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Remembering Nyerere in Tanzania

Marie-Aude Fouéré

Part 2. Entering and Securing the Political Space

Chapter 4. Julius Nyerere, the Arusha Declaration, and the Deep Roots of a Contemporary Political Metaphor

Emma Hunter

Note de l’auteur

I am grateful to COSTECH for granting research permits in 2005-2006 and 2009-2010 which enabled me to carry out the research on which this chapter is based.

Texte intégral

1In the autumn of 2009, Tanzanians prepared to mark the tenth anniversary of the death of their first President, Julius Kambarage Nyerere, who had died in London in October 1999. Yet at the same time as Tanzanians were commemorating their former President, they were also invoking his memory as a guide to the future. In Dar es Salaam, Tanzanians who had been children when Nyerere died but who were now young adults spoke to me about their plans to organise events to mark Nyerere Day on 14th October, and to seek inspiration from Nyerere’s life and thought to develop new political visions for the future. In Tanzania’s lively Swahili-language press, Nyerere’s memory was often mobilized, functioning as a powerful political metaphor.

2As Marie-Aude Fouéré and others have shown, allusions both to the historical figure of Nyerere and to his era have come to serve as a shorthand in political discourse, contributing to creating a common language of political debate which, while not all-inclusive, nevertheless offers the potential for those who accept its parameters to discuss Tanzania’s present and imagine its future (Fouéré, 2011: 69–70). Writing shortly after the 2010 elections, Fouéré demonstrated the ways in which the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party (CCM) had constructed a series of lieux de mémoire which put Nyerere at the centre of public discourse and enabled Tanzanians to use Nyerere’s name as a metaphor for a distinctive political morality (Fouéré, 2014 and in this volume). In a similar vein, Felicitas Becker has contrasted the official discourse produced by the ruling CCM party in which Nyerere is held up as a symbol of the peace and unity which only CCM can provide with a counter-discourse from below, characterizing him as “failed despot” or “advantage-seeker” (Becker, 2013: 248).

3Yet within the terms of what Becker describes as the ‘official’ discourse, she too identifies ways in which Nyerere’s name has been mobilised as a means of criticising official greed and corruption and speaking up in defence of the poor, concluding that this demonstrates a more open political society than conventional models of political analysis have allowed us to see.

4But this still leaves open the question of why it is that memories of Nyerere serve so effectively as a site at which to reflect on wider questions of Tanzania’s past, present and future. In this chapter, I argue that to understand the power of Nyerere’s memory as a metaphor in contemporary political discourse, we need to return to the 1960s and specifically to the turning point constituted by the Arusha Declaration of February 1967 – the moment when Julius Nyerere firmly committed Tanzania to a path of Ujamaa na Kujitegemea, translated at the time and since as ‘socialism and self-reliance’. It is this moment which, I argue, constitutes the foundational point of modern memories of Nyerere. Moral critiques of excessive wealth and corruption were a commonplace of the Swahili-language press in late colonial and early independent Tanzania. Nyerere did not create this context, but he did have to operate within it. The Arusha Declaration constituted a radical attempt by Nyerere to establish himself as the champion of this moral critique. Nyerere’s language of Ujamaa was, in turn, adopted by Tanzanians and used to critique immoral behaviour in ways which served to link Nyerere with this moral undertaking. This served as the basis of a distinctive cultural memory (Rigney, 2005), created in part through the circulation of texts and other media, both in the present and in the past.

5To make this argument, I start by setting out in more detail the way in which memories of Nyerere have recently been employed as a political metaphor, then move on to make the argument that the Arusha Declaration was a response not only to a growing political crisis but also to the inability of the new TANU (Tanganyika African National Union) government to put a stop to moral critiques of growing inequalities of wealth and rising corruption which had been heard since the late colonial period.

A Powerful Political Metaphor

6During the 2010 elections, the trend for political speeches and newspaper articles to make explicit reference to Julius Nyerere was even more apparent, at least on a cursory glance, than it had been during the 2005 elections. Moreover, in making reference to Nyerere, politicians and columnists seemed to be making reference not simply to an individual, but to a political ideology embodied in that individual. The nature of that political ideology was in some ways lacking in specificity, but a general body of content can be identified: opposition to corruption, a concern with the relationship between rich and poor, and an attachment to peace and national harmony.

  • 1 J. Lawi, “To honour Mwalimu: coming polls demand integrity”, Daily News, 13 October 2010.

7Different aspects of this nexus were employed by different political parties. The CCM ruling party emphasised Nyerere’s commitment to peace and national harmony, and as the October elections approached, supporters of CCM in the press employed references to Nyerere as a way of suggesting that CCM alone could guarantee that Tanzania would remain united. A particularly evocative example of this trope was offered in the pages of the CCM-supporting Daily News on 13th October 2010, the day before the tenth anniversary of Nyerere’s death. To survive in a difficult world, the Daily News argued, Tanzania needed to maintain the Union between mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar. Referring to Nyerere’s famous speech about the Union, it went on: “Mwalimu speaks so loudly about it and equates the cancer of division to cannibalism. ‘Once you have eaten meat of another human being you will always go on to do so, ’ he says”.1

  • 2 CHADEMA, Ilani ya Uchaguzi Mkuu wa Rais, Wabunge na Madiwani, Oktoba 31 2010, August 2010.

8In contrast, the CCM’s major rival on the mainland, CHADEMA (Chama Cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo, the Party for Democracy and Progress), sought to reject CCM’s claim that they were the sole party who could govern Tanzania. CHADEMA argued that their legitimacy came in part from their claim to embody Nyerere’s legacy. Strikingly, Nyerere’s name appeared five times in the CHADEMA manifesto. In particular, CHADEMA emphasised that their mission to root out corruption from Tanzanian politics was a continuation of Nyerere’s approach to politics.2

  • 3 Msomaji Raia, “CCM haikumzaa Nyerere, haiwezi kuwazaa Watanzania”, Raia Mwema, 20 October 2010.

