Today is a Bank Holiday in Tanzania. Unusually for us Britons it’s a Tuesday. So we were in for Monday and will be back in for the rest of the week. However, today is a chance to relax a little.
Who was Nyerere after whom this day is named?
The day commemorates the founding father of Tanzania – Julius Nyerere, the first President of The country after it gained independence from Britain in 1964. He had also been a Prime Minister pre- independence. From 1964 until 1985 he was elected unopposed at every election in a One a Party State. Nyerere had argued the One Party system was vital for stability and even today, years on from his death Tanzania remains a stable country. Nyerere was the man who built the United Republic of Tanzania from the former colonies of Tanganyika and Zanzibar. He was regarded as a Nation Builder – the first leader of an independent African state.
However, he seems to have left a mixed legacy with improvements to health and education alongside national poverty. A former teacher, he went to university in Edinburgh where he encountered socialism. He returned to Africa and entered politics as Tanzania was moving towards independence from Britain. He followed a Socialist approach to African politics and made some controversial decisions . His main idea was to introduce collective farming into the country. This was an anathema to many farmers some of whom were forced into collectives. Ultimately the policy failed, something he accepted as fact. Other policies like universal free education were more successful, but Tanzania remained a poor country.
In his time in office he supported independence and freedom movements in nearby states (South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique) intervened to defeat the regime of Idi Amin in Uganda. Some criticised a focus on foreign affairs at the expense of National politics. Nonetheless, his greatest legacy seems to have been beyond Tanzania where he provided moral leadership (unlike contemporaries he did not amass a great fortune in office). He died from Leukaemia on October 14th 1999.
(Information here contained taken from a variety of online sources of differing stances – including The Guardian, Britannica, BBC, Marxists.org but is not intended to be a detailed Biography – simply an overview – apologies in advance for any factual errors or assertions)