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Remembering Nyerere in Tanzania

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Marie-Aude Fouéré

Part 4. Julius Nyerere & His Critics

Chapter 7. Julius Rex: Nyerere through the Eyes of His Critics, 1953-2013

James R. Brennan

Note de l’auteur

This text was first published in the Journal of Eastern African Studies, vol. 8, no. 3 (2014), pp. 459–477. It is reprinted with permission. The author wishes to thank Marie-Aude Fouéré, Tom Molony, and the anonymous reviewers of Journal of Eastern African Studies for their helpful comments.

Texte intégral

But when I tell him he hates flatterers, He says he does, being then most flattered.
Julius Caesar, II.1.208

  • 1 African National Congress statement on the death of Julius Nyerere, 14 October 1999, ANC Department (...)
  • 2 Letter of Richard Gott, Guardian, 18 October 1999.

1Upon his death on 14th October 1999, a wave of fulsome obituaries praised the life and work of Julius Kambarage Nyerere, Tanzania’s first president and “father of the nation” (Baba wa Taifa). South Africa’s ANC declared Nyerere “an outstanding leader, a brilliant philosopher and a people’s hero – a champion for the entire African continent”.1 The journalist Richard Gott described him as “an extraordinarily benign and charismatic figure unequalled on the world stage”.2 Western leaders were only slightly less effusive. Bill Clinton declared Nyerere “a pioneering leader for freedom and self-government in Africa”; Tony Blair described him as “a leading African statesman of his time” and credited Tanzania’s peace as “in large part a tribute to Mwalimu”. Among frequent descriptors were modest, untainted, idealistic, honest, tireless, bright, wise, and compassionate. Yet most writers also acknowledged Tanzania’s dire economic difficulties.

2The Times best summarized what remains today the conventional wisdom on Nyerere:

  • 3 Obituary of Julius Nyerere, Times, 15 October 1999.

As a statesman Nyerere achieved a reputation for personal incorruptibility and principled dealings which made him stand out among post-independence African leaders. But his experiment in agricultural socialism, with its collectivization of traditional farming methods, was over-ambitious and ultimately disastrous.3

  • 4 David Frum, “Nyerere’s failed vision leaves lasting debt”, National Post (Ontario), 16 October 1999

3Not all obituaries were sympathetic. Conservatives indicted Nyerere’s political philosophy by stressing the authoritarian wreckage that his policies had wrought. David Frum, later infamous for coining the phrase ‘axis of evil’ as George W. Bush’s speech-writer, judged that Nyerere’s moniker, the “conscience of Africa”, was “overgenerous praise for a man who presided over a one-party dictatorship, plunged his country into socialist poverty and built a corruption-plagued bureaucracy, but everything is relative”.4 However, one obituary stands out for its unrestrained hostility. Anthony Daniels, a British psychiatrist and conservative commentator better known by his pen name Theodore Dalrymple, wrote:

JULIUS Kabarege [sic] Nyerere, for 25 years the president of Tanzania, has died aged 77 of leukaemia in London… Despite a poor education [sic], he was cultured enough to translate Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and The Merchant of Venice into Swahili. But, though he was widely admired and even revered as a secular saint in the West, his influence was almost wholly evil and pernicious… He was able to preserve his reputation for wisdom and saintliness in the West because he shrewdly realized that, to assuage its guilt for its slave-trading and colonial past, the West had need of an African hero. He also recognized that his audience would be far more interested in what he said than in what he did and had no interest at all in the reality of the Tanzania he had created. Nyerere was an African spin doctor. Even Tony Blair was taken in.

  • 5 Anthony Daniels, “Nyerere, the leader who achieved by cunning what Idi Amin achieved by force”, Dai (...)

4Daniels belittles Nyerere’s honorific title, Mwalimu ( “Teacher”), as “certainly a Professor of Poverty”, and concludes that the best that can be said for him was “that he could have been worse... [c] apable of ruthlessness, he was nevertheless not bloodthirsty, and in the context of postcolonial Africa that was no small virtue”.5

5By dramatically dissenting from the positive consensus, Daniels’ obituary resonates with an unstudied but significant body of Nyerere criticism that dates from the mid-1950s. Moreover, such heated attacks have not disappeared in the years since his death, as Nyerere’s political legacy continues to come under broad challenges informed by the thought and writings of his critics, ranging from the pettily personal to the robustly philosophical. The stakes of that debate are high, not only for those who oppose Tanzania’s embrace of economic liberalization, which Nyerere deplored, but also because contemporary political debate continues to conflate Nyerere, as ‘father of the nation’, with Tanzania’s larger national character.

  • 6 For starting points on internal dissenting groups, see, respectively, Hirji (2010); Hunter (2012); (...)

6This article examines and contextualizes three distinct groups of Nyerere critics – paternalist Anglo-American elites who sought to influence the path of Tanzania’s decolonization; a later generation of Western anti-socialist writers; and exiled or imprisoned Tanzanian political opponents. This is far from an exhaustive survey, for it omits other foreign critics, in particular those from rival African states, as well as internal critics who ranged from university radicals to mid-level party intellectuals to peasant farmers.6 What binds together the groups studied here is a shared sense of frustration with the signature hallmarks of Nyerere’s personality – the humble intellectual and unbending moral champion of the oppressed – that inevitably prefaced and shaped their wider criticisms. The substance of their criticisms also reflects the nature of political debate with Nyerere, who as teacher and president put great stock in the need for consensus through debate, but who in practice served as Tanzania’s lone authorized critic.

Anglo-American de-colonizers as Nyerere critics, 1955- 1970

  • 7 United States National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), College Park MD, Record Group (R (...)

7In the early years of his career, Nyerere distinguished himself from other African nationalists by the efforts he made to showcase his own comparative reasonableness. His acts of careful intellectual deliberation, in which he was seen to be weighing both sides of an issue, drew in most of his foreign admirers, who saw more than a little bit of themselves in Nyerere. He secured crucial American diplomatic support early on by befriending William ‘Red’ Duggan, consulate head in Dar es Salaam (1958-62) who found Nyerere an intellectual equal. Projecting his discomfort with ‘typical’ African nationalists, Duggan explained that Julius was “too modern, too disciplined mentally, too sophisticated to find companionship among more rabid, chaotic, gangster-type African political leaders”. Duggan’s biggest concern was with Nyerere’s softness, treating local extremists like a school master instead of a political leader.7 He later rhapsodized that Nyerere “lacks most vanities and conceits of the world’s great. He is able to laugh at his own mistakes. He is never arrogant” (Duggan and Civille, 1976: 42).

  • 8 NARA RG 59 778.00/4-2156, notes of conversation held on 19 January 1956 between Miss Margaret Bates (...)

8Nyerere faced a more skeptical audience among British colonial officers, none greater than Governor Edward Twining (1949-58). Though scornful of the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU), Twining saved his greatest critical energies for discussing Nyerere, whom he regarded “as a rather conceited would-be prophet”.8 He elaborated his view to the Colonial Office:

  • 9 United Kingdom National Archives (UKNA), Colonial Office (CO) 822/859/f.33, Twining to Lennox-Boyd, (...)

Julius Nyerere, who took a pass degree in history after four years in Edinburgh, considers himself to be a sort of prophet and sees in himself a second Nkrumah. He has no business head but undoubtedly has the gift of the gab and a quick brain.9

  • 10 UKNA CO 822/859, minute of Macpherson to Hare, 17 September 1956.
  • 11 UKNA Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) 141/17912, Tanganyika Special Branch study of Julius Kam (...)
  • 12 UKNA CO 822/859, minute of Mathieson to Gorell Barnes, 7 September 1956.
  • 13 UKNA CO 822/859, minute of Gorell Barnes to Macpherson, 12 September 1956.
  • 14 UKNA CO 822/912/f.30, Mathieson to Twining, 28 December 1956.

