Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere was born on 13 April, 1922 at Butiama, a village about 40 kilometers east of Musoma town, a port on the shores of Lake Victoria in Mara region. Son of Chief Nyerere Burito of the Zanaki tribe ( Butiama village is now grown to become The District headquarters of Butiama District.)
The parents of Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere, the late Chief Nyerere Burito and Bibi Mugaya Nyang’ombe.
1933 – 1936: Primary Education
His early education was at Mwisenge Primary School in Musoma Dictrict, Mara region. He was 12 years of age to begin schooling at Government Primary School at Mwisenge. After 3 years he completed the four year course and went to Tabora Government Secondary School.
1937 – 1942: Secondary Education
He joined Tabora Government Secondary School, a town in the heart of Tanganyika, until he passed the Standard Ten Examination. He was also a Senior School House Prefect and a member of School’s Boy Scouts Troop.
1943 – 1945: Higher Education
He went to Makerere College in Uganda (at that time the only tertiary education institution in East Africa) where he obtained a Teacher’s Diploma and then returned to Tabora at St. Mary’s School (currently known as Mirambo Secondary School) teaching Biology and English.
1949 – 1952: Continued Higher Education
After three years at work (1946 – 1949), he was awarded a scholarship to Edinburgh University where he obtained a Master of Arts Degree, specialized in History and Political Economy. He graduated in 1952. Throughout his school career, Nyerere participated in debates on different subjects pertaining to people’s development besides his outstanding academic work. In the debates, he demonstrated courage and outstanding ability to analyze issues and argue convincingly.
- 1946 – 1949: Teaching at St. Mary’s Secondary School Tabora
Nyerere was employed as a teacher at St. Mary’s Secondary School at Tabora (teaching Biology and English).While teaching at St. Mary’s Tabora, he helped in establishing a co-operative shop in Tabora Town in order to fight exploitation. He also accepted to serve as a branch secretary of the Tabora branch of the Tanganyika African Association(TAA: established in 1929 as a social organisation for Africans).
- 1953 – 1955: Teaching at St. Francis Secondary School at Pugu near Dar es Salaam
On return from Edinburgh to what was then the Trust Territory of Tanganyika, Nyerere resumed teaching at St. Francis Secondary School, Pugu near Dar es Salaam. He taught History, English and Kiswahili. Besides teaching, he was actively involved in political and community activities outside school. He served briefly as a Temporary Nominated Member of the Tanganyika Legislative Council.
- In July 1954 Nyerere became a founder member of the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU), and was elected President of this nationalist party. Faced with the choice of teaching or politics in 1955, he chose the later. He accepted a further nomination at the legislature in July 1957 but resigned in protest in December of that year.
From the time he was a student, and during his working days, Julius Kambarage Nyerere was very active in political activities and movements. He participated in debates discussing anti colonial issues and published articles on the need for independence of African countries. Among the many political activities he engaged in from those early days include the following;
1949: Voluntary Provincial Secretary of Tanganyika African Association (TAA) in Tabora (Honorary)
While teaching at Tabora, Nyerere was also active, at local level, in various political and co-operative activities.
1953: Member of the Tanganyika Legislative Council
He served briefly as a Temporary Nominated Member of the Tanganyika Legislative Council.
1953: President of Tanganyika African Association (TAA)
Nyerere was elected President of the Tanganyika African Association (TAA).
1954: Founder Member and First Elected President of Tanganyika Africa National Union (TANU)
in July 1954 he became a founder member of Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) and was elected the first President of TANU, the Nationalist Party, which energized the campaign, and mobilized the people of Tanganyika to demand their independence.
1955: Mwalimu chose politics and Resigned from Teaching
On 22nd March, 1955, while still teaching at St. Francis College, now Pugu Secondary School, Mwalimu Nyerere was faced with the choice between teaching and full time politics. He chose politics and thus resigned his teaching post. He went to New York and addressed the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations in New York arguing the case for Tanganyika’s independence, because Tanganyika was a Trusteeship Territory under British rule.
1956: Mwalimu addressed the Fourth Committee of the UNO in New York
In 1956, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere once again returned to New York and addressed the Fourth Committee of the United Nations on Tanganyika’s demand for independence. In 1957, Mwalimu Nyerere again addressed the Trusteeship Council. In July the same year he was nominated to the Legislative Council but he resigned in protest in December the same year.
1958: Elected Member of Parliament
During Tanganyika’s first elections in 1958, Mwalimu Nyerere mobilized TANU members and campaigned throughout Tanganyika for the election of candidates representing White Settlers, Asians and Africans who supported it, ( in what is known as “Kura Tatu” namely Three Votes for one party. TANU members who didn’t support this formula left TANU and formed their own party known as ANC.). TANU was elected with members from other racial groups. Mwalimu Nyerere was elected as a member of the Parliament.
1960: First Chief Minister of Tanganyika Internal Self- Government
Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere returned unopposed in the second General Elections. On this occasion, he was asked by the Governor to form the country’s first Council of Ministers with an elected majority, and he become the first Chief Minister.
