people and their traditional values and ways of life. He believed that life should be structured around the ujamaa, or extended family found in traditional Africa. He believed that in these traditional villages, the state of ujamaa had existed before the arrival of imperialists.

He believed that Africans were already socialists and that all that they needed to do was return to their traditional mode of life and they would recapture it. This would be a true repudiation of capitalism, since his society would not rely on capitalism to exist. Unfortunately for Nyerere and Tanzania, this ujamaa system caused agricultural output to plummet. The deficit in cereal grains was more than 1 million tons between 1974 and 1977. Only loans and grants from the World Bank and the IMF in 1975 prevented Tanzania from going bankrupt. By 1979, ujamaa villages contained 90% of the rural population but only produced 5% of the national agricultural output. Subsequently, the country fell on hard economic times which was excacerbated by a war against Idi Amin and the six year drought. Tanzania went from the largest exporter of agricultural products in Africa to the largest importer of agricultural products. Nyerere announced that he would retire after presidential elections in 1985, leaving the country to enter its free market era - as imposed by structural adjustment under the IMF and World bank - under the leadership of Ali Hassan Mwinyi.

Nyerere was instrumental in putting both Ali Hassan Mwinyi and Benjamin Mkapa in power. He remained the chairman of Chama Cha Mapinduzi (ruling party) for five years following his presidency until 1990, and is still recognised as the Father of the Nation.

Foreign policy

Nyerere's foreign policy emphasized nonalignment in the Cold War and under his leadership Tanzania enjoyed friendly relations with both the Western world and the Eastern bloc.

Nyerere, along with several other Pan-Africanist leaders, founded the Organization of African Unity in 1963. Nyerere supported several militant groups active in African colonies, including the African National Congress (ANC) and the Pan African Congress (PAC) of South Africa, FRELIMO when it sought to overthrow Portuguese rule in Mozambiquemarker, and ZANLA in its war with the Smith government of Rhodesia. From the mid 1970s on, along with President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambiamarker, he was one of the leaders of the Front Line States which campaigned in support of black majority rule in southern Africa. In 1978 he led Tanzania in war with Uganda, defeating and exiling the government of Idi Amin. Nyerere was instrumental in the coup in Seychellesmarker which brought France-Albert René to power.

Outside of Africa Nyerere was an inspiration to Walter Lini, Prime Minister of Vanuatumarker, whose theories on Melanesian socialism owed much to the ideas he found in Tanzania, which he visited. Lecturers inspired by Nyerere also taught at the University of Papua New Guinea in the 1980s, helping educated Melanesians familiarize themselves with his ideas.

Post-presidential activity

After the Presidency, Nyerere remained the Chairman of CCM until 1990 when Ali Hassan Mwinyi took over. Nyerere remained vocal about the extent of corruption and corrupt officials during the Ali Hassan Mwinyi administration. He also blocked Jakaya Kikwete's nomination for the presidency, citing that he was too young to run a country. Nyerere was instrumental in getting Benjamin Mkapa elected (Mkapa had been Minister of Foreign Affairs for a time during Nyerere's administration).

In one of his famous speeches during the CCM general assembly, Nyerere said in Swahili "Ninang'atuka", meaning that he was pulling out of politics for good. He kept to his word that Tanzania would be a democratic country. He moved back to his childhood home village of Butiama in northern Tanzania. During his retirement, he continued to travel the world meeting various heads of government as an advocate for poor countries and especially the South Centre institution. Nyerere travelled more widely after retiring than he did when he was president of Tanzania. 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.

Positions Held after Presidency: Chairman of Chama Cha Mapinduzi (1985-1990), Chairman of the independent International South Commission (1987-1990), and Chairman of the South Centre in the Geneva & Dar es Salaam Offices (1990-1999).

In January 2005 the Catholic diocese of Musomamarker opened a cause for the beatification of Julius Nyerere. Nyerere was a devout Catholic who attended Mass daily throughout his public life and was known for fasting frequently.