9Reflecting this wariness, the British administration code-named Nyerere “Rhubarb”,10 half palatable, half poisonous. Tanganyika’s Special Branch drew a particularly alarmist portrait, declaring that the TANU leader displayed “a strong racial prejudice” upon his return from Edinburgh in 1952, and was “a sensitive person quick to take offence and easily swayed by outside influences”.11 But in London, the Colonial Office welcomed the reasonableness that seemed to typify Nyerere. “[Nyerere] made a good impression on me”, East Africa Department head W.A.C. Mathieson, explained. “I felt that he was quite sincere and anxious to promote harmony in Tanganyika provided the African got a reasonably square deal”.12 Mathieson’s boss William Gorell Barnes concurred that Nyerere “is rather an attractive person... [h] e seems to me to be at one and the same time subtler and very much less unpleasant than Mr. Tom Mboya of Kenya. On the whole I would not expect him ever to resort deliberately to violence”.13 Mathieson ultimately recommended that “Nyerere is probably capable of being a moderate and sensible chap, liable to tailor his opinions to his audience, but nevertheless worth sweeping into the fold”.14

  • 15 UKNA CO 822/1362/f.162, Twining to Lennox-Boyd, 21 December 1957.
  • 16 UKNA CO 822/1449, minute of Webber to Gorell Barnes, 10 June 1959.
  • 17 Rhodes House, University of Oxford (RH) MSS Afr.s.2179, Colonial Records Project interview with Iai (...)
  • 18 RH MSS Afr.s.2089, Timothy Mayhew, “Reminisces” (1965–68), 139.
  • 19 UKNA CO 822/1450/f.246, Turnbull to Crawford, 9 July 1959.

10Yet in 1957, owing to his deteriorating relationship with Twining, Nyerere was abruptly swept out of the fold. “[I] n his present megalomaniac mood,” Twining speculated, “[Nyerere] is piqued that he is not being treated as a great national leader who, whenever he toots his trumpet, makes the walls of Jericho fall down. He is obviously in a bit of a mental and emotional muddle”.15 Practically alone among Colonial Office staffers, F. D. ‘Max’Webber grasped Nyerere’s essential radicalism, which almost single-handedly shifted the dates of constitutional reform across East Africa from decades to years. Webber stated bluntly that “I do not believe that Nyerere is a moderate and I think that once he gets control the Europeans and Asians will have a very bad time of it”.16 Nyerere had left Colonial Secretary Alan Lennox-Boyd cold, but his successor Iain Macleod found that he “formed an immediate liking for Julius Nyerere… [h] e had, I think perhaps more than any other African leader a peculiarly not just Western, but British, sense of humour, which is an odd sort of quirky thing”.17 In Tanganyika, more than a few rank-and-file administrators were impressed by Nyerere’s “sincerity and rationality”.18 Richard Turnbull, Twining’s successor, saw Nyerere through the expedient lens of limited alternatives. “It is essential for us to use Nyerere whilst he is still powerful”, he explained, warning that “[i] f we got into a shooting match, Nyerere would quickly be displaced, and instead of him we should have a group of hairy men demanding ‘Africa for the Africans’.19

11Nyerere was a transformative rather than a transactional leader. “One of his Nyerere’s greatest political gifts”, John Iliffe argues, “was to react creatively to situations which pressed on him, not merely satisfying demands but by his response transforming a political context to his own advantage” (Iliffe, 1979: 511). British and American admirers grasped this core point, and in the process were captured by Nyerere’s own improbability. They shared both optimism and disbelief. Visiting Butiama a year after independence, Judith Listowel described the wild juxtaposition of world statesman and his humble home:

  • 20 Listowel Papers (LP) Box 1 File 8, Listowel to Sister Maria Renata, 22 November 1962. I thank Lord (...)

I saw the rondavel in which Julius Nyerere was born, under a flat boulder on which sacrifices (not human, only animal) are still being held; when I met his brother, Chief Edward who has nine wives and 23 children, (I could go on…) I realized what a miracle it is that Julius Nyerere has become such a remarkable man, probably the most outstanding political leader in Africa.20

  • 21 Judith Listowel, “Tanganyika’s Chances”, The Tablet, 15 December 1962.

12Listowel, née Judith de Marffy-Mantuano, a Hungarian-born, British-based journalist who traveled in the social circles of colonial elites, attributed a similar incredulity to African elders across Tanganyika, in front of whom Nyerere had first appeared, “wearing the shortest shorts ever seen, leaning on a tall stick”, for how could he possibly vanquish the British, who themselves had “defeated the seemingly invincible Germans”.21

13Nyerere’s prophetic and utopian streaks grew clearer after independence. When the first American ambassador William Leonhart expressed his favorable impression of Tanganyika’s road construction progress, Nyerere lit up:

He had been relaxed; he was suddenly galvanized; his face came alive; his eyes shone; he jumped up and down as he spoke. Pointing his finger, the little man said, ‘Oh those big machines, I love them. Every time I saw one today I felt good all over. Machines are what we need, big ones. Roads and big machines are the answer. Give us big machines, and I will make a new world’.

  • 22 NARA RG 59 778.00/10-2262, memorandum of conversation, Julius K. Nyerere and William Leonhart, 5 Oc (...)
  • 23 RH MSS Afr.s.1604, memorandum entitled “Tanganyika: Church and Political Situation 1961” by Sydney (...)
  • 24 UKNA Dominions Office (DO) 213/209/f.4, Dominions Office note on Julius Nyerere, n. a., July 1963.

14“The man has the quality of enthusiasm and conviction”, Leonhart concluded, at last understanding “the irresistible appeal of Nyerere”.22 Other admirers took comfort that Nyerere’s own modesty licensed them to heap on praise that might go to the head of lesser African leaders. Douglas Willys, BBC’s East Africa correspondent in the early 1960s, commented that “[o] ne hesitates to praise him; one withdraws from embarrassing him or his views for acceptance is already general, and the gap between admiration and flattery is so narrow that is can only embarrass the modest, and Nyerere is the most modest and unassuming of men”.23 Yet these Anglo-American de-colonizers, proud to have transferred power to a figure so humble yet capable, also feared the growing gap between fragile idealism and the grubby realities of managing an African state. Britain’s successful decolonization had become worryingly dependent on a Gandhi-like figure who seemed to value convictions over results. “There’s a shadow of a death wish in him”, Turnbull told Nyerere’s best biographer, Time correspondent William Edgett Smith. “He likes to follow a principle to its logical end rather than its realistic end” (Smith, 1973: 30). Whitehall analysts worried that Nyerere was “by temperament, a philosopher not an administrator and he often fails to enforce his will on his more ambitious ministers even when they adopt courses of which he proposes to disapprove”. They also noted something new, that “[d] espite this he is not without an authoritarian streak”.24

  • 25 John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, Boston MA (JFKL) Presidential Office File (POF) 124- 013, bio (...)
  • 26 JFKL POF 124-13, biographic entry of Nyerere, n. a., dated 10 July 1963.

15In retrospect, Nyerere’s state visit to Washington in July 1963 marked the high point of official Anglo-American Tanzaphilia. Two year earlier, Kennedy was briefed by the CIA that Nyerere “is widely regarded as the ablest native leader in British Africa and as one of the most impressive nationalist figures on the African continent”, while highlighting Nyerere’s concern for excessive executive power among newly-independent African states, his dislike of violence and racialism, and generally modest disposition.25 By 1963, Nyerere was still reckoned a “force for moderation and racial harmony in his own country”, and stood out for being “among the most respected and influential leaders of the new nations of Africa”. His modesty was now more carefully noted – he was a “tireless worker who seldom has time for recreation, he is mild-mannered and unassuming, with a ready wit and a good sense of humor. He has little use for pomp and usually prefers to dress in a bright sport shirt. A chain smoker, Nyerere likes an occasional Scotch and soda or gin and tonic. He is a devout Catholic”.26

  • 27 Anthony Sampson, “Personal tragedy of Julius Nyerere”, Observer, 26 January 1964.