1961: Sworn in as Prime Minister
In May 1961, following the Constitutional Conference of March that year, he was sworn in as a Prime Minister of the first Internal Self-Government of Tanganyika to prepare for independence. On 9th December 1961 Tanganyika attained its independence, and sworn in as the first Prime Minister of Tanganyika.
Mwalimu Nyerere with some of ministers of his first post independence cabinet.
1962: Resigned from the Post of Prime Minister
Six weeks after he become Prime Minister, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere resigned from the post of Prime Minister in order to reorganize TANU, the then ruling party in Tanganyika. He handled over the reign of government to Hon. Rashid Mfaume Kawawa.
Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere with Hon. Rashid Mfaume Kawawa
Sworn in as President of The Republic of Tanganyika
After the decision to make Tanganyika a Republic, Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere was nominated by TANU to be its candidate for the post of President. He won a landslide victory with 97% for the votes. Nyerere was sworn in as President of the Republic of Tanganyika on 9th December 1962.
1964: First President of the United Republic of Tanzania
On 26th April, Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere and Sheikh Amani Abeid Karume , President of Zanzibar agreed to join their two countries, Tanganyika and Zanzibar, and formed the United Republic of Tanzania. He became the first president of the new United Republic of Tanzania.
Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere mixing a soil from Tanganyika and Zanzibar at National Stadium, Dar es Salaam on 26 April, 1964. Later that day Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere exchanged Acts of the Union with Sheikh Abeid Amani Karume, President of Zanzibar at Karimjee Hall, Dar es Salaam
1977: Founder and Chairman of Chama cha Mapinduzi
Mwalimu Nyerere was a Founder Member and Chairman of Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), which was formed by the merger between TANU and Afro-Shiraz Party (ASP) of Zanzibar.
Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere with Hon. Edward Moringe Sokoine who served as Prime Minister between 13 February 1977 to 7 November 1980, and then between 24 February 1983 to 12 April 1984, when he died in tragic road accident.
1985: Retired as President of the United Republic of Tanzania
Mwalimu Nyerere served as President of the United Republic of Tanzania following consecutive elections in 1965, 1970, 1975 and 1980. After the 1980 elections he decided not to seek re-election, and retired from office voluntarily in 1985. Nyerere’s voluntary retirement at the time was rare in African politics.
When Mwalimu Nyerere retired, he handed over power to President Ali Hassan Mwinyi
His Excellency Ali Hassan Mwinyi, the Second President of the United Republic of Tanzania with retired President Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere and his wife, Mama Maria Nyerere .
Other activities and positions:
1963 – 1965
Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere was very active nationally and internationally during this period. He was a founding member of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 25th May, 1963. In 1965, the OAU established the Liberation Committee, and Mwalimu Nyerere accepted that Tanzania would host it. The OAU Liberation Committee coordinated the fights against colonial and racist regimes in Africa until 1995 following democratization in South Africa.
Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere with President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana (top left), President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt (top right), President Sekou Toure of Guinea (bottom right), and Sheikh Abeid Amani Karume (First Vice President of Tanzania and President of Zanzibar), Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia (bottom left)
Chancellor, University College of East Africa, later University of Dar es Salaam.
1970 – 1992
Chancellor, Sokoine University of Agriculture
1987 – 1990 Chairman of South Commission
The leaders of the member States of the Non-Alignment Movement, meeting in Harare Zimbabwe in 1987, nominated Mwalimu Nyerere to be Chairman of the independent international South Commission, which was established to make an objective analysis of the formidable economic, social and political challenges confronting the nations of the Third World, and to find solutions to meet those challenges. In 1990 the South Commission published its report: The Challenges to the South, which articulates the need for cooperation among countries of the South, and the need for reform of the world political and economic order. After the adoption of the report and the dissolution of the Commission, Mwalimu Nyerere was tasked to establish a Secretariat – the South Centre, Geneva, Switzerland. The South Centre serves as a think tank for the countries of the South and spearheads the implementation of the recommendations made by the South Commission. Mwalimu Nyerere continued to serve as Chairman of South Centre, until his death in 1999.
1996- 1999 Chairman of the Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation
He was Founder and first Chairman of the Board of Trustee of the Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation, established as a permanent tribute to him, for his contribution to improving the quality of human relations and liberation of Africa.
1998 – 1999 Facilitator for Burundi Peace Negotiation Process
He was Facilitator for the Burundi Peace Process. Throughout these negotiations he employed his experience as an elder African statesman to build confidence and facilitate the negotiations among the various Burundian political parties and armed groups, which had previously been divided along ethnic lines, to agree on the basic framework for a peace agreement that was later signed under the facilitation of the late President Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa, in August 2000. Mwalimu Nyerere died while undergoing treatment at St. Thomas Hospital, London on 14th October 1999.
Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere with President Nelson Mandela
Mwalimu Nyerere- the Teacher, Leader and Man of the people.
Mwalimu Nyerere the hard and diligent Worker and Great Thinker
Mwalimu Nyerere was a thinker. He was also a teacher who eloquently explained his ideas and philosophy in simple language. His speeches and other writings are not therefore “ephemeral material” that lose meaning with the passage of time. His ideas and the underlying principles that he believed in and practised, have remained important and relevant for our time and the future.
