By Dr. Manning Marable
For two weeks in late 2006, I traveled throughout Tanzania, East Africa,
on a fact-finding tour. Over thirty years earlier, I had attended the University of Nairobi,
as an undergraduate college student. During my year in East Africa, I visited
and traveled throughout Kenya,
as well as neighboring Uganda
immersing myself in the Swahili language, African cultures, and the region's
Throughout the 1970s, there was a large expatriate community
of idealistic, young African Americans who lived and worked throughout Tanzania, and especially in its capital city, Dar Es Salaam. What
attracted most of them to the East African country was a remarkable social
experiment called "Ujamaa," or "African Socialism." The political architect of Ujamaa
humble yet charismatic president, Julius K. Nyerere, who was universally called
"Mwalimu," which in the Swahili language means "teacher."
When Nyerere became president of what was then called
in December, 1961, he was confronted with overwhelming challenges. Great Britain,
the country's ruling colonial power from 1919 until 1961, had devoted virtually
no resources to building government-sponsored schools, hospitals, or social
welfare programs. In a nation twice the size of California, there were fewer than one
thousand miles of paved roads. The country's major crops - coffee, sisal, tea
and cotton - were produced for external markets, but agricultural production
largely occurred on technologically-backward, single family farms, without
tractors or modern agricultural equipment. Over 80 percent of the population
worked in the agricultural sector, living in rural areas without electricity,
irrigation, and schools.
Nyerere was determined to transform his nation's poverty.
Nyerere envisioned the construction of villages, "ujamaa vijijini," where
millions of small farmers and peasants would be relocated. Each village would
have access to modern agricultural equipment, electricity, running water, and
education. Because all of Tanganyika's
banks, large plantations, factories and private companies were owned by the
British or Europeans, Nyerere called for their nationalization by the
government. Nationalization, Nyerere believed, was the only means through which
Africans could control their own economic affairs.
To inaugurate these bold policies, in 1967, the Tanzanian
president delivered the "Arusha Declaration," which committed the young nation
to a policy of "Ujamaa," or "African Socialism." In Swahili, "Ujamaa" translates
as "Familyhood." Unlike Marxist socialism, Ujamaa was based on the African
traditions of sharing, communal values, and self-reliance. Nyerere vigorously
opposed class distinctions between the rich and the poor. He preached that all
citizens had to make personal sacrifices for the benefit of the entire nation.
Nyerere fought against government corruption, and set a personal example by
living a frugal and modest life.
Perhaps Nyerere's greatest contributions to the empowerment
of African were his commitments to education and to Pan-Africanism. Nyerere, a
former schoolteacher, understood that African people could never be truly free
so long as they were illiterate. Therefore, Tanzania declared that a primary
school-level education must be compulsory for all citizens. The nation invested
millions of dollars into building secondary schools and a university. As a
result, Tanzania has one of
the highest literacy rates in the Third World.
As of 2003, 86 percent of all males, and 71 percent of females, were literate
in either Swahili or English.
Nyerere was also a committed "Pan-Africanist," who believed
that no African nation could be completely free so long as any part of the
continent was dominated by white-minority rule. Under Nyerere, Dar
Es Salaam became Africa's headquarters for the global
anti-apartheid movement, the struggle to destroy the oppressive, white
dictatorship in South Africa.
It was also home to the anti-Portuguese colonial struggles in neighboring Mozambique and Angola. In 1974, Tanzania hosted
the "Sixth Pan-African Conference," where hundreds of African Americans
participated in its deliberations. These idealist actions by Nyerere earned him
the implacable opposition from the U.S., the International Monetary
Fund, and the World Bank. Foreign investment and loans were cut off, and Tanzania's
currency went into a freefall, plummeting in value.
By the early 1980s, other sources of opposition to Nyerere
small middle class, and more prosperous African farmers rejected both ujamaa and
the collective villages. They wanted privatization, individually-owned farms
and businesses, where they could enrich themselves. Tanzania also lacked the thousands
of technicians, agronomists and educators necessary to run the government's
collective farms and nationalized businesses. Corruption also became a serious
problem, as many members of the government's ruling party, "Chama Cha
Mapinduzi" (Party of the Revolution)
used their positions for personal gain. By 1985, with Nyerere's retirement from
the presidency, Tanzania
shifted away from ujamaa's policies. State-owned companies were privatized, and
the rural collective villages were disbanded. I was eager to learn what had
happened here since the 1980s. I soon
discovered both hopeful and discouraging signs, indicating that the struggle
for a liberated Africa has not yet been won.
Dr. Manning Marable is Professor Public Affairs, History,
and African-American Studies at Columbia
University, New York
City. "Along the Color Line" appears in over 400 publications internationally,
and is available at http://www.manningmarable.net.