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Remembering a Pan-Africanist icon Julius ‘Mwalimu’ Nyerere —10 quotes

We celebrate an African icon Julius Nyerere born on this day in 1922. We remember Baba wa Taifa, “Mwalimu” Nyerere and pay homage to this African hero, widely respected for his sweeping vision of education and African unity. Here’s our selection of Mwalimu’s quotes.

Julius Kambarage Nyerere was a Tanzanian politician who served as the first President of Tanzania and previously Tanganyika, from the country’s founding in 1961 until his retirement in 1985.

Born in Tanganyika to Nyerere Burito, Chief of the Zanaki, Nyerere was widely known by his Swahili name ‘Mwalimu’ or ‘Teacher’, his profession before he got into politics.

Nyerere was a preeminent nationalist, one of the first generation of African leaders who struggled for independence, and fervently pushed for the independence of many other African countries. His beliefs in nationalism were firmly rooted in pan-Africanism.

Nyerere’s legacy is not without contestations, and he remains a controversial figure as some of his policies and actions while in office were questionable (issues over internal human rights abuses). Despite these blemishes, his strong commitment as a nationalist and pan-Africanist, and other efforts gave him the status, “Father of the Nation”. He died at the age of 77 in 1999.

Here’s our selection of Mwalimu’s quotes.

1. “Similarly, if any of the young men and women who are given an education by the people of this republic adopt attitudes of superiority, or fail to use their knowledge to help the development of this country, then they are betraying our union”.

2. “If real development is to take place, the people have to be involved.” from his book Uhuru na Maendeleo (Freedom and Development), 1973.

3. “No nation has the right to make decisions for another nation; no people for another people”. From ‘A Peaceful New Year’ speech,Tanzania, January 1968.

4. “Democracy is not a bottle of Coca-Cola which you can import. Democracy should develop according to that particular country”. June 1991 in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

5. “Unity will not make us rich, but it can make it difficult for Africa and the African peoples to be disregarded and humiliated”. Speech given in Accra, Ghana, 6 March 1997.

Tanzania’s President Julius Nyerere addresses the press on 12 November 1976 in Dar Es Salaam. Nyerere is the first Tanzanian President (1962-85). Photo: ANP

6. “We spoke and acted as if, given the opportunity for self-government, we would quickly create utopias. Instead injustice, even tyranny, is rampant”. As quoted in David Lamb’s The Africans, New York 1985.

7. “Capitalism means that the masses will work, and a few people – who may not labor at all – will benefit from that work. The few will sit down to a banquet, and the masses will eat whatever is left over”. From a speech written and delivered on 2 January 1973 in Khartoum.

8. “We can try to cut ourselves from our fellows on the basis of the education we have had; we can try to carve our for ourselves an unfair share of the wealth of the society. But the cost to us, as well as to our fellow citizens, will be very high. It will be high not only in terms of satisfactions forgone, but also in terms of our own security and well-being.” from his book Uhuru na Maendeleo (Freedom and Development), 1973.

9. “You don’t have to be a Communist to see that China has a lot to teach us in development. The fact that they have a different political system than ours has nothing to do with it.” As quoted in Donald Robinson’s The 100Most Important People in the World Today, New York 1970.

10. “Having come into contact with a civilization which has over-emphasized the freedom of the individual, we are in fact faced with one of the big problems of Africa in the modern world. Our problem is just this: how to get the benefits of European society – benefits that have been brought about by an organization based upon the individual — and yet retain African’s own structure of society in which the individual is a member of a kind of fellowship.” Quoted in the New York Times Magazine on 27 March 1960.

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