The ‘Nelson Mandela’ of Tanzania


Julius Nyerere, by White House Photographic Office (WHPO) - Thomas [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This photo of the Tanzanian president, Julius Nyerere, was taken in 1976 by a US photographer.

Julius Nyerere was president of Tanzania for over twenty years, from 1964–1985. His stewardship during this time is seen as the main reason for the country’s stability and peacefulness today. He is therefore referred to as Baba Wa Taifa or ‘Father of the Nation’.

Nyerere was widely loved and admired for his honesty and integrity. He was called Mwalimu or ‘respected teacher’. Committed to racial harmony, Nyerere encouraged people to learn Swahili and identify themselves as Tanzanians rather than just as members of a certain ethnic tribe.

He also believed Tanzania should be self-reliant. With its natural resources and talent, the country shouldn’t need foreign aid. But his socialist policies were not effective for the economy and self-reliance proved unworkable given the huge challenges after independence. Nevertheless, his firm belief in his homeland and fellow countrymen left an indelible mark.