Monday, October 12, 2009



October 12 2009

Tanzania is set to mark the 10th anniversary of the death of its founding president, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere. The event will be marked differently this year, with national as well as family events since the former national leader died.

Family celebrations will take place at his home village of Butiama in Mara region, while national celebrations will be held in the coastal city of Dar es Salaam. In Butiama, where Mwalimu was born, a special tribute will be paid to him by the villagers who helped in raising one of Africa's most precious child.

Speaking after her return from New York where she had gone to receive the United Nations General Assembly's World Hero of Social Justice Prize on behalf of her husband and the family, Mama Maria Nyerere, said that the family would be launching a TSh200 million kitchen project in memory of her husband.

The widow said the family had decided to build the kitchen which would be used to cook food for the poor children of Butiama in honour of Mwalimu’s passion for the poor and children.

Nyerere died in St Thomas hospital in London on Oct 14, 1999 at the age of 77 after a long battle with leukaemia.

Mwalimu Julius Nyerere led the struggle for Tanzania's independence from Britain and became the country’s first president in 1962.

Unlike most African leaders who spearheaded the great wave of independence struggles that swept the continent, he was never jailed. Known affectionately throughout Africa as Mwalimu, or teacher in Swahili, Nyerere stepped down as president in 1985 after 23 years in office to devote his time to farming and diplomacy. He worked tirelessly to negotiate an end to the violence that had wracked central and southern Africa in the past decades.

In his last days he mediated an end to the civil war in neighbouring Burundi.

Although he was harsh with his critics and detained some indefinitely without trial, Nyerere never acquired notoriety for human rights abuses.

He wrote many books mainly on developmental socialism in Africa and Tanzania. He also translated William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and The Merchant of Venice into Swahili.

Nyerere lived modestly and after his retirement from active leadership, parliament hastily passed a law granting him a pension. He was among only a handful of African presidents to voluntarily leave office. He also foresaw the futility of single-party rule in Tanzania as the clamour for democracy swept the continent following the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and Russia.
Launch books

During this year's national celebrations, the Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation is expected to launch three different books including one which talks about women's liberation struggle; ‘Freedom of Women’ which was authored by Mwalimu Nyerere in 1944 when he was still a Makerere university student.

According to the Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation executive chairperson, Mr Joseph Butiku, the other two books are a compilation of Mwalimu Nyerere speeches in three parts. They include ‘Freedom and Liberation”, ‘Freedom Non-alignment and South-South Cooperation’, and ‘Freedom and the New International Economic Order’.

“We have tried to arrange this year’s event in a bit different way compared to the previous anniversaries and we have incorporated new things like launching of the books especially the one he wrote in 1944,” Mr Butiku said.

Apart from book launches, the Government, through the Ministry of Public Service under the President’s Office, has prepared an academicians’ workshop today as part of the celebrations.

The workshop will discuss Mwalimu Nyerere’s different perspectives on socialism, capitalism and corruption. During the workshop, Prof Issa Shivji and Mr Godfrey Kirenga will discuss Mwalimu Nyerere’s contribution on agricultural development.

Members of the families of Mwalimu Nyerere and former Zanzibar president Abeid Karume are expected to attend the workshop.

Other activities expected to take place during the commemorations include the climax of Uhuru Torch race celebrations to be marked in Butiama. The event is expected to be graced by President Jakaya Kikwete on Wednesday.

The President will also receive a group of Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) youths who had marched from Mwanza to Butiama to symbolise Mwalimu Nyerere’s 1967 walk in a similar path to show his support of Arusha Declaration.

Elsewhere, Bank of Tanzania (BOT) has also organised a fundraising today meant to collect money to be used to establish a ‘Mwalimu Nyerere Memorial Scholarship Fund.’

According to BOT, the money would be used to sponsor female students who excel in mathematics in the first degree courses.

Mzumbe University has also organised a public lecture on Oct 22 this year in honour of the father of the Nation. A statement from the University notes that a workshop on ‘Agriculture First and Nyerere’s Perception,’ will colour the event.