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On this date, we observe the birth of Julius Kambarage Nyerere in 1922. He was the first president of Tanzania in 1964.
Born the son of a minor chief in Butiama, in what was then British-ruled Tanganyika, Nyerere was educated as a teacher. He entered politics in 1954 and founded the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU). He became the colony's chief minister when TANU won the elections of 1960 and the country became independent a year later. Nyerere continued as Prime Minister, until early in 1962 when he resigned to concentrate on restructuring TANU for its post independence role. In 1964, following a revolution on the Arab-dominated island of Zanzibar and a mutiny in his army, Nyerere formed a union of the two countries, with himself as president.
Committed to African liberation, he offered sanctuary in Tanzania to members of the African National Congress and numerous other rebel groups from Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola, and Uganda. In 1978, under Nyerere's leadership, Tanzanian troops entered Uganda, deposing Dictator Idi Amin. A strong supporter of indigenous African culture, Nyerere promoted the use of Swahili, even translating the works of Shakespeare into his native tongue. Under his leadership Tanzania became the only country on the continent with a native African official language.
He stepped down as president in 1985, but continued as head of the ruling party until 1990. At the time of Nyerere's retirement from TANU party leadership, Tanzania faced major economic problems arising from his attempt to build an agrarian socialist economy. Nevertheless, the country maintained an expanding educational system and a strong sense of national unity unmarked by ethnic unrest. He remained active in international politics, Nyerere’s style of governing emphasized ujamaa ("familyhood"), a unique form of rural socialism. Nyerere was addressed throughout Africa as Mwalimu, Swahili for "teacher.” He died in October 1999.
The Encyclopedia Britannica, Fifteenth Edition.
Copyright 1996 Encyclopedia Britannica Inc.