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In memoriam: An impassioned plea for commemorating Mwalimu Nyerere’s birthday

LAST Saturday was the 13th day of April, in the blessed year 2019. But, unfortunately it is a date whose historical significance is almost unknown to the vast majority of Tanzanian men and women.

Today’s article is designed and presented as a bold attempt to propagate and promote the proposal that Mwalimu Nyerere’s birthday, namely the 13th day of April, be officially recognized for the purpose of commemorating the birth date of the Father of our nation, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere.

This proposal is made following the commendable initiative which was taken by the Mwalimu Nyerere Memorial Academy, Kivukoni. That Institution has consistently been holding some special academic functions, to commemorate the birth date of the Father of our nation.

For example, on 13th April, 2015; President Jakaya Kikwete (as he was then), went to the Kivukoni Academy to inaugurate a new leadership training programme.

The said programme has been accorded the distinguished status of an academic “Chair” and was appropriately given the Kiswahili name of “Kibwete cha Mwalimu Nyerere”.

And, by the grace of God, plus a bit of good luck on my part, President Kikwete also installed me as the ‘founder’ Chairman of that ‘ Kibwete’.

Translated into English, the word ‘Kibwete’ means a small box, or container, for preserving family valuables, such as jewels. In the light of that meaning, the name ‘Kibwete’ is admirably suitable and indeed most appropriate, for this particular leadership training programme , which is aimed at preserving knowledge and appreciation of Mwalimu Nyerere’s outstanding leadership ethics; and endeavour to propagate and promote such knowledge through the usual academic methods of teaching, research and evaluation.

In fact, it has now become an established practice for the Kivukoni Academy to hold seminars, or workshops, around this date, the 13th of April of every year, including this year, 2019; whose workshop theme was “Kumbukizi za Mwalimu Nyerere”; in commemoration of Mwalimu Nyerere’s birthday.

Thus, this presentation is made in the desire to propagate and promote this idea of commemorating Mwalimu Nyerere’s birthday beyond that academy, to a wider audience of Tanzanians.

Celebrating his death is inappropriate In my opinion, we should now be moving away from the current practice of only commemorating Mwalimu Nyerere’s death annually on 14th October; and, instead, start commemorating his birthday.

The 13th day of April. This proposal is made on the grounds that through such official observance of his birthday, the nation will be commemorating his life and works, rather than the sad event of his death. Any person’s death is a sad event, which is really not fit for celebrations.

And, in the case of a distinguished leader and statesman like Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, his death represents the sad and sorrowful culmination of his immense contributions to the welfare and development of the people of the United Republic of Tanzania.

On the contrary, his birthday represents the happy entry on the stage, of the country’s liberator from colonialism and of his shining successes in laying the firm foundations for the nation’s unity, human equality and mutual respect; which we are presently continuing to enjoy.

It is on the basis of this submission, that today’s article has been designed to focus on Mwalimu Nyerere’s memorable leadership contributions, in order to enable the younger, post Nyerere generation to gain some new insights, awareness and understanding, of the departed Mwalimu Nyerere’s ethical life, plus his sterling works; a brief reminder of which, is presented in the paragraphs here below.

Mwalimu Nyerere the person Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere has been variously described as a Humanist, Politician, Thinker and Statesman. Indeed, he was all of that and much more. He was an ardent believer in peace and a unique mobilizer of people.

He was a devout catholic, but a strong believer in the separation of religion from politics. He was a modest man in his personal life and hated pomposity in his official capacity.

These were the ideals that dominated his entire life as a leader, first as President of TANU from July 1954; then as Prime Minister of Tanganyika from May 1961; President of the Republic of Tanganyika from December 1962 and of the United Republic of Tanzania from April 1964, until his voluntary retirement from the Presidency in October 1985.

Abundant literature is readily available, on all aspects of his leadership contributions not only to Tanzania, but also to Africa as a whole.

Indeed, the postcolonial history of Central and Southern Africa is closely associated with his name, because of his intense commitment and contribution to the liberation struggle against colonialism of all the countries in that Region of Africa.

Mwalimu Nyerere the philosopher The word “philosophy” has several meanings, including that it is an academic discipline, which focuses on the study or search for knowledge concerning the mundane matters of life and the universe.

However, in the context of my presentation, I am using the word ‘philosophy’ to mean a set of beliefs, or attitude to life, that guides or determines a person’s behaviour. Mwalimu Nyerere certainly had his own set of beliefs and attitude of mind which guided his behaviour and his actions.

I think it is fair to say that Mwalimu Nyerere’s philosophies were largely determined by the objective conditions and circumstances prevailing at the relevant material time.

For example, during the initial period of his leadership, colonialism was the dominant political factor in Africa. Consequently, this factor had a dominating influence on Mwalimu Nyerere’s thinking and actions during that particular period.

He was of the settled view that colonialism was a violation of the human right of the colonized people to self-determination. He therefore made it one of his major responsibilities to participate actively in the struggle for the liberation of all African countries.

On the other hand, his governance philosophy was “to create and maintain national unity, based on genuine respect for human equality”.

