Saturday, August 21, 2010
Although some of his policies can be characterised as socialist, Nyerere was first and foremost an African, and secondly a socialist. He was what is often called an African socialist. Nyerere had tremendous faith in rural African people and their traditional values and ways of life. He believed that life should be structured around the ujamaa, or extended family found in traditional Africa. He believed that in these traditional villages, the state of ujamaa had existed before the arrival of imperialists.
He believed that Africans were already socialists and that all that they needed to do was return to their traditional mode of life and they would recapture it. This would be a true repudiation of capitalism, since his society would not rely on capitalism to exist. Unfortunately for Nyerere and Tanzania, this ujamaa system caused agricultural output to plummet. The deficit in cereal grains was more than 1 million tons between 1974 and 1977. Only loans and grants from the World Bank and the IMF in 1975 prevented Tanzania from going bankrupt. By 1979, ujamaa villages contained 90% of the rural population but only produced 5% of the national agricultural output. Subsequently, the country fell on hard economic times which was excacerbated by a war against Idi Amin and the six year drought. Tanzania went from the largest exporter of agricultural products in Africa to the largest importer of agricultural products. Nyerere announced that he would retire after presidential elections in 1985, leaving the country to enter its free market era — as imposed by structural adjustment under the IMF and World bank — under the leadership of Ali Hassan Mwinyi.
Nyerere was instrumental in putting both Ali Hassan Mwinyi and Benjamin Mkapa in power. He remained the chairman of Chama Cha Mapinduzi (ruling party) for five years following his presidency until 1990, and is still recognised as the Father of the Nation.