9But Nyerere’s memory also served as a means of framing debate and legitimizing criticism of the ruling party beyond partisan politics. This was possible because of Nyerere’s emphasis that his CCM party should remain true to high ethical standards, and his criticisms of those politicians who failed to do so. Towards the end of his life, he said “CCM is not my mother”, a statement which newspaper columnists and correspondents have drawn on to argue that it is possible to conceive of Tanzania without CCM. In the weekly newspaper Raia Mwema, frequently extremely critical of CCM, a columnist writing under the alias ‘Msomaji Raia’ argued that if CCM was not Nyerere’s mother, and thus could not make the unconditional claims of respect and loyalty associated with parenthood over Nyerere, nor could it do so over Tanzanians. Rather, he wrote, “the relationship between Tanzanians and CCM lies in its policies, its beliefs and its actions”. If this contract broke down, then the relationship between CCM and Tanzanians would cease.3

  • 4 G. Marato, “Mwalimu wa Nyerere ataka CCM iadhibiwe”, Mwanahalisi, 20 October 2010.

10In a similar vein, others argued that since Nyerere’s death CCM itself had changed. On 20th October 2010 James Irenge, an elderly man who said that he had been Nyerere’s teacher, was interviewed in another weekly newspaper called Mwanahalisi which, like Raia Mwema, was often fiercely critical of the government and was subject to regular government bans and suspensions of publication as a result.4 The teacher complained that while Nyerere had listened to the old, CCM leaders of today did not. CCM had been the party of farmers and workers, now it was the party of the rich. In a telling phrase, reminiscent of critiques of economic and political liberalization elsewhere in Africa, he linked the death of Nyerere with a rise in individualism and a concomitant decline in moral standards, saying that since his death, the country had become “one in which each person does what he likes”.

  • 5 CHADEMA, Ilani ya Uchaguzi Mkuu wa Rais, Wabunge na Madiwani, Oktoba 31 2010, Agust 2010, p. 6.
  • 6 “Mbivu na mbichi kuwa Jumapili”, Raia Mwema, 27 October 2010.

11One of the chief ways in which moral standards are deemed to have declined is in the sense that corruption is increasing, particularly high-level corruption, called ufisadi in Swahili. As it launched its campaign for the 2010 elections, the CHADEMA manifesto turned to this issue on the second page of its introduction. Under the heading “What is corruption?” the manifesto cited a speech which Nyerere had made in 1960 in which he emphasised the danger that corruption posed to the welfare of the people.5 Nyerere’s words were recalled from their 1960 context to provide a clear example for today. Elsewhere, his actions rather than his words were called to mind, as in an article in Raia Mwema which stressed that Nyerere “did not wait for the decision of the courts” before distancing himself from corrupt officials.6

12Allusions to Nyerere’s life and work seem to have come to serve as a shorthand for a better, more idealistic and more moral time. Even as his memory is used by competing political parties for competing political ends, appeals to his memory constitute a shared language which helps make political disagreement possible. This use of Nyerere’s words extends far beyond the domain of high politics, and can be found in a range of settings, from the driver of a bus from Dar es Salaam to Arusha evoking Nyerere’s words in a debate on mineral extraction (Chachage, 2010: 4), to elderly villagers on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam comparing the heavily subsidized healthcare of the Ujamaa years with the privatized health services of today (Kamat, 2008: 360) or villagers living alongside the Tazara railway seeking to defend its services in the face of economic liberalization policies (Monson, 2006: 121–122).

13However this particular use of Nyerere’s memory as a shared moral language runs counter to alternative narratives. In the first place, it runs counter to a narrative in which the economic choices most closely associated with Nyerere are understood to have failed. As Anne Pitcher and Kelly Askew have suggested, the agents and institutions of neo-liberalism have worked to de-legitimise socialism and give the impression that Tanzania’s socialist past was a disastrous dead end, best forgotten so that the country can make a new start (Pitcher and Askew, 2006). At the same time, it runs counter to a narrative which links Nyerere’s African socialism with the violence and authoritarianism of villagization (Becker, 2013; Scott, 1998). Among scholars beyond Tanzania, it is this narrative of failure that remains the more powerful (Schneider, 2004). Why is it then that memories of Nyerere can serve as such a powerful metaphor today? It might seem it is Nyerere’s association with Tanzania’s independence struggle and his status as ‘Baba wa Taifa’ or ‘Father of the Nation’ (Schatzberg, 2001: 12; Fouéré, 2014 and in this volume) that allow him to stand above the policy failings of his time in office. But the Nyerere recalled in contemporary discourse is not specifically the Nyerere of the struggle for independence. Rather, I shall argue, it is the Nyerere of the Arusha Declaration.

Nyerere and the Early Years of Tanzania’s Independence

14Tanzania’s post-colonial trajectory stands out from that of other states in the post-colonial world, both in Africa and beyond. Tanzania was able to avoid the coups which toppled many post-colonial leaders in the mid- 1960s and 1970s. Instead, the nationalist party which had led Tanzania to independence sought, particularly through the Arusha Declaration of 1967, to re-legitimize itself as a party whose claim to authority derived not only from its role in bringing independence but also from its promise to create a more just society. But in the early 1960s, it was by no means clear that TANU, and Nyerere, would succeed in staying in power. So to put the Arusha Declaration in context, we must first return to the difficult first few years which followed independence in December 1961. We will first set out some of the political and economic challenges which Nyerere, and the TANU government which he led, faced in the years immediately after independence, and then look in more detail at the wider intellectual context and the political languages which circulated and which provide crucial context for this reading of the Arusha Declaration.