And this was also largely influenced by the conditions prevailing at the material time; specifically, his fear for the potential disunity likely to be caused by the existence of rampant tribalism and ethnicity; plus the inevitable conflicts which would be caused by individual desires to accumulate wealth.

There are numerous governance policy decisions which were made by President Nyerere, that readily attest to his application of this philosophy, including the following:- Decisions that promoted national unity The greater part of President Nyerere’s endeavours during the years immediately following the achievement of the country’s independence, was fully focused on efforts to build sustainable national unity among people of diverse tribal origins and affiliations.

His strategy for achieving this objective was based on a two pronged approach: the first was to dismantle, quite rapidly, the colonial structural impediments to national unity; and the second was to design and introduce, equally rapidly, new social policies which would facilitate the achievement of this desired objective.

The implementation of the first strategy included the repeal, in 1963, of a law cited as “The Chiefs’ Ordinance”; which had vested on the tribal Chiefs very crucial Administrative and Judicial powers over their tribal ‘ subjects’, thus creating a multitude of ethnic loyalties to their respective tribal Chiefs.

The second strategy was implemented through the introduction of new social and economic policies, aimed at integrating society, specifically targeting the Y outh; in the crucial area of Education and training; such as the introduction of compulsory ‘ National Service’ programmes, which required selected groups of young people to live together and work together under special supervision, for a specified period; thus enabling them to quickly forget their diverse tribal or religious backgrounds and to develop new oneness to be presented in summary form as follows:-friendships across the board, including widespread inter-tribal and some inter-denominational marriages.

Mw alimu Nyerere’s Ujamaa philosophy This is the most widely acknowledged philosophy commonly attributed to Mwalimu Nyerere. Because of the length of time that has elapsed since its inauguration in February 1967; many of the current generation of Tanzanians may not even be aware of its contents.

I can do no more than encourage them to read the Arusha Declaration document itself in order to absorb the nuggets of wisdom contained therein.

But briefly stated, the essential features of the Ujamaa philosophy, can be presented in summary form as follows:- (i) That Ujamaa was, primarily, aimed at introducing EQUALITY between Tanzanians, in compliance with the TANU creed of “Binadamu wote ni sawa”.

This is evidenced by another statement appearing in the Arusha Declaration’s list of “the basic principles of Ujamaa”, which is cited as “The fundamental equality of all human beings, and the right of every individual to dignity and respect”.

It is evidenced further by Mwalimu Nyerere’s farewell speech delivered in Bunge on 29th July, 1985, on the eve of his voluntary retirement from the Presidency, in which he said the following: “Kazi iliyokuwa muhimu zaidi kuliko zote kwangu, ilikuwa ni kazi ya Kujenga Taifa lenye umoja, kwa misingi ya heshima na usawa wa binadamu.

Nadhani leo naweza kusema bila kusita, kwamba kwa shabaha hii kuu na ya msingi kabisa, tunayo haki ya kujivunia mafanikio tuliyoyapata”. (ii) That Ujamaa was aimed directly at preventing the growth of capitalism, or the accumulation of individual wealth, among Tanzanians

. This is evidenced by the statement in principle no. 7 of the ‘basic Ujamaa principles’, which reads as follows: “It is the responsibility of the State to intervene actively in the economic life of the nation in order to ensure the well-being of all the citizens; and to prevent the exploitation of any one person by another, or the accumulation of individual wealth in a manner that is inconsistent with the existence of a classless society”.

(iii) Catch 22: That Ujamaa was, basically, a matter of faith, or an attitude of mind. This is evidenced by the statement which appears in the Arusha Declaration document under the heading Ujamaa ni imani”, as follows (translated from Kiswahili): However, Ujamaa cannot establish itself, because, basically, it is a matter of faith.

It can only be established and sustained by people who have complete faith in its efficacy”. In my humble opinion, this is what explains the apparent ‘ abandonment’ of the Ujamaa policy in January 1991, when the CCM National Executive Committee meeting in Zanzibar, obviously acting under the influence of immense political pressure generated by the harsh economic conditions of the 1980s; adopted the so-called “Z anzibar declaration”, which subsequently earned the negative reputation of having “killed” the Arusha Declaration; imputing that the CCM NEC ‘had lost faith’ in the efficacy of Ujamaa. It is my honest submission, however, that the Arusha Declaration was NOT ‘killed’ in Z anzibar, it was only ‘put in abeyance’.

Thus, it is in the forlorn hope of rekindling the nation’s interest and renewed faith in Ujamaa; that this proposal is being made, namely to consider celebrating Mwalimu Julius Nyerere’s birthday, the 13th day of April of every year and even more importantly, devoting such celebrations to reflect deeply on Mwalimu Nyerere’s important contributions in laying the firm foundations for the well-being and continued peaceful existence of our great nation (Kumbukizi za Mwalimu Nyerere). May his soul rest in eternal peace.

piomsekw a@ gmail.com / 07 5 47 6 7 5 7 6

Author: Pius Msekwa

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