KARIBU MAISHANI

KARIBU MAISHANI

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Recollections on Mwalimu Nyerere



Official Portrait of Mwalimu Nyerere
with Mama Maria Nyerere





By Father Arthur H. Wille, M.M.
I first met Julius Kambarage Nyerere in 1955. At this time I was assigned by Msgr. Gerard Grondin, Prefect Apostolic of the Prefecture of Musoma, Tanzania (formerly called Tanganyika) to open a new mission among the Zanaki Ethnic Group (formerly called tribe). When I first arrived in Tanzania in late 1951, after spending some months in Nyegina Mission, I went with another Maryknoll priest, Father Edward Bratton, to begin a mission among the Simbiti Ethnic Group at Komuge.

It was during my work in Komuge that I first came in contact with Maria Waningo the daughter of Gabriel Magige and his wife Anna Nyashiboha.

She was living in Baraki village with her parents at that time. She would later marry Julius Nyerere. Her father Gabriel Magige was one of the pillars of the Catholic community in Komuge. He had been one of the first five Simbiti men to be baptized in 1933 in a new mission that the Missionaries of Africa (formerly called the White Fathers) had established in Butuli in Tarime District for the Luo people.

Butuli was not far from Baraki where Gabriel lived. His faith and desire for baptism was so strong that he and four other men agreed to study for baptism in another ethnic group language Luo. The Luos had immigrated into Tanganyika from Kenya. They had fought the Simbiti Ethnic Group and taken some of their land from them.

The relationship between the Luos and the Simbiti was not a friendly one. Despite this, Gabriel Magige went to Butuli to prepare for baptism and was baptized there. He and the four other Simbiti who returned with him began the evangelization of other Simbiti. I was impressed when I came to know him. He was a person of great faith and devotion to the church. He passed this same faith and love of the church to his children.

The local Christians admired Gabriel and his wife Hanna very much. They told me the story of how strong was his faith. One Saturday night thieves stole all his cows. When he awoke and his neighbors discovered that all his cows were stolen, they urged him to pige yowe, a Swahili signal that cows have been stolen.

When this signal is given, all the young men come with their bows and arrows and spears to follow the thieves in order to recover the stolen cows. His neighbors urged Gabriel to give the signal. He replied that it was Sunday. He must first go to their little outstation church and pray. When he had fulfilled his Sunday obligation, he returned to his house and gave the signal that his cows were stolen. Even though some time had passed he and the young men were able to recover all his cows.

In 1946 when the first Maryknollers came to Musoma they lived with the Missionaries of Africa who had been working in this area to learn their policy and programs to convert the people.

In the Prefecture of Musoma there were a number of small Bantu ethnic groups such as the Kwaya, Jita, Kiroba, Kabwa, Zanaki, Ikizu, Shashi, Nata, Ikoma, Issenye, Simbiti, Sweta, Surwa, Hasha, and segments of Sukuma. There also are the Luo people who are of the Nilotic race as well as a small group of the Batatiro who belong to the Nilotic Hamitic people.

In 1955 Msgr. Gerald Grondin informed me that I was assigned to open a mission among the Zanaki people. He also told me that I was fortunate because there was man there, Julius Nyerere, who could teach me his ethnic group or tribal language. Msgr. Grondin and I went to see Julius Nyerere in his village of Butiama to ask him if he would be willing to teach me his Zanaki language.

He was overjoyed when he heard that we were going to build a mission for his people. He agreed to move into Musoma town to teach me his language as there was no place for me to stay in his linguistic area.

When we were leaving him, he asked if he could get a ride into Musoma town to make arrangements for a place to stay. At this time he was married to Maria and they had two children, Andrew and Anna. Without any hesitation he climbed into the back of our pickup to ride into town. He wanted to make arrangements in Musoma town for a place where he and his wife Maria and their children could live.

He started to teach me a few days after I had visited him in his home in Butiama. In the afternoons after teaching me we would drink tea together. It was at this time especially that he told me much about himself, his childhood, his family and especially what he hoped to accomplish when he led the country to independence. He never had any doubts that Tanganyika would become independent from England. He knew world opinion was against colonialism. He was not in a hurry to achieve independence. Rather he was wanted the British set a date so that they could prepare for independence properly.

After the independence of Ghana and Nigeria took place, the independence fever swept across Africa like a grass fire. When this happened the European powers and America who were giving some development aid to African countries stopped. They would wait until these countries would become independent.

One day when Julius was teaching me, he showed me a 20 shilling Tanganyika bill. He explained that some of the workers in Musoma Government Hospital were demanding bribes from the patients before they would treat them and give them the medical care they needed.

He put a small mark with a pen on the 20 shilling bill and asked me to witness it. He said that he would give it to someone who was ill and would go for medical assistance at the hospital. One person did go, but the worker who asked for the bribe in the hospital would not accept the 20 shilling bill. He demanded that the person first go and change the bill into 20 one shilling coins. In this way he thwarted Nyerere’s effort to root out corruption in Musoma Hospital.

This was my first personal experience with Julius and his determination to fight injustice which would be prominent throughout his life.


In 1949 Julius went to Scotland to begin his studies in history and economics in Edinburgh University. He lived with a Scottish family who were miners. He told me that he was very much impressed how hard the men worked in the mines. It was a different experience from the Europeans whom he had seen living in Tanganyika. He lived very simply. His greatest interest was in philosophy. He read a great deal.

He said that it was during this period in Edinburgh that he gave up the politics of complaint and came to tackle the problem of colonialism. It didn’t come suddenly but evolved over a period of time. Walsh his mentor told me that while Julius was in Edinburgh he wrote to him to tell him that he was thinking about becoming a priest. Walsh wrote back to him and asked him to give the reasons why he wanted to become a priest. His reasons were simple.
He felt in the priesthood he could do a lot of good for people. Walsh who knew that he was also very much interested in politics and the independence of his country wrote back to tell Julius he did not have a vocation. Julius followed Father Walsh’s advice.

Julius flew back to Tanganyika in 1952. At the Dar es Salaam airport Archbishop Edgar Maranta and Maria Waningo Gabriel, his fiancée met him. He had been engaged to Maria Waningo before he went to Edinburgh University. Because there were no Catholic women among his Zanaki people he chose to marry outside of his ethnic group in order to marry a Catholic. It was and is still to a great extent the custom to marry among one’s own ethnic group. He had paid, as is customary, a cow dowry to the family of his future bride, Maria Waningo. His long time friend Oswald Magomba Marwa helped him to make arrangements for his marriage and to deliver these cows.

Mwalimu shares a light with VIPs moments upon his arrival in Nairobi, Kenya
His father Burito Nyerere was very foresighted in insuring that Julius would have a cow dowry when it came time for him to get married. One day when Julius and I were traveling in my pickup in Butiama, he suddenly yelled at a woman calling her name "Boke Boke." He then asked me to stop. He got out and started to talk for some time with this woman. When he returned he explained to me that this woman had been his wife.



The Zanaki have the custom of child marriage. When a family is having financial difficulties, they will agree that a daughter who is still a child can be married to a man. The child, when she is old enough six or seven years old, will then come to the home of her future husband. She will not have sexual relations with her husband until she becomes old enough. At this point she returns first to her own family. If she decides that she doesn’t want to be married to the husband who paid cows for her, she has the right to refuse. However, her father then has to return the cows to this man.

Julius’ father paid these cows for this girl who in fact was older than Julius. He did it to make sure that Julius would have a cow dowry when it came time for him to get married. The Zanaki are a semi-matriarchal society. According to their customs, the sons of the father do not inherit from their father.



It is the sons of the father’s sisters that inherit when the father dies. Burito Nyerere understood this. This is why he paid a cow dowry for this woman who was to be married to his son Julius. He also knew that this woman would not want to wait for Julius to be mature enough to marry her. She would look for another man.



This other man then would need to return the cow dowry to Julius so that he could marry this woman. Divorce is done by the return of the cow dowry to the person who gave it. These cows would then belong to Julius and not be in the inheritance that his sisters’ sons would inherit. Julius told me that his father did this because he loved him very much.

Julius was anxious to marry Maria when he returned. Maria told him that she was willing to marry him before he left to go to Edinburgh University. Now she wanted to know if in the three years living abroad he had changed. She was a wise and strong woman, a very devout Catholic. She had been firmly grounded in her faith by her father and mother.



Her father Gabriel Magige was still a pillar of the church when we founded Komuge Mission in 1952. He was highly revered by Christians and non-Christians alike.



When I would approach some non-Christians about studying to be baptized, some of them would say, "When Gabriel Magige rises from the grave, then I will become a Catholic." There are a number of stories told among the Simbiti people that attest to his great faith and life as a Christian.

In preparation for his marriage Julius and his friend Oswald Magomba Marwa built an adobe house with three rooms for Maria as a wedding present in his village of Butiama. They put on a thatched roof.




Julius Kambarage Nyerere married Maria Waningo Gabrieli in the outstation church of Nyegina Mission near Musoma town on January 21, 1953. Father William Collins, a Maryknoll Missioner and pastor of Nyegina Mission, witnessed their marriage. His old friend Oswald Magomba Marwa was his best man. Oswald’s wife Bona was the bridesmaid. She had been a friend of Maria from the time they were in primary school in Ukererwe Island. Then Julius and Maria went to live in Butiama village.

Shortly afterwards Julius and Maria returned to live in Dar es Salaam. He began to teach at St. Francis College at Pugu. St. Francis was under the Irish Spiritan Fathers who were noted for their high quality education in Ireland. The bishops of Tanzania had chosen St. Francis College at Pugu as the elite secondary school for the Catholics.



The Protestants had St. Andrews and the government had Tabora Boys Secondary School as their elite schools. These three elite secondary schools got the right to choose the best students from all the middle schools in the country. Julius’ salary at the beginning was 6,300 shillings (equals $900) a year. After Walsh’s intercession it was raised to 9,450 shillings (equals $1,350) a year.



This was only 3/5 of the salary that expatriate teachers with Master’s Degrees were receiving. The government had sought to have Julius teach in one of the government schools. He was the first Tanganyikan with a Master’s Degree in Education. When he decided to teach in a church school, they refused to give him a salary comparable to his level of education.



