AFRICA DAY: In search of a life of dignity

Julius Nyerere (third from Right) addresses a press conference whilst flanked by ( from Left) President Robert Mugabe, Eduardo dos Santos, Kenneth Kaunda, Samora Machel and Ketumile  Masire

Julius Nyerere (third from Right) addresses a press conference whilst flanked by ( from Left) President Robert Mugabe, Eduardo dos Santos, Kenneth Kaunda, Samora Machel and Ketumile Masire

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When I wake up on the 25th of May, it will be to the sound of music, echoes of my favourite Sankomota in the background.

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Rayban Otima Sengwayo

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Ah yes, I will be celebrating my birthday and thanking my parents for this ideal and most perfect gift.

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I should mention that memories of my childhood are locked in Tanzania where I learnt to speak Swahili in the early ‘70s.

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The question is how will you as an African and Great Zimbabwean choose to celebrate this day?

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Our own icon, great son of the soil is the current chair of the African Union and SADC. I urge all citizens to take this day and celebrate the achievements, visionary and legacies of all great Pan Africanists Jomo Kenyatta, Kenneth Kaunda, Nkwame Nkrumah, Haille Sellaise, Seretse Khama and not forgetting Mwalimu Julius Nyerere.

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This week, I would like to honour and remember the great works and words of Mwalimu (the Teacher) as he was fondly known.

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Julius Kambarage Nyerere was born in March 1922 in Butiama, in what was then called Tanganyika. He was the son of a chief of the Zanaki and started primary school late before transferring to Tabora Government School.

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When the Roman fathers noticed his intelligence they assisted him to train a s a teacher at Makerere University in Uganda.

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After graduation he returned to teach at home for three years.

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His hunger to further his studies led him to Scotland on a government scholarship to study for a Master of Arts degree at the University of Edinburgh, becoming the first Tanzanian to do so.

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It is at university that he began to develop his socialist idealism.

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When he returned home in 1964 he faced the choice of continuing as a teacher or joining politics as was his growing passion then.

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He then decided to spend the next two years travelling around the country, familiarising himself with the people, their problems and trying to identify solutions.

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Tanganyika at the time, formerly a German colony, was a British Trustee Territory and was awaiting Independence. The country has many ethnic groups, a lot of religious and cultural diversity and nearly 150 languages.

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His first solution was to form Tanu – the Tanganyika African National Union – and became its leader. He joined Parliament and became elected President when Tanganyika gained Independence in December 1961.

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His preaching of Ujamaa, which means “familyhood”, gained a following for its African social model. Mwalimu believed that people truly become “persons” within communities – starting with the family, then the extended family, and then the wider community.

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He said, “You have to understand the values of socialism, which are values of justice, a respect for human beings, people centred and where you care about people.”

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He continued, “I don’t regret that I tried to build a country on principle when we have African problems, we have a duty to solve our problems. We would prefer the outside world to keep out. If we want help, we can ask for it.”

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Nyerere was a great organiser, an orator and was willing to work with anyone. His ambition was unification of his people and to offer them direction.

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This won him the respect and confidence of the ordinary person.

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A case in point was when he took the Wameni tribe, who had been forcibly evicted from their traditional land by European settlers.

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He took their case, accompanied by tribesmen, to the UN in New York to argue for their rights.

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He was a true Pan-Africanist, such that during the ‘60s Tanzania became home to a number of African liberation movements.

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Hence Mwalimu began his long relationship with and fight for the African people. He built solid relationships with other African leaders like Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta and Milton Obote in Uganda.

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He had also started a new relationship with the NDP in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) led by Cde Joshua Nkomo with Cde Mugabe as publicity secretary. The Zimbabwean nationalists at the time were fighting the Smith regime.

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His great skill at bringing peace, unity and factions together was shown on October 9, 1974 when he brought Cdes RG Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo to Dar es Salaam, where they spent seven long days talking.

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The result was an alliance called the Patriotic Front.

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On February 5, 1977 TANU merged with the Afro-Shiraz Party of Zanzibar and formed Chama Cha Mapinduzi, of which he was chair even after he retired from the Presidency.

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During his time, Tanzania became the first country on the continent to have an African official language, Swahili. He is also known to have translated Shakespeare’s works into Swahili.

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Nyerere was largely responsible for establishing the African Union, formerly the Organisation of African Unity, and its increasingly taking on an important role in stabilizing the continent via peacekeeping and peace-building with the United Nations.

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In retirement, he continued to work for African unity and conflict resolution, and to find ways of reducing the rich-poor gap between developed and developing nations when he chaired the South Commission. He envisaged an African High Command and a Pan-African Security Force. And in Mwalimu’s own words, he said on the 8th of June 1978, “Tanzania repudiates the claim that African freedom can be defended by a security force organised or initiated by Europeans powers. We shall neglect such a force as an instrument of neo colonialism in our continent.

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“The purpose of Africa’s independence struggles was the freedom of Africa and of Africans.

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“Our independent governments must not become the instruments through which foreign domination in maintained in a new form, rather they must be the instruments through which the people of Africa develop themselves and their countries and enlarge their freedom until it means a life of dignity for every individual African nation. We have a long way to go, all of us, in every African Nation.”

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Hamba kahle Qhawe lamaQhawe

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Aluta continua

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Kwaheri Bwana mukubwaMwalimu wetu waAfrica . . . your legacy lives on.

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◆ Rayban Otima Sengwayo is a founding member and director of Friends of Joshua Trust, a organisation that preserves the history and legacy of Zimbabwe through the arts.