16Yet happy incredulity soon yielded to circumspection and disappointment. Anglo-American observers who looked upon Nyerere with cherished hopes from 1955 to 1963 grew wary after the Zanzibar revolution and army mutinies of early 1964, and began to fully abandon him following the nationalizations that accompanied the 1967 Arusha Declaration. The journalist Anthony Sampson deeply regretted the humiliation that the army mutiny – during which time Nyerere had gone into hiding – had inflicted. “He has two especially important qualities”, Sampson explained. “He detests violence and anything which smacks of it; and he has always disliked the extreme crudities of nationalism. He has insisted, against his political advantage, in attacking black racialism as much as white, and this undoubtedly has added to his peril”.27 Listowel, who had just authored The Making of Tanganyika (1965), a sympathetic and influential popular history of TANU and Nyerere, was already changing her tone:

  • 28 “The Delicate Balance”, The Tablet, 6 February 1965, 148.

It looks as though President Julius Nyerere, the man who went grey after the mutiny last February, has lost his grip. When some of his Ministers are on a world tour he speaks like an echo of his former self, but as soon as the ‘satraps’ are back he becomes their mouthpiece again. One feels sorry for the man who, a couple of years ago, wanted to light a torch on the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro to show the world a country of racial harmony. Hard-working, idealistic, honest but soft, he finds himself lost among the turmoil of world political intrigue.28

  • 29 LP Box 1 File 9, Listowel to Turnbull, 7 April 1967.

17Long-whispered rumors of family madness grew louder. Shortly after the Arusha Declaration, Listowel explained to ex-Governor Turnbull that Nyerere’s “nervous system is beginning to give way”.29

  • 30 See, inter alia, “Nyerere’s Integration Problem”, Daily Telegraph, 28 August 1967.
  • 31 LP Box 1 File 9, “Socialism in Tanzania” by Judith Listowel, BBC script for transmission on 17 May  (...)
  • 32 Judith Listowel, “President Nyerere’s Fight for Unity”, Times (London), 9 April 1965.

18Such disappointed observers tended to interpret Nyerere’s actions through two contradictory lenses. The first focused on Nyerere’s personal virtues and foibles; the second, on his guileless role as tool of Cold War puppeteers. The sharp deterioration of relations in 1965, beginning with the expulsion of American diplomats and culminating in the break in relations with Great Britain following Rhodesia’s UDI, were viewed by British and American conservative media as the work of the USSR and China.30 Nyerere’s unabashed enthusiasm for Maoist China as political ally and role model following his state visit that same year alarmed Anglo-American de-colonizers. Intellectual agency had to be external. Listowel attributes Nyerere’s official embrace of socialism in 1967 with the Arusha Declaration to his reading of the French agronomist René Dumont’s False Start in Africa (1966), which decried capital-intensive ‘neo-colonial’ policy continuities, called for stripping African rulers of all privileges and luxuries, and recommended that African states instead concentrate resources “on agricultural development since over 80 % of all Africans are poor farmers”.31 Yet erstwhile optimistic liberals also saw Nyerere’s uncompromising stance against South Africa and willingness to accept Soviet and Chinese support as revealing hitherto hidden qualities. “With quiet but purposeful fanaticism”, Listowel explained, Julius Nyerere was prepared “to pay any price to achieve the supreme end: the liberation of all Africa,” though now he needed only the backing of a “small but important group of African intellectuals” and not “the Tanganyikan masses, desperately poor and still largely illiterate”.32

  • 33 LP Box 1 File 9, Listowel to Bullock, 17 April 1967.
  • 34 On British journalism and political engagement in 1960s Tanzania, see especially Hunter (2004).

19As both an ex-spouse of a colonial governor and a working journalist, Judith Listowel best typifies this elite Anglo-American shift to a resigned criticism of Nyerere as inevitable dictator. Her livelihood depended on the general reader’s interest. She explained to a friend the paradoxical effects of the continent’s growing instability in the later 1960s – “for the British public is getting not only disinterested but bored and annoyed with the Africans”.33 By this time, a new journalism of detached Afropessimist malaise, succored by the buffoonery of Emperor Bokassa and Field Marshall Amin, as well as the cloak-and-dagger mischief of Frederick Forsyth, was beginning to displace a decade of engaged journalism that viewed British politics in tandem with those of Africa’s new nations.34 After surviving a wave of political crises in the immediate years that followed the Arusha Declaration, Nyerere nonetheless, according to Listowel, had:

retained his sense of humour and his charm, which is enhanced by his hair having turned grey at the early age of 47. But he has hardened; toughness is no longer an effort for him. The cynics say that he has come to terms with the utterly irremediable poverty of his country and has wisely decided that since there is no hope of the peasant farmer having a better life, no one else shall have one either. What they forget is that in this case Nyerere’s principles coincide with Tanzania’s realities.

  • 35 Judith Listowel, “Tanzania and her future: problems of building African socialism”, The Round Table(...)

20She concluded with a soothing anecdote to justify Western disengagement. “There is a story that many years ago Julius Nyerere told a friend”, Listowel explained. “‘I am going to try British democracy, but I know that it will not work. Then I am going to apply the system of our chiefs – after all, my father was one too – and that will work better. The rest will depend on luck’. He has had the luck and Tanzania the results.”35

Foreign critics of Ujamaa-era Nyerere, 1970-1985

  • 36 For an early appreciation, see Mazrui (1967); for villagization, see Jennings (2008).
  • 37 UKNA FCO 31/1764, draft of FCO briefing for the Prime Minister’s meeting with President Nyerere of (...)
  • 38 David Reed, “Freedom’s Rocky Road”, Reader’s Digest, February 1973.

21By the 1970s, outsiders no longer viewed Nyerere as someone to be molded, and accepted that he had become a fully committed socialist sworn to the causes of non-alignment and southern African liberation from minority rule. Western leftists continued to fete “Mwalimu,” projecting onto him their own hopes of what Ujamaa or African rural socialism should be, even as the failures and abuses of Tanzania’s villagization project grew difficult to ignore.36 Meanwhile, older Anglo-American de-colonizers had yielded to a more realist-minded generation of policy-makers who viewed Nyerere as neither ally nor enemy, but as indispensable sovereign actor on Africa’s diplomatic chess board, to be courted with both energy and caution. For them, Nyerere’s primary value was based on his enduring control over a stable and strategic country. Britain’s FCO concluded that, though there was some disquiet among rightist ‘liberals’ upset with state overreach, and among ‘left-wing theorists’ who sought a more doctrinaire socialism, neither “have any organized identity and loyalty to Nyerere is overriding”.37 Nyerere’s impeccable moral stature and political savvy led Washington policy-makers to conclude that diplomatic settlements in southern Africa could not be achieved without his full inclusion. A deeply impressed Henry Kissinger regarded him as “a seductive interlocutor… capable of steely hostility,” but above all as “the key to the front-line states” (Kissinger, 1990: 932, 936). It was left to the rock-ribbed, anti-socialist Cold Warriors who opposed the defeatism of détente to land the sharpest rhetorical blows against Nyerere, as he grew into the role of elder African statesman. Reader’s Digest, the most popular venue for this perspective, editorialized that “Julius Nyerere, President of Tanzania, denounces racial injustices in South Africa, but keeps black people under lock and key without trial, some for eight years now”.38 In Britain, this group was best represented organizationally by the Monday Club, a far-right coterie of Conservative Party members who opposed Britain’s abandonment of its settler colonies, as well as the sharp rise in Commonwealth immigration (McNeil, 2011). Its members publicized Tanzania’s role in facilitating Chinese subversion in Africa (Greig, 1977, 132–133), and supported Nyerere’s exiled enemies (see below).

22But it was more cerebral conservative writers, whose goal was to discredit the socialist convictions that undergirded projects of Nyerere and Western leftists alike, who would develop the most searching criticisms of ujamaa-era Nyerere. This marked an important shift in two ways. First, this new generation of foreign critics had not come to their subject through a direct relationship with an accessible former schoolteacher, but rather stood at a distance from the one-party state leader who had formulated his own doctrine of African socialism and with it collectivized rural agriculture. Second, their core objection to Nyerere was ultimately philosophical rather than personal and temperamental, and thus they took his intellectual work rather more seriously.