They told him that "no precedent had been set. If he would join the government service, then he would set the precedent and could receive a salary comparable to his Master’s Degree." Because of his dedication to the Catholic Church, he was willing to take a cut in salary for the promotion of education in the church.



Within three months of returning to Dar es Salaam Julius joined the Tanganyikan African Association. He had been a member of this organization when he was at Makerere. A much respected British Governor, Sir Donald Cameron, had established the Tanganyikan African Association as a social club for civil servants.



It continued to be involved in this way, but never with the purpose of seeking independence. As Julius got to know TAA better, he found that it was merely a social club interested mainly in giving tea parties for expatriates who were going on leave.

As a newcomer to Dar es Salaam Julius was seen as one with the people. He was in contrast to Chief David Makwaia, who was the favorite politician of the then Governor Edward Twining. Chief David Makwaia was a university graduate. Like many Africans with university education at this time, they became sophisticated. Chief Makwaia preferred to be with the Europeans. He was elected to the Legislative Council of the governor.



Julius quickly gained leadership and was elected president of TAA. He began by educating his followers to think about independence. Chief Patrick Kunambi who knew him well said that his leadership was not based on what Julius promised “because Julius practically never promised anything.”



Another associate of his, Abdul Sykes, once said, “Nyerere made us start to think: all we wanted was independence.” Because of this goal of independence Nyerere and his colleagues reorganized TAA as a political party, the Tanganyika African National Union, on July 7, 1954. It became better known as TANU and the date of it founding, the seventh day of the seventh month became Saba Saba (in Swahili “seven-seven”).



His colleagues unanimously elected Julius as president of TANU. He was 32 years old at the time. One of the founding members of TANU, Abbas Sykes said, “He came at the right time. Usually if a man went away to university when he came back he would not be one with us; he would be very sophisticated. But here was a man who had the same kind of education -- higher in fact, because he had an M.A. instead of a B.A. -- who was willing to be with his people.



This humility--- ‘I’m willing to serve you’--- made everyone forget that he was from up-country and that he wasn’t a Muslim.” There are as many Christians as Muslims in Tanganyika (now Tanzania) as a whole, but the coastal region is heavily Muslim.



One of the great challenges that Julius foresaw and spoke to me about when he was teaching me was a conflict between religions, especially between Christians and Muslims. It is ironic that the law that Governor Edward Twining passed which forbad anyone who was receiving a government salary from joining TANU could have increased this danger.



The Christians at this time were predominantly the educated people who held government jobs. They were also teachers in church schools. The government paid the salaries of all the teachers in the country even though the schools were built and administered by various Christian churches.

It was because of this law that Julius had to resign from teaching at St. Francis College in Pugu. It was a difficult decision for him. He loved teaching. He once told me that if he had confidence in any one of his party members who would not cause bloodshed and bring Tanganyika to independence he would gladly return to his books. He was a scholar at heart.

In August, 1954 a U.N. mission visited Tanganyika and gave a report that recommended the territory be given a timetable for independence within 20 or 25 years. The local government authorities were infuriated by this report. They were especially upset by the pro-African view of the American delegate of the Trusteeship, Mason Sears, on the subject of independence.

At the end of February, 1955 Julius Nyerere went to New York to present to the Trusteeship Council meeting on the third U.N. Visiting Mission’s Report on Tanganyika. On March 7 Julius Nyerere came as a petitioner before the meeting. His youthful appearance surprised many. He was self-possessed, completely at ease and modest.



He explained that the aim of TANU was to prepare the people for self-government and independence. It wanted the elective principle to be established and the Africans to secure a majority in all representative bodies.



Governor Twining sent a three-man delegation to support the government’s position.
He also tried to persuade Father Walsh to prevent Julius from leaving his teaching at Pugu saying that Nyerere’s political activities bordered on sedition. Walsh refused. “If it is sedition, why isn’t he in jail,” replied Fr. Walsh.



When Julius Nyerere was forced to leave teaching by this regulation of the governor, he returned to his village of Butiama with his wife Marie and his son Andrew and his daughter Anna.



This was a fortunate break for me because at this very time he agreed to teach me his Zanaki Language. He moved into Musoma with his family to live with his good friend Oswald Magomba Marwa and his family. Each day he walked from Mwisenge to the rectory in Musoma town to teach me. I paid him 700 shillings (equals $100) a month.

Julius loved to tell me about his life as a child. He was born in March, 1922 in Butiama Village near the eastern shore of Lake Victoria in northwestern Tanzania. Since the rains were very heavy on the day of his birth he was called Kambarage, the name of an ancestral spirit who lives in the rain.



His father, Burito Nyerere, was one of the eight chiefs of the Zanaki, a small ethnic group of less than 50,000 people. At the time of his childhood his father was polygamous. Julius’ mother Mugaya was the chief's fifth wife. According to Zanaki custom, the husband builds each wife a house.



They usually were mud and wattle building with grass roofs. Julius lived with his mother in his father Burito Nyerere’s village Kambarage grew up in a simple grass hut going barefoot and eating only one meal a day. It was the custom that each wife would be given fields to raise food to support herself and feed her children.



Since land was tribally owned, there was no difficulty for the husband to give fields to his wives. Julius helped his mother with work in the fields and gardens. At the age of eight he began tending his mother's goats and spent the whole day in the fields.



When the British took over German East Africa after World War I and named the country Tanganyika, they built a boarding primary school at a place called Mwisenge in Musoma town to educate the sons of the chiefs.



However, Julius’ father was not eager to send his sons to this school. Julius’ older brother Wanzagi who should have been the first to go to this school was not sent. It is interesting in how Julius came to be sent.

The chief of the neighboring Ikizu Ethnic Group was Mohammed Makongoro. He was a friend of Julius’ father Burito Nyerere and visited him frequently. On some occasions when Makongoro came to visit Burito, his father was busy with his responsibilities as a chief.



Julius would then engage Makongoro in an African game called soro in the Zanaki language. It is called bao in Swahili. This is a difficult game to play well. One needs to plan many moves ahead and remember them in order to win. Julius would beat Makongoro at soro or bao.



One day after being defeated by Julius at soro, Chief Makongoro told his father that he should send his son Julius Kambarage to the school for the sons of the chiefs in Musoma. Because of the urging of Makongoro, his father sent him to this primary school. When he went to Mwisenge Primary School, he met another Zanaki boy. He was Magomba Marwa. He would later be baptized Oswald. He became Julius’s closest friend.

When little Julius went to elementary school in Mwisenge -- grades one to four -- he was taught by Mwalimu Daniel Chagu who later in life became the head teacher in Kishapu, a village in Ndoleleji Parish in Shinyanga Diocese where Maryknoll priests served for many years.



Daniel was a wonderful man who certainly had a great influence on his famous student. He beamed with pride when he spoke of his student Julius. Wherever Mzee Chagu went, he carried an ebony cane with an ivory handle that was engraved, "Dr. J. K. Nyerere" -- a prized gift originally to the president and later given to the teacher's teacher. They kept in touch through all the years.



In his elderly years Chagu would wait along the road near his house (built for him in gratitude by President Nyerere) to get a lift from the priest to take him to mass at Mhunze Center.

One day I asked Julius how it was that he became a Catholic. He laughed and replied, "By accident." He then went on to explain that when the bell rang for the religion class, his friend Oswald Magomba grabbed his hand and said, "Come we go to study with the padres.



" Under the British there was a period of religion in all the syllabuses for primary school, middle school, and secondary school. The parents and the children could choose whatever religion they wanted to study or no religion at all. The various religious leaders were responsible for supplying the teachers for these periods of religious education. Government teachers also could teach these classes if they wished.

With other students he organized in Makerere University the Tanganyika African Association. When he graduated from Makerere with his bachelor’s degree he returned to Tanganyika. He received two teaching offers, one from the government Tabora Boys Secondary School and one from the new Catholic St. Mary’s Secondary School in Tabora.



The headmaster of the government Tabora Boys Secondary School made a bet with Father Richard Walsh, the headmaster of St. Mary’s Secondary School that Julius would choose the government school. He was wrong.



When Julius chose St. Mary’s, the government then advised him by letter that at a mission school he would not get the same salary. Also if later he transferred to a government school, he would not be able to count the years spent teaching in a mission schools towards his pension. Julius was furious at this and replied in a letter, “If I ever hesitated, your letter has settled the matter. The mission teachers are doing as much as the government teachers are.” The British government at this time was paying the salaries of all the teachers, both government and mission.

Father Walsh soon discovered that Julius Nyerere was someone special. He wrote to friends in England to raise money for a scholarship to get higher education. When he succeeded in getting this money, he offered the scholarship to Julius. Twice he turned it down.



It is difficult to understand why a man in his position would turn down the opportunity to go abroad and get more education. Julius turned it down because he was afraid that spending a few years abroad in Europe, he would return less an African.



He loved his culture. He loved his roots. He loved who he was. Walsh continued to urge him to go abroad. On the third offer, he accepted the money for the scholarship. However, he gave some of it to his mother. His father had died in 1942. He gave some to his older brother Wanzagi and some to his fiancée, Maria Waningo, the daughter of Gabriel Magige.

During our conversations Julius spoke frequently of Benedicto Mato. He had great respect for Benedicto. He was one of the pillars of the early church in Musoma. He had an important position as Secretary of the Native Treasure under the British District Commissioner in Musoma District. In this position he was over all the chiefs. They had to bring in their reports and tax collections to him. He was a very devout Catholic.



When Musoma Parish was established he became a daily communicant. His home was always opened to priests and religious who needed a place to stay in Musoma before the parish there was established. Julius would stay with him when he was traveling from Mwisenge School back and forth to his home in Zanaki. After independence Julius appointed Benedicto Mato to the commission that had the responsibility to integrate tribal laws and customs into the laws of Tanganyika.

The period of campaigning for independence was a very difficult time for Julius and Maria. Julius refused to take any salary from TANU. He said that the party needed all its funds to gain independence. At the same time Oscar Kambona took a salary to support himself and his family.
Maria opened a small duka (“shop”) to sell soap, sugar, salt, cooking oil etc. in their small home in Dar es Salaam to earn a little money to support the family. She also had a heavy burden of cooking for the many African visitors that came to visit Julius. It is the custom to cook a meal for all visitors. In his position as President of TANU he received many visitors every day. Julius one day told me that any other woman other than Maria would have left him long ago, but Maria stayed during this very difficult time.

