Julius Kambarage Nyerere is one of Africa’s leading pan-African heroes of the 21st Century. He was a passionate African statesman who believed that pan-African freedom was the only legitimate political action to emancipate Africa from economic bondage.
To him, pan-Africanism meant a united and self-determined African continent in pursuit of economic, political, social, ideological and cultural freedom. He portrayed this uncompromising pan-African stance when he said: “…African nationalism is meaningless, dangerous, and anachronistic, if it is not, at the same time, pan-Africanism...”
A pan-African in soul and spirit, Nyerere was also a philosopher, a sociologist and a teacher who is today referred to by his people as ‘Mwalimu’ meaning teacher.
Nyerere was a dedicated Catholic, with exemplary and original life in leadership that exhibited extraordinary cardinal Christian virtues like fortitude, temperance, prudence and justice. Nyerere’s display of cardinal virtues persuaded the Catholic Church that he was a great leader of cherubic proportions; and in 2006 the Tanzania bishops with a consent from the Vatican initiated a beatification process and eventual canonisation in the future.
Here in a series of articles that will explore and map his pan-African leadership treasures within Tanzania and abroad, we will reveal his greatness as one of the greatest pan-African founding leaders. We invite you to voyage together in this narrative of Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere one of Africa’s great statesmen of our time.
Julius Kambarage Nyerere was born on the 13th April 1922 in Mwitongo area in Butiama town Mara Region. He was one of the sons of Chief Nyerere Burito of the Zanaki chiefdom. His father Nyerere Burito was born in 1860 and was appointed chief in 1915 during the German colonial administration of the then German East Africa.
At birth, Nyerere was given the name of ‘Mugendi’ meaning walker in Zanaki language, but then his name was changed to “Kambarage”, the name referring to a female rain spirit. Nyerere grew up in a polytheistic belief system of the Zanaki tribe assisting in the farming of the millet, maize and cassava as well as herding family cattle and goats.
As a son of a chief he was exposed to African administration, power and authority. Living in the communal royal compound gave him an appreciation for the collective living; that would later influence his political ideals and beliefs to coin his African Socialism ideology.
In February 1934 Nyerere began his primary education at the Native Administration School in Mwisenge, Musoma. He excelled in school and after six months his excellent examination results allowed him to skip a grade. In 1936 he completed his primary education and his final exam results were the highest in the Lake Province and Western Province regions.
Due to his excellent performance, Nyerere then earned a Government Scholarship to attend his secondary education at an elite prestigious Tabora Government Secondary School in Tabora Town that he began his secondary schooling in 1937. In October 1942, Nyerere completed his secondary education and was enrolled at the Makerere University College at Kampala in Uganda to attend a teacher training course.
His academic ability would allow him to enroll at Makerere College in Uganda East Africa and Edinburgh in the UK.