23Anthony Daniels, author of the provocative obituary above, best typifies this group. Having worked in Tanzania as a village doctor during 1984-86, Daniels distills Mwalimu’s rival elements of modesty and power into a tale of hypocrisy. In his travelogue Zanzibar to Timbuktu, Daniels conjures a scene in Dodoma where Nyerere arrives to greet various party and government figures:

While I stared into the marvelously starry sky, a yellow Mercedes drew up. Mwalimu Nyerere had come for a chat with some of the Ndugu [‘comrades’]. How natural he was! How without affectation! Just another man, in fact. Of course, he has made something of a career of modesty in a continent famous for its ostentation and corruption. But if he is so modest, I wondered, how can he go round the world – in a special jet – telling it how it ought to be organized? And if he is such an egalitarian, how is it that when his daughter is mildly indisposed she goes to an expensive London clinic rather than to her local dispensary? I stared once more into the starry sky. The universe has many mysteries (Daniels, 1988: 27).

24Daniels developed a fuller criticism of socialist Tanzania in his lampoon novel Filosofa’s Republic. Writing under the pseudonym of Thursday Msigwa, Daniels fictionalizes Tanzanian socialism as the ‘Human Mutualism’ of the state of Ngombia, led by ‘Cicero B. Nyayaya’. ‘Filosofa’ (i.e., ‘Mwalimu’) Nyayaya is a rather distant figure in this village-set novella, though his ‘Human Mutualism’ aphorisms, unvaryingly hubristic and naïve – “Under Human Mutualism there will be no wealth and no poverty. All social distinctions will cease” (Ibid: 44)– preface each chapter. Nyayaya’s exhibitionist use of his own humility ( “humility was a favourite word of Filosofa’s”, Ibid: 4) delivers the satire’s strongest commentary. Bishop Herbalgoode, a caustic caricature of Bishop Trevor Huddleston, remains a spiritual adviser to Nyayaya, travelling “frequently to Ngombia from his slum diocese to console Filosofa for the travails of power” (Ibid: 121). Herbalgoode winds up giving a long encomium to Filosofa at a British university conference that ends up, once more, celebrating Filosofa’s modesty, that he “should openly have questioned his ability to lead at a time when no one else entertained such doubts” (Ibid: 122).

25Daniels’ critique of Nyerere’s Ujamaa is a classically conservative one– that socialism is doomed to fail because it denies both the value of tradition and the individual acquisitiveness of human nature. Nyayaya’s humbleness, whether personally authentic or not, cleverly masks the underlying socialistic conceit to divine everyone’s best interest, as well as to ensure the material privileges of a political elite while leaving the rest to navigate the black market realities that sustained village life. This perspective had already been gaining adherents, even among former fellow travelers. The Guardian’s Xan Smiley reported in 1980 that:

  • 39 Xan Smiley, “How smugglers ended Nyerere’s dream”, Guardian, 10 August 1980.

Even today, remarkable play is made of his austerity. Unseduced by flashy cars, glossy airports and skyscrapers that are often de rigueur in other parts of Africa, Nyerere pays himself little, dresses simply, and earns praise from Western journalists for his engaging habit of admitting mistakes. He is taken seriously. Yet nowadays in Tanzania, ujamaa itself is hardly ever mentioned… it has been eclipsed by another catch-all Swahili phrase, magendo (black market).39

26The most stinging of all the socialist-era Nyerere critics is Shiva Naipaul, a Trinidadian and younger brother to Sir V.S. Naipaul. In his travelogue North of South, based on a tour of Kenya, Tanzania, and Zambia in the late 1970s, Shiva Naipaul finds a poignant intellectual hopelessness in Ujamaa Tanzania, which flows from the unidirectional teachings meant to connect Nyerere to his supporters. Naipaul describes Nyerere as inhabiting “a special place in the moral firmament for himself, his policies, and by extension his country”, primarily because he “is just about the only African head of state one can contemplate without immediate sensations of outrage or embarrassment” (Naipaul, 1979: 197–198). He explores the subterranean psychology that cosmopolitan observers might share when contemplating Nyerere’s Tanzania:

Even Tanzophobes will pause at [Nyerere’s] name and dole out the ritual praise. Nyerere is a good man. Nyerere is a sincere man. Nyerere does not feather his nest. See how simply he dresses. See how simply he lives. The ‘Mwalimu” (Teacher) reinforces faltering faith; he makes it possible to believe – if only for a little while – that African can be taken seriously, that Africa really wants to ‘liberate’ itself (Ibid: 198).

27Tanzania, he continues, similarly stimulates “the fantasies of a certain type of outmoded European socialist – men and women of a somewhat pastoral and utopian turn of mind – whose socialism fades by imperceptible degrees into a kind of benevolent, condescending patronage of the backward and deprived” (Ibid: 199).

28Yet it is Naipaul’s interactions with the man-on-the-street, a taxi driver named Abdallah, that fully develop his criticism – a criticism which flows not from conservative political conviction as with Daniels, but from despair at the disconnection between words and meaning. Abdallah debates with Naipaul using the omnipresent socialist language of national enemies – exploiters, capitalists, reactionaries, revisionists– who are besieging and undermining what would otherwise be a prosperous society. “The pat words, the pat phrases, unleavened by thought, came pouring out of Abdallah’s mouth. In this society he could qualify as an ‘intellectual’” (Ibid: 271), the narrator regrets. Abdallah, also a local ten-cell party leader, comes to share the narrator’s despair:

“I try to be an idealist. Mwalimu wants all of us to be idealists.” “But not many are?”
“That is the trouble,” Abdallah said. “Human nature – it is a terrible thing. Many pretend to be idealists but few are”
(Ibid: 273).

29Naipaul concludes by suggesting that “in Tanzania, where performance consistently negates intention, where every commodity – butter, meat, milk, cheese, fish, chocolate, knives, forks, spoons, cups, saucers, baby diapers – is in short supply, the socialist revolution is being built with words” (Ibid: 282). Naipaul finds Nyerere’s largest fault not in his readiness to imprison foes, or even to hypocritically display his material humbleness while insisting that the less privileged do likewise. Rather, it is that Nyerere is a teacher who brooks no disagreement and engages in no genuine debate, and thus his words – most paradoxically, given Nyerere’s uniquely wide and ambitious publications and speeches on political philosophy – mainly carry the power to dull public discourse.

Nyerere’s Tanzanian critics: irony, exile, imprisonment

  • 40 For examples of this indirect style in Dar es Salaam, see Brennan (2006); for factionalism among po (...)

