Date: Fri, 15 Oct 1999 22:34:06 -0400
From: yemi toure <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: H | Y | P | E Beloved African Leader Dies - 2 - Perspective
H | Y | P | E Information Service
The Meaning of ‘Mwalimu’
By Yemi Toure, 15 October 1999
One of the world's great leaders, Tanzania former President Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, has died.
Julius Kambarage Nyerere tried to rid his government of colonial, racist, capitalist past, not just put an "African" cover on it. He tried to lead his nation into the future through development, self-reliance, political independence and economic justice.
He tried to show his people and the world that a nation, though poor, did not have to be exploited. That self-reliance, in a nation and in a people, was crucial.
He was impressive to me because he not only made the need for Afrikan socialism so plain and clear; but he tried to practice it, even in his personal example.
He worked hard to implement cooperatives among the people in the farms and in the towns, getting all to share together, in both the work and the rewards of work.
He decreased the economic gaps between individuals and groups. He recognized that some may make more money than others, but, as he said so plainly, is there any justice is one person making 100 times more than another? Is not the teacher's work just a valuable at the businessperson's? And if that teacher has 5 children and needs a library at home to prepare her lesson plans, should she live in a small hovel, while the businessperson has rooms in his house he has never used?
Socialism is just another way of saying economic justice, and Mwalimu wanted it passionately for his people.
Mwalimu walked the walk. No big parades, no fancy uniforms, no huge entourage, no big palace, no Swiss bank account. He lived in a humble seaside home during his presidency - - for why should a leader use up the nation's resources for show, when the people do without?
For those who like to show off their riches while the people starve, Tanzania came up with a word for them - - wabenzi. The word riffed off the insane love of Mercedes-Benzes that still infects the world today.
I was fortunate to have been in Tanzania during the Sixth Pan-African Congress in 1974 when Mwalimu was president. I heard him speak to the delegates.
A deeply meaningful event came while I was in Mwalimu's country. Next door to the South, Mozambique was fighting to liberate itself from Portugal's grip. Mwalimu allowed the freedom fighters to set up a small clinic at the Congress, and I joined delegates from around the world in giving blood for the fighters. It is one of the great moments of my life.
Afrika loved Mwalimu. He was given the title "Mwalimu," which means "teacher," because of the lessons he imparted. But the term meant more. It was also a term of affection, a term of endearment, a show of love.
Mwalimu loved Afrika. Tanzania is one, if not the only, Afrikan nation that has an Afrikan language, Kiswahili, as a national language. Most Afrikan nations use only a European language.
Mwalimu was a strong and original and creative leader of his country, and equally, a strong and original and creative thinker.
Plain spoken, down to earth, powerful yet easily understandable ideas fill his works. I hope you will read and share "Crusade for Liberation," "Freedom and Development," "Freedom and Socialism," "Freedom and Unity," "Man and Development," and "Ujamaa."
When Afrika, in the future, is strong and united and socialist, and Black folk around the world have regained our proper place on the world stage as a world people, and the world as a whole is more at peace, Mwalimu will be remembered for his guidance and insight during these difficult days.
Mwalimu, Dear Ancestor:
Thank you for your leadership. For your vision. Thank you for your sacrifice. Thank you for your example of what an Afrikan leader can be. For your humility. For your socialism and your Pan-Afrikanism. We will now, and down through the ages, continue to look to you for your wisdom. Continue to guide us, dear ancestor.
- - Yemi Toure has been an activist in the Black community since the Sixties. He edits HYPE, a web site that monitors the Black image in the media, at http://www.afrikan.net/hype
(c)1999 Yemi Toure