- Jul 4, 2007
Tribute to Nyerere
By Benjamin William Mkapa,
As Managing Editor of then ruling Party and Government Newspapers, I used to post a column regularly, entitled: What they say about US. In this I reproduce features or news analysis, both favourable and critical of Tanzania, written by journalists from all sort of local and International newspapers.
This year we celebrate fifty years of the independence of mainland Tanzania. And to-day we commemorate the passing on of its Founding Father, Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere. Having worked with him I have been reflecting on what I could say about him. I have decided that the best tribute I can pay to his life and work is to recall the Eulogy I made on the occasion of the State Funeral at the National Stadium in Dar Es Salaam on 21[SUP]st[/SUP] October 1999. Here it is.
State Funeral for Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere
One of the legacies of President Mkapa is his handling of the illness, death and subsequent funeral of the Founding President of Tanzania, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere. On Mwalimus State Funeral on Thursday, 21[SUP]st[/SUP] October 1999 at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam, President Mkapa delivered the following eulogy.
This is the saddest day in the history of our country. It marks a life ceased and a service ended.
But, let me first thank the doctors, nurses and staff that day and night struggled to save the life of our beloved Founding Father of the United Republic of Tanzania, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere.
I thank everyone who stood by us, and helped us, and all those that sent messages of support and encouragement during Mwalimus illness, and condolences on his demise.
I thank British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Her Majestys Government for being so helpful and supportive throughout the illness and death of Mwalimu Nyerere.
I thank most sincerely all of you, the leaders and other distinguished people from Africa and beyond that are here to support and comfort us. We really appreciate your coming.
I ask everyone who helped us and the bereaved family to accept the gratitude of the family, the gratitude of my Government, and the gratitude of the entire people of Tanzania to whom Mwalimu has always been, and will always be, much more than a Founding Father.
To you, the people of the United Republic of Tanzania, I am also very grateful. On 26[SUP]th[/SUP] September, I addressed the Nation, explaining the illness of Mwalimu Nyerere and asking everyone to pray for his recovery. Across the country, across all religious faiths, prayers were said, day and night.
Now that he is no more, we have all joined hands across the country, regardless of tribe, faith, gender or race, to mourn his passing away in unity, solidarity, peace and tranquillity just like Mwalimu taught us. We have learnt well, and this is clearly a good beginning for life after Mwalimu.
Since he passed away I have received hundreds of messages of condolences from all corners of the continent and the world sent by Kings and Queens, Presidents and Prime Ministers, leaders of international and regional organisations, political and civil society leaders, and yes, from ordinary citizens of the world. They are unanimous in their description of Mwalimu as a person, as a national leader, as an African statesman and as an international personality.
I cannot read all of the messages to you. But on behalf of our continent I will read part of the message sent by the OAU Chairman, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria. He refers to Mwalimu as:
(T)he peerless leader who devoted his life to the service of his country and the continent, the tireless defender of just causes and worthy architect of the conquest by African peoples of their rightful place among nations of the world.
On behalf of the international community I will quote the United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan. Of Mwalimu he says:
He set an example in Africa by voluntarily renouncing power and handing over to his successor through an orderly constitutional process.
Mwalimu is one of the leaders of developing countries who challenged and critiqued the economic prescriptions of financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in the early 1980s when he was still President, and afterwards as Chairman of the South Commission. I believe Mwalimu had an influence in changing the perspectives of these institutions and making them more responsive to our points of view. For that reason, on behalf of international financial institutions, I will read the full message of the President of the World Bank, Mr. James D. Wolfensohn. He said:
For the men and women who have served the great cause of development in the world, one of the lights of our lives went out today. Mr. Julius Nyerere was one of the founding fathers of modern Africa. He was also one of the few world leaders whose high ideals, moral integrity, and personal modesty inspired people right around the globe.
While world economists were debating the importance of capital output ratios, President Nyerere was saying that nothing was more important for people than being able to read and write and have access to clean water.
He gave his compatriots a sense of hope and achievement early in their life as a country. And he gave them a sense of nation with few parallels in Africa and the world bound by a common language (Kiswahili) and a history almost entirely free of internal divisions and conflict. His political ideals, his deep religious convictions, his equally deep religious tolerance, and his belief that people of all ethnic and regional origins should have equal access to knowledge and material opportunities have marked his country and Africa forever.