30Outsiders like Daniels and Naipaul approached Nyerere through abstractions like socialism and justice, which they juxtaposed with the ironic realities of an impoverished and hierarchical society. The most vocal Tanzanian critics, by contrast, approached Nyerere through their own visceral experience of his autocratic power. Nyerere’s earliest internal detractors came to resent the upstart’s lightning success. These figures were more firmly established, either through age (Hassan Suleiman, Seleiman Takadiri), royal lineage (Abdullah Fundikira, Thomas Marealle), or commercial success (John Rupia, the Sykes and Aziz families). Nyerere was widely seen among this group as the obvious choice to lead the Tanganyika African Association – which in 1954 reinvented itself as the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU)– because of his superior education (Edinburgh MA), command of English, and formidable debating skills. Except for the outspoken Takadiri, who was expelled from TANU in 1958 after attacking Nyerere for favoring Christians over Muslims, this group muted their criticisms after Nyerere’s ascent to power (Iliffe, 1979: 507–576; Said, 1998: 110–147, 233–260). His retirement in 1985 and the country’s return to multi-party elections, however, unleashed a wave of pent-up, bitter commentary and historical revisionism. Criticism while Nyerere was in office mainly took the indirect form of subtle and ironic wordplay. Direct barbs were aimed not at him but at his lieutenants, who represented one or other ideological faction within the party or government.40

31The most consequential of these oblique insults was the peculiar trajectory of the term Mwalimu itself. Nyerere had not yet become Mwalimu in the 1950s, and instead endured a host of embarrassing but mercifully short-lived praise names – ‘our Savior’, ‘the Immaculate’, and ‘the Most Honourable’ – that would be enthusiastically embraced by other nationalist leaders (Lowenkopf, 1961: 140). Mwalimu means ‘Teacher’, and this became Nyerere’s quasi-official designation in 1962, sometime between February when he resigned as Prime Minister and November when he returned to office elected as President, and would remain his principal praise name thereafter. If its suitability is straightforward – Nyerere was employed as a teacher until 1954, and embraced a theatrically didactic approach to political leadership – its history as political moniker remains less clear. One intriguing account comes from the political scientist John Nellis, who argues that Mwalimu was first created in 1962 as a gentle rebuke against the man who embraced compromise and racial moderation at no apparent cost to himself, while others were forced to await Africanization. Nellis does not identify the insulters, though it seems likely that they would have included the above-mentioned established figures who had viewed Nyerere as a fortunate outsider to nationalist politics. Nellis does explain that these critics had realized:

that an open attack upon such a revered public figure would be suicidal, and noting Nyerere’s habit of using public platforms to lecture his followers and colleagues, rather than serve up bombastic political harangue, the few detractors coined the nickname ‘Mwalimu’. This was meant to connote, mildly, it must be remembered, a slight tendency towards pedagogic pomposity on Nyerere’s part.

  • 41 Letter from John Nellis to John Richard Crutcher, 16 November 1966, quoted in Crutcher (1968: 287, (...)

32Be it by dullness or political miracle, mocking irony transubstantiated into numinous authority. “[B] oth Nyerere’s supporters and the mass of the people took the title as a compliment”, Nellis continues. “Nyerere’s close associates began to use the title in a praiseworthy sense,” because it not only connotes a “tendency towards pomposity, towards empty moralization, towards patronization” but also “intelligent concern about scholarly authority”.41

  • 42 NARA RG 59 778.00/4-1861, Duggan to DOS, 18 April 1961.
  • 43 LP Box 1 File 9, Listowel to Turnbull, 13 April 1967.
  • 44 They were connected to the paper in a subsequent treason trial that followed their arrest in 1969 f (...)
  • 45 Ukweli, 28 July 1968, copy in Lady Chesham Papers, Box 4, Borthwick Institute, University of York.

33Nyerere’s real opposition came from within TANU, as the short-lived formal opposition parties – the Tanganyika African National Congress (ANC) and the All-Muslim National Union of Tanganyika (AMNUT)– were ludicrously unsuccessful. Speaking of Nyerere at Karl Marx University in Leipzig, ANC leader Zuberi Mtemvu could only weakly muster that “when so many praises are sung about a nationalist in the capitalist metropoles then you know that in the leader you may have another TSHOMBE”42 – the Katangan leader whose secession from Congo and acceptance of Western support made his name a byword for imperial sellout. These parties largely disappeared with Nyerere’s overwhelming 1962 presidential victory; after the 1964 army mutiny, stray remnants of organized opposition disappeared in the face of certain imprisonment (Brennan, 2005). As Tanzania embraced a more rigorous socialism following the Arusha Declaration in 1967, those who stayed within the political system could offer only muffled, off-the-record criticisms. Paul Bomani confided to Listowel that he thinks that “Julius is out of his mind”, and told her, three times no less, that “we will not live under a crazy Nyerere dynasty”.43 Open criticism required either the panoplies of deeply abstracted theory, as typified debates over socialism at the University of Dar es Salaam, or the foolhardy posturing of politicians willing to risk jail. Most remarkable of this latter group are the writings of Grey Mattaka and John Life Chipaka, who in 1968 anonymously published the vituperative newspaper, Ukweli.44 One issue of Ukweli (‘Truth’), which figured in a subsequent treason trial, proclaimed rather wildly that Nyerere was a madman, an exploiter, and a thief (kichaa, mnyonyaji, mwizi), and elaborated that he horded stolen cash in a Swiss bank account, enjoyed funding from the CIA, Aga Khan, and wealthy local Asians such as Amir Jamal, Andy Chande, and Abdulkarim Karimjee. The writers saved their harshest attacks for Nyerere’s relationship with white women, alleging that his two strongest supporters were Lady Chesham, a American ‘CIA agent’, and Joan Wicken, Nyerere’s British personal assistant and hawara (mistress).45

  • 46 Xan Smiley, “How smugglers ended Nyerere’s dream”, Guardian, 10 August 1980.

34Most direct criticisms of Nyerere were voiced from exile or prison. Among the latter, Amnesty International estimated that there were between 1,500 and 2,000 detainees being held without trial on the mainland in 1977.46 Three major waves of political displacement had produced these imprisoned and exiled critics, each wave marking a significant event in the country’s postcolonial history. The first came with the Zanzibar Revolution, that saw thousands flee into exile to Oman, Kenya, mainland Tanganyika, and the United Kingdom, the latter to which the overthrown Sultan himself and his entourage emigrated. The second followed in 1967 following the fall from grace and departure of Oscar Kambona, Nyerere’s most prominent rival. The final wave followed assassination of Zanzibar President Abeid Karumein April 1972, when several ex-Umma party figures were imprisoned or made to flee.

  • 47 “A Challenge to Nyerere”, Free Zanzibar Voice, July/August 1971.
  • 48 Sections were later incorporated into Muhsin’s self-published memoir (2000).

35Unsettling Nyerere’s popular global standing became the primary goal of the Free Zanzibar Voice (FZV), a publication of the Zanzibar Organisation edited by Ahmed Seif Kharusi from Southsea, England. Zanzibaris suffering imprisonment and torture in Zanzibar and on the mainland were identified as victims of Nyerere’s autocratic and abusive tendencies. Appealing to the anti-communist sensibilities of their ideal readers and potential patrons, items in the Free Zanzibar Voice rarely failed to mention that Zanzibar’s prison wardens were schooled in the torture tactics of the communist octopus stretching from East Germany and ‘Red China’ into Tanzania and across East and Central Africa. Even before Karume’s assassination, Nyerere had become the paper’s principal target. “He poses to the outside world as an angel”, the paper explained, “while at home he is a devil-incarnate. He seems to play the role of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”.47 The most arresting content of FZV was letters smuggled out of prisons to indict the hypocrisy of Tanzania’s positive humanitarian image. I Was Nyerere’s Prisoner, a short book authored by former ZNP leader Ali Muhsin al-Barwani and published by Kharusi, typifies this genre.48 The work drips with bitterness toward Nyerere – unsurprisingly, given it was penned after a decade of imprisonment on mainland Tanzania without charge. Nyerere, Muhsin contends, had intervened to prevent the murder of ZNP ministers in order to secure the new regime’s legitimacy, “[b] ut slow, silent, sure murder years afterwards”, through imprisonment and control orders, “would evoke little comment” (Muhsin, 1975: 11). Nyerere’s liberal use of imprisonment, Muhsin argued, was “calculated merely to terrorise the populace and to make them conscious all the time that there is on top of them an arbitrary power that brooks no interference, no criticism” (Ibid: 16). Muhsin also neatly summarized the sense of institutional frustration that he other opponents shared, by contending that everything Nyerere does “is whitewashed with British liberalism and Roman [C] atholicism” (Ibid: 26).

  • 49 “Does Nyerere Practise What He Preaches?”, Free Zanzibar Voice, September/October 1971.
  • 50 “The Duty that lies West of Zanzibar”, Free Zanzibar Voice, March 1973.
  • 51 “Nyerere vs. Jumbe: a legal tug-of-war”, Free Zanzibar Voice, April 1973.

