There can hardly have been a significant newspaper in the world which did not publish news of Mwalimu’s death and an appropriate obituary. The following extracts are selected at random. The majority of the obituaries were balanced, pointing out the weaknesses as well as the strengths of Mwalimu’s contributions to Tanzania and the world.
THE LONDON TIMES: … one of the most cultured and personable African statesman of his time but circumstances conspired to turn him into a nationalist campaigner, the leader of an emergent nation and the prophet of a revolutionary socialist philosophy for Africa… he achieved a reputation for personal incorruptibility and principled dealings which made him stand out among post-independence African leaders. But his experiment in agricultural socialism was over-ambitious and ultimately disastrous …. as his own political position became increasingly embattled, an instinct for survival conspired to make this once liberal and, by nature, gentle man become impatient and coercive in his dealings with those who rivalled or opposed him… In the field of international affairs Nyerere … earned a reputation for clear thinking, plain speaking and moral superiority ….
The WASHINGTON POST: … although Mr Nyerere’s economic programme had little success, his social policy is widely revered for having instilled a sense of African identity that cuts across ethnic lines ….
AFRICA TODAY: Why has Nyerere still got a grip on the collective imagination of Tanzanians and East Africans almost a decade and a half after he retired as President? The answer is simple. Mwalimu is Tanzania . … . Quite unlike the typical African leader he had better things to do than loot his country’s wealth. He achieved national unity …tribal and clan tensions tearing apart states all over the continent are insignificant in Tanzania.
THE INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Idealistic, principled and some would say misguided …
The FRANFURTER RUNDSCHAU’S headline translates as ‘The Voice of Africa is Silent -Tanzania’s former President Julius Nyerere will be a loss not only for the black continent’.
The London INDEPENDENT: The Nyerere generation of African leaders espoused old-fashioned socialism, collectivism and even Maoism which now seem redundant and damaging but which were crucial in their day to nation-building. These concepts were certainly founded on more substance than the greed and power hunger which have discredited the ‘strong new leaders’ …. Nyerere’s triumph was to build a lasting physiognomy for a place which had no logical raison d’etre apart from in the pencil and ruler of a 19th century map-maker … his humility and honesty remain a guiding light for contemporary leaders …. Nyerere turned Tanzania into an economic desert but he never lost the affections of his countrymen -(in introducing his Arusha Declaration) he failed to understand that people were not made in his image ….
The DALLAS MORNING NEWS … Mr Nyerere was known as a benevolent dictator. He wasn’t known for harsh human rights abuses and he lived modestly … a charismatic presence …
ASIAN VOICE: Nyerere was a universally respected Mandela before his time ….
BBC FOCUS ON AFRICA: (The funeral) was perhaps the greatest outpouring of grief ever witnessed in sub-Saharan Africa … the tributes were sincere and heartfelt … here at last was an African leader worth mourning.
The Kenyan SUNDAY NATION: Humility, courage, universalism, support for man’s liberation, belief in human dignity … he has always stood taller than his compatriots in reputation, performance and respect …
The GLASGOW HERALD: He leaves behind a reputation for incorruptibility and principled leadership … he will be remembered – like Nelson Mandela – not as a great economist but as one of the key strategists behind Africa’s liberation from colonial rule and apartheid during a span of three decades …. family members who gathered around him during his last days say that he took great satisfaction from the success of the African liberation movements and he was also delighted that his lengthy and unceasing campaign for African debt relief had met with a fair measure of success at last. …
NEW AFRICA: Julius Nyerere will be remembered as an African hero, the father of his nation and above all as a warm, friendly person. A man of charisma and charm. He was as much loved outside his country as within. Throughout his life he occupied the moral high ground …. the plaudits still ring for him and yet, his one unique project, his great economic experiment of ujamaa and collectivisation, ended in failure. He took one step too far. He reached for the impossible and paid the price of failure …..
The WALL STREET JOURNAL wrote a highly critical article comparing Nyerere with the Chilean dictator Pinochet and the London SPECTATOR accused him of seriously damaging his country because of his disastrous economic policies.
In the TANZANIAN PRESS during the first week of mourning there was only one story. Two brief extracts from hundreds of thousands of words:
Under the heading ‘Even criminals respect Nyerere’ the GUARDIAN reported that the police recorded no incidents of crime in Dar es Salaam for a full week after Mwalimu’s death. And, under the heading ‘Why Mwalimu died in London’ the Guardian’s Lawl Joel wrote ‘ ….. In October 1949 he was in the UK for his degree …. the UK was the first overseas land he ever set foot on. No doubt he was right to call the Queen ‘Mama’. “Malkia ni mama yangu” he reportedly said. For in the land of Mama he reached the acme of his educational pursuit.. .. Then he got sick and was bedridden in October 1999. The race to save his soul ended in the land of Mama …. with October and a year of nine, 1999, Mwalimu reached some apogee here on earth …. .it was a pleasure to see the grandeur, the fanfare and the respect of (his) work before Mwalimu came home. The British were not a colonial power. They were brothers and sisters in grief. Even as they wept and grieved, they wept and grieved with us. A union of a kind … ‘