Political and economic challenges

15A snapshot of the challenges which Tanzania’s new government faced is provided by a report written in late 1965 by the British diplomat Malcolm MacDonald, following a meeting with Nyerere. The message he had taken away from their meeting was that Nyerere was deeply concerned about the slow pace of economic development. Macdonald reported that: “[h] e emphasised again and again that Tanzania’s major problem is that of economic development. So far multitudes of ordinary people in the country have gained little or nothing from Independence... If the common people do not see good results in their own daily lives before the next General Election a few years hence, then the present Government will be overthrown, with unhappy results. Therefore his first priority is the achievement of such development – and he spends a lot of time reading, thinking, planning and trying to act about it”.

16These challenges were not, of course, unique to Tanzania. Recent work by historians of early post-colonial Africa has stressed the ways in which post-colonial states struggled to live up to the expectations which nationalist mobilisation had encouraged in their citizens. Writing about the Luapula province of Zambia, Macola has argued that a “fundamentally acquisitive notion of independence” developed in the period before independence, engendering an expectation of “immediate and tangible rewards” which could not be delivered (Macola, 2006: 45- 46; see also Ferguson, 1999). In Tanzania too, expectations of what independence would mean went far beyond what any government could offer. In 1965, the journal Africa published a letter which the anthropologist Robert F. Gray had received from his informant Gideon Mbee who lived in the district of Mbugwe. In his letter, Mbee recalled the enthusiasm of independence, writing that “when the day arrived all doubts were thrown aside and there was only rejoicing”. Indeed, “everyone believed in Freedom; there was no one, young or old, who had not had it explained to him” (Mbee, 1965: 199). The trouble, Mbee continued, was that “the elders and the youths interpret self-rule in different ways”. For the elders, self-rule should mean a return to old ways, without taxes or laws controlling such matters as the hunting of game. This, for Mbee, was a fundamental misunderstanding, and, he went on, “[w] e young men tried to explain the meaning of Freedom under modern conditions, but the elders would not listen to us” (Mbee, 1965: 199).

17Young and old in Mbugwe disagreed about the types of knowledge which should be used to protect crops, that of the rainmaker or that of the new agricultural expert. But even among those who agreed about the broad developmental aims of the post-colonial state, for whom independence should mean the provision of the schools and hospitals which the colonial state had failed to provide and which TANU had promised, there were arguments over speed and priorities. TANU could never quite succeed in silencing these arguments. Michael Jennings has described the process whereby the government’s failure to meet the costs involved in staffing and sustaining new schools and dispensaries built by enthusiastic citizens responding to calls for ‘self-help’ led to a reassertion of governmental control and attempts to redirect efforts firmly into the directions desired by the government, at the expense of meaningful popular participation (Jennings, 2003: 185). Yet while the authoritarian edge of the nationalist government was increasingly apparent over the course of the 1960s, it was never quite able to silence dissent.

18Reading the Swahili-language press and the archival record from the mid-1960s, it is very clear that many of the developmental criticisms which were destabilising leaders across Africa were present too in Tanzania. Andrew Ivaska has described the way in which the newspaper Ngurumo served as a space which, while not constituting an organised force opposing the nationalist government, was nevertheless a space in which the priorities and choices of the government could be critiqued; and indeed, a steady stream of letters to Ngurumo in the mid-1960s raised questions of the speed with which development policies were being implemented (Ivaska, 2011: 30).

  • 7 Letter from Mshamu Mkuli, ‘Barabara ya Kilwa’, Ngurumo, 1 January 1965, p. 2.
  • 8 Letter from Julius Nyerere to Solomon Eliufoo, 10 November 1958, CCM Acc 1/NPP/003, no f.
  • 9 Memo from Director of Education to Nyerere, 7 January 1958, CCM Acc/1/NPP/OO3, f. 3. On Tanzania’s (...)

19Some of these letters were from areas of the country which felt they were neglected, such as the residents of Kilwa who in 1965 lamented the fact that travel around the south of the country in the rainy season continued to be difficult, and called on the government to make the improvement of roads in the region a priority in the next five year development plan.7 Others focused on specific areas, and education was a particular bone of contention. TANU had repeatedly attacked the colonial government’s record on providing school places, and particularly on providing secondary school places, much to the colonial government’s frustration as it felt that TANU was ignoring the progress which the colonial state was making. Yet at the same time as it was criticising the colonial government publicly, behind the scenes TANU’s leadership was increasingly aware that difficult choices would have to be made after independence. On 10th November 1958 Nyerere wrote to Solomon Eliufoo to ask him to start thinking seriously about what TANU’s programme should be once responsible government was achieved, and to consult with “your friends, the Missionaries, and get their opinion”.8 The choice, Nyerere suggested, was between a goal of maintaining current numbers of children at primary school, around 40 %, but enabling all to continue to Standard Eight, or allowing a larger percentage to reach Standard Six. Alongside this letter was a memo from the Director of Education to Nyerere spelling out the costs of offering eight years of education to all, and the secondary school costs which would ensue from a major expansion of primary education – figures of £6 million for the annual running cost of the secondary schools, £5 million to train the staff and capital costs of £20-40 million were listed.9

  • 10 Letter from P.R. Banzi, ‘Wanafunzi Darasa la 8’, Ngurumo, 26 February 1965, p. 2.

