Has Tanzania finally torn apart Nyerere ’s legacy?

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Fri Jul 18 18:03:04 UTC 2008

Has Tanzania finally torn apart Nyerere's legacy?
Thursday, 17th July, 2008

Jerry Okungu


ONE of the finest debates in Tanzania's newspapers a few days ago was
the debate about the Tanzanian education system. Critics of the system
thought it was substandard, inferior and a disservice to the growing
population of Tanzanians. There were obvious concerns that the current
products of the University of Dar-es-Salaam along with other local
universities were incapable of competing with their counterparts from
Kenya and Uganda; that products from Kenyan and Ugandan universities
were better prepared for the competitive business world. However, what
took me aback was the vicious attack on the use of Kiswahili in
Tanzania's institutions of learning at all levels. Because Kiswahili
was Tanzania's national language, Tanzanians spoke it freely and even
preferred it in institutions of learning.

Quoting a number of professors from the University of Dar-es-Salaam,
it was revealing that professors were frustrated by the low level of
English language forcing them to resort to Kiswahili in order for
their lectures to have meaning. More disturbing was the realisation
that Tanzanians may not be as good masters of Kiswahili as the rest of
East Africa may think. A number of them were said not to speak it well
and even considered it as foreign as English. In Kenya, we always
assume that Kiswahili is an urban language only useful for
communicating with other ethnic communities when we are in town. When
we get back to our rural homes, we abundantly indulge in our mother
tongues with relish to the extent that for one to be elected a Member
of Parliament in a rural constituency, proficiency in one's mother
tongue becomes a prerequisite.

What I didn't know was that this is also the trend in Tanzania,
contrary to our belief that Tanzanians only speak Kiswahili. Right
now, many Tanzanians, journalists included, speak sheng Kiswahili, a
corruption of English, Kiswahili and other local languages. t is very
common to find words such as feki for fake, penalti for penalty and
bethidei for birthday in reputable daily newspapers. For this reason,
many able Tanzanians are sending their children to local expatriate
schools or better still send their children to Kenya and Uganda before
shipping them to the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries
for quality education. Quality education here includes the notion that
a good command of written and spoken English makes one a cut above the

If this degrading of Kiswahili succeeds, Nyerere's philosophy of one
language, one nation will have faltered. My fear is that if Tanzania
loses the grip on Kiswahili, there may be no real motivation for the
rest of the East African Community citizens to master the language
considered the lingua franca of our region.

However, the most shocking setback for Nyerere's enduring philosophy
was the realisation that last week, the Tanzanian Parliament finally
made it official that the country had abandoned Ujamaism—the country's
version of socialism.

This policy statement was made in Parliament by Tanzania's minister
for East African Cooperation as part of the clarification that the
breakup of the EAC in 1977 was due to divergent economic policies
pursued by the three partner states at the time. For that reason,
implementing protocols on the Common Market, Customs Union and the
Monetary Union became impractical.

At that time, while Julius Nyerere's CCM pursued Socialism with
vigour, Milton Obote's UPC was toying with the Commonman's Charter
while Jomo Kenyatta's kitchen cabinet clung to the Western mode of
capitalism inherited from the British and buoyed by the Americans.

With the death of Ujamaism, the curtain will definitely fall of the
most celebrated Arusha Declaration where the philosophy of Nyerere's
African Socialism was expounded.

What may worry ordinary Tanzanians most is that as they embrace the
new culture of capitalism that made them disparage Kenyans as a
man-eat-man society, will they stomach the new culture of greed that
has seen so many of their leaders in the Kikwete government thrown
into the political wilderness?

It is true Nyerere's economic policies failed miserably to the extent
that before he quit office, Tanzania was truly a man-eat-nothing
society. There was nothing to buy in the shops. A bar of soap or
cooking oil could cost and arm and a leg. However, despite all these
hardships, Tanzanians were a proud people.

There were few beggars on the streets while common theft or bank
robberies were unheard of. All the land belonged to the state.

Will the end of Ujamaism usher in unbridled greed and high level
corruption that has permeated the Kenyan society?


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