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Rebranding Butiama Village: The birthplace of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, the Father of our nation

IN ordinary English language usage, the word “rebrand” has a commercial meaning, whose dictionary definition is given as ‘to change the image of a company or an organization or one of its products or services”.

But in the context of this presentation, that word is used to mean ‘giving a new image to the village of Butiama”.

The activity of giving a new image to the village of Butiama has been an on-going process, having been undertaken repeatedly at different times in the history of that village; for the sole purpose of identifying it as a ‘special place’; being the birthplace of Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere.

It is in connection therewith, that I am addressing the lovers of our country’s history, and particularly the students of Mwalimu Nyerere like myself, in order to share with them the exceedingly good news which came out last week, arising out of the visit to Butiama by Chama cha Mapinduzi Secretary General, Dr Bashiru Ally; who is reported to have promised to undertake yet another ‘rebranding’ of Butiama village.

It is this welcome news that gave me the motivation to write this article, in order to share with our readers the little story of the previous ‘rebranding events’ relating to Butiama village.

MTU KWAO: Mwalimu Nyerere’s extra-ordinary attachment to Butiama village at the time of Mwalimu Nyerere’s birth, and for many years thereafter, Butiama village was very much like any other village in rural Tanganyika.

For example, like all the other villages, Butiama had no Primary School; and thus, the Primary School which he attended, MWISENGE, was located a long distance away in Musoma Town.

After he had completed his tertiary education at Edinburgh University in Scotland, where he was awarded a Master of Arts degree in the year 1952, Mwalimu Nyerere returned to Tanganyika, and secured a teaching job at Pugu Secondary School, near Dar es Salaam, which was then known as “St. Francis College, Pugu”.

But he also decided it was time to start a family, so, he built for himself a small, one bed-room house in Butiama, in preparation for his marriage to Maria Gabriel; which was sufficient proof of his sincere commitment to his Butiama village.

Furthermore, and actually rather surprisingly, he continued to live in this small house whenever he returned to Butiama for his annual School holidays.

And even when he became President of the country in December 1962, although he borrowed money from the Bank and built for himself a modest residential house at Msasani in Dar es Salaam, he still continued to live in his little house in Butiama, whenever he went to his village for his annual Christmas and new year holidays (which he did regularly and consistently) throughout his tenure, first as President of the Republic of Tanganyika, and later, after the Union with Zanzibar in 1964, as President of the United republic of Tanzania.

The process of rebranding Butiama village: the first rebranding event.

As I stated earlier, the purpose of this presentation is to narrate the story of Butiama village’s rebranding.

The first rebranding, which was initiated by Mwalimu Nyerere himself, resulted from, or was a consequence of, the birth of the Arusha Declaration in 1967; which was subsequently accompanied by a country-wide process of converting the conventional villages into socialist ‘Ujamaa Villages’; under a programme designated as “Ujenzi wa Ujamaa Vijijini”.

In implementing that programme, Mwalimu Nyerere had a special wish and desire, to make Butiama village, his own birthplace, one of the model Ujamaa villages.

An ‘Ujamaa village was defined as a place where “watu wanaishi pamoja na kufanya kazi pamoja, kwa faida ya wote” (where people live together and work together, for the benefit of all”).

That is when, presumably by agreement between brothers, Mwalimu Nyerere’s younger brother Joseph Nyerere, offered to retire from his job in Dar es Salaam as Secretary-General of TANU Youth League, and went to live permanently in Butiama, in order to fully participate in, and perhaps to manage and oversee, the numerous tasks involved.

Kudos to the late Joseph Nyerere, for he was quite successful in his leadership endeavors, which were aimed at transforming, or rebranding, Butiama village as a model ujamaa village.

The second rebranding event The second rebranding of Butiama village occurred as a direct result of Mwalimu Nyerere’s decision to return to Butiama, after his retirement from the Presidency.

This is how it happened:- The year 1975 was a general election year in Tanzania; and Mwalimu Nyerere was again nominated by Chama cha Mapinduzi, as Presidential candidate for that year’s Presidential elections.

In his nomination acceptance speech, he made the unexpected announcement that he was accepting such nomination for the last time, and that the party should be prepared to nominate a different candidate for the 1980 Presidential elections.

He subsequently also indicated that after retirement, he would return to live in his home village Butiama, and engage himself in farming and cattle keeping activities.

In the course of time after that announcement, two things happened in rapid succession. The first was TANU’s decision to give Mwalimu Nyerere a suitable and appropriate retirement gift, in recognition and appreciation of his long committed service to our nation.

It was to be a type of gift which will offer him adequate personal and family comfort after retirement.

Thus, in pursuance of that objective, TANU’s Central Committee decided to send to Butiama, a small delegation led by veteran leader Mzee Rajabu Diwani; to investigate and report on the prevailing environment and conditions, under which Mwalimu Nyerere and his immediate family were going to live when they return to Butiama on a permanent basis.

The said delegation returned with a firm recommendation, that the party should build for him a new and more spacious residence.

That recommendation was easily accepted by TANU’s Central Committee, which then directed that its implementation process be undertaken and completed, before the date of Mwalimu Nyerere’s expected retirement in 1980.

