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Articles on political and social issues in Cameroon, Africa and the world as seen by Njei Moses Timah > In Butiama, Tanzania to pay Homage to Julius Nyerere

21 Apr 2022


Nwalimu Julius K Nyerere and my pilgrimage to Butiama

I started my journey as an extension from our visit to the Serengeti National Park. I took off in a hired car in the morning of April 9, 2022 and we drove for over four hours in mostly beautiful rural Tanzania before arriving Butiama after midday.


https://www.youtube.com/shorts/v0fM0KuMdik On the way to Butiama from Serengeti

It was to me a dream come true to set foot on the place where one of Africa’s greatest sons was born and is buried.

Julius Nyerere (b.1922) led the then Tanganyika to independence in 1961 and later became president when Tanganyika and Zanzibar joined to form Tanzania in 1964. He stepped down as president in 1985. He is a rare breed of African leaders who have walked on this land. Nyerere was a nationalist and pan Africanist and a crusader for social justice. Nyerere preached for the economic and political integration of African states at independence but his lofty plea fell on deaf ears thanks to the presence of the lackeys of imperialism within the OAU. He was incorruptible, humble and highly knowledgeable on issues of African emancipation and advancement.

The modest living room of Nyerere's personal house and the spot he used to sit just behind me

He had the foresight to institute Swahili as a common and official language to unite the 120 tribes of Tanzania. During most of his rule, Tanzania was one of the poorest countries in Africa, but that didn’t discourage Nyerere from using his meagre resources to support liberation movements in Mozambique, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), South Africa, Namibia and Angola. In these decolonization wars, Tanzania was a key frontline state that was hosting liberation movements and thousands of refugees.

Standing at the birthplace of Nyerere and behind is the house that contains his tomb

At a party Congress in 1967, he declared in justifying his support for liberation movements on the continent, “We shall never be really free and secure while some parts of our continent are still enslaved.” I remember during the oil crisis of the seventies, Tanzania could not afford to import enough fuel and as such Nyerere advised Tanzanians to ride bicycles to work and he led by example.


Nyerere Speaks


Nyerere faced so many challenges especially the malicious propaganda from the West against his brand of African socialism called Ujamaa (familyhood) which formed the basis of socio-economic policies in Tanzania. Not least amongst the problems was the buffoonery of Idi Amim who was a jingoistic character ruling neighboring Uganda. You could imagine the consternation all over Africa when Idi Amin would insult Nyerere’s grey hair and challenge him to a boxing match where he will fight him with one hand. Amin eventually made a costly mistake by ordering his soldiers to invade Tanzania in October 1978. Nyerere called off the bluff, mobilized the Tanzanian people by referring to the invaders as snakes in the house, and took the fight to Idi Amin.  Idi Amin’s defeat came in June 1979 and he fled Uganda and eventually died in exile.

After stepping down as president, Julius Nyerere went back to his village in Butiama and lived in a modest house which I had the privilege to visit. Another modest but more befitting house was built for him by some Tanzanians but he lived in it briefly before passing away. That Nyerere, a former president is being considered for Sainthood by the Roman Catholic Church speaks volumes about his character and moral rectitude.

I did visit the Julius Nyerere Museum not far from the Nyerere tomb. Every detail about his life history and his political life and down to the clothes he usually wore could be found there. I had a brief exchange with Emmanuel Kiondo the director of the museum. I appreciated the work they were doing to keep the legacy of of one of Africa’s illustrious son alive.


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Njei Moses Timah