36With the same bitter effectiveness employed by foreign critics, FZV juxtaposed the idealism of Nyerere’s writings with political conditions on the ground. Nyerere’s stated opposition to mobilizing development through force, outlined in his pamphlet Freedom and Development, was rendered meaningless by his decision to repatriate Zanzibaris to Karume’s prisons. FZV called Nyerere’s own conscience into question, which somehow allowed him “to live in peace as the Head of a State when it is he who condones the injustices and atrocities perpetrated by the cutthroat authorities in Zanzibar to the helpless people, while Zanzibar is part and parcel of the State he rules”.49 Nyerere had moved from distaste for Karume immediately after the revolution to indifference, and then to ‘something worse’ by 1968, when he handed over Kassim Hanga and Othman Sharif, accused of treason on the islands, to Karume and thus to their certain deaths. Following Karume’s 1972 assassination, Nyerere had continued to comply with the requests of Karume’s successor, Aboud Jumbe.50 Nyerere had made Zanzibar “his vast concentration camp with its torture chambers and the lot”.51 Indeed, the idea of ‘Afrabia’, which presupposes a harmonious Zanzibar undone by Nyerere’s meddling (see below), was already being nurtured by FZV exiles during the 1970s. In a rhetorical questionnaire constructed for Nyerere, FZV editors asked:

  • 52 “The Freedom of Zanzibar: A Questionnaire for Nyerere”, Free Zanzibar Voice, April 1973.

1. Was Julius Nyerere given instructions to unite the African and Shirazi Associations to form a party to oppose the ZNP?
4. Why did the ASP leaders pay frequent visits to see him in Dares-Salaam when efforts were underway to unite ASP and ZNP? 10. Apart from other known sources of help, who helped the ASP to stage a bloody coup d’etat?
12. Why did he [Nyerere] despatch Tanganyika Troops to Zanzibar less than 24 hours after the coup started? Was it to keep law and order or to reinforce the coup?52

  • 53 “Prisoners should be freed”, Free Zanzibar Voice, July/August 1973.

37FZV embraced Amnesty International, which it hoped might finally damage Nyerere’s moral credibility. His international reputation remained frustratingly high, they argued, “only amongst those who do not want to see the man as he really is. To those who know him, he is merely a hypocrite and a humbug. Time only will remove the sheep’s clothing to show us the naked wolf”.53

  • 54 As recounted in Mwijage’s updated version of the same book, retitled Julius K Nyerere: Servant of G (...)
  • 55 Communication with Mohamed Said, 31 March 2011.

38Full book-length criticisms of Nyerere by Tanzanians only came after he had stepped down from office in 1985. The three most significant were Barwani’s memoir (self-published in 2000 but circulating in the mid-1990s), Ludovick Mwijage’s The Dark Side of Nyerere’s Legacy (1994); and Mohamed Said’s The Life and Times of Abdulwahid Sykes (1998). Each book was written to elicit a response from Nyerere. Mwijage mailed his book directly to Nyerere in 1994, without reply.54 Said’s book at least caught the attention of Haroub Othman, who told Said that he had told Nyerere to respond directly to Barwani and Said with a written account of his own, a challenge Nyerere never took up.55 In all three accounts, Nyerere stands as a distant rather than familiar figure, internationally loved abroad while imprisoning opponents for spurious or sinister reasons at home.

39Writing in the vein of liberal human rights critic, Mwijage shares FZV’s focus of unlawful imprisonment and security service abuses. Mwijage himself had left Tanzania after multiple arrests for Swaziland, where he was seized by Frelimo security in 1983, handed over to Tanzanian intelligence, and returned to Dar es Salaam for internment. He was eventually released and rusticated, slipped out of the country to Rwanda, and received asylum in Denmark. From Copenhagen Mwijage published the serial Tanzania Argus (later Africa Argus) between 1989 and 1995 – a platform, often highly personalized, for ex-filtrated prisoner letters and political criticisms of post-Nyerere Tanzania. As author of the dystopian African political novel Of Magic and Mutiny (2001), Mwijage offered criticisms of a fictionalized Tanzania (‘Kanyinya’) that suffered through the authoritarian rule of the country’s first president, the socialist Andreas Goudas, who happily used a private jet to attend ideological conferences denouncing North-South inequality, as well as mobilizing a para-militarized Youth Wing and one-party apparatus to eliminate political opposition, at least until his unexpected military overthrow (Mwijage, 2001).

40But it is as narrator of his own imprisonment and exile– an experience which Mwijage connects to Nyerere’s larger history of autocratic rule and quickness to imprison opponents – that gives his memoir uncommon rigor and pathos. Mwijage concludes with a rights-based argument for African self-reliance, which includes confronting Tanzania’s dictatorial past with both self-awareness and honesty.

41Mohamed Said’s book, by contrast, presents a useable counter-narrative of Tanzanian nationalism that has gained a significant and largely Muslim public constituency. Nyerere remains at the narrative center, no longer the benevolent philosopher king but now a diabolic despot who carries out the will of larger, malevolent, and opaque institutions – alternatively the U.K., the United States, the Vatican, China, and Soviet Union. Said’s underlying foundation is not a critique of human rights like Mwijage, but an often tendentious argument of deliberate religious marginalization. Said’s Nyerere not only elbows aside an earlier generation of Muslim nationalists to usurp control of the movement in 1953-54, but is also the post-colonial dismantler of the East African Muslim Welfare Society, a civil society organization that sought to propagate Islam through construction of mosques and schools. Its banning in 1968, according to Said, marks the culmination of Nyerere’s efforts to guarantee Christian hegemony in Tanzania (Said, 1998: 282–315). The most recent contribution in this vein of useable counter-narrative is Harith Ghassany’s history of the Zanzibar Revolution, Kwaheri Ukoloni, Kwaheri Uhuru! (2010), which calls for the reconciliation of ‘Afrabia’, i.e., the ‘African’ and ‘Arab’ elements that comprise Zanzibar. This formulation deliberately embraces the ZNP and its rival ‘African’ Afro-Shirazi Party (ASP), whose competition set in motion the Zanzibar Revolution, and by extension embraces both the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) and its rival Civic United Front (CUF) in Zanzibar today. By using the language of reconciliation and inclusion, Ghassany’s work offers broad appeal in Zanzibar, but as history it relies on portraying Nyerere as mastermind of the Zanzibar Revolution, who led an unforgiveable mainland invasion in which the ASP plays the role of forgivable pawn. The formidable counter-narratives of Said and Ghassany are important as works of remembrance and political metanarrative crafting, but are also profoundly flawed as works of history. But they at least shift attention to the history of those political figures whose transgressions left them imprisoned or in exile; traitors who in earlier narratives figured, if at all, as short-lived vectors of reactionary intrigue.

  • 56 Letter of Oscar Kambona, Guardian, 7 April 1971.

42Nyerere’s most threatening critic was Oscar Kambona, who fled Tanzania in July 1967 for London after having fallen out with Nyerere over ujamaa and anticipating imminent arrest. Kambona drafted but never published a memoir, yet made something of an exile’s career writing pamphlets and letters. In 1971 after much lobbying, Kambona persuaded the strongly pro-Nyerere Guardian to publish a letter that attacked Nyerere for removing all separation between the party and the government. Although Kambona himself had supported this position while in government, from his London exile he lambasted Nyerere for transforming the party “into a subservient organ of the regime and its clique at the top.”56 Yet even on this most visible of public stages, Kambona failed to elicit a response from Nyerere, who determinedly ignored all of his exiled critics. Using the name of the “Co-ordination Committee for Freedom and Democracy in Tanzania” from a Kensington address shared by other organizations receiving Monday Club support, Kambona later offered a more scurrilous pamphlet that summarized, crudely if effectively, both his personal and public disagreements with Nyerere and Trevor Huddleston, his most fervent British backer, in a broadside attack of the recently-formed Anglo-Tanzania Committee (today’s Britain-Tanzania Society) in 1974. One section entitled ‘Do You Know?’ suggested that:

For 30 bags of maize Nyerere sells Mandela, Sebukwe, Sithole, Nkomo and Nujoma
That Nyerere is a mental case...
Nyerere is a new Tshombe
That Nyerere’s days are numbered...

