Mindworks’ Weblog

Thinking Matters

Mwalimu

Posted by Andrew Cooper on August 4, 2008

Julius Kambarage Nyerere

Julius Kambarage Nyerere

The late Julius Nyerere was, by any measure, a great man.  He led Tanzania (the former Tanganyika and Zanzibar) through the painful process of gaining independence and was its President from 1964-1985.

Nyerere had a very clear vision for the new Republic.  Based on a version ofAfrican Socialism, he wanted Tanzania to stand on its own feet and be largely independent from the world’s economic system, which he thought would corrupt the country and lead it in the wrong direction.  (There are, I believe, some similarities between his vision and that of Eamon de Valera for Ireland.)  Although the dream of an independent Tanzania proved impossible to achieve (one measure of Nyerere’s greatness is that he said, later in his life, ‘I was wrong’ – try counting the number of leaders who have the courage to say that, and you probably won’t need all the fingers on one of your hands), Nyerere achieved many great things.  In particular, he bound the country together by establishing Kiswahili (it means ‘language of the coast’) as a shared means of communication across his vast country, binding together over 100 tribes into a single nation.  (It’s not quite that simple, Zanzibar’s relationship to the rest of the country is problematic, but I’m not going to spin off into that – the fact remains that Tanzania has, unlike its neigbours, been at peace with itself since Independence.)

I’m thinking about Tanzania this morning because I hope to hear today that the mother of all contract negotiations has, at last, been concluded by my friends and colleagues Vipul and Tom out in Dar es Salaam. What a wonderful name for a city that is, isn’t it?  Almost poetry: it means abode or haven of peace.  ‘Peaceful’ is not the word that would spring to mind if you were suddenly to be transported to its vibrant city centre, but it certainly has its peaceful spots – the botanical gardens, for example, and particularly its spectacular Indian Ocean shores.  You really must go there some day.  For now, try exploring it from the air thanks to the wonders of Google MapsThis view is centred on the botanical gardens.

Nyerere, who is very much revered in Tanzania, is known by two titles. One is Baba wa Taifa (Father of the Nation) and the other is the title of this post.  Mwalimu means ‘teacher’.  Nyerere was a teacher by profession and teachers are, I think it’s fair to say, held in rather higher regard in Tanzania than they are here.  There’s another post in that idea, but I must draw this to a close.

If the mother of all contract negotations has been concluded, I’ll be heading for the haven of peace quite soon and you, reader, will be able to come along with me via this blog.  I’ll be taking my laptop, Flip camera, my digital camera and the digital voice recorder I used for the interviews here, with me so – in the moments I have to spare between working – I’ll cover the trip.  This will be fun for me and will give me a chance to try out some ideas forExplore China and also for another interesting project I’m working on closer to home.  I’ll need to be careful with my time – it’s going to be a packed and very busy – but I’ll make 30 minutes a day to do this.  Should learn a lot, I think.

One last point: in establishing Kiswahili as a common language, Nyere was helping to create a ‘network of minds’: something I’ve blogged about before and an idea that increasingly intrigues me.  More on that story later.  (Note to self: must check all the ‘more on that story laters’ below and follow them up at some point!)

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