Nyerere and the vision of a United States of Africa -11

Wednesday May 30 2018


By Peter Kafumu

As we continue to feature Julius Kambarage Nyerere, a pan-Africanist who lived his entire life pursuing unity both at the national and at the continental level, we at the same time reconnoitre the failed vision for Pan-Africanism. In the proceeding chapters, as we trace his life, we also cherish his strong belief that only in unity can strength and methods, be found to tackle the challenges of the African continent.

In January 1943, Nyerere went to Makerere University in Uganda to begin his teacher training, majoring in Chemistry, Biology, Latin, and Greek. Alongside his studies, he was interested in Catholicism, and he studied various Papal Encyclicals; reading extensively the works of Catholic philosophers like Jacques Maritain as well as the works of the liberal British philosopher John Stuart Mill.

While studying at Makerere University, his Pan-African values geminated as is illustrated by a letter he wrote to the Tanganyika Standard Newspaper in July 1943, when he said: “…capitalism was alien to Africa and that the continent should turn to ‘African socialism’…the African is by nature a socialistic being; the educated African should take the lead in moving the population towards a more explicitly socialist model…”

Nyerere graduated from Makerere with a diploma in education in 1947 and he returned to Tanganyika. He was then employed at the Saint Mary’s Secondary School (present day Milambo Secondary School) in Tabora, where he taught Biology and English. In 1949, he received a scholarship for further studies at the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom where he earned a Master of Arts degree in Economics and History.

Spirit of Pan-Africanism

During his stay in Edinburgh he met George Padmore, the West Indian pan-Africanist; and was then infused with the spirit of Pan-Africanism, which he would carry with him as a liberation torch throughout his lifetime as a leader.

He graduated at the Edinburgh and returned to Tanganyika in October 1952 and once again took a teaching career at the St Francis’ College (present day Pugu High School) in Dar es Salaam to teach History.

While teaching, he was also elected the President of the Tanganyika African Association (TAA), an association that was pushing for equitable social justice for the Africans. Under this leadership, TAA gained an increasingly political dimension, devoted to the pursuit for independence of Tanganyika from the British Empire.

On the 7th July 1954, Nyerere, transformed TAA into a political party, the Tanganyika African National Union (Tanu). Nyerere as a leader of Tanu was now fully involved in the plea for independence of Tanganyika. While the colonial government closely monitored his activities, his employer the Benedictines Catholic Missionaries were increasingly worried by his activities.

In August 1954, the United Nations of which Tanganyika was put under trusteeship, recommended a twenty-five year timetable for the Tanganyika territory to gain independence, and the issue was to be discussed at a UN Trusteeship Council in New York City. Tanu sent Julius Nyerere to be its representative in the discussions.

Pro-independence activities

Meanwhile, the government continued to pressurise his employers to terminate his employment because of his pro-independence activities. In April 1955, on his return from New York and amid mounting pressures to terminate his employment, he willingly resigned. Nyerere was very proud of his choice as he was once quoted saying: “…I was a schoolmaster by choice and a politician by accident…”

By the late 1950s, Tanganyika African National Union (Tanu) a political party led by Nyerere was now at its pinnacle. Tanu activities had expanded throughout the Tanganyika Territory and with a great support from the people; the independence struggles in Tanganyika was now at its peak.