  • 57 Co-ordination Committee for Freedom and Democracy in Tanzania pamphlet entitled ‘Anglo-Tanzania Com (...)
  • 58 Oscar Kambona, “The Time I Met Mao”, Salisbury Review, June 1991, 19.

43The pamphlet also referenced two alleged extra-marital affairs – first, rather opaquely by asking Amon Nsekela, then Tanzania’s High Commissioner in London and co-founder with Huddleston of the Anglo-Tanzania Committee, who the real High Commissioner was, him or “Mrs. Howell”, in reference to Lucille Howell, long-standing staffer at the High Commission and long-alleged Nyerere paramour; and second, more directly, by asking Nyerere ‘Isn’t Maria jealous of Joan?’, in plain reference to Nyerere’s wife and private secretary, respectively. Kambona went on to allege that Nyerere “has turned all the youth and all the schools in Tanzania as a means of his personal glorification on Mao’s style”, and that Nyerere was not a citizen of Tanzania for his parents had come from Kenya during the First World War. Kambona attacked Nyerere’s exhibitionist modesty, not for its gamesmanship to psychologically disarm opponents that disturbed foreign critics, but rather more directly for its simple hypocrisy. The Nyerere family, Kambona alleged, enjoyed “luxurious international hotel with swimming pool and sauna bath” at the “so-called Butiama Ujamaa Village,” and Nyerere’s “corrupt brother Joseph, with six wives, gets a salary of 7,000 shillings, makes him the second highest paid” person in Tanzania next to the president himself.57 Kambona would long dine out on stories of Nyerere and Mao, whose first meeting he marks as the key event in Nyerere’s turn to authoritarianism. “On the way back to Tanzania”, he later wrote about their February 1965 trip to Beijing that they had taken together, “Nyerere talked about how development had been possible in China only because of one leader. He said that ministerial portraits in the ministries in Tanzania were confusing the loyalties of the civil servants, and henceforth only his picture should appear there”.58

  • 59 There is no adequate biography; for helpful overviews, see Othman (2001).

44By the mid-1970s, prison writing had become a recognizable Tanzanian literary genre characterized by a skilled professionalism, particularly in the letters of Abdulrahman Babu, who was convicted of involvement with Karume’s assassination, and had already made a long career as journalist, essayist, and cabinet member, not to mention revolutionary.59 These works featured in the journal Habusu ( “Prisoner”), which sought to attract human rights activists and anyone opposing Nyerere. At their most inventive, these writers attacked Nyerere where he was strongest, on his liberation struggle credentials and demand for African dignity. One anonymous letter explained:

  • 60 “How I became a State Guest”, n. a., Habusu 6 (1976), Northwestern University Library.

One day, while in detention in Ukonga prison Dar es Salaam, we came across a copy of the government owned “DAILY NEWS” which showed how our African brothers were being humiliated in South African prisons – the humiliation being a naked search of the prisoners. My first reaction was to ask if that picture so boldly displayed by the “DAILY NEWS” had not in fact been taken at Ukonga, Keko or any other Tanzanian prison. For not only are prisoners daily paraded in the nude, as anyone who has access to the big prison yard between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. will be able to testify; not only did condemned people have to submit to most humiliating exposure in front of us every morning and afternoon, but hardly a week passed without we ourselves, detainees, being lined up in the nude – for the stupid excuse that we may have cigarettes.60

  • 61 Amnesty International’s annual reports on Tanzania over the 1970s increasingly stress the thousand- (...)

45These were stinging inversions of Tanzania’s sterling anti-colonial image, an image that was both well-earned and carefully burnished. The contemporary impact of these writings of Zanzibari and other political prisoners featured in Habusu and Free Zanzibar Voice seems to have been minimal within Tanzania. But outside, such writings did gradually erode Nyerere’s standing over the 1970s, at least among an emerging group of internationalist activists who eschewed collectivist utopias represented by Ujamaa in favor of the individualist utopia of human rights law.61

Conclusion

  • 62 “Nyerere’s reported doubts about the one-party system in Africa”, 11 June 1986, BBC Monitoring Summ (...)
  • 63 “Nyerere denounces party’s ‘incompetence’”, 20 January 1987, BBC Monitoring Summary of World Broadc (...)
  • 64 James McKinley, “African Statesman Still Sowing Seeds for Future”, New York Times, 1 September 1996

46After retiring in 1985, Nyerere’s relationship with his own political legacy grew increasingly fraught. He defended the union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar in adamant, even alarmist terms (Nyerere, 1995). Yet he also raised doubts about the viability and desirability of the one-party state, explaining that the lack of competition led to complacency.62 CCM officials had grown distant from the grass roots – if parish priests could visit small congregations and pray with the faithful, then Nyerere “saw no reason why political party officials adhering to the policy of socialism should not do the same”.63 In his final years, Nyerere grew to respect the tenacity of tradition, and declared Ujamaa collectivization a grave mistake. “You can socialize what is not traditional”, he told an American reporter visiting his Butiama farm in 1996. “The shamba can’t be socialized”.64 Nyerere was famously exercising the right to change his mind. Yet if he was his own fiercest critic, it was at least partly because he long had the luxury of being his only public critic within Tanzania.

  • 65 “Slaa amtumia Nyerere kummaliza Kikwete”, Raia Mwema, 6 October 2010; “Can Opposition Demonstration (...)

47The production of counter-mythologies that invert the heroes and villains of nationalist mythology is the common practice of opposition movements. In Tanzania this process was led by critics who inverted Nyerere’s cardinal virtue, his humility, into either a savvy psychological tool used to manipulate credulous supporters, or simply a ruse to disguise human rights abuses or even outright theft. Today, understandings of Nyerere, critical or otherwise, become inevitably bound together with the subsequent impact of neo-liberal reforms enacted over his objections in the years since he left power. A resulting genre has emerged of favorable academic reflections on Nyerere squarely framed as protests against neo-liberalism (see, e.g., Chachage and Cassam (2010) and McDonald and Sahle (2002)). Such neo-liberal reforms have ushered in an age of taboo-free corruption that would be unrecognizable to visitors from Ujamaa-era Tanzania. Contemporary Tanzanian eulogies of Nyerere stem from the pain that has accompanied this recent absence of public moral norms to guide political discourse (Fouéré, 2011). Such lionizations are more than just about the man himself, for Nyerere serves “as a reference point for debates over participation, privilege, and entitlement” (Becker, 2013: 261). His political personage remains an object of envy among politicians of many stripes. Willbrod Slaa, leader of Tanzania’s main opposition party CHADEMA, campaigned against the ruling CCM party in 2010 by promising to emulate Nyerere’s struggle against corruption. He and other party leaders later made a highly publicized pilgrimage to Nyerere’s grave at Butiama and befriended his family.65 Yet those who understandably embrace Nyerere’s legacy for its many virtues – discouraging gross inequality, publicly shaming corruption and ethnicity-based patronage, just to name a few – should not conclude that such a system was also the product of dialogical political debate. It came about by doing as the teacher says.

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NYERERE, Julius K. Our Leadership and the Destiny of Tanzania. Harare: African Publishing Group, 1995.

OTHMAN, Haroub. Babu: I Saw the Future and It Works: Essays Celebrating the Life of Comrade Abdulrahman Mohamed Babu 1924- 1996. Dar es Salaam: E & D Limited, 2001.

SAID, Mohamed. The Life and Times of Abdulwahid Sykes: The Untold Story of the Muslim Struggle against British Colonialism in Tanganyika. London: Minerva Press, 1998.

SMITH, William Edgett. Nyerere of Tanzania. London: Victor Gollancz, 1973.

Notes

1 African National Congress statement on the death of Julius Nyerere, 14 October 1999, ANC Department of Information and Publicity, at Nyerere Foundation website www.juliusnyerere.info, accessed on 19 February 2013.