Julius was continually traveling around the country to speak to the people about Uhuru (Swahili for “independence”). His slogan was uhuru na kazi (“freedom and work”). From the very beginning in his speeches he taught that everyone should respect each other as brothers. He was violently against any type of discrimination, tribal, racial, social or religious.



In the first speech he gave in Musoma I heard him emphasize that everyone would be respected. There were some Indians, Arabs, and myself in the audience. Before Nyerere arrived, members of TANU made sure that we were given seats for this meeting. He traveled frequently by public buses or Land Rovers that which were hired by TANU or loaned by followers of the party.

One difficulty arose during this period between Maria and Julius’s sister Sophia. His sister wanted to bring her boyfriends to sleep with them in Marie’s house. Sophia was young and unmarried. Marie forbad her to do this. Sophia turned against Maria and incited the rest of her family to turn against her.



This made it difficult for her with Julius’ family who listened to Sophia. Since Sophia was Julius’ younger sister, he felt responsible for taking care of her. This difficulty continued for a number of years. It ended when Sophia was seriously injured in an auto accident after Julius became president. They were all traveling in a motorcade.



When the front of the motorcade stopped suddenly, police cars that were in the rear raced up to the front to find out what had stopped the motorcade. Unfortunately just at this time Sophia opened her door and stepped out right into the path of a speeding police car. She was struck and seriously injured. She never recovered from this accident. But when she died, the animosity between Julius’ family and Maria disappeared. It had lasted a good number of years.



One day Julius asked me if he could build a house for Maria near Komuge Mission. He was still concerned that if he should die Maria would not have a place to live because of this animosity. He wanted her to be near me and the mission. I agreed. He had a house built just off the mission property for her. Maria lived in this house only on a few occasions.



After Sophia’s death the relationship between Maria and Julius’ family improved so much that it became evident she would not need this house. Maria and Julius then turned this house over to the Komuge Parish. It is now the convent for the Ivrea Sisters who are running the Catechists Training Center at Komuge.



One day while he was teaching me Julius mentioned that the British would probably put him in prison because of his agitation for independence. He said this because a number of other African political leaders had been already incarcerated because of their political activities.
He expressed concern for Maria and their children. The house that he had built for Maria had a grass roof. These roofs last only a few years and then need to be replaced. The termites usually destroy them.



I offered to loan him money to put on a galvanized corrugated iron roof. He accepted my offer and got his friend Oswald who was working in construction for the government to put on this roof. It cost only a few hundred dollars. I never thought about it after it was completed. Several years later he came one day to return the money I had loaned him. He was very apologetic and said that it had taken him several years to repay me. He told me that he had had no money. He only got this money to repay me when he went to America.



There he was invited to appear on TV with Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt and on one of Mike Wallace’s talk shows. For each of these appearances he was given a stipend. With this money he repaid me.

During this period of the campaign by TANU the Tanganyika government tried very much to discredit Julius by spreading foul rumors about him. Julius told me that the governor thought that he was a rogue and rabble-rouser. They spread a false rumor that he had taken his personal assistant, Joan Wicken, as his mistress.



She had traveled early in 1957 as a Research Fellow in Somerville College, Oxford to gather information about TANU. Before and after this trip she was the Assistant Commonwealth Officer of the Labor Party. The previous year she had met Nyerere in her office in London. Father Gerald Grondin, a Maryknoll priest who was organizing the Tanganyika Episcopal Conference at the time and had previously been Prefect Apostolic of the Musoma Prefecture where he got to know Julius well, told me that these were pure fabrications to discredit Nyerere.



Because of the volume of work, Julius and Joan Wicken had to work long into the night in the TANU office. This was the reason given for this false accusation that they were together at night. I met Julius at this time because the rumors had reached Musoma where I was living. At lunch I mentioned to Julius what I had heard. He was not pleased to hear of this attack on him.
He told me that these rumors were false. The longer and better that I got to know him over the years convince me of his absolute fidelity to his wife Maria. Joan Wicken continued to be his personal assistant until he retired and was very helpful to Julius in doing research and helping him write his speeches. She came to Dar es Salaam for his funeral.

In March, 1955 when Julius Nyerere went to New York to address the Trusteeship Council meeting on the third United Nations Visiting Mission’s Report on Tanganyika, the British government put pressure on the U.S. State Department to limit Nyerere’s movements in New York to a radius of eight blocks from the United Nations building and his stay to 24 hours of his appearance before the Trusteeship Council.



Nyerere surprised the council with his statement: “TANU’s policy is one not of discrimination but of brotherhood. I believe this also to be essentially the policy of the Administering Authority.”



Nyerere gained great prestige from this appearance before the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations.

Before Nyerere went to Trusteeship Council meeting at the United Nations the government tried to get both the Catholic and Protestant churches to forbid their teachers from joining TANU. They refused.



Father Walsh had become the Executive of the Bishops’ Conference in Educational Affairs of the inter-territorial schools that belonged to the whole hierarchy and not to an individual bishop. He was responsible for the staffing of St. Francis, Pugu where Nyerere was teaching.



The government then tried to put pressure on Walsh to forbid Julius from going to the United Nations. A number of leaders in TANU came also to urge Walsh to allow Julius to go. Because Nyerere would be gone for a month, permission had to be obtained from the Department of Education that paid the salaries of all teachers. The head of this department sent Walsh to see Governor Twining.



The governor told Walsh that it didn’t make sense that the government should pay the salary of the man who was working to undermine his own administration. Governor Twining had completely misread Nyerere’ character and activities. Julius himself told me that the governor considered him a rogue and rabble-rouser.



Walsh took the chance and let Julius go to the United Nations. He did not know where the salary would come from. He hoped that the bishops would allow him to look for the money from some other source.



The governor and his ministers continued to try to influence the bishops in not supporting Nyerere and TANU. They replied it would be wrong to deprive a growing and powerful movement among the Africans of just those educated men and women who were the only people capable of acting responsibly and whose influence could be relied upon to support moderate policies.



Finally the chief secretary called in Walsh and asked him to refuse to give Nyerere permission to go to New York because he represented a subversive movement. Walsh replied it was not a subversive movement because only recently the government had passed a law on subversions. It hadn’t used this law against Nyerere or TANU.



At the end of February when Nyerere left for New York he had no difficulty getting a passport from the government.

It was evident from his actions that Walsh was following the Pastoral Letter of the Catholic Bishops of Tanzania in 1953. In his official capacity Walsh wrote a letter to Nyerere that the Catholic Church was most anxious for Africans to advance to full development. Therefore it would never forbid teachers (except priests) to join TANU or to become TANU office bearers.
As for Nyerere himself, the Catholic Bishops Conference had always found him an excellent teacher, efficient, loyal, and hard working. If he were now to decide that he could no longer afford to be both teacher and leader of a nationalist movement, the conference would see him go with regret and would like him to know of their grateful appreciation of his services.

Nyerere’s reaction was one of gratitude and generosity. On March 22, 1955 he resigned his position as history master and was left without any employment. This was one of the most impressive gestures he made in service of his fellow Africans. He had no possessions at this time, but now had a family to take care of. He had a son Andrew and a daughter Anna.
TANU offered him 420 shillings (equals $60) per month, but he refused. It was at this time that he returned to his village of Butiama in the Zanaki area. I met him and hired him to teach me his Zanaki language.

Two other political organizations came into being at this time. One was the Tanganyika Nation Society. David Stirling and Robin Johnston founded the T.N.S. It was based on the principles of Capricorn Declarations that took place at the Salima Convention held in Nyasaland (now Malawi) in June, 1956.

The second organization was the United Tanganyika Party. The U.T.P. was founded in the governor’s residence in Lushoto. Ivor Bayldon and several of his European friends founded this party as a multiracial party. It was “the governor’s favorite party.” It also adopted some of the articles of the Capricorn Declarations.

Nyerere attacked both of these parties that had little support from the mass of the African population. He used the American Declaration of Independence and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to push for “one man one vote” to demolish both of these parties. They never became any challenge to TANU.



In 1956 Nyerere went to the U.S.A. for the second time at the invitation of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers. They invited him to come to give lectures in various universities in Washington, Boston, New York, and Chicago to give him a chance to look for scholarships for his youthful followers.



Father William Collins who had witnessed Julius and Maria’s wedding in Musoma met him when he arrived. This invitation also allowed him to appear at the U.N. On December 20, 1956 he appeared before the Fourth Committee of the U.N. Once again he described the multi-racial situation in Tanganyika where 20,000 Europeans dominated the Executive and Legislative Councils. He pleaded for a common roll and universal suffrage.



If these demands of TANU were accepted, the administration would demonstrate to the people that they could realize their legitimate aspiration through democratic means. In the discussion Nyerere showed that the Asian Association also opposed a system of voting that would give virtually universal suffrage to the minority of the European inhabitants while denying it to the majority. Nyerere stated that there was no conflict between Africans and Europeans. TANU was only opposed to the British policy.



The following year in June, 1957 there was another meeting of the Trusteeship Council on Tanganyika. Governor Twinning sent Sir Andrew Cohen who recently had ended his term as Governor of Uganda, John Fletcher-Cooke, a key minister in the Tanganyika Colonial Administration and Tom Marealle, paramount chief of the Chagga. Africans considered him a British stooge. Marealle was not an official member of the British Delegation.



He voiced the African point of view by asking for independence. Nyerere supported Marealle’s point and went on to prove that TANU was not racial, but had repeatedly declared that they had no intention of applying discrimination against any race. He demanded that 98 percent of the population be given 50 per cent of the unofficial seats in Legco instead of the ten to which they were restricted.



Two per cent of the population, the Europeans and Asians had 20 seats. The government however had no intention of doing this.




His second move to diminish tribalism was to mix up the secondary students who were studying in boarding schools. Instead of attending schools in their own district or tribal area they were sent to other parts of the country so that they would learn to live with and appreciate students of other ethnic groups.