20Choices would have to be made, and in the end despite TANU’s criticism of the colonial government’s failure to provide secondary schools, the emphasis was placed on primary education. The result was growing dissatisfaction with the ongoing lack of places in secondary school, and with the fate of those who failed to gain a place. One correspondent, P. R. Banzi of Morogoro, wrote to the newspaper Ngurumo complaining that despite its various development plans, the government seemed to have no plans for those youth who would not continue into the ninth grade – were they simply to be left to work “selling peanuts on the street?”10 He called on the government to provide some form of training, for otherwise Tanzania would soon be faced with all sorts of criminality caused by this youth, and the government would only have itself to blame.

  • 11 Australian High Commissioner to Department of External Affairs, Canberra, ‘Tanzania: Role of the Ar (...)
  • 12 The stresses and strains of 1966 are effectively captured in Paul Nugent’s Africa since Independenc (...)

21If economic development posed a challenge, at the same time, the political pressures on Nyerere’s government were mounting. In February 1966, shortly after the military coup which overthrew Nigeria’s civilian government, information reached the Australian High Commission in Dar es Salaam that Julius Nyerere had met senior officers of the Tanzanian police and military (TPDF) and talked to them about his fears that Tanzania would also face a military coup. In the High Commission’s report, sent to Whitehall, it was recorded that: “According to our information Nyerere said that the coup was due basically to resentment at corruption in government; that it contained lessons for Tanzania; and that if the army and police were thinking of doing the same in Tanzania he hoped that they would do it without bloodshed”.11 1966 would turn out to be the year in which many founding fathers across Africa were deposed by their people, most famously the Ghanaian leader Kwame Nkrumah who had made history as the first nationalist in Sub-Saharan Africa to win independence during the wind of change.12 Because we know that Nyerere survived the challenges of the mid-1960s, it can be easy to overlook the insecurity of the period. It is, however, worth returning to one specific aspect of that time – the fear expressed by Nyerere in his meeting with senior security officials that the processes which had led to coups elsewhere were also at work in Tanzania. As we shall see, there was some evidence to justify such a fear.

  • 13 British Embassy, Washington to Commonwealth Relations Office, 17 November 1964, TNA/ DO 185/8.
  • 14 ‘Visit of Bishop Huddleston’, April 1966, DO 214/30, f. 113.

22The report from the Australian High Commission did not come as a surprise to officials in London, who had long been concerned that Nyerere’s position was fragile. In January 1964, revolution in Zanzibar had been followed swiftly by a series of army mutinies in Tanganyika, Kenya and Uganda. The army mutiny in Dar es Salaam shook Nyerere on two counts. First, it suggested that he was not entirely in control at home, and second, he was forced to rely on Britain, the former colonial power, for support.13 In discussion later, Bishop Trevor Huddleston maintained that this had been a profound experience for Nyerere. Huddleston described the “humiliation the President had suffered in having to call in foreign troops to put down a mutiny in his own army”, which he maintained had ‘produced an element of bitterness in President Nyerere”.14 To understand the sense of humiliation provoked by the army mutiny, we must remember that the shame of dependence had been at the heart of TANU’s arguments for self-government and independence. And in the context of the mid-1960s, relying on Britain also posed a distinct challenge to Tanganyika’s attempts to avoid taking sides in the increasingly hot Cold War.

  • 15 Editorial, ‘The Perils of Nyerere’, The Economist, 13 June 1964, p. 1217.

23At the same time, Zanzibar’s revolution had brought the Cold War to East Africa in dramatic fashion, prompting panic in Western capitals at the sight of Chinese and East German advisers arriving on the island. Incorporating Zanzibar into the new state of Tanzania in April 1964 was in part an attempt to stop the situation escalating, and Zanzibar becoming a new Cuba (Speller, 2007). But it was an uneasy Union, compared by the Economist to a python which had swallowed its prey, but failed fully to digest it.15 If the Union with Zanzibar seemed to serve as evidence that Tanzania was being pulled to the East, Tanzania was also caught on the boundary between white-dominated southern Africa and independent Africa to the north. Nyerere’s decision to welcome freedom-fighters from the Portuguese colonies and South Africa to Tanzania had provoked the wrath of Portugal’s ruler Salazar.

  • 16 High Commissioner, Dar es Salaam to Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, ‘Alleged Western (...)
  • 17 ‘Translation of speech given by Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere, Kijangwani Playing Fields, Dar es Salaam (...)
  • 18 ‘Translation of speech given by Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere, Kijangwani Playing Fields, Dar es Salaam (...)

24The result of these pressures was that when, in November 1964, the Foreign Minister Oscar Kambona claimed to have detected a ‘Western Plot’, Nyerere reacted angrily.16 The alleged plot turned out to have been a fake, based on forged documents, but Nyerere’s frustration with the challenges he faced was evident when he sought to explain his response and calm emotions at a meeting attended by 20,000 people in Dar es Salaam. In the speech he touched on the difficulties posed by Cold War politics and his relations with China, saying that when Tanzania needed weapons, he asked the Chinese to provide them, and to come to Tanzania to show the Tanzanians how to use them. “We sent for seven Chinese to come to help us; and this too has become a problem! Towards a mere seven Chinese, people have reacted as if they were 70,000 Chinese! And those seven Chinese are to stay for only six months! There was such a big row about this that I had to call a press conference and lash out like a mad man. I am tired of being questioned about the Chinese”.17 He described threats issued by Salazar against Tanzania, and threats made by Malawi’s leader, Hastings Banda, to expel Tanzanians from the country. It was in this context, he argued, that they had reacted as they did to the alleged Western plot. “My brothers, we are not Gods. We are human beings. We have been threatened too much in the past. What should we have done?”18

  • 19 Telegram from British Embassy in Washington to Foreign Office, ‘Western Plot’, 24 November 1964, DO (...)