Mwalimu Nyerere as a professional Teacher and Writer
Mwalimu Nyerere, while serving as President of Tanzania, was a prolific writer and read widely. In his early days after he returned to Tanganyika from Scotland, he translated the Roman Catholic Catechism and New Testament of the Holy Bible into Kizanaki language (1955).
Change and Justice
Throughout his years as President of Tanzania and a founding member of the Organisation of African Unity, Mwalimu Nyerere advocated for freedom and justice in Tanzania and Africa. He supported the liberation of countries under colonial rule and racist minority regimes in Southern Africa and throughout the continent, and across the world. Tanzania achieved an international reputation as a united and peaceful country, proud of its sovereign independence and supportive of the principles of human equality, human dignity and freedom for individuals and nations within the context of their equal rights and responsibilities as members of the international community. he was an ardent believer in the principles of Ujamaa and self reliance, namely socialism based on African traditional cooperative economic principles.
Lessons to be learned form Mwalimu Nyerere
During the 24 years of his rule, Tanzania recorded tremendous successes, particularly in social services sector, in adult literacy programmes, introduction of universal primary education, provision of health services, and rural economic transformation. It is not easy to list all of his achievements. Some of them are as follows:
The entire history of Mwalimu Nyerere’s political career, has been a history of nation-building, based on Tanzania’s commitment to freedom, unity, peace, justice and development.
Pioneer of Union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar
Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere, President of Tanganyika and the Mzee Abeid Amani Karume, the first President of Zanzibar and ASP, in 1964 formed a union of the two sovereign states into one nation, known to-date as the United Republic of Tanzania. Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere became the first President of the United Republic of Tanzania, after the union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar on 26th April, 1964. This union has survived over 50 years. It is an example of what can be achieved in Africa, that in the face of many challenges Africa can still strive to achieve unity.
Free Universal Primary Education
Under Mwalimu Nyerere’s leadership, people enjoyed free education in all schools, colleges and University. Universal Primary Education (UPE) program was instituted and enabled every school-age child in the country, including from many rural and urban poor families, to get primary school education. This programme was disrupted following the economic reforms that were adopted after Mwalimu Nyerere retired from office in 1985, as a result of the Structural Adjustment Programmes spearheaded by the Bretton Woods Institutions in the 1980s and 90s.
International Peace and Security
Mwalimu Nyerere devoted his whole life working for international peace and security. Under his leadership Tanzania co-operated with many progressive countries in the world at different fora, such as the Organisation of African Unity, Non Alignment Movement, the Commonwealth and at the United Nations. This was to remain the pillar of Tanzania foreign policy throughout his Presidency and did much to contribute in strengthening the Non Alignment Movement and the Group of 77 countries during international trade and development negotiations at the United Nations.
Leader by Example
Mwalimu Nyerere had more ordinary leadership qualities. He was the teacher and leader of the Party and the people. Most Tanzania and African leaders have learned form his example. He has also taught the people to face problems without fear and with courage, that they should be innovative in confronting problems and finding correct solutions to them.
He had always emphasized that what can be done today must not wait for tomorrow. That discipline must be accompanied with proper organization, planning and implementation mechanisms.
Believer in Good Neighborhood
Mwalimu Nyerere consistently spoke of good neighborliness, the unity and independence of all African countries, if Tanzania’s independence was to have any meaning. Among the pillars underlying this policy was non-aggression and non-inference in the affairs of neighboring states, of States across Africa and the world.
A Man of the People
Mwalimu Nyerere continued to enjoy respect and affection from the Tanzania people, including those who disagreed with his philosophy about the basic strategy for Tanzania’s development. It is out of this background that there grew in Tanzania the idea of establishing a permanent tribute to Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere’s principles and the objectives he upheld throughout his life.
Led a Simple, Selfless Life
Mwalimu Nyerere never used his position for personal gains. Instead, he chose to be selfless and earn his bread through his own sweat as stipulated in the Party Constitution.
Proponent of African Unity
The freedom fighter and the hero of African liberation, Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere also stood firm in defense of African unity and independence, which he promoted passionately. After Tanganyika’s independence, he continued to fight for and contributed to the struggle for the independence of other African countries, most notably the long battle against Portuguese colonialism, minority racist regimes in Rhodesia and Apartheid South Africa.
Indeed, he vowed not to deal with the white led governments of South Africa until Apartheid had been overthrown and that is what happened. His consistent stand was proof that the independence of Tanzania was ot complete if other African countries were not free. The independence of all African countries therefore consolidated the country’s independence and humanity, peace and unity based on justice for all. His personal contribution and involvement in the liberation struggle as Chairman of the Frontline States, resulted in the liberation of Mozambique, Angola, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Namibia. This later led to the formation of SADC, as the economic cooperation bloc of the fully independent States of Southern Africa.
Mwalimu Nyerere’s efforts towards nation building in Tanzania, maintaining national unity of more than 120 tribes, and successful mobilizing international support for the liberation of the continent have earned Tanzania a respectable reputation the world over.