Nyerere: A Flawed Hero

To acknowledge that Nyerere was better than most African leaders of his generation amounts to only modest praise. His record was a decidedly mixed one.

Issue: Summer 2000

When Julius Nyerere, former president of Tanzania, died last October, there ensued an outpouring of grief and tribute in Africa and beyond that left others puzzled and even indignant. They demanded to know what was so special about a man who had "single-handedly destroyed the economy of Tanzania", who had "showed little regard for individual rights and liberties", and who was to blame for "forced removals on a scale about which apartheid bureaucrats could only fantasise." But not even his harshest critics denied that he had possessed a certain charisma. For many, Nyerere still remained "Baba la Taifa", which means "Father of the Nation", or even broader, "Father of the African Struggle" or "Father of Africa"; and, of course, "Mwalimu" -- "the Teacher."

You must be a subscriber of The National Interest to access this article. If you are already a subscriber, please activate your online access. Not a subscriber? Become a subscriber today!