25Both the army mutiny and the ‘Western plot’ incident revealed the continued strains in relations between Nyerere and Oscar Kambona, and outside observers were certain that if Nyerere were unseated, Kambona and his allies would be responsible.19 They also demonstrated the challenges involved in pursuing a non-aligned course. These internal and external political pressures had economic consequences too, as breaking diplomatic relations with Western capitals risked interrupting the supply of development aid, essential to meet the demands of postcolonial citizens.

Freedom and justice

26Independence brought new challenges in terms of heightened expectationsofimprovedlivingstandardsandthechallengesofnavigating a world divided by the Cold War, but there were also continuities from the late colonial period, particularly in terms of discourses around corruption, inequality of wealth and morality. In the public sphere of the 1940s and 1950s, complaints about growing inequality of wealth had been a common theme, as letter writers and African editors worried aloud about the impact of growing individualism on social relations (Hunter, 2014). Expectations of independence were not only material. James Brennan has shown the importance of the concept of unyonyaji or exploitation in urban nationalist thought, and the idea encouraged by nationalist politicians that freedom would also mean freedom from exploitation (Brennan, 2006: 394–500). This concern about inequality was not restricted to urban areas: similar concerns were heard in the rural areas and in places far from Dar es Salaam.

  • 20 Letter from Mohamed Alli Seffu, D.M. Kilimira and William Mtambo, ‘Matatizo ya Shule’, Ngurumo, 10  (...)

27Nationalist politicians had promised that independence would address these concerns, yet not only had they not disappeared, they were exacerbated by growing expectations that finite resources would now be distributed more fairly. The complaints heard in the Swahili press about the continued lack of social services were thus not only about the limited resources available, but also about how resources were allocated. Central to the question of how many school places were available was the question of who was selected for those places that were available. A letter published in Ngurumo in January 1967 asked why education was proving more of a problem in Tanzania than in neighbouring Zanzibar, Kenya or Uganda.20 Not only was the number of secondary schools not increasing sufficiently, students seemed to be selected for those schools which did exist on dubious grounds, and many good students were missing out on places.

  • 21 Letter from Zibe Kidasi, ‘Waafrika wenye vyeo’, Ngurumo, 15 March 1965, p. 2. On Zibe Kidasi see Il (...)

28The suggestion of corruption at work reflected wider currents, and was part of a broader critique of local officialdom. Sometimes this focused on allegations of corruption, at other times on the wealth of officials and their attitude to that wealth. The former civil servant and original member of the African Association Zibe Kidasi attacked the benefit of ‘Africanisation’ when it seemed to mean that officials who had once rented a room for 50 Shs. now rented it for 250 Shs., or officials who had once “drunk two bottles now ordered the entire case”.21 He called on them instead to put their money in the bank where it could be used for the benefit of the country and its citizens.

  • 22 Editorial, ‘Mabeberu Waafrika’, Ngurumo, 11 January 1965, p. 2.
  • 23 See Brennan (2006: 408–413) on the use of class rhetoric as a means by which the poor constructed a (...)

29Criticism of the behaviour of local officials was countered with appeals to the people to respect their leaders. But criticism of profligate officials spoke to larger themes and was not so easily shut down. One answer was to turn the focus onto non-Africans, both Europeans and Asians (Brennan, 2012). But by the mid-1960s, this strategy seemed to be becoming less successful. An editorial in Ngurumo in January 1965 targeted the so-called ‘Mabeberu Waafrika’, or African Capitalists. The editor reminded readers that where it had once been assumed that those who engaged in exploitation [unyonyaji] were non-Africans, it was becoming increasingly apparent that Africans could be equally guilty of exploiting their fellow citizens.22 Class consciousness and concern about inequality of wealth was a growing theme in the Swahili press.23

30The language of Ujamaa, present in the public sphere already in the late colonial period but circulating more widely after independence, offered another way in which moral questions could be discussed. While in some contexts Ujamaa functioned as a direct translation of the English word ‘socialism’, particularly in left-leaning publications such as the TANU party newspaper Uhuru, it also functioned as a word with which to reflect on positive social relations more broadly, following from the way in which it was employed by Julius Nyerere in his 1962 pamphlet, Ujamaa (Hunter, 2008). However the term was amorphous, and not as explicitly tied to a clear vision of the future as it would later become.

31The period immediately after independence was therefore not simply one in which the developmental expectations placed on independence and promised by TANU as independence approached were seen not to be being met, but also one in which the moral dilemmas which TANU had promised to resolve, and particularly the perceived crisis of relations between rich and poor, seemed to be persisting. It is in this context that we should interpret the Arusha Declaration as a rhetorical move.

The Arusha Declaration

  • 24 The following two sections draw on arguments developed in Emma Hunter (2015).

32In this reading of Tanzania’s early post-colonial period, the Arusha Declaration of 1967 played a foundational role in setting Tanzania on a new course.24 Where other post-colonial leaders were overthrown in coups or pushed aside by rivals, Nyerere was able to create a new narrative which put himself at the centre of a struggle against illegitimate accumulation and corruption in politics, redefining politics as a moral struggle. We might therefore see the process of creating a cultural memory of Nyerere as a leader who fought corruption and spoke up for the poor against the rich and against inequality of wealth beginning not with the foundation of TANU in 1954 or even with independence in 1961, but rather with the political events of 1967. Thus while, as we shall see, on one level the Arusha Declaration was a political manoeuvre, which shored up support and eliminated rivals, it also served to recapture and re-moralize public space, re-enchanting nationalist discourse in a narrative that put Nyerere firmly at the centre as author of the new aims of TANU. We start by briefly discussing the Arusha Declaration as a political move, and then consider how it served to capture the public sphere.

