Monday, June 16, 2008

Tanzania and Nyerere


I wish the people of the Horn of Africa could live in peace and harmony like their fellow brothers and sisters of the Republic of Tanzania. Tanzania has been through the worst times in its struggle for independence. It fought German occupation, Arab domination, and outside influence through unity and coherence. The unification of the Islands of Pemba and Zanzibar with mainland Tanganyika created what we know today as Tanzania. Mwalimu Julius Kabarage Nyerere, 'Baba wa Taifa' or 'Father of the Nation', strived hard to unite the people of this lovely country through wisdom and artistic leadership. The two major wars Tanzania had been through are the Hehe and Maji Maji rebellions of 1894 and 1907 that took conisderable lives and property. Today Tanzania is considered an 'ocean of peace' in a volatile continent.

Tanzania had been at the mercy of Omani Arabs for centuries mainly in the days of the spice trade when cloves was the major sustainer of Zanbibar's economy. 'The land of the Zenj' as it was called, Zanzibar was the seat of powerful Omani Arabs who traded in slaves with European powers of those days. In fact, Zanzibar had the biggest slave market in East Africa. Here originated millions of African slaves destined for the trans-Atlantic voyage. Pemba, a sister Island of Zanzibar, had her own slave market and carries immense historical treasures to this day.

The beautiful and bustling capital city of Dar es Salam, lived through tough times. Upon taking the reins of power, Mwalimu Nyerere preached peace and unity making Dar es Salam his seat of power and influence. Meaning 'Haven of Peace' and derived from the Arabic language, Dar es Salam is a blend of African and Arab cultures and has been much influenced by Islamic traditions and Christian missionary activities that continued for several centuries. Old Portuguese architecture and ancient Arabisque foundations dot its coastal plains with the main port still displaying the hallmarks of monsoon winds trade dhows.

The city of Arusha is much remebered for the historic 'Arusha Declaration' created by Nyerere. "The Arusha Declaration was made by Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere on 5 February 1967, outlining the principles of Ujamaa (Nyerere's vision of socialism) to develop the nation's economy. The declaration called for an overhaul of the economic system, through African socialism and self-reliance in locally administered villages through a villagization program. The villagization program, implemented in 1973-76, sought to transform the pattern of rural settlement by congregating the rural population-which previously had been resident predominantly on dispersed family smallholdings-in nucleated villages of sufficient size to be efficient (in bureaucratic terms) units for the delivery of services. Involved in this plan was the idea that the new villages could also become the basis for a socialist system of production." (wikipedia)

Nyerere played a big role in creating the East African Cooperation (EAC) between the nations of East Africa-a cooperation that elevated the lives of millions of Africans that had just come out of the shadows of colonialism. The nations of Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania formed this cooperation with a view to reaching economic prosperity. The East Railways and Harbors, East Africans Customs and Excise, and the East African Airways were amongst the only existing big corporations of those days. Ironically, the East African Cooperation did not augur well with Uganda's strongman, Al- Haji Field Marshal Idi Amin Dada, President of Uganda at that time. It was indefinitely dissolved and resources distributed among member states. Furthermore, Idi Amin's Uganda suffered the most because of being a landlocked country with no access to the sea. Despite its dissolution, the East African Community has been revived by mindful leaders now that Idi Amin is no longer in the political spectrum. In fact, there is an East African Parliament at present with legislature drawn from erudite politicians from Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania.

Mwalimu Nyerere was the mastermind of Idi Amin's removal from power. With assistance from Uganda's liberation forces, Tanzania's Defense Force meticulously deposed Idi Amin sending him into exile in Saudi Arabia, his final death bed. With the exception of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) that is wrecking havoc in some parts of the 'Land of Kabaka', the people of Uganda have felt a sigh of relief under Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, the current leader who is playing peace maker and statesman in the international arena. Museveni has peace keeping troops in beleagured, impoverished, and war-ravaged Somalia and also in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire).

A few Somalis took part in the social, military, and political institutions of Tanzania though individual biographical accounts demand strenuous research. Ever heard of Ahmed Hassan Diria?. He was a Somali whose father migrated from Somalia. Ahmed was born in Tanzania and rose to become a leader, politician, and diplomat in his own right. A garduate of the College of Philosophy in Ghana (attended 1958 to 1961), Diria held several diplomatic posts including Tanzania's ambassador to Zaire, India, Egypt, and other countries. From 1990 to 1993, he was Tanzania's Foreign Minsiter and was known to be a great 'friend of the press' and 'defender of press freedom'. He died in Germany.