Perhaps the greatest attack on tribalism came from the emphasis that he put on Swahili as the national language. Everywhere it was very evident how much the government was pushing Swahili. English continued to be a legal language of the country, but it took a second seat far behind Swahili. There was a big push in adult education throughout the country.



The widespread adult education classes throughout the country also helped Swahili to spread not only among students, but among the population in general. It was also a unifying force in the country. Today Tanzania remains as a model for ethnic group harmony. Another of the great legacies Nyerere left his people.

In January, 1967 following a three-day meeting in the town of Arusha, the TANU National Executive Committee Nyerere declared the Arusha Declaration. This declaration was hotly contested during this meeting.



A member of this National Executive Committee, Philipo Hosea, who participated in this meeting told me that Oscar Kambona was against this declaration and challenged Nyerere during it. On two occasions when the delegates were deadlocked, Nyerere, Kambona and Kawawa left the general meeting and went into discussions about it among themselves. After each of these discussions it was evident that Kawawa sided with Nyerere against Kambona.

The main point of the Arusha Declaration was that Tanzania would follow a political philosophy of Ujamaa. In 1955 when Julius was teaching me he explained to me his hopes of establishing a government that would be based on African culture. He saw the weaknesses of both Communism and Capitalism which at that time was engaged in the Cold War.



He felt that it would be better for his country to have a government that would follow the principles that had governed the lives of the Africans before foreigners came to Africa and took control of their country politically. He explained Ujamaa as a way of life as it was lived in the African extended family. In the extended family all shares all that is needed for life.
There is also private ownership of all that one produces or makes. Land was always tribally owned. Everyone in the tribe had a right to have land so that he or she could raise the food necessary for life. Water was also shared. No one could claim a spring of water as his own property. Everyone needs water for life. On the other hand if someone builds a house, this person owns it. The food one grows belongs to the person who raised it.

Nyerere felt that these same principles should be used as the basis of the government of Tanganyika so that the wealth of the country would benefit everyone in the country. He knew that Tanganyika had great mineral wealth. There are very large deposits of iron and coal in southern Tanganyika. At this period of their development, the people of the country were not capable of developing these resources.
He felt it was better to let them remained undeveloped until the time Tanzania would be developed enough and could exploit these resources rather than allow large foreign companies come and exploit this wealth for themselves while they paid only minimal wages to the Tanganyikan workers.

It was interesting to me that Father John Civille wrote his doctorate dissertation on “Ujamaa Socialism: An Analysis of the Socialism of the Julius K. Nyerere in the Light of Catholic Church Teaching.” It is found in Tanzania and Nyerere: A Study of Ujamaa and Nationalism by William R. Duggan and John R. Civille published by Orbis Books in New York in 1976.
The book points our how close are Nyerere’s political philosophy of Ujamaa and the Catholic Church’s teaching on human rights and the relation of the citizen to the state. I remembered how Julius had told me how eager he was after his baptism to understand his Catholic Faith. He not only read, but studied all of the Papal Encyclicals while he was at Makerere University.
Mwalimu welcomes Nelson Mandela to Dar es salaam
A second emphasis of the Arusha Declaration was to build self-reliance. This would be possible only by promoting rural development. Ninety percent of the populations were rural peasant farmers. They lived off the food they raised. Many were subsistence farmers, barely able to raise enough food to feed themselves and their families.
This is because of their primitive implements of farming, mainly their dependence on the hoe. They also needed to depend on the rainfall that in some areas of the country is erratic. There was also encouragement to return to the custom of farmers working together and sharing together in the harvest.
This concern of Nyerere for the poor rural people extended to his concern for their medical needs.
The doctors wanted to use what limited resources that Tanzania had for building large hospitals in urban areas. Nyerere realized that these hospitals would not meet the every day medical needs of the peasants. He also knew that highly educated doctors would find it difficult to live in rural areas. He therefore opted for training Medical Assistants and Rural Medical Assistants and for building small Health Centers in the rural areas.
These would have male, female, children, maternity, and isolation wards. They would also have laboratories as well as facilities to handle outpatients. Medical assistants and trained nurses staffed these Health Centers. They were located throughout the rural areas where the farmers could easily reach them. I saw them in operation many times. They provided excellent service to the people. Many cases of people with severe malaria and other common ailments need a period of rest when getting their treatment. They could do this in these Health Centers. In dispensaries when the people get treated they are obliged to walk long distances after treatment. This nullifies the treatment that they are given. The more complicated cases that the Medical Assistants felt that they could not handle were sent to the hospitals in the urban areas. These Medical Assistants could after a short experience in the Health Centers continued their studies in the Medical Schools and become fully qualified Medical Doctors.

I will not attempt to go into many aspects of the work and decisions Nyerere made together with his government after independence. He was living in Dar es Salaam and I was living in missions in Musoma Diocese of. He made mistakes. But he was always willing to admit his mistakes.
When he made a mistake and saw that it was a mistake he would change the policy to correct it. From my understanding of him I know that even when he made a mistake, it was not for any personal gain for himself or any particular group to profit from this action. He made his decision because he thought that it would be for the good of the whole country and especially the poor people in his country. An example of this was villagization.

He explained to me that he felt that when people lived together, they would exchange ideas more frequently. This would bring about speedier development in the country. He also wanted to promote universal primary school education. He wanted the schools to be close enough to the people so that the children could get to school easily and especially get home at noon to eat and then return to classes. This could only be done if the children lived in villages.

Mwalimu leads the way during the walk to second the Azimio la Arusha from Mwanza to Butiama

It was his intention to bring good drinking water to all the people in rural areas. Again this would be impossible with the limited finances of the country if the people lived scattered over the countryside in their small peasant farms. Again the solution to this water problem was to move into villages. A third benefit that he saw for the poor peasants was to have medical facilities close at hand. In each village the government could provide a medical dispensary with a Rural Medical Assistant. Being close to a medical dispensary they could get early treatment.

It was his hope that these villages would develop and be able to have their own markets, shops, and workshops. With these attractions he wanted the youth to remain in the villages and be able to have a social life and also have opportunities of making money. If this took place then they would not flock to the large cities that cannot provide them with jobs. Also in the cities many could get into crime, prostitution, and other difficulties.

At the time of villagization there were some tribes and individuals who rebelled against moving into villages. In some cases this was due to the poor location of where the village was to be located. From the directions that we were given by the government for the location of a village, we were told to select a site at an established mission, a school, a trading center, or cotton store. Each family was given an acre of land in the newly formed village area. Most people could choose which plot they wanted.

It was unfortunate that this policy of moving the people into villages in our Mara Region took place when there were four years of famine, 1970-1973. The people blamed the famine on the government. It is true that there was less agricultural work done when the people were moved a mile or two away from their fields.

They continue to work the same fields as they had done previously. However, because of the distance they had to walk to get to their fields, the time that they spent working on them was reduced. Another problem was protection of their crops from cattle being herded nearby and wild animals. When they lived next to their fields they could protect them better.

The people with large herds of cattle, sheep, and goats were probably the most affected. When the government agreed and gave permission for the people to return to their small peasant farms, the ones who did so were mostly those with large herds of cattle. Most people were happy to continue to live in the villages.
During the serious famine in 1974 the Tanzanian government provided famine relief, but the food was not getting to the people who complained to the authorities.

President Nyerere heard about the complaints and decided to visit all the storehouses of the National Milling Company (NMC) where the food was being kept.

One day Nyerere visited the NMC in Shinyanga. He disguised himself as a beggar wearing worn out clothes and an old hat. When he arrived at the gate of the NMC no one recognized him. He passed through the gate without permission and went straight to the office of the manager. He knocked on the door and yelled out, “Hey, you people in there. Help me. I don’t have any food.” The manager answered, “Stop bothering us, old man. We don’t have any food here. Go to the market and buy some for yourself.”

Mwalimu with Mama Maria Nyerere and Foreign Minister John Malecela in a rare moment with Uganda's strongman Iddi Amin Daddah

Nyerere continued to cry out, but no one paid any attention. The manager and his assistants were busy with some local business men who were buying the famine relief food that was supposed to go to the Tanzanian people. Finally Nyerere opened the door and walked into the office.

He immediately took off his hat and made himself known. Needless to say, the manager was speechless. After President Nyerere returned to Dar es Salaam, it was announced that the manager of the NMC in Shinyanga had been fired together with some of his assistants.

I am sure that historians will deal with the many difficulties that Nyerere had to deal with as president such as the Army Mutiny in 1964, the detention of individuals, the revolution in Zanzibar, the union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar to create Tanzania in April, 1964, the conflict with apartheid in South Africa and Zimbabwe (formerly Southern Rhodesia), the war with Idi Amin in Uganda, and other problems that Nyerere had to deal with during his 24 years as president.

I did meet him occasionally during this time, mainly when he came on vacation to his village of Butiama. In all our conversations I saw that he continued to be concerned with justice and peace for his own people in Tanzania and the people of Africa in general.

There is a commonly used Swahili proverb translated into English as: When elephants fight the grass (reeds) gets hurt. It means the feeling of powerlessness in the midst of larger forces. In the 1970s Julius Nyerere used this proverb in a speech at the United Nations in New York. He explained that in the Cold War between the (then) two great super powers -- the United States and Russia -- it was the poor Third World countries such as those in Africa who suffered and were victimized.

For many years Nyerere was the chairperson of the South-South Commission. This commission was an organization of the developing countries. It tried to promote justice on the world market by showing the injustices that the wealthy countries practiced since they were able to control the prices both of rare materials and manufactured goods on the world market.

He was also the leader of the Frontline States that assisted the South African Blacks in their pursuit of independence and the end of apartheid. At his inauguration as the first president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela recognized Julius Nyerere’s contribution to overcoming apartheid. He did this by giving him at the independence celebrations the first seat of protocol.

The humility of Julius Nyerere was very evident to me. The two earliest biographers of Julius K. Nyerere were Judith Listowel and William Edgett Smith. Judith Listowel’s book is The Making of Tanganyika published by London House & Maxwell, New York in London in 1965. William Edgett Smith’s biography is called We Must Run While They Walk published by Random House in New York in 1971. Both of these authors came to visit me at Zanaki Mission. I helped them with information especially on Nyerere’s life as a youth.

