14 Facts About Mwalimu Nyerere You May Not Have Been Taught

  1. Although Nyerere died of leukemia in October 1999 at the age of 77, he is still revered by many Tanzanians as “Father of the Nation” for securing independence from Britain in 1961 for what was then called Tanganyika.

2. Nyerere became Tanganyika’s first president in 1962, two years before presiding over the country’s union with Indian Ocean archipelago Zanzibar to form Tanzania. He ruled Tanzania for 23 years before voluntarily relinquishing power in 1985.

3. Nyerere is credited with sparing the east African country the tribal conflicts and bloodshed that plagued the rest of Africa by promoting Kiswahili as a national culture and language.

4. A devout Catholic, who attended Mass on an almost daily basis, Nyerere translated part of the Bible into his native Zanaki language and Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” and “The Merchant of Venice” into Kiswahili.

5. Nyerere banned other political parties after coming to power and was a proponent of socialist policies blamed by critics for impoverishing the agriculture-based economy. When he gave up power, he confessed he had made economic mistakes, a rare admission on a continent where few politicians admit fault.

6. As a major force behind the Pan-African movement and one of the founders of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1963, Nyerere was a key African player in the 1970s when Tanzania became a magnet for anti-colonial activists and radical intellectuals.

7. When he guided what had been the British Trust Territory of Tanganyika into sovereignty in 1961, he was the youngest of the continent’s triumphant nationalists, a group that included Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia and Felix Houphouet-Boigny of Ivory Coast.

8. When he stepped down as President 24 years later, he was only the third modern African leader to relinquish power voluntarily

9. He went on to Makerere University in Uganda, and after being baptized and teaching for two years in a church school, he won a scholarship to Edinburgh University, where he earned a master’s degree in history and economics.


10. He said the following about Ujamaa: ”Ujamma, or ‘familyhood,’ describes our socialism. It is opposed to capitalism, which seeks to build a happy society on the basis of the exploitation of man by man, and is equally opposed to doctrinaire socialism, which seeks to build its happy society on the philosophy of inevitable conflict between man and man.”

11. He never received more than $8,000 a year as President.

12. He moved around Dar es Salaam in an old car with just his driver, who stopped for red lights

13. On Idi Amin, he said the following: ”There is this tendency in Africa to think that it does not matter if an African kills other Africans. Had Amin been white, free Africa would have passed many resolutions condemning him. Being black is becoming a certificate to kill fellow Africans.”

14. As a youthful pan-Africanist President had considered doing without an army, reasoning that such a force would be useless against great powers and therefore could only fight African neighbors

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