However, shortly thereafter, come February 1977, there occurred a voluntary merger between TANU and Zanzibar’s Afro- Shirazi Party (ASP), to form Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM); and I was appointed Executive Secretary of the newly formed party.

Hence, the responsibility for implementing that TANU decision fell on me; a task which I greatly relished, and actually carried out religiously.

I first discussed with Mwalimu Nyerere himself, in order to establish his personal preferences in relation to the design of his gift house.

I knew that he was an ardent lover of incorporating granite rocks inside his residential house, and the MWITONGO area of Butiama was richly endowed with such rocks.

And indeed, I was right; for he quickly selected a site which has that kind of rocks that could be utilized for that purpose. Consequently, we searched for and found an architect who was a specialist in such designs.

Construction works began, and the proposed house was completed in time. I had the great pleasure of leading a delegation which went to Butiama to hand over the house to Mwalimu Nyerere and his family, a ceremony which took place on 16th December, 1980.

The second thing that happened in 1985, the year of Mwalimu Nyerere’s retirement from the Presidency, was the Government’s decision to construct a museum building at Butiama, for the preservation of such personal artefacts that Mwalimu Nyerere himself would offer for public preservation. T

hat project was subsequently undertaken and completed, and was officially opened by the then Prime Minister Fredrick Sumaye, on 2nd July 1999.

The investments which were made in those two projects, did considerably transform the face and image of Butiama village.

Which had now become the permanent home of the retired President of the United Republic of Tanzania and highly respected father of the nation.

Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere; who, after his departure from this world, was also buried there.

Mwalimu Nyerere accepts nomination for the 1980 Presidential election As we have already seen, Mwalimu Nyerere had said in 1975, that he was accepting nomination for the Presidency for the last time.

However in the meantime, the country had suddenly been plunged into such harsh economic conditions, that Mwalimu Nyerere was forced to change his mind; for fear that he would be regarded as having timidly ‘abandoned ship’ in the middle of a violent storm.

What happened is that towards the end of the 1970s, there occurred such acute shortages in the supply of essential goods and services throughout the country, to the extent that people had to line up in long, endless queues in front of designated shops, in order to be able to buy any food item which they needed for the day’s consumption! In such circumstances, Mwalimu Nyerere wisely decided to stay on for one more term, in order to handle the situation himself, (and thereby avoid the stigma of a ‘captain abandoning ship in the middle of a violent storm’).

He thus decided to ‘soldier on’, and accepted nomination for the 1980 Presidential election.

The third rebranding event The third rebranding of Butiama village, was carried out after Mwalimu Nyerere’s death in October 1999; and was a result of a deliberate decision made by the CCM National Executive Committee, at its ordinary meeting which was held in Butiama in the year 2009.

President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete was the national Chairman of Chama cha Mapinduzi at the material time; and he was determined to uplift Butiama from an ordinary village in rural Tanzania to a higher status; in honor of the departed father of our nation.

He wanted to turn Butiama village into a nationally recognized place.

He therefore did two things: Firstly, he directed that the said NEC meeting be held in Butiama, and facilitated the adoption by that NEC meeting, of a binding resolution calling upon Tanzanians: “Kumuenzi Mwalimu Nyerere kwa vitendo”.

Secondly, and in part fulfilment of that resolution, President Kikwete announced his decision to upgrade Butiama from village status, to a higher District status.

But in order to make it administratively viable, the boundaries of the new District would include a number of the neighboring villages, but the District headquarters would be located in Butiama village itself.

That is how Butiama District came into existence, the grand intention being to give greater recognition to the birthplace of Mwalimu Nyerere, the father of our nation.

Subsequently, the National Electoral Commission declared Butiama to be a Parliamentary constituency, returning its own member to the Parliament of the United Republic of Tanzania.

The fourth rebranding event I referred earlier, to the ceremony of handing over the CCM retirement gift house to Mwalimu Nyerere in December 1980, at which I was the principal actor.

In my short handing over speech, I made it clear that the house would become the personal property of Mwalimu Nyerere, capable of being bequeathed to his family successors.

In fact, that statement is what underscores the essence, and significance, of the third rebranding exercise of Butiama village, which was promised by the CCM Secretary-General, Dr Bashiru Ally.

As I understood it, the proposal (which is obviously one new product of President Magufuli’s very fertile mind), is for the Government to take over the management and maintenance of the late Mwalimu Nyerere’s artefacts in Butiama, specifically the houses in which he lived, through the National Museums of Tanzania.

This obviously means that Mwalimu Nyerere’s family has graciously consented to transfer their inherited properties to the government, for better management and maintenance on behalf of Mwalimu Nyerere’s extended family, all the people of Tanzania.

This new development is bound to attract many more visitors to Butiama, and consequently accord much greater recognition, to the birthplace of the father of our nation.

I also understand that the family itself, is planning its own ‘rebranding’ of that village, to mark the 20th anniversary of Mwalimu Nyerere’s death in October 2019.

We wish them great successes in the execution of their plans.

Last Sunday, January 12th, 2019; was ...

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Author: By Pius Msekwa

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