Both of them told me that Nyerere had agreed to give them interviews. However, he would only give these interviews on the condition that their books would not be called Julius K. Nyerere. He was very much against any self-glorification. He would not allow statues to be erected to honor him.

He did not want titles of honor, but preferred the title Mwalimu ((Swahili for “Teacher”). He was always the enthusiastic teacher and animator.


I was with Julius Nyerere when he died in St. Thomas’s Hospital in London on Thursday, October 14, 1999. When I returned from the states a short time prior to this, Father John Sivalon, our Maryknoll Regional Superior, had informed me that Julius was ill and had gone to London for routine treatment.

Dr. Robert Carr first diagnosed Nyerere as having chronic lymphocyte leukemia in August, 1998 and started his treatment. He returned to London again in November, 1998 for further treatment. A week before he left for London in August, 1999 he was in poor health. This trip to London was described in the local newspapers as a routine medical check-up.

Maria told me that previously he had developed shingles which bothered him greatly. However, he had recovered from these.

President Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania after visiting Nyerere in the hospital on September 25 gave a press conference in Dar es Salaam when he returned there the following day. He announced that Nyerere was in critical condition and asked the nation to pray for him.

When I got word that he was not improving I flew to London on Sunday, October 10 and went directly to see him. I found him in a coma in intensive care. He had a smile on his face. With him was his wife Maria, his two sons, Charles Makongoro and Madaraka as well as his three daughters, Anna, Rose, and Paulette. President Mkapa had sent as his personal representative to be with Nyerere, Mr. Kingunge Ngombale-Mwiru, the Minister of Regional and Local Government. The Tanzanian High Commissioner in London, Dr. Abdulkadir Shareef was also in attendance.

Joseph Butiku who had served as Julius’ personal secretary when he was president and was also a relative was present. General Masuburi who was a retired general in the Tanzanian army that defeated Amin was also in attendance. Rashidi Kawawa also came to pay his respects to Nyerere while I was there.

Near his bed in intensive care was a small shrine with a crucifix, pictures of our Blessed Mother, and a rosary. His family took turns of sitting at his bedside praying and being with them. I was privileged to take my turn at his bedside. His two daughters, Anna and Rose, spent each night praying the rosary throughout the night.

On Monday, October 11 Dr. Carr decided to do a Cats Scan on Julius. When they returned him to intensive care, Dr. Carr called together Maria, his family and others in attendance. He said, “I am sorry but I have to tell you that your husband and father has gone to God. He has had a massive stroke. There is nothing that we can do to repair or help him.”

The family saw him breathing well as he had previously done. They found it difficult to accept that he had died. I was able to explain to the family that due to the development of medical science the Catholic Church now recognized that a person was dead when his brain was dead.

Dr. Carr was very gentle and took time to spend with the family. We also prayed together. We were allowed to celebrate mass in the Anglican Chapel of the hospital. Maria mentioned to me that she suspected that he had this stroke on the previous Thursday.

The Catholic chaplain, Father Bradley, who came two days a week, had previously given Julius the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. Later Maria asked another Catholic priest, Canon John Devane, to give her husband Extreme Unction. He did and later explained to Maria that the Anointing of the Sick was new name for the sacrament of Extreme Unction.

On Monday night Charles Makongoro and Joseph Butiku asked to speak to me in private. They told me that the Tanzanian government officials had decided they would pull the plug on the life supports for Nyerere on Tuesday and that a plane would come on Wednesday to take his body back to Dar es Salaam.

However, Dr. Carr spoke with Maria and her family when I was with them and said that he would only follow the wishes of the family in this matter. He saw that they were struggling with accepting that Julius was dead when they saw him continuing to breathe.

When his daughter Rose asked Dr. Carr to explain, he said that he was continuing to breathe because the machines were keeping him breathing. She replied. “Well, in that case we can keep him breathing indefinitely.”

Dr. Carr told her that it would be better if the doctors in intensive care would explain what the machines were doing as this was their specialty. One doctor from intensive care did come and talk to all of us. He said that if you want to know what we are doing in intensive care now with your husband and father I can only say, “We are prolonging his death.”

Even with this the daughters found it difficult to make a decision.

Finally after prayer and much discussion they agreed that on Thursday morning, October 14 that the monitors could be removed. They did not agree to remove the life supports. However, God is good. At 2:00 a.m. on Thursday Nyerere took a turn for the worst. Maria and his sons were called to his bed. The daughters were already there.

The doctors worked on him until 6:00 a.m. when he stopped breathing completely. I arrived at 8:00 a.m. at the hospital. Dr. Carr met me and told me that Julius had stopped breathing. All were gathered around his bed praying. Dr. Carr asked that we give the nurses the opportunity to remove all the wires and instruments and to clean him up. We left his bedside.

When we all returned we found him covered with a sheet except for his face. His wife Maria immediately went to his side. She uncovered his hand from under the sheet, grasped it between her two hands. The way she did it showed how great was their life long love that they shared during their 47 years of marriage.

She then intertwined a rosary between his fingers as all of us prayed and said the rosary. At that time I wished that all the Catholic married couples in Tanzania could have witnessed this expression of love that Maria and Julius had for each other throughout their life long faithful marriage.

The Requiem Mass, which was celebrated by Monsignor George Stack in Westminster Cathedral, London, was filled to capacity. Large crowds of Africans filled the plaza outside the cathedral because there was not enough room inside. After the mass they came to pay respects in a side chapel until it was necessary to stop because another mass was going to be said at the main altar.


I was privileged to accompany Nyerere’s body together with Maria, his wife, his children and many government dignitaries on the plane that brought him home to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. It is impossible to describe the huge crowds that waited for his arrival at the airport in Dar es Salaam.

Looking down from the plane, all one saw was a never ending sea of people, all standing in quiet respect for their beloved Baba wa Taifa (Swahili for “Father of the Country”).

If as in the early days of the church, saints were recognized by the Vox Populi (“Voice of the People”), Julius Kambarage Nyerere would have been canonized that day. Not only were the people there at the airport, but they lined the 15-mile route that the entourage took carrying his remains in state to his home at Msasani.

This day, Monday October 18, was reserved for members of his extended family to pay their respects to their beloved father. His wife Maria sat near the coffin as members of the family came to view and pay respects to his body. Next to Maria was Mrs. Nelson Mandela who had flown from South Africa to assist Maria. Fortunately when she recognized how tired Maria was from the long flight from London and then the funeral procession from the airport to her home, Mrs. Mandela persuaded Maria to go rest.

The following day, October 19, there was a Requiem Mass for Julius Kambarage Nyerere in St. Joseph’s Cathedral, Dar es Salaam. Cardinal Polycarp Pengo presided at this celebration. There were 13 archbishops and bishops assisting including the Apostolic Nuncio.

Because this cathedral is not too large, only VIPS such as President Benjamin Mkapa, his wife, members of the diplomatic corp. and a limited number of 50 priests and religious were able to attend. Crowds remained outside in prayer and respect. After this mass his body was taken to a house in the National Stadium.

This house had been built with air conditioning so that people could come to pay their respects. The lines began and continued all Tuesday night, all day and night Wednesday until Thursday morning when ecumenical services were held and speeches given. People had to walk many miles. But even in the middle of the night there were crowds of people that came to show their respect.

After this service in the National Stadium his body was flown to Musoma and from there taken to his home in Butiama. Once again in Musoma and then in his village of Butiama there very large crowds waiting to show their respect and love for him.

At Butiama crowds of people came from all over Tanzania to view his body and pay their respects. This went on from the time the body arrived there, then all day and night long Thursday, and all day Friday until it was time for his burial mass.

The people sang and prayed for him during all this time. Archbishop Anthony Mayala was the principal celebrant. Cardinal Polycarp Pengo, Bishop Justin Samba of Musoma Diocese and five other bishops assisted.

There were a number of speeches by President Mkapa, President Museveni of Uganda, the Vice President of Tanzania and others at the grave. He was laid to rest in a simple grave.

One day when I was visiting Maria after the death of Nyerere, she mentioned that Julius had wanted to build a small shrine to our Blessed Mother.

This shrine would be built among the large granite rocks near where he would be buried. After his death Maria started to build this shrine. Julius had chosen the type of statue he wanted.

When I saw a picture of the statue I recognized that it was Our Blessed Mother, Lady of Grace. I was able to temporarily borrow such a statue from the Immaculate Heart Sisters of Africa at their Baraki Postulancy. The Maryknoll Society agreed to donate a permanent statue.

We ordered a marble statue from Italy that was placed on the top of the large granite bounder near Julius’ grave. At the insistence of Maria a sign was placed on the mount holding this statue that acknowledged that it had been donated out of Maryknoll’s respect for Julius Nyerere.

Over many years we Maryknoll missionaries had a close friendship and working relationship with Julius Nyerere and his family. . Six weeks after his death picture this moving scene.

Thirty-one members of the Maryknoll Family in East Africa gathered in the Catholic Church at Butiama, 35 miles from Musoma on Saturday, 4 December, 1999: eight lay members of the Maryknoll Lay Missioners (MLM); 11 Sisters of the Maryknoll Congregation, and 12 members of the Maryknoll Society (10 priests, one Brother and one seminarian).

They joined with Mama Maria Nyerere and other relatives and friends to pray for Mwalimu Julius Nyerere who had died on October 14, 1999. I was Principal Celebrant and John Sivalon the homilist. Maryknoll Lay Missioner Liz Mach and Sister Gertrude Maley read the Scriptures. The feeling was a family spirit: small, informal, personal and friendly.

It was a day of mourning. With heavy hearts we remembered this outstanding Catholic, husband and father, teacher, Founding Father of the Nation and international statesman Julius Kambarage Nyerere. It was a day of celebration. Wearing white vestments and using the Mass of the Resurrection we prayed for Nyerere’s final journey to heaven and his joining our ancestors in Christ.

A special time in the liturgy was the introductions of the Maryknollers present. It was a touching moment when Maryknoll Lay Missioner Lisa Nolan walked over and personally greeted Maria before introducing the MLM members.

