Nyerere was truly a revered statesmanBy MOBHARE MATINYI | Monday, October 17 2011 at 08:38
On October October 14, 1999, Tanzania lost its founding president, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere, at Saint Thomas Hospital in London.
The then president Benjamin Mkapa, announced on national television: “Today, I have the sad duty to announce that Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere has died”.
Mr Mkapa continued in a sombre voice: “The man known to all as “Mwalimu” had finally succumbed to leukaemia at the age of 77”.
Mr Mkapa urged Tanzanians: “Nyerere bequeathed this nation with peace and stability and I want to appeal to all to unite and co-operate to accord Mwalimu the respect that he deserves.”
Sadly, nothing of this sort is happening today under the current gathering of opportunists. Mwalimu, a charismatic leader with a sense of humour, left a unique mark in our history as a nation that needs to be recounted often for the younger generation to understand what it meant to be a Tanzanian under Dr Nyerere’s incorruptible leadership in those years.
It is sad that today some young Tanzanians are talking of breaking the union of the country while our artistic leaders are amassing wealth and selling the country at a throw away price to crooked investors.
Dr Nyerere's socialist economic model almost brought the country to its knees, but he was a perfect Tanzanian since he did nothing for his personal gain or against the interests of the nation, unlike many of our African leaders then and today.
Dr Nyerere’s integrity, intellect, wisdom, humility, civility, honesty, and nationalism, compounded with his respect for human dignity, love of freedom and quest for human-centred development, is what differentiate him from other leaders who became leaders for the sake of writing histories and fattening their pockets.
On that day the UN General Assembly in New York stood in silent tribute to him. The President of the Assembly, Namibian Foreign minister Theo-Ben Gurirab, called him “a venerable world leader and one of Africa's most charismatic and respected elder statesmen.”
The US President Bill Clinton observed, “Nyerere's death is a huge loss for Tanzania, Africa and the international community as a whole,” while the Secretary of State, Ms Madeleine Albright, who attended the funeral, described Mwalimu as a giant on the world stage as well as an eloquent spokesman for the developing world.
Nelson Mandela said: “The freedom of his country, the liberation of other oppressed peoples and the unity and decolonisation of the African continent were part of a single struggle for a better world”.
The late Zambian President, Frederick Chiluba paid this tribute: “We've been robbed of great leader” while President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda said: “"By overthrowing Idi Amin dictatorship, Nyerere gave us a fresh start”.
Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister, commended Dr Nyerere's achievement in subordinating tribal rivalries to national identity and noted: “The fact that Tanzania is today a country at peace with itself and its neighbours is in large part a tribute to Mwalimu.”
The World Bank president, James Wolfensohn who knew Mwalimu well, in official statement said: “For the men and women who have served the great cause of development in the world, one of the lights of our lives went out today. Nyerere was one of the founding fathers of modern Africa.”
Mr Wolfensohn further added: “He gave Tanzanians a sense of nation with a few parallels in Africa and the world-bound by a common language, Swahili, and a history almost entirely free of internal divisions and conflict.”
The African National Congress (ANC) stated: “Mwalimu Julius Nyerere was an outstanding leader, a brilliant philosopher and a people's hero - a champion for the entire African continent. He shall always be remembered as one of Africa's greatest and most respected sons and the father of the Tanzanian nation.”
A renowned scholar, Prof Ali Mazrui, commented that Nyerere combined two rare characteristics, integrity and intellect.
The British paper, The Independent, said: “Mwalimu was a statesman of principle, intelligence and charisma, political philosopher, militant, and idealist, an innate democrat who was one of the few modern African leaders to take and maintain power through the ballot and to give it up willingly.
The paper added: “Nyerere provided Tanzania, not with (economic) prosperity, but with dignity and with long-lasting stability in a turbulent period of African history,” while the BBC praised him saying: “Dr Nyerere stood out as an African leader who ignored the trappings of power.”Yes, Mwalimu, our Father of the Nation, or as Museveni says, the greatest black man to ever have lived, truly, we miss you and your leadership!
The writer is a consultant based in Washington, DC
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