Philosophy of Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere
“There must be equality because only on this basis will men work cooperatively. There must be freedom because every individual is not served by the society unless it is his. And there must be unity, because only when the society is united can its members live and work in peace, security and well-being. Society must have institutions which safeguard and promote both unity and freedom and it must be permeated by an attitude—a society ethic—which ensures that these institutions remain true to their purpose, and are adapted as need arises.”
-Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere
With a humble bearing and an incisive mind, Julius Nyerere was the conscience of post-colonial Africa and its strategic leader. Facing the enormous challenges of political and economic development in a rapidly growing but unlettered population, Nyerere sought to build a new nation based on the best principles of European and African thought. Just as it did for the American revolutionary generation, independence represented a unique point in history, and the opportunity to build a new vision for society, “a more perfect union” for Africa.
Drawing on a wide variety of both European and African theories of state and social development, Nyerere developed a unique governing philosophy known as ‘ujamaa’ meaning ‘familyhood’ that has helped guide Tanzania on a path of peace and stability, and provided the social infrastructure for stable and equitable economic development. His goal was to integrate rural villages into a modern state to ensure that all citizens have an institutional structure to allow them to participate in their government. Organizing villages to bring government facilities—health and education—to rural citizens, Nyerere’s policies laid the groundwork for a unified nation that overcame ethnic and linguistic differences.
A deeply religious man, Nyerere’s ideals drew heavily on Roman Catholic teaching on the nature of a just society. Nyerere maintained a deep respect for human rights and peace in a dangerous and unstable part of the world. In honor of his idealism and his integrity, the Catholic Church is currently reviewing Nyerere’s life in consideration of beatification. While his social democratic ideals did not lead to the prosperity he hoped for, Ujamaa still served as an ideology to unify the nation and prevent the ethnic, racial, and religious violence that has plagued the African continent and to express an ethic of service for ordinary men and women.