Sister Mary Reese did the same thing before inviting each Sister to introduce herself. In their introductions many of the priests and Sisters recalled a special moment or anecdote in our long relationship with Nyerere. In fact, from Maryknoll’s arrival in Tanzania in 1946 there has always been a warm bond of friendship and collaboration with Nyerere and his family. In his homily Sivalon emphasized that Julius Nyerere promoted the spirit and practice of the equality of all people at all levels of life.

He recalled Nyerere’s simplicity and closeness to the ordinary Tanzanian people. He described a scene during the viewing of the body of Nyerere at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam. Among the thousands of Tanzanians who patiently waited in line for hours, a woman with a baby on her back, a man on crutches and a simply dressed young boy each walked by the casket, paused a moment, bowed and quietly passed on. A moving tribute to a great man of the people!

Julius Nyerere has always been an inspiration to so many people. People come from distant regions in Tanzania to visit his grave to show how much they loved him. They realize how much he loved the poor of his country and tried to help them.

Maria mentioned to me that even when he was seriously ill Nyerere told her that he needed to go to Arusha where he had been involved with the leaders of those fighting in Burundi to try to bring peace among them. Nyerere’s whole life was a testimony of his efforts to bring justice and peace to Africa.

He had worked with the former president of the USA, President Jimmy Carter, in other efforts to bring peace among warring groups. What now remain for this nation of Tanzania and its people is to adhere to Julius Nyerere’s teachings on unity and respect for each other despite racial, religious, or ethnic differences.



Recollections on President Julius Kambarage Nyerere


By Father Arthur H. Wille, M.M.

I first met Julius Kambarage Nyerere in 1955. At this time I was assigned by Msgr. Gerard Grondin, Prefect Apostolic of the Prefecture of Musoma, Tanzania (formerly called Tanganyika) to open a new mission among the Zanaki Ethnic Group (formerly called tribe). When I first arrived in Tanzania in late 1951, after spending some months in Nyegina Mission, I went with another Maryknoll priest, Father Edward Bratton, to begin a mission among the Simbiti Ethnic Group at Komuge.

It was during my work in Komuge that I first came in contact with Maria Waningo the daughter of Gabriel Magige and his wife Anna Nyashiboha.

She was living in Baraki village with her parents at that time. She would later marry Julius Nyerere. Her father Gabriel Magige was one of the pillars of the Catholic community in Komuge. He had been one of the first five Simbiti men to be baptized in 1933 in a new mission that the Missionaries of Africa (formerly called the White Fathers) had established in Butuli in Tarime District for the Luo people.

Butuli was not far from Baraki where Gabriel lived. His faith and desire for baptism was so strong that he and four other men agreed to study for baptism in another ethnic group language Luo. The Luos had immigrated into Tanganyika from Kenya. They had fought the Simbiti Ethnic Group and taken some of their land from them.

The relationship between the Luos and the Simbiti was not a friendly one. Despite this, Gabriel Magige went to Butuli to prepare for baptism and was baptized there. He and the four other Simbiti who returned with him began the evangelization of other Simbiti. I was impressed when I came to know him. He was a person of great faith and devotion to the church. He passed this same faith and love of the church to his children.

The local Christians admired Gabriel and his wife Hanna very much. They told me the story of how strong was his faith. One Saturday night thieves stole all his cows. When he awoke and his neighbors discovered that all his cows were stolen, they urged him to pige yowe, a Swahili signal that cows have been stolen.

When this signal is given, all the young men come with their bows and arrows and spears to follow the thieves in order to recover the stolen cows. His neighbors urged Gabriel to give the signal. He replied that it was Sunday. He must first go to their little outstation church and pray. When he had fulfilled his Sunday obligation, he returned to his house and gave the signal that his cows were stolen. Even though some time had passed he and the young men were able to recover all his cows.

In 1946 when the first Maryknollers came to Musoma they lived with the Missionaries of Africa who had been working in this area to learn their policy and programs to convert the people.

In the Prefecture of Musoma there were a number of small Bantu ethnic groups such as the Kwaya, Jita, Kiroba, Kabwa, Zanaki, Ikizu, Shashi, Nata, Ikoma, Issenye, Simbiti, Sweta, Surwa, Hasha, and segments of Sukuma. There also are the Luo people who are of the Nilotic race as well as a small group of the Batatiro who belong to the Nilotic Hamitic people.

In 1955 Msgr. Gerald Grondin informed me that I was assigned to open a mission among the Zanaki people. He also told me that I was fortunate because there was man there, Julius Nyerere, who could teach me his ethnic group or tribal language. Msgr. Grondin and I went to see Julius Nyerere in his village of Butiama to ask him if he would be willing to teach me his Zanaki language.

He was overjoyed when he heard that we were going to build a mission for his people. He agreed to move into Musoma town to teach me his language as there was no place for me to stay in his linguistic area.

When we were leaving him, he asked if he could get a ride into Musoma town to make arrangements for a place to stay. At this time he was married to Maria and they had two children, Andrew and Anna. Without any hesitation he climbed into the back of our pickup to ride into town. He wanted to make arrangements in Musoma town for a place where he and his wife Maria and their children could live.

He started to teach me a few days after I had visited him in his home in Butiama. In the afternoons after teaching me we would drink tea together. It was at this time especially that he told me much about himself, his childhood, his family and especially what he hoped to accomplish when he led the country to independence. He never had any doubts that Tanganyika would become independent from England. He knew world opinion was against colonialism. He was not in a hurry to achieve independence. Rather he was wanted the British set a date so that they could prepare for independence properly.

After the independence of Ghana and Nigeria took place, the independence fever swept across Africa like a grass fire. When this happened the European powers and America who were giving some development aid to African countries stopped. They would wait until these countries would become independent.

One day when Julius was teaching me, he showed me a 20 shilling Tanganyika bill. He explained that some of the workers in Musoma Government Hospital were demanding bribes from the patients before they would treat them and give them the medical care they needed.

He put a small mark with a pen on the 20 shilling bill and asked me to witness it. He said that he would give it to someone who was ill and would go for medical assistance at the hospital. One person did go, but the worker who asked for the bribe in the hospital would not accept the 20 shilling bill. He demanded that the person first go and change the bill into 20 one shilling coins. In this way he thwarted Nyerere’s effort to root out corruption in Musoma Hospital.

This was my first personal experience with Julius and his determination to fight injustice which would be prominent throughout his life.


In 1949 Julius went to Scotland to begin his studies in history and economics in Edinburgh University. He lived with a Scottish family who were miners. He told me that he was very much impressed how hard the men worked in the mines. It was a different experience from the Europeans whom he had seen living in Tanganyika. He lived very simply. His greatest interest was in philosophy. He read a great deal.

He said that it was during this period in Edinburgh that he gave up the politics of complaint and came to tackle the problem of colonialism. It didn’t come suddenly but evolved over a period of time. Walsh his mentor told me that while Julius was in Edinburgh he wrote to him to tell him that he was thinking about becoming a priest. Walsh wrote back to him and asked him to give the reasons why he wanted to become a priest. His reasons were simple.
He felt in the priesthood he could do a lot of good for people. Walsh who knew that he was also very much interested in politics and the independence of his country wrote back to tell Julius he did not have a vocation. Julius followed Father Walsh’s advice.

Julius flew back to Tanganyika in 1952. At the Dar es Salaam airport Archbishop Edgar Maranta and Maria Waningo Gabriel, his fiancée met him. He had been engaged to Maria Waningo before he went to Edinburgh University. Because there were no Catholic women among his Zanaki people he chose to marry outside of his ethnic group in order to marry a Catholic. It was and is still to a great extent the custom to marry among one’s own ethnic group. He had paid, as is customary, a cow dowry to the family of his future bride, Maria Waningo. His long time friend Oswald Magomba Marwa helped him to make arrangements for his marriage and to deliver these cows.

Mwalimu shares a light with VIPs moments upon his arrival in Nairobi, Kenya
His father Burito Nyerere was very foresighted in insuring that Julius would have a cow dowry when it came time for him to get married. One day when Julius and I were traveling in my pickup in Butiama, he suddenly yelled at a woman calling her name "Boke Boke." He then asked me to stop. He got out and started to talk for some time with this woman. When he returned he explained to me that this woman had been his wife.
The Zanaki have the custom of child marriage. When a family is having financial difficulties, they will agree that a daughter who is still a child can be married to a man. The child, when she is old enough six or seven years old, will then come to the home of her future husband. She will not have sexual relations with her husband until she becomes old enough. At this point she returns first to her own family. If she decides that she doesn’t want to be married to the husband who paid cows for her, she has the right to refuse. However, her father then has to return the cows to this man.

Julius’ father paid these cows for this girl who in fact was older than Julius. He did it to make sure that Julius would have a cow dowry when it came time for him to get married. The Zanaki are a semi-matriarchal society. According to their customs, the sons of the father do not inherit from their father.
It is the sons of the father’s sisters that inherit when the father dies. Burito Nyerere understood this. This is why he paid a cow dowry for this woman who was to be married to his son Julius. He also knew that this woman would not want to wait for Julius to be mature enough to marry her. She would look for another man.
This other man then would need to return the cow dowry to Julius so that he could marry this woman. Divorce is done by the return of the cow dowry to the person who gave it. These cows would then belong to Julius and not be in the inheritance that his sisters’ sons would inherit. Julius told me that his father did this because he loved him very much.

Julius was anxious to marry Maria when he returned. Maria told him that she was willing to marry him before he left to go to Edinburgh University. Now she wanted to know if in the three years living abroad he had changed. She was a wise and strong woman, a very devout Catholic. She had been firmly grounded in her faith by her father and mother.
Her father Gabriel Magige was still a pillar of the church when we founded Komuge Mission in 1952. He was highly revered by Christians and non-Christians alike.
When I would approach some non-Christians about studying to be baptized, some of them would say, "When Gabriel Magige rises from the grave, then I will become a Catholic." There are a number of stories told among the Simbiti people that attest to his great faith and life as a Christian.

In preparation for his marriage Julius and his friend Oswald Magomba Marwa built an adobe house with three rooms for Maria as a wedding present in his village of Butiama. They put on a thatched roof.
Julius Kambarage Nyerere married Maria Waningo Gabrieli in the outstation church of Nyegina Mission near Musoma town on January 21, 1953. Father William Collins, a Maryknoll Missioner and pastor of Nyegina Mission, witnessed their marriage. His old friend Oswald Magomba Marwa was his best man. Oswald’s wife Bona was the bridesmaid. She had been a friend of Maria from the time they were in primary school in Ukererwe Island. Then Julius and Maria went to live in Butiama village.