He has received honorary degrees from the University of Edinburgh (UK), University of Duquesne (USA), University of Cairomarker (Egypt), University of Nigeria (Nigeria), University of Ibadan (Nigeria), University of Liberiamarker (Liberia), University of Torontomarker (Canada), Howard Universitymarker (USA), Jawaharlal Nehru University (India), University of Havanamarker (Cuba), University of Lesotho, University of the Philippines, Fort Hare Universitymarker (South Africa), Sokoine University of Agriculture (Tanzania), and Lincoln Universitymarker (PA, USA).

He received the Nehru Award for International Understanding in 1976, the Third World Prize in 1982, the Nansen Medal for outstanding services to Refugees in 1983, the Lenin Peace Prize in 1987, the International Simón Bolívar Prize in 1992, and the Gandhi Peace Prize in 1995. President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda awarded Nyerere the Katonga, Uganda's highest military medal, in honour of his opposition to colonialism and Idi Amin's government in 2007.

Cultural Influences

Nyerere has continued to influence the people of Tanzania in the years following his presidency. His broader ideas of socialism live on in the rap and hip hop artists of Tanzania. Nyerere believed socialism was an attitude of mind that barred discrimination and entailed equality of all human beings.Keregero, Keregero. “Mwalimu Julius Nyerere on Socialism.” IPP Media. October 14, 2005.>. Therefore, ujamaa can be said to have created the social environment for the development of hip hop culture. Like in other countries, hip hop emerged in post-colonial Tanzania when divisions among the population were prominent, whether by class, ethnicity or gender. Rappers’ broadcast messages of freedom, unity, and family, topics that are all reminiscent of the spirit Nyerere put forth in ujamaa.In addition, Nyerere supported the presence of foreign cultures in Tanzania saying, “a nation which refuses to learn from foreign cultures is nothing but a nation of idiots and lunatics…[but] to learn from other cultures does not mean we should abandon our own.” Under his leadership, the Ministry of National Culture and Youth was created in order to allow Tanzanian popular culture, in this case hip hop, to develop and flower. As a result of Nyerere’s presence in Tanzania, the genre of hip hop was welcomed from overseas in Tanzania and melded with the spirit of ujamaa.


  • Freedom and Socialism. A Selection from Writings & Speeches, 1965-1967 (1968)
    • Includes "The Arusha Declaration"; "Education for self-reliance"; "The varied paths to socialism"; "The purpose is man"; and "Socialism and development."
  • Freedom & Development, Uhuru Na Maendeleo (1974)
    • Includes essays on adult education; freedom and development; relevance; and ten years after independence.
  • Ujamaa - Essays on Socialism' (1977)
  • Crusade for Liberation (1979)
  • Julius Kaisari (a Swahili translation of William Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar)
  • Mabepari wa Venisi (a Swahili translation of William Shakespeare's play - The Merchant of Venice)

See also


  1. The Crisis, 1996. National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Page 35.
  2. Blumberg, Arnold. Great Leaders, Great Tyrants?: Contemporary Views of World Rulers Who Made History, 1995. Page 221.
  3. Hopkins, Raymond F. Political Roles In A New State: Tanzania's First Decade, 1971. Page 204.
  4. Morales Named "World Hero of Mother Earth" by UN General Assembly by the Latin American Herald Tribune
  5. Happy Birthday Mwalimu, Daily News (Dar es Salaam), April 13, 2007
  6. Meredith, Martin (2005). The Fate of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence. PublicAffairs. ISBN 1-58648-246-7.
  7. Museveni honours Nyerere
  8. Lemelle, Sidney J. “‘Ni wapi Tunakwenda’: Hip Hop Culture and the Children of Arusha.” In The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture, ed. by Dipannita Basu and Sidney J. Lemelle, 230-54. London; Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press.
  9. Lemelle, Sidney J. “‘Ni wapi Tunakwenda’: Hip Hop Culture and the Children of Arusha.” In The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture, ed. by Dipannita Basu and Sidney J. Lemelle, 230-54. London; Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press.
  10. Lemelle, Sidney J. “‘Ni wapi Tunakwenda’: Hip Hop Culture and the Children of Arusha.” In The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture, ed. by Dipannita Basu and Sidney J. Lemelle, 230-54. London; Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press.
  11. Africa in the Cold War: A preliminary bibliography Boston University

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