A political move

33The Arusha Declaration, published on 5th February 1967 after consultation with TANU’s National Executive Committee (NEC) but based on ideas formulated by Nyerere, marked a bold shift. It announced that where TANU had once been open to all who wished to fight for Tanzania’s self-government and independence, it would henceforth be a party only for those committed to building a society based on the principles of Ujamaa. Immediately afterwards a series of nationalisations were announced, along with ‘Education for Self-Reliance’, a new educational system which aimed to educate all in a way fitting to Ujamaa rather than focusing attention on an academic few, and a plan for rural resettlement and villagisation. A Leadership Code made clear that those who held political office must be fully committed to TANU’s objectives, and must give up any private or business interests which contradicted those objectives and placed them in the class of ‘exploiters’ (Coulson, 1982: 177-179).

34Once understood primarily as a development strategy and assessed for its successes and failure in bringing economic development (Coulson, 1982: 176; McHenry, 1994: 2-3; Scott, 1998: 234; Rugumamu, 1997), the Arusha Declaration was also, as Andrew Coulson pointed out, a political triumph. Coulson wrote that “[e] verywhere Nyerere was the hero, and the villains were the politicians and civil servants who had been growing fat at the expense of the masses” (Coulson, 1982: 183). Reflecting on the demonstrations held in support of the Declaration, Coulson wrote that such scenes had not been seen “since independence itself” (Coulson, 1979: 3).

  • 25 When Nyerere gave the speech discussed above which sought to put a stop to the ‘Western Plot’ alleg (...)

35The Arusha Declaration constituted a decisive attempt to recapture the initiative and tackle directly the criticisms of local officials deemed to behave unjustly or corruptly, while also confronting critics within the party – men such as the veteran nationalist and leading minister Oscar Kambona who would soon leave Tanzania and go into exile. It was an attempt to put earlier criticisms in the past, and begin again from a new basis. This aspect was quickly understood by outside observers. Reflecting on the events of the preceding months in August 1967, the American Embassy in Dar es Salaam remarked on the speed with which Kambona had been marginalised from the political scene. Crucially, they saw the Arusha Declaration as a reassertion of control by Nyerere, arguing that “[w] hichever way things go in Tanzania, it is certain that Nyerere will be making the decisions.” The report went on to detail speeches in support of the Arusha Declaration given by both the Vice President, Abeid Karume, and the Prime Minister, Rashid Kawawa, in sharp contrast to the response to some of Nyerere’s previous interventions which had quickly been undermined by close colleagues.25

  • 26 ‘Tanu haijafa na haitakufa milele’, Ngurumo, 5 August 1967, p. 3.

36Within Tanzania, government officials stressed that the Arusha Declaration laid the foundations for TANU to continue to lead the country. The Area Commissioner of Musoma, O.S. Madawa said in a public meeting that “TANU has not died and nor is there any expectation of death: it will continue to lead this country forever in order that it reaches its goal of self-reliance.” He told his audience that the task ahead for TANU was now even greater than that of bringing independence, and that “[t] he Arusha Declaration is the best foundation” to fulfil the promises of progress which TANU’s constitution had always made.26

  • 27 Letter from John Rungimba, ‘Heko Chogga’, Ngurumo, 3 November 1967, p. 2.

37In the letters’ pages of the Swahili press, the Arusha Declaration was understood as an answer to the sorts of problems which had led to the fall of Nkrumah’s government in Ghana, and links were sometimes explicitly made to circumstances in Nkrumah’s Ghana. A letter which appeared in Ngurumo lamented the great wealth which many politicians had acquired and asked: “where have they acquired this wealth if not from injustice?” In Ghana, he wrote, one of Nkrumah’s ministers had “bought a gold bed”, and this bed had now been seized by the new government and would be sold. There were lessons here, he argued, for Tanzania, writing that “[i] f we have discovered this sickness, and we seem to have done so in announcing the Arusha Declaration and the policy of ujamaa, should we not also seek out this remedy? There is only one remedy – this property should be seized and the money which is received should be put into the Government purse.”27

  • 28 ‘Kinyume cha Ujamaa’, Ngurumo, 21 October 1967, p. 2.

38The Arusha Declaration provided a new language for attacking corrupt officials. Thus on 21st October 1967 an article entitled ‘Against Ujamaa’ reported that C.R. Chipanda, working in the office of the Ministry of Lands in Mtwara, had appeared in court for the offence of having failed to pay his servant enough and for not having paid for insurance for him. While the defendant claimed that the servant was a relative, the judge asserted that “exploitation has many faces”, and that this was an example of misusing the principle of African brotherhood [undugu].28

Recapturing the public sphere

39But beyond the role of the Arusha Declaration in re-legitimising TANU through re-establishing its claim to authority, no longer simply as the party which brought freedom from colonialism but as the party which would combat corruption and ensure justice for all, I particularly wish to emphasise two further aspects of the Arusha Declaration. First, the moral content of the Arusha Declaration and second, the way that it was presented as Nyerere’s personal intervention as President of TANU.

  • 29 Editorial, ‘Ujamaa’, Ngurumo, 7 February 1967, p. 2.
  • 30 Letter from P.J. Mattaka, ‘Unyonyaji’, Ngurumo, 3 June 1967, p. 2. Nyerere himself was very comfort (...)

40One way in which this moral aspect was manifested was in the way that processes which had long been criticised were now re-described as a ‘sin’ (dhambi), this shift being directly attributed to the Arusha Declaration. This argument was made in an editorial in Ngurumo on 7th February 1967. “In a socialist country [nchi ya ujamaa], capitalism and feudalism are sinful. To be masters and slaves is sinful. And also laziness, indolence, idleness and gossiping are sinful and there is no country which follows socialism which tolerates such things”.29 A language of sin was picked up in other letters. A letter published in Ngurumo in April 1967 from P.G. Mattaka of Morogoro entitled ‘Unyonyaji’ or ‘Exploitation’ opened with the statement that: “As a result of the Arusha Declaration, the word unyonyaji is sinful”.30

  • 31 ‘Nyerere Asema: Mwaka 1967 TANU itekeleze Ujamaa’, Uhuru, 24 January 1967, p. 1.
  • 32 ‘Mwalimu alitangazia Taifa juu ya ‘Azimio la Arusha’, Uhuru, 6 February 1967, p. 1.