Shortly afterwards Julius and Maria returned to live in Dar es Salaam. He began to teach at St. Francis College at Pugu. St. Francis was under the Irish Spiritan Fathers who were noted for their high quality education in Ireland. The bishops of Tanzania had chosen St. Francis College at Pugu as the elite secondary school for the Catholics.
The Protestants had St. Andrews and the government had Tabora Boys Secondary School as their elite schools. These three elite secondary schools got the right to choose the best students from all the middle schools in the country. Julius’ salary at the beginning was 6,300 shillings (equals $900) a year. After Walsh’s intercession it was raised to 9,450 shillings (equals $1,350) a year.
This was only 3/5 of the salary that expatriate teachers with Master’s Degrees were receiving. The government had sought to have Julius teach in one of the government schools. He was the first Tanganyikan with a Master’s Degree in Education. When he decided to teach in a church school, they refused to give him a salary comparable to his level of education.
They told him that "no precedent had been set. If he would join the government service, then he would set the precedent and could receive a salary comparable to his Master’s Degree." Because of his dedication to the Catholic Church, he was willing to take a cut in salary for the promotion of education in the church.
Within three months of returning to Dar es Salaam Julius joined the Tanganyikan African Association. He had been a member of this organization when he was at Makerere. A much respected British Governor, Sir Donald Cameron, had established the Tanganyikan African Association as a social club for civil servants.
At Makerere Julius had organized the TAA to deal with grievances connected with government service. It continued to be involved in this way, but never with the purpose of seeking independence. As Julius got to know TAA better, he found that it was merely a social club interested mainly in giving tea parties for expatriates who were going on leave.

As a newcomer to Dar es Salaam Julius was seen as one with the people. He was in contrast to Chief David Makwaia, who was the favorite politician of the then Governor Edward Twining. Chief David Makwaia was a university graduate. Like many Africans with university education at this time, they became sophisticated. Chief Makwaia preferred to be with the Europeans. He was elected to the Legislative Council of the governor.
Mwalimu and Mama Maria visit Julius' mother in Butiama
Julius quickly gained leadership and was elected president of TAA. He began by educating his followers to think about independence. Chief Patrick Kunambi who knew him well said that his leadership was not based on what Julius promised “because Julius practically never promised anything.”
Another associate of his, Abdul Sykes, once said, “Nyerere made us start to think: all we wanted was independence.” Because of this goal of independence Nyerere and his colleagues reorganized TAA as a political party, the Tanganyika African National Union, on July 7, 1954. It became better known as TANU and the date of it founding, the seventh day of the seventh month became Saba Saba (in Swahili “seven-seven”).
His colleagues unanimously elected Julius as president of TANU. He was 32 years old at the time. One of the founding members of TANU, Abbas Sykes said, “He came at the right time. Usually if a man went away to university when he came back he would not be one with us; he would be very sophisticated. But here was a man who had the same kind of education -- higher in fact, because he had an M.A. instead of a B.A. -- who was willing to be with his people.
This humility--- ‘I’m willing to serve you’--- made everyone forget that he was from up-country and that he wasn’t a Muslim.” There are as many Christians as Muslims in Tanganyika (now Tanzania) as a whole, but the coastal region is heavily Muslim.
One of the great challenges that Julius foresaw and spoke to me about when he was teaching me was a conflict between religions, especially between Christians and Muslims. It is ironic that the law that Governor Edward Twining passed which forbad anyone who was receiving a government salary from joining TANU could have increased this danger.
The Christians at this time were predominantly the educated people who held government jobs. They were also teachers in church schools. The government paid the salaries of all the teachers in the country even though the schools were built and administered by various Christian churches.

It was because of this law that Julius had to resign from teaching at St. Francis College in Pugu. It was a difficult decision for him. He loved teaching. He once told me that if he had confidence in any one of his party members who would not cause bloodshed and bring Tanganyika to independence he would gladly return to his books. He was a scholar at heart.

In August, 1954 a U.N. mission visited Tanganyika and gave a report that recommended the territory be given a timetable for independence within 20 or 25 years. The local government authorities were infuriated by this report. They were especially upset by the pro-African view of the American delegate of the Trusteeship, Mason Sears, on the subject of independence.

At the end of February, 1955 Julius Nyerere went to New York to present to the Trusteeship Council meeting on the third U.N. Visiting Mission’s Report on Tanganyika. On March 7 Julius Nyerere came as a petitioner before the meeting. His youthful appearance surprised many. He was self-possessed, completely at ease and modest.
He explained that the aim of TANU was to prepare the people for self-government and independence. It wanted the elective principle to be established and the Africans to secure a majority in all representative bodies.
Governor Twining sent a three-man delegation to support the government’s position.
He also tried to persuade Father Walsh to prevent Julius from leaving his teaching at Pugu saying that Nyerere’s political activities bordered on sedition. Walsh refused. “If it is sedition, why isn’t he in jail,” replied Fr. Walsh.
When Julius Nyerere was forced to leave teaching by this regulation of the governor, he returned to his village of Butiama with his wife Marie and his son Andrew and his daughter Anna.
This was a fortunate break for me because at this very time he agreed to teach me his Zanaki Language. He moved into Musoma with his family to live with his good friend Oswald Magomba Marwa and his family. Each day he walked from Mwisenge to the rectory in Musoma town to teach me. I paid him 700 shillings (equals $100) a month.
To be Continued Tomorrow....





Julius loved to tell me about his life as a child. He was born in March, 1922 in Butiama Village near the eastern shore of Lake Victoria in northwestern Tanzania. Since the rains were very heavy on the day of his birth he was called Kambarage, the name of an ancestral spirit who lives in the rain.
His father, Burito Nyerere, was one of the eight chiefs of the Zanaki, a small ethnic group of less than 50,000 people. At the time of his childhood his father was polygamous. Julius’ mother Mugaya was the chief's fifth wife. According to Zanaki custom, the husband builds each wife a house.
They usually were mud and wattle building with grass roofs. Julius lived with his mother in his father Burito Nyerere’s village Kambarage grew up in a simple grass hut going barefoot and eating only one meal a day. It was the custom that each wife would be given fields to raise food to support herself and feed her children.
Since land was tribally owned, there was no difficulty for the husband to give fields to his wives. Julius helped his mother with work in the fields and gardens. At the age of eight he began tending his mother's goats and spent the whole day in the fields.
official portrait of mwalimu and mama maria nyerere
When the British took over German East Africa after World War I and named the country Tanganyika, they built a boarding primary school at a place called Mwisenge in Musoma town to educate the sons of the chiefs.
However, Julius’ father was not eager to send his sons to this school. Julius’ older brother Wanzagi who should have been the first to go to this school was not sent. It is interesting in how Julius came to be sent.

The chief of the neighboring Ikizu Ethnic Group was Mohammed Makongoro. He was a friend of Julius’ father Burito Nyerere and visited him frequently. On some occasions when Makongoro came to visit Burito, his father was busy with his responsibilities as a chief.
Julius would then engage Makongoro in an African game called soro in the Zanaki language. It is called bao in Swahili. This is a difficult game to play well. One needs to plan many moves ahead and remember them in order to win. Julius would beat Makongoro at soro or bao.
One day after being defeated by Julius at soro, Chief Makongoro told his father that he should send his son Julius Kambarage to the school for the sons of the chiefs in Musoma. Because of the urging of Makongoro, his father sent him to this primary school. When he went to Mwisenge Primary School, he met another Zanaki boy. He was Magomba Marwa. He would later be baptized Oswald. He became Julius’s closest friend.

When little Julius went to elementary school in Mwisenge -- grades one to four -- he was taught by Mwalimu Daniel Chagu who later in life became the head teacher in Kishapu, a village in Ndoleleji Parish in Shinyanga Diocese where Maryknoll priests served for many years.
Daniel was a wonderful man who certainly had a great influence on his famous student. He beamed with pride when he spoke of his student Julius. Wherever Mzee Chagu went, he carried an ebony cane with an ivory handle that was engraved, "Dr. J. K. Nyerere" -- a prized gift originally to the president and later given to the teacher's teacher. They kept in touch through all the years.
In his elderly years Chagu would wait along the road near his house (built for him in gratitude by President Nyerere) to get a lift from the priest to take him to mass at Mhunze Center.




One day I asked Julius how it was that he became a Catholic. He laughed and replied, "By accident." He then went on to explain that when the bell rang for the religion class, his friend Oswald Magomba grabbed his hand and said, "Come we go to study with the padres.
" Under the British there was a period of religion in all the syllabuses for primary school, middle school, and secondary school. The parents and the children could choose whatever religion they wanted to study or no religion at all. The various religious leaders were responsible for supplying the teachers for these periods of religious education. Government teachers also could teach these classes if they wished.


With other students he organized in Makerere University the Tanganyika African Association. When he graduated from Makerere with his bachelor’s degree he returned to Tanganyika. He received two teaching offers, one from the government Tabora Boys Secondary School and one from the new Catholic St. Mary’s Secondary School in Tabora.
The headmaster of the government Tabora Boys Secondary School made a bet with Father Richard Walsh, the headmaster of St. Mary’s Secondary School that Julius would choose the government school. He was wrong.
When Julius chose St. Mary’s, the government then advised him by letter that at a mission school he would not get the same salary. Also if later he transferred to a government school, he would not be able to count the years spent teaching in a mission schools towards his pension. Julius was furious at this and replied in a letter, “If I ever hesitated, your letter has settled the matter. The mission teachers are doing as much as the government teachers are.” The British government at this time was paying the salaries of all the teachers, both government and mission.

Father Walsh soon discovered that Julius Nyerere was someone special. He wrote to friends in England to raise money for a scholarship to get higher education. When he succeeded in getting this money, he offered the scholarship to Julius. Twice he turned it down.
It is difficult to understand why a man in his position would turn down the opportunity to go abroad and get more education. Julius turned it down because he was afraid that spending a few years abroad in Europe, he would return less an African.
He loved his culture. He loved his roots. He loved who he was. Walsh continued to urge him to go abroad. On the third offer, he accepted the money for the scholarship. However, he gave some of it to his mother. His father had died in 1942. He gave some to his older brother Wanzagi and some to his fiancée, Maria Waningo, the daughter of Gabriel Magige.