2 Letter of Richard Gott, Guardian, 18 October 1999.

3 Obituary of Julius Nyerere, Times, 15 October 1999.

4 David Frum, “Nyerere’s failed vision leaves lasting debt”, National Post (Ontario), 16 October 1999.

5 Anthony Daniels, “Nyerere, the leader who achieved by cunning what Idi Amin achieved by force”, Daily Mail, 15 October 1999.

6 For starting points on internal dissenting groups, see, respectively, Hirji (2010); Hunter (2012); Giblin (2005); and Feierman (1990).

7 United States National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), College Park MD, Record Group (RG) 59 778.13/10-2561, Duggan to Department of State, 25 October 1961.

8 NARA RG 59 778.00/4-2156, notes of conversation held on 19 January 1956 between Miss Margaret Bates and Sir Edward Twining, enclosed in McKinnon to Department of State, 21 April 1956.

9 United Kingdom National Archives (UKNA), Colonial Office (CO) 822/859/f.33, Twining to Lennox-Boyd, 31 October 1955.

10 UKNA CO 822/859, minute of Macpherson to Hare, 17 September 1956.

11 UKNA Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) 141/17912, Tanganyika Special Branch study of Julius Kambarage Nyerere, August 1957, 6.

12 UKNA CO 822/859, minute of Mathieson to Gorell Barnes, 7 September 1956.

13 UKNA CO 822/859, minute of Gorell Barnes to Macpherson, 12 September 1956.

14 UKNA CO 822/912/f.30, Mathieson to Twining, 28 December 1956.

15 UKNA CO 822/1362/f.162, Twining to Lennox-Boyd, 21 December 1957.

16 UKNA CO 822/1449, minute of Webber to Gorell Barnes, 10 June 1959.

17 Rhodes House, University of Oxford (RH) MSS Afr.s.2179, Colonial Records Project interview with Iain Macleod, 29 December 1967.

18 RH MSS Afr.s.2089, Timothy Mayhew, “Reminisces” (1965–68), 139.

19 UKNA CO 822/1450/f.246, Turnbull to Crawford, 9 July 1959.

20 Listowel Papers (LP) Box 1 File 8, Listowel to Sister Maria Renata, 22 November 1962. I thank Lord Richard Grantley for providing my access to the privately held papers of his grandmother.

21 Judith Listowel, “Tanganyika’s Chances”, The Tablet, 15 December 1962.

22 NARA RG 59 778.00/10-2262, memorandum of conversation, Julius K. Nyerere and William Leonhart, 5 October 1962, Kilombero, Rusha Valley, enclosed in Leonhart to Department of State, 22 October 1962.

23 RH MSS Afr.s.1604, memorandum entitled “Tanganyika: Church and Political Situation 1961” by Sydney Clague-Smith to Lionel Greaves.

24 UKNA Dominions Office (DO) 213/209/f.4, Dominions Office note on Julius Nyerere, n. a., July 1963.

25 John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, Boston MA (JFKL) Presidential Office File (POF) 124- 013, biographic entry of Julius Nyerere, July 1961, CIA Office of Central Reference.

26 JFKL POF 124-13, biographic entry of Nyerere, n. a., dated 10 July 1963.

27 Anthony Sampson, “Personal tragedy of Julius Nyerere”, Observer, 26 January 1964.

28 “The Delicate Balance”, The Tablet, 6 February 1965, 148.

29 LP Box 1 File 9, Listowel to Turnbull, 7 April 1967.

30 See, inter alia, “Nyerere’s Integration Problem”, Daily Telegraph, 28 August 1967.

31 LP Box 1 File 9, “Socialism in Tanzania” by Judith Listowel, BBC script for transmission on 17 May 1967.

32 Judith Listowel, “President Nyerere’s Fight for Unity”, Times (London), 9 April 1965.

33 LP Box 1 File 9, Listowel to Bullock, 17 April 1967.

34 On British journalism and political engagement in 1960s Tanzania, see especially Hunter (2004).

35 Judith Listowel, “Tanzania and her future: problems of building African socialism”, The Round Table, July 1970, p. 284.

36 For an early appreciation, see Mazrui (1967); for villagization, see Jennings (2008).

37 UKNA FCO 31/1764, draft of FCO briefing for the Prime Minister’s meeting with President Nyerere of Tanzania, 15 September 1974.

38 David Reed, “Freedom’s Rocky Road”, Reader’s Digest, February 1973.

39 Xan Smiley, “How smugglers ended Nyerere’s dream”, Guardian, 10 August 1980.

40 For examples of this indirect style in Dar es Salaam, see Brennan (2006); for factionalism among political elites, see Hartmann (1985).

41 Letter from John Nellis to John Richard Crutcher, 16 November 1966, quoted in Crutcher (1968: 287, footnote 30).

42 NARA RG 59 778.00/4-1861, Duggan to DOS, 18 April 1961.

43 LP Box 1 File 9, Listowel to Turnbull, 13 April 1967.

44 They were connected to the paper in a subsequent treason trial that followed their arrest in 1969 for plotting a coup attempt.

45 Ukweli, 28 July 1968, copy in Lady Chesham Papers, Box 4, Borthwick Institute, University of York.

46 Xan Smiley, “How smugglers ended Nyerere’s dream”, Guardian, 10 August 1980.

47 “A Challenge to Nyerere”, Free Zanzibar Voice, July/August 1971.

48 Sections were later incorporated into Muhsin’s self-published memoir (2000).

49 “Does Nyerere Practise What He Preaches?”, Free Zanzibar Voice, September/October 1971.

50 “The Duty that lies West of Zanzibar”, Free Zanzibar Voice, March 1973.

51 “Nyerere vs. Jumbe: a legal tug-of-war”, Free Zanzibar Voice, April 1973.

52 “The Freedom of Zanzibar: A Questionnaire for Nyerere”, Free Zanzibar Voice, April 1973.

53 “Prisoners should be freed”, Free Zanzibar Voice, July/August 1973.

54 As recounted in Mwijage’s updated version of the same book, retitled Julius K Nyerere: Servant of God or Untarnished Tyrant? (2010), p. 11. The original was published as Mwijage, The Dark side of Nyerere’s legacy (1994), and later widely distributed as a text document on a variety of websites.

55 Communication with Mohamed Said, 31 March 2011.

56 Letter of Oscar Kambona, Guardian, 7 April 1971.

57 Co-ordination Committee for Freedom and Democracy in Tanzania pamphlet entitled ‘Anglo-Tanzania Committee’, n. d. [circa 1974], in Ahmed Seif Kharusi papers, privately held.

58 Oscar Kambona, “The Time I Met Mao”, Salisbury Review, June 1991, 19.

59 There is no adequate biography; for helpful overviews, see Othman (2001).

60 “How I became a State Guest”, n. a., Habusu 6 (1976), Northwestern University Library.

61 Amnesty International’s annual reports on Tanzania over the 1970s increasingly stress the thousand-plus cases of detention without trial. In general see Moyn (2010).

62 “Nyerere’s reported doubts about the one-party system in Africa”, 11 June 1986, BBC Monitoring Summary of World Broadcasts.

63 “Nyerere denounces party’s ‘incompetence’”, 20 January 1987, BBC Monitoring Summary of World Broadcasts.

64 James McKinley, “African Statesman Still Sowing Seeds for Future”, New York Times, 1 September 1996.

65 “Slaa amtumia Nyerere kummaliza Kikwete”, Raia Mwema, 6 October 2010; “Can Opposition Demonstrations Oust the Government?”, The Citizen (Dar es Salaam), 1 March 2011.

Auteur

Researches the histories of twentieth-century Tanzania and Kenya, examining themes of urban history, decolonization, media history, and the Indian Ocean World. He is author of the book Taifa: Making Nation and Race in Urban Tanzania (Ohio University Press, 2012), as well as numerous journal articles and book chapters.

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