41Crucially, as suggested in the American Embassy’s report, the struggle launched at Arusha was specifically attributed to Nyerere. As we have seen, Ujamaa language already had wide currency in the Tanzanian public sphere and was used in ways which Nyerere could not control (Ivaska, 2011; Brennan, 2006; Hunter, 2008), but it is nevertheless important to note that the Arusha Declaration was presented as his personal initiative. His initial speech to the Party Congress was presented to the public as his call to TANU to push forward in new directions in 1967. As the headline in the TANU party newspaper Uhuru stated in 1967: “Nyerere says: this year TANU should achieve Ujamaa”.31 When the Arusha Declaration was announced to the nation at large, it was again framed as Nyerere’s initiative. Uhuru reported that “Mwalimu Julius Nyerere wants leaders of TANU, Government, other national agencies and all citizens to help the Ruling Party to fulfil through its actions a policy of socialism and self-reliance [ujamaa na kujitegemea]. He has said that Tanzania cannot accept ticks continuing to suck the blood of their fellows”.32

42As a political move, the Arusha Declaration constituted an attempt to regain TANU’s moral high ground and to re-establish it as the rightful party of governance. In this context, the specific ideological import of ‘African socialism’ is in some ways less important than the moral message which it sent out, and the way in which Nyerere’s name was indelibly linked to this moral message. When we look at the way in which contemporary political discourse employs Nyerere’s name or his era as a shorthand for a more moral time, it is the process of discursive construction and the political narrative established in 1967 which is being recalled.

Creating Cultural Memory

43In the Arusha Declaration of 1967, Julius Nyerere both drew on and reformulated an existing set of discourses about political morality and offered up a new language of Ujamaa with which to critique immoral behaviour (Hunter, 2008). But of course this is not enough in itself to explain the renewed power of this association in contemporary Tanzania. After all, Nyerere’s particular brand of African Socialism, for which he used the Swahili term Ujamaa has increasingly come to be remembered either in terms of a failed economic model or as a time characterised by the authoritarian rule symbolised by forced villagisation (Becker, 2013). Moreover, many of those who today employ Nyerere’s name as a political metaphor were not yet born at the time of the Arusha Declaration and have no personal memory of his time in office which, after all, ended nearly three decades ago. To understand the continued power of this association, we therefore need to reflect further on the process by which memories are created.

44A great deal of recent work has focused on the ways in which collective memory can serve as a counterpoint to official narratives, setting up a distinction between ‘memory’ and ‘history’ (Rigney, 2005: 13). In our case, this might suggest a contrast between an official memory of Nyerere constructed by the ruling party and a counter-narrative based in the experience of economic suffering and forced villagisation. As we have seen, the situation is not as straightforward as this model might suggest. But if, drawing on the concept of ‘cultural memory’ as developed by Jan Assmann and Aleida Assmann, we instead understand memories of the past as “the product of mediation, textualization and acts of communication” (Rigney, 2005: 14), we can better understand the continued power of an alternative narrative.

45The origins of the connection between Julius Nyerere and a particular sort of political morality began in the 1960s. As we have seen, the Arusha Declaration was a foundational moment in rhetorically linking Nyerere to a new kind of political morality, and this link was reinforced by the official Tanzanian press and the wider media in the years after 1967. In turn, this official discourse was picked up and developed by those writing in Tanzania’s public sphere, for example in letters sent to the Swahili-language press in the period immediately after the Arusha Declaration (Hunter, 2008).

46The same interplay between official discourses and their use in the wider public sphere is apparent in the contemporary construction of memory. The clips of Nyerere’s speeches which filled Tanzanian television screens in the summer of 2010 and the references to Nyerere’s words and actions in office invoked in newspapers, political speeches and in everyday discourse in buses and bars both served to recall lived memories of the late 1960s and 1970s, passed on through oral as well as written channels, and to allow a younger generation to experience the past vicariously. It is this combination of oral narrative, texts and images which provide the building blocks with which Tanzanians construct a powerful shared memory for today.


47The starting point for this chapter was a question. Why is Nyerere remembered for having presided over a more moral era, an era when politicians cared about social justice and battled corruption? After all, we know that this period was one when many of the policies which sought to address questions of social and economic justice, particularly those flowing from the Arusha Declaration of February 1967, served ultimately to disappoint. My argument has been that to understand the way in which Nyerere’s association with a more moral time overrides alternative discourses of economic failure and authoritarianism requires both that we situate the Arusha Declaration with a set of discourses about morality in politics and that we think carefully about the active production of cultural memory.

48Now often associated by scholars with the inauguration of a set of policies which would lead towards the increasing authoritarianism of the 1970s, characterised by economic crises and food shortages, viewed in the context of the time the Arusha Declaration was a deliberate move to forget the political challenges of the mid-1960s and re-establish TANU on a new basis. It was a political move, but one based on a moral argument and which sought to respond to a perceived moral problem. It had the pragmatic aim for Nyerere and for TANU of allowing TANU to regain the initiative and avoid suffering the fate which other nationalist parties had encountered across Africa in the mid-1960s. These nationalist parties, like TANU, were facing the disappointments of populations who had high ‘expectations of independence’, and struggling to deliver the development goals they had promised. It was also, crucially, a move by Julius Nyerere to reassert his personal authority over his fellow leaders, as well as his party and the country.

