East Africa Rising: Tanzania at 50

“We, the people of Tanganyika, would like to light a candle and put it on the top of Mount Kilimanjaro which would shine beyond our borders giving hope where there was despair, love where there was hate, and dignity where there was before only humiliation.” – Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, 22 October 1959 (before independence), addressing the Tanganyika Legislative Assembly.

Julius Kambarage Nyerere was just 39 years old when he led Tanganyika to independence on 9 December 1961. Today, Tanzania celebrates 50 years of independence! East Africa’s gentle giant, whose size covers the same area as Belgium, France, Switzerland and Italy combined, with 123 ethnic groups, continues to be a shinning example of the African spirit of communalism and a beacon of hope for the process of nation-building and economic awakening in the region.

Focussed leadership in maximising Tanzania’s immense, untapped potential is what many argue, will be the difference in realising the country’s Vision 2025 and if the present GDP growth remains the same, the land of Kilimanjaro could well over take Kenya as the region’s largest economy by 2030. For Tanzania to do so, it is argued that the government must focus on three main sectors: agriculture, mining and energy.

To this end, Jakaya Kikwete’s administration is currently working on several key projects, including: a high-voltage cross border electricity transmission system: the Zambia-Tanzania-Kenya Interconnection, a gas pipeline linking natural gas reserves in Songo Songo Island with the capital Dar es Salaam, aggressive oil and gas exploration in Tanzania’s Indian Ocean with both local and international firms, not forgetting that Tanzania is ranked as the world’s fourth largest gold producer and the sole producer of the tanzanite gemstone (a mineral far more rare than diamonds).

Invariably, the road ahead will be long and hard if Tanzania hopes to conquer the “three enemies” that Nyerere identified at post-independence: “Ignorance, Poverty and Disease.”. Therefore, responsible leadership at all levels will be critical in ensuring that Tanzania remains on track with its human and economic development strategy as encapsulated in Vision 2025.

And so, as we celebrate Tanzania’s golden jubilee today and our own Jamhuri Day on Monday, here are some wise words on leadership from Tanzania’s late founding father. These are excerpts taken from a letter Julius Nyerere issued to Cabinet ministers, government officials and party leaders in July 13, 1963:

“The Office of the President should not oblige its holder to become also the greatest public nuisance.. Whenever he decides to go out, whether to a dinner, a dance or even to visit friends, other road-users will suddenly find themselves being cleared out of the way like so much unsightly rubbish (…)
There are several occasions when I have wanted passers-by to be allowed into the grounds to enjoy the ngoma going on. It has become much more difficult to enter those grounds than it was under colonial rule. Hirtherto, whenever I have questioned the value of all this undemocratic pomposity, I have been assured that ‘the people like it’ (…)
Do the people really like being refused permission to join in the ngoma that they can see going on on the other side of State House barriers? Do they really love being shouted at to get off the road because the President, a minister or a regional commissioner is taking an afternoon drive? (…)
Do they really feel a surge of pride and patriotism every time they are expected to stop what they are doing and stand at attention just become some newly-appointed official whom they many not even have seen before is being serenaded with the national anthem? (…)
Dignity does not need pomposity to uphold it: and pomposity in all its forms is wrong. Even if it were proved that the people really enjoyed it – which I very much doubt- it would still be a wrong; and it would still be our duty to put a stop to it and to tell the people that what they had learned to enjoy was wrong. (…)
Some of the things we have done in the past, like buying big cars for regional commissioners, were bad mistakes.
Everyone knows that we are not rich. And the only way to defeat our present poverty is to accept the fact that it exists, to live as poor people and to spend every cent that we have surplus to our basic needs on the things that will make us richer, healthier and more educated in the future.”

Happy Jamhuri Day to all. Enjoy the long Weekend!

4 thoughts on “East Africa Rising: Tanzania at 50

  1. Couldn’t have put it any better How relevant that speech is in today’s leadership I wish they could just implement it but times have changed the enemies have grown to include security threats!

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