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10 quotes from Julius ‘Mwalimu’ Nyerere

On this day in 1999, one of Africa’s foremost statesmen, Julius Kambarage Nyerere passed on. Nyerere was the first President of Tanzania and previously Tanganyika, from 1961 until his retirement in 1985.

Widely known by the Swahili honorific title ‘Mwalimu’ – ‘Teacher’. Julius Nyerere is a true son of Africa, a Pan-Africanist, nationalist, charismatic orator, thinker and African statesman. A proponent of African unity, Mwalimu was also a founding member of the Organisation of African Unity.

We pay homage to him by remembering the words he left us with in his quest to see the liberation, unification and development of Africa.

1. “Those who receive this privilege therefore, have a duty to repay the sacrifice which others have made. They are like the man who has been given all the food available in a starving village in order that he might have strength to bring supplies back from a distant place”. On higher education, 1960.

2. “African nationalism is meaningless, dangerous, anachronistic, if it is not, at the same time, pan-Africanism”. As quoted in Rupert Emerson’s Pan-Africanism, 2009.

3. “In Tanganyika we believe that only evil, Godless men would make the color of a man’s skin the criteria for granting him civil rights”. Addressing British Governor, General Richard Gordon Turnbull, prior to taking up the premiership in 1960.

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. “Without unity, there is no future for Africa”.

Late Chairman Mao Zedong shakes hands with the visiting Chairman of the Tanganyika African National Union and President of Tanzania J.K.Nyerere on March 25th, 1974. Source: Huanqiu
Late Chairman Mao Zedong shakes hands with the visiting Chairman of the Tanganyika African National Union and President of Tanzania J.K.Nyerere on March 25th, 1974. Source: Huanqiu

6. “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.

7. “[A] man is developing himself when he grows, or earns, enough to provide decent conditions for himself and his family; he is not being developed if someone gives him these things”.From the book Uhuru na Maendeleo (Freedom and Development), 1973.

8. “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.

9. “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.

10. “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.

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