During our conversations Julius spoke frequently of Benedicto Mato. He had great respect for Benedicto. He was one of the pillars of the early church in Musoma. He had an important position as Secretary of the Native Treasure under the British District Commissioner in Musoma District. In this position he was over all the chiefs. They had to bring in their reports and tax collections to him. He was a very devout Catholic.

When Musoma Parish was established he became a daily communicant. His home was always opened to priests and religious who needed a place to stay in Musoma before the parish there was established. Julius would stay with him when he was traveling from Mwisenge School back and forth to his home in Zanaki. After independence Julius appointed Benedicto Mato to the commission that had the responsibility to integrate tribal laws and customs into the laws of Tanganyika.

The period of campaigning for independence was a very difficult time for Julius and Maria. Julius refused to take any salary from TANU. He said that the party needed all its funds to gain independence. At the same time Oscar Kambona took a salary to support himself and his family.
Maria opened a small duka (“shop”) to sell soap, sugar, salt, cooking oil etc. in their small home in Dar es Salaam to earn a little money to support the family. She also had a heavy burden of cooking for the many African visitors that came to visit Julius. It is the custom to cook a meal for all visitors. In his position as President of TANU he received many visitors every day. Julius one day told me that any other woman other than Maria would have left him long ago, but Maria stayed during this very difficult time.

Julius was continually traveling around the country to speak to the people about Uhuru (Swahili for “independence”). His slogan was uhuru na kazi (“freedom and work”). From the very beginning in his speeches he taught that everyone should respect each other as brothers. He was violently against any type of discrimination, tribal, racial, social or religious.
In the first speech he gave in Musoma I heard him emphasize that everyone would be respected. There were some Indians, Arabs, and myself in the audience. Before Nyerere arrived, members of TANU made sure that we were given seats for this meeting. He traveled frequently by public buses or Land Rovers that which were hired by TANU or loaned by followers of the party.

One difficulty arose during this period between Maria and Julius’s sister Sophia. His sister wanted to bring her boyfriends to sleep with them in Marie’s house. Sophia was young and unmarried. Marie forbad her to do this. Sophia turned against Maria and incited the rest of her family to turn against her.
This made it difficult for her with Julius’ family who listened to Sophia. Since Sophia was Julius’ younger sister, he felt responsible for taking care of her. This difficulty continued for a number of years. It ended when Sophia was seriously injured in an auto accident after Julius became president. They were all traveling in a motorcade.
When the front of the motorcade stopped suddenly, police cars that were in the rear raced up to the front to find out what had stopped the motorcade. Unfortunately just at this time Sophia opened her door and stepped out right into the path of a speeding police car. She was struck and seriously injured. She never recovered from this accident. But when she died, the animosity between Julius’ family and Maria disappeared. It had lasted a good number of years.
One day Julius asked me if he could build a house for Maria near Komuge Mission. He was still concerned that if he should die Maria would not have a place to live because of this animosity. He wanted her to be near me and the mission. I agreed. He had a house built just off the mission property for her. Maria lived in this house only on a few occasions.
After Sophia’s death the relationship between Maria and Julius’ family improved so much that it became evident she would not need this house. Maria and Julius then turned this house over to the Komuge Parish. It is now the convent for the Ivrea Sisters who are running the Catechists Training Center at Komuge.

One day while he was teaching me Julius mentioned that the British would probably put him in prison because of his agitation for independence. He said this because a number of other African political leaders had been already incarcerated because of their political activities.
He expressed concern for Maria and their children. The house that he had built for Maria had a grass roof. These roofs last only a few years and then need to be replaced. The termites usually destroy them.

I offered to loan him money to put on a galvanized corrugated iron roof. He accepted my offer and got his friend Oswald who was working in construction for the government to put on this roof. It cost only a few hundred dollars. I never thought about it after it was completed. Several years later he came one day to return the money I had loaned him. He was very apologetic and said that it had taken him several years to repay me. He told me that he had had no money. He only got this money to repay me when he went to America.
There he was invited to appear on TV with Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt and on one of Mike Wallace’s talk shows. For each of these appearances he was given a stipend. With this money he repaid me.

During this period of the campaign by TANU the Tanganyika government tried very much to discredit Julius by spreading foul rumors about him. Julius told me that the governor thought that he was a rogue and rabble-rouser. They spread a false rumor that he had taken his personal assistant, Joan Wicken, as his mistress.



She had traveled early in 1957 as a Research Fellow in Somerville College, Oxford to gather information about TANU. Before and after this trip she was the Assistant Commonwealth Officer of the Labor Party. The previous year she had met Nyerere in her office in London. Father Gerald Grondin, a Maryknoll priest who was organizing the Tanganyika Episcopal Conference at the time and had previously been Prefect Apostolic of the Musoma Prefecture where he got to know Julius well, told me that these were pure fabrications to discredit Nyerere.



Because of the volume of work, Julius and Joan Wicken had to work long into the night in the TANU office. This was the reason given for this false accusation that they were together at night. I met Julius at this time because the rumors had reached Musoma where I was living. At lunch I mentioned to Julius what I had heard. He was not pleased to hear of this attack on him.
He told me that these rumors were false. The longer and better that I got to know him over the years convince me of his absolute fidelity to his wife Maria. Joan Wicken continued to be his personal assistant until he retired and was very helpful to Julius in doing research and helping him write his speeches. She came to Dar es Salaam for his funeral.

In March, 1955 when Julius Nyerere went to New York to address the Trusteeship Council meeting on the third United Nations Visiting Mission’s Report on Tanganyika, the British government put pressure on the U.S. State Department to limit Nyerere’s movements in New York to a radius of eight blocks from the United Nations building and his stay to 24 hours of his appearance before the Trusteeship Council.



Nyerere surprised the council with his statement: “TANU’s policy is one not of discrimination but of brotherhood. I believe this also to be essentially the policy of the Administering Authority.” Nyerere gained great prestige from this appearance before the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations.

Before Nyerere went to Trusteeship Council meeting at the United Nations the government tried to get both the Catholic and Protestant churches to forbid their teachers from joining TANU. They refused.



Father Walsh had become the Executive of the Bishops’ Conference in Educational Affairs of the inter-territorial schools that belonged to the whole hierarchy and not to an individual bishop. He was responsible for the staffing of St. Francis, Pugu where Nyerere was teaching.



The government then tried to put pressure on Walsh to forbid Julius from going to the United Nations. A number of leaders in TANU came also to urge Walsh to allow Julius to go. Because Nyerere would be gone for a month, permission had to be obtained from the Department of Education that paid the salaries of all teachers. The head of this department sent Walsh to see Governor Twining.
The governor told Walsh that it didn’t make sense that the government should pay the salary of the man who was working to undermine his own administration. Governor Twining had completely misread Nyerere’ character and activities. Julius himself told me that the governor considered him a rogue and rabble-rouser.
Walsh took the chance and let Julius go to the United Nations. He did not know where the salary would come from. He hoped that the bishops would allow him to look for the money from some other source.
The governor and his ministers continued to try to influence the bishops in not supporting Nyerere and TANU. They replied it would be wrong to deprive a growing and powerful movement among the Africans of just those educated men and women who were the only people capable of acting responsibly and whose influence could be relied upon to support moderate policies.
Finally the chief secretary called in Walsh and asked him to refuse to give Nyerere permission to go to New York because he represented a subversive movement. Walsh replied it was not a subversive movement because only recently the government had passed a law on subversions. It hadn’t used this law against Nyerere or TANU.



At the end of February when Nyerere left for New York he had no difficulty getting a passport from the government. It was evident from his actions that Walsh was following the Pastoral Letter of the Catholic Bishops of Tanzania in 1953. In his official capacity Walsh wrote a letter to Nyerere that the Catholic Church was most anxious for Africans to advance to full development. Therefore it would never forbid teachers (except priests) to join TANU or to become TANU office bearers.
As for Nyerere himself, the Catholic Bishops Conference had always found him an excellent teacher, efficient, loyal, and hard working. If he were now to decide that he could no longer afford to be both teacher and leader of a nationalist movement, the conference would see him go with regret and would like him to know of their grateful appreciation of his services.

Nyerere’s reaction was one of gratitude and generosity. On March 22, 1955 he resigned his position as history master and was left without any employment. This was one of the most impressive gestures he made in service of his fellow Africans. He had no possessions at this time, but now had a family to take care of. He had a son Andrew and a daughter Anna.
TANU offered him 420 shillings (equals $60) per month, but he refused. It was at this time that he returned to his village of Butiama in the Zanaki area. I met him and hired him to teach me his Zanaki language.

Two other political organizations came into being at this time. One was the Tanganyika Nation Society. David Stirling and Robin Johnston founded the T.N.S.
It was based on the principles of Capricorn Declarations that took place at the Salima Convention held in Nyasaland (now Malawi) in June, 1956.

The second organization was the United Tanganyika Party. The U.T.P. was founded in the governor’s residence in Lushoto. Ivor Bayldon and several of his European friends founded this party as a multiracial party. It was “the governor’s favorite party.” It also adopted some of the articles of the Capricorn Declarations.

Nyerere attacked both of these parties that had little support from the mass of the African population. He used the American Declaration of Independence and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to push for “one man one vote” to demolish both of these parties. They never became any challenge to TANU.



In 1956 Nyerere went to the U.S.A. for the second time at the invitation of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers. They invited him to come to give lectures in various universities in Washington, Boston, New York, and Chicago to give him a chance to look for scholarships for his youthful followers.



Father William Collins who had witnessed Julius and Maria’s wedding in Musoma met him when he arrived. This invitation also allowed him to appear at the U.N. On December 20, 1956 he appeared before the Fourth Committee of the U.N. Once again he described the multi-racial situation in Tanganyika where 20,000 Europeans dominated the Executive and Legislative Councils. He pleaded for a common roll and universal suffrage.



If these demands of TANU were accepted, the administration would demonstrate to the people that they could realize their