49Through the Arusha Declaration Nyerere presented himself as an individual separate from the Party, and stood above it, advocating a moral project of fighting corruption and defending the poor against the rich. The language of Ujamaa, with Nyerere now at its centre, was quickly adopted in popular discourse, both during Nyerere’s lifetime and since his death. It is this construction, recreated and re-imagined in the years which followed through texts and visual media, which contemporary Tanzanian writers are calling upon when they conjure up Nyerere’s memory as ideological shorthand, and which provides the foundation of modern memory.



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1 J. Lawi, “To honour Mwalimu: coming polls demand integrity”, Daily News, 13 October 2010.

2 CHADEMA, Ilani ya Uchaguzi Mkuu wa Rais, Wabunge na Madiwani, Oktoba 31 2010, August 2010.

3 Msomaji Raia, “CCM haikumzaa Nyerere, haiwezi kuwazaa Watanzania”, Raia Mwema, 20 October 2010.

4 G. Marato, “Mwalimu wa Nyerere ataka CCM iadhibiwe”, Mwanahalisi, 20 October 2010.

5 CHADEMA, Ilani ya Uchaguzi Mkuu wa Rais, Wabunge na Madiwani, Oktoba 31 2010, Agust 2010, p. 6.

6 “Mbivu na mbichi kuwa Jumapili”, Raia Mwema, 27 October 2010.

7 Letter from Mshamu Mkuli, ‘Barabara ya Kilwa’, Ngurumo, 1 January 1965, p. 2.

8 Letter from Julius Nyerere to Solomon Eliufoo, 10 November 1958, CCM Acc 1/NPP/003, no f.

9 Memo from Director of Education to Nyerere, 7 January 1958, CCM Acc/1/NPP/OO3, f. 3. On Tanzania’s post-colonial education policy, see Resnick (1968).

10 Letter from P.R. Banzi, ‘Wanafunzi Darasa la 8’, Ngurumo, 26 February 1965, p. 2.

11 Australian High Commissioner to Department of External Affairs, Canberra, ‘Tanzania: Role of the Army and Police’, 15 February 1966, TNA/PRO/DO/213/103, f. 65a.

12 The stresses and strains of 1966 are effectively captured in Paul Nugent’s Africa since Independence (2004: Ch. 5).

13 British Embassy, Washington to Commonwealth Relations Office, 17 November 1964, TNA/ DO 185/8.

14 ‘Visit of Bishop Huddleston’, April 1966, DO 214/30, f. 113.

15 Editorial, ‘The Perils of Nyerere’, The Economist, 13 June 1964, p. 1217.

16 High Commissioner, Dar es Salaam to Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, ‘Alleged Western Plot’, DO 185/8, 1 February 1965.

17 ‘Translation of speech given by Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere, Kijangwani Playing Fields, Dar es Salaam, Sunday 15 November’, DO 185/8.

18 ‘Translation of speech given by Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere, Kijangwani Playing Fields, Dar es Salaam, Sunday 15 November’, DO 185/8.

19 Telegram from British Embassy in Washington to Foreign Office, ‘Western Plot’, 24 November 1964, DO 185/8.

20 Letter from Mohamed Alli Seffu, D.M. Kilimira and William Mtambo, ‘Matatizo ya Shule’, Ngurumo, 10 January 1967, p. 2.

21 Letter from Zibe Kidasi, ‘Waafrika wenye vyeo’, Ngurumo, 15 March 1965, p. 2. On Zibe Kidasi see Iliffe (1979: 408). Competition for urban housing and its growing cost was a constant theme in the Swahili press of the period, on which see Brennan (2006).

22 Editorial, ‘Mabeberu Waafrika’, Ngurumo, 11 January 1965, p. 2.

23 See Brennan (2006: 408–413) on the use of class rhetoric as a means by which the poor constructed a claim to urban citizenship.

24 The following two sections draw on arguments developed in Emma Hunter (2015).

25 When Nyerere gave the speech discussed above which sought to put a stop to the ‘Western Plot’ allegations, Kambona continued giving speeches in which he emphasised the threat posed by Western powers. High Commissioner, Dar es Salaam to Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, ‘Alleged Western Plot’, DO 185/8, 1 February 1965, p. 8.

26 ‘Tanu haijafa na haitakufa milele’, Ngurumo, 5 August 1967, p. 3.

27 Letter from John Rungimba, ‘Heko Chogga’, Ngurumo, 3 November 1967, p. 2.

28 ‘Kinyume cha Ujamaa’, Ngurumo, 21 October 1967, p. 2.

29 Editorial, ‘Ujamaa’, Ngurumo, 7 February 1967, p. 2.

30 Letter from P.J. Mattaka, ‘Unyonyaji’, Ngurumo, 3 June 1967, p. 2. Nyerere himself was very comfortable with a language of sin. The American diplomat James William Spain recalled a meeting with Nyerere when he asked: ‘Mr. Ambassador, can you remember from your school days what is the ‘ultimate sin’? (1998: 166).

31 ‘Nyerere Asema: Mwaka 1967 TANU itekeleze Ujamaa’, Uhuru, 24 January 1967, p. 1.

32 ‘Mwalimu alitangazia Taifa juu ya ‘Azimio la Arusha’, Uhuru, 6 February 1967, p. 1.


Lecturer in History and Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, since 2008. Her first book, Languages of Democracy in Tanzanian Decolonization: Global Discourses and Local Politics, is forthcoming with Cambridge University Press. She is currently working on a new project, funded by the British Academy, called ‘Concepts of Democracy in mid-twentieth-century Africa’.

© Africae, 2015

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