Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Nyerere, Julius Kambarage (1922–1999)

Title: Julius Nyerere
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African nationalist, chief minister (1961–1962), and president (1962–1985) of Tanganyika (later the United Republic of Tanzania). Born in Butiama in the British colony of Tanganyika on 13 April 1922, Julius Nyerere was educated in Great Britain and graduated from Edinburgh University with an MA degree in history and economics in 1952. He returned to Tanganyika and in 1954 formed the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU), an organization seeking to win independence from Britain. On 1 September 1960, Nyerere won the national elections and became Tanganyika's first chief minister. In March 1961, Tanganyika gained its independence from Britain. Nyerere was elected prime minister, but he resigned on 22 January 1962. In December 1962 Tanganyika became a republic, and Nyerere was elected president on 9 December 1962.

Nyerere was one of the founders of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1963. In April 1964, Tanganyika formed a union with the Republic of Zanzibar, establishing the United Republic of Tanzania. Because Zanzibar had been receiving military aid from the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Soviet Union, this created Cold War tensions in the region. By 1965, as Tanzania's relations with Britain and the United States deteriorated, both countries curtailed their foreign aid to Tanzania.

Even before Tanzania's relations with the West had begun to decline, Nyerere had begun to cultivate a closer relationship with the Soviet bloc and the PRC. Since the communist bloc had been providing weapons and training for liberation movements supported by Tanzania in southern Africa, it was natural for Tanzania to establish closer contacts with these nations. In August 1964, Nyerere signed an agreement inviting PRC military advisors to Tanzania. In February 1965 Nyerere visited China, and four months later PRC leader Zhou Enlai visited Tanzania. Despite his close relations with the communist bloc, Nyerere had no intention of relying on any single country for support, and he pursued a pragmatic foreign policy benefiting Tanzania.

On 5 February 1967, Nyerere announced in the Arusha Declaration that Tanzania was a socialist nation, and a day later he proclaimed the nationalization of all banks. On 6 January 1968, he admitted that Tanzania had allied with the communist powers in supporting liberation movements in southern Africa, but he argued that this did not affect Tanzania's other foreign policies.

Although Nyerere instituted a number of socialist programs, he was first and foremost an African nationalist. He based his program of collectivization of the nation's agricultural system, Ujamaa ("familyhood"), on the extended family of traditional Africa before the coming of the Europeans. The system of collectivization failed, however. By 1976 Tanzania had gone from Africa's largest exporter of agricultural products to its greatest importer.

Nyerere resigned the presidency on 31 July 1985. In a candor unusual in a politician, he admitted frankly, "I failed." He remained chairman of the Revolutionary Party of Tanzania until 1990, however. Nyerere died in London on 14 October 1999.

Edy Parsons


Further Reading
Smith, William Edgett. We Must Run While They Walk: A Portrait of Africa's Julius Nyerere. New York: Random House, 1971.
 

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