Tanzania has produced talented leaders who shone in the international limelight since attainment of independence. Amongst them is Salim Ahmed Salim, former Secretary General of the Organization of African Unity (now African Union), a man who has six doctoral degrees to his credit. Another political giant is Abdirahman Kinana, a former Minister for Defense and currently a member of the East African Parliament. Having these brilliant men and others at his side is what made Nyerere's presidency a reality.

Nyerere boosted tourism though not to the required standards. The preservation of the Serengeti national park and other tented camps, agressive archaeological research conducted by the Leakey family et.al, and tour of the towering Kilimanjaro mountain brought in the much needed hard currency from foreign tourists craving for curiosity and change of scenery. Increased ocean trade with Arab merchants driven by Monsoon winds injected relief to a few sectors of the economy. Coffee, grown in the highlands of the hardworking Chagga tribe and much treasured in the West, was another major earner. Diamonds mined at Shinyanga mines, was a source of income for the state treasury. Regardless of the effects of Nyerere's tainted ideology, Tanzanians have always been less dependent on foreign handouts.

Under Nyerere, Tanzania's system of education in the primary and secodary levels were no much for neighboring Kenya and Uganda whose medium of instruction was english. A closer look at the profiles of prominent Tanzanian educators and administrators reveal that most had their higher education from the prestigious Makerere University of Uganda that had the hallmarks of Britain's Oxford University. On the other hand, Kenya's Lenana and Alliance High Schools were used as gateways to Makerere. Nyerere elevated Kiswahili to a level it has become the lingua franca of East and Central Africa making it intelligible in some parts of Southern Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Malawi, Burundi, and Zaire. According to estimates, it is spoken by 60 million people in Africa.

Every man has his own weaknesses. The major weakness of Nyerere was socialism, an ideology almost akin to communism. With his unchallengeable Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM)party at the helm, Neyerere consolidated power such that political opposition evolved only after his departure. The unification of the Afro-Shirazi Party and the Tanzania African National Union (TANU), gave birth to CCM. The ruthlessness of the dreaded Fanya Fujo Uone (FFU) security apparatus that he heavily relied upon for national security, was no different from Nazi Germany's Geheime Staats Polizei (Secret State Police) also known as Gestapo. Despite the ruthlessness of the state security, Tanzania, till this day, remains a beacon of peace in Africa.

Unlike many African leaders who use the strength and size of their tribes to hold on to power, Nyerere hailed from a minority tribe. He was son of the chief of the Zanaki tribe. Knowledge, integrity, determination, sociability, strength, courage, conceptualism, competency, and various other traits coupled with love for his people and nation and having honest, reliable, and willing assistants helped him achieve his goals.

Nyerere was a graduate of the University of Edinburgh and the first Tanzanian to study at a British university. Upon returning home, he took teaching as a profession and that is why he was referred to as 'Mwalimu' which means 'teacher' in Kiswahili-a language that evolved as a result of a mixture of Arabic and local tongues. He is credited with writing several books, translations, and essays that are still in print. For sure he was not a millionaire in his presidency nor did he and his family extravagantly misuse state treasuries. Upon retiring from politics, Nyerere was succeeded by Hassan Ali Mwinyi. Septuagenarian Nyerere coninued to lambast Mwinyi's leadership styles until his death in London in 1999 at the feeble age of 77. Had he been a bad leader, Nyerere would have prepared a son or daughter succeed him.

1 comment:

Freddy Macha said...

Excellent piece. For those who need to understand African history and to have recent events in perspective. For example, who knows? Had Nyerere been around would a dictator like Mugabe been allowed to kill his own people?(Nyerere would not dilly dally liker Thabo Mbeki, for one).Thats why and how Tanzania led by Nyerere got rid of Idi Amin in 1979.
There is one thing that the author could have done, though. Give more more crucial details. For instance when he mentions the last wars of Tanzania (Hehe and Maji Maji) he/ she should say it was in 1894 and 1907 respectively. This helps readers know how long Tanzania has stayed in peace.
Well done.We need more and more such kind of writings...