He was a leader in the liberation of Southern Africa. He looked after hundreds of thousands of refugees forced to live in western Tanzania by political turmoil in central Africa. And he left office peacefully at an age when he could certainly have continued. He was known as Mwalimu (or Teacher) which was his first profession. Many of us still regard ourselves as his students, and we feel very honoured to have known and worked with him in his life.
To the people of Tanzania and to his wider family across Africa and around the world I want to say how much we share your sadness at his passing. However, the example he set and the ideals he represented will remain a source of inspiration and comfort for all of us. That is a legacy which even President Nyerere modest as he was would have been proud of.
There are very many people in this country who, like me, consider ourselves lucky that our lives were touched by Mwalimu. I for one have no hesitation to say, with pride, that I learnt politics at the hand of a true master; a man who proved that politics does not have to be, as conventionally portrayed, a dirty game; an upright man, a man who would stand for what is right and just though the heavens fell.
Here was a man who friends, comrades and his fellow citizens loved deeply, and whose political foes respected highly. A man of outstanding integrity, imbued with an intense love for his fellow human beings across the lines of geography, race, colour, and gender.
Mwalimu was averse to empty praises, averse to the development of a personality cult. His humility and disdain for flattery is legendary. But the people of this country, other Africans, developed and developing countries, have all recognised Mwalimus contribution to Tanzania, to Africa and to the world, awarding him over the years with medals, awards, honorary degrees from Africa, East and West Europe, Asia, and the Americas.
In his 77 years of mortal life, Mwalimu did much for our nation, for the African continent, and for the world. He made us free and contributed to the freedom of others beyond our borders. Like Nkrumah, he believed the indignity of one African was the indignity of all Africans; and that as long as there was an African country under colonial domination, the freedom of one African country was meaningless. He mobilised our national will, spirit and resources for the total liberation of Africa.
His life long philosophy rested on the premise that all human beings are created equal and deserve equal freedom, justice, respect and dignity. He believed in, and practised, that principle in whose advocacy he was both passionate and inspiring. He built a united nation with a vision of equality and respect across racial, religious, tribal, and gender divides. Until this day, the union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar remains an enduring example of African unity. We shall defend and strengthen this Union with all our might.
His commitment to unity within the country, and African unity, had an almost missionary zeal. To him the imperative of unity, solidarity, and co-operation between poor and weak countries in pursuit of greater democracy on a global scale, and the sovereign equality of nations, was paramount. We are not less human just because we are poor, he consistently told his political and economic interlocutors.
His view of freedom was all-encompassing. It was not restricted to political independence, but extended to a vision of a totally liberated human being in political, economic, social and cultural terms.
One of the nicknames Tanzanians gave Mwalimu as President was Musa (Moses). Like Moses in the Holy Books, he had given us freedom and was leading the People of Tanzania through the desert to the promised land of prosperity. We believe the new century and millennium will indeed witness a more prosperous Tanzania. But, alas, like Moses of the Holy Books, Mwalimus life was cut short before we reached the new century of promise.
A man of faith, a devout person, he had tremendous respect for all faiths.
Love begets love, trust begets trust, respect begets respect, he taught us. Mwalimu, as a result, was loved, trusted and respected by all tribes, all races, all religions and all regions of Tanzania.
Mwalimu was extremely sensitive to the downtrodden, the weak, the disabled, the powerless. He was acutely sensitive to the plight of refugees and displaced persons. Under his leadership, Tanzania was not only peaceful, thereby not generating refugees, but he made Tanzania home to everyone seeking political and personal refuge.
A few months before he died he visited refugee camps in Western Tanzania and talked to the Burundi refugees there, giving them hope that his role as an international facilitator for the Burundi peace process would soon restore peace in their country so they could go back to their homes. His perseverance in peace efforts, regardless of the many disappointments along the way, never ceased to amaze others and me.
I talked to him a few days before he was admitted to the St Thomas Hospital in London, and even at that stage of his illness, he was impatient to return to Tanzania to carry on with his facilitation of the Burundi peace process. I had to plead to dissuade him. A peacemaker, he was a universal man, Gods gift to mankind. The gift we can give in return is to quickly finalise the Burundi peace process, and facilitate the voluntary and peaceful repatriation of those who had reason to flee for their lives.
Mwalimu was a teacher in many ways. He had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, and an unending desire to impart knowledge to others. A man of great patience, a great listener, he was always willing to weigh and consider a wide array of opinion. A voracious reader of books, what helped to persuade him to accept a bigger house, in his own words spoken light-heartedly, was because he had run out of room for books in his former smaller house.
A man of great vision, he had exceptional intellect and wit. A man of ideas, a creative thinker. He was always challenged by new ideas, fascinated by the search for truth, for reality, for science and history.
UNICEF, in their message on his death described Mwalimu as a slender, diminutive figure of irresistibly infectious chuckle, with a mind so sharp as to cut to the heart of every argument, but a tongue so kind as to soothe the soul of every adversary.
It has been said that the true measure of humanity is the care one has for the weaker members of society. On this score, because of his intense spirituality, Mwalimu distinguished himself as a veritable human being. His concern, perhaps even obsession, with removing inequalities in society, and in the world is legendary.
His disdain for affluence amid poverty had a spiritual aura and was deeply imbedded in his heart and mind.
Mwalimu saw himself as a man with a mission, and refused the distraction that the accumulation of earthly riches would bring in his life.
My Fellow Citizens,
This is a sad occasion. But I am sure if Mwalimu could speak to us now, he would be exhorting us to pick up his mantle and carry on the struggle against poverty, against injustice, against bigotry. He would exhort us, as he always did in his lifetime, to cherish and protect the union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar. He would ask us to be on guard against any divisive tendencies. He would urge us to move much more quickly to integrate African economies, and promote African unity. He would appeal for collective South-South self-reliance.
As sad as we all are, this must also be a celebration of the life of an outstanding human being an extraordinary man who devoted his whole life and being to the service of others, within and beyond Tanzania. A man of chiefly heritage who abolished privilege. A man who is the embodiment of good leadership, leadership as service to others. A man who is the example of public service for the public good. We all know, and the world knows, that unlike many post-independence African leaders, he did not use public office for personal enrichment. What Mwalimu had was what the people of this country willingly gave him.
Today all Tanzanians weep for Mwalimu, a man in whom all kinds of people saw a saviour. A man who believed in giving everyone an education, so that everyone could have an equal chance in life. There are many in this country today who hold important positions in government and society who will never forget Mwalimu for giving them the key to their present status the key of education. A man who two years ago at his 75[SUP]th[/SUP] birthday grieved that, we are wasting too much life. He was talking of the many children and adults who die of preventable or curable diseases, or lack of proper nutrition.
As the funeral cortege passed the hundreds of thousands of people lining the streets of Dar es Salaam the echo of the cry Mkombozi umetuacha, meaning, Our liberator, you have left us was everywhere. He was so much to everyone; a pillar of what Tanzania is today, a repository of wisdom, counsel and guidance. He has left us, but we shall not let slip his legacy. We shall safeguard his achievements and hold high the torch of struggle and freedom he has bequeathed us.
I have been privileged to lead the cortege procession of this unique man and leader through the streets of Dar es Salaam. I was overcome by the ubiquitous outpouring of genuine grief and sense of loss. But I was encouraged by the words and hand-written placards that vowed to protect the freedom, unity, solidarity, tolerance, and principles that Mwalimu taught us all his life.
And I want to assure everyone within and outside Tanzania that my Government will ensure that the legacy of Mwalimu never dies. We will do all within our power:
- To maintain national unity, concord and harmony;
- To prosecute the war on poverty with even greater zeal and ensure the fruits of that war are shared as widely and equitably as possible among the downtrodden; and
- To defend the union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar which he founded together with another of our beloved founding leaders, the late Sheikh Abeid Aman Karume.
Let us not forget, my dear brothers and sisters, that the presence among us of so many leaders from our sub-region and the African continent, from Europe and the Americas and from Asia is testimony to the stature in the world that Mwalimu earned for his pursuit of the legacy he has left us. Their presence here, therefore, is not only in honour of Mwalimu but also an exhortation to us to be worthy inheritors of Mwalimus legacy. We must stay the course.
My Fellow Citizens,
There is no doubt that Mwalimu was richly blessed by the Almighty God. He used those talents as his Maker wanted him to. And as he stands before God at the end of his lifes ministry, I am sure he can say with confidence: Lord, I used everything you gave me, not for personal gain or comfort, but for the freedom, dignity and well-being of the people you put under my charge, and those well beyond Tanzanias borders and shores.
Our world is composed of givers and takers. The takers may eat better, but the givers sleep better. In death, as in life, Mwalimu sleeps better. For his entire life was a life of giving, not taking.
We thank Almighty God most profoundly for the life and service of Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere.
And we whose lives were touched by him join in a chorus of prayer: May Almighty God Rest His Soul in Eternal Peace.
I thank you.