August 15, 2008

Learning from each other – The wisdom of Mwalimu

Filed under: interview,Mwalimu (Vol 1.2. - Second Quarter 2008) — newritings @ 7:00 pm

The Heart of Africa. Interview with Julius Nyerere on Anti-Colonialism by Ikaweba Bunting, New Internationalist Magazine, issue 309, January-February 1999. (read the full here)

IB: Does the Arusha Declaration still stand up today?

MJN: I still travel around with it. I read it over and over to see what I would change. Maybe I would improve on the Kiswahili that was used but the Declaration is still valid: I would not change a thing. Tanzania had been independent for a short time before we began to see a growing gap between the haves and the have-nots in our country. A privileged group was emerging from the political leaders and bureaucrats who had been poor under colonial rule but were now beginning to use their positions in the Party and the Government to enrich themselves. This kind of development would alienate the leadership from the people. So we articulated a new national objective: we stressed that development is about all our people and not just a small and privileged minority.

The Arusha Declaration was what made Tanzania distinctly Tanzania. We stated what we stood for, we laid down a code of conduct for our leaders and we made an effort to achieve our goals. This was obvious to all, even if we made mistakes – and when one tries anything new and uncharted there are bound to be mistakes.

The Arusha Declaration and our democratic single-party system, together with our national language, Kiswahili, and a highly politicized and disciplined national army, transformed more than 126 different tribes into a cohesive and stable nation.

However, despite this achievement, they say we failed in Tanzania, that we floundered. But did we? We must say no. We can’t deny everything we accomplished. There are some of my friends who we did not allow to get rich; now they are getting rich and they say “See, we are getting rich now, so you were wrong”. But what kind of answer is that?

The floundering of socialism has been global. This is what needs an explanation, not just the Tanzanian part of it. George Bernard Shaw, who was an atheist, said, `You cannot say Christianity has failed because it has never been tried.’ It is the same with socialism: you cannot say it has failed because it has never been tried.

IB: Why did your attempt to find a new way founder on the rocks?

MJN: I was in Washington last year. At the World Bank the first question they asked me was “how did you fail?” I responded that we took over a country with 85 per cent of its adult population illiterate. The British ruled us for 43 years. When they left, there were 2 trained engineers and 12 doctors. This is the country we inherited.

When I stepped down there was 91-per-cent literacy and nearly every child was in school. We trained thousands of engineers and doctors and teachers.

In 1988 Tanzania’s per-capita income was $280. Now, in 1998, it is $140. So I asked the World Bank people what went wrong. Because for the last ten years Tanzania has been signing on the dotted line and doing everything the IMF and the World Bank wanted. Enrolment in school has plummeted to 63 per cent and conditions in health and other social services have deteriorated. I asked them again: “what went wrong?” These people just sat there looking at me. Then they asked what could they do? I told them have some humility. Humility – they are so arrogant!


1 Comment »

  1. […] Learning from each other: – The wisdom of Mwalimu – The interview: Azeddine Akesbi (TI – […]

    Pingback by Contents « newritings — August 27, 2008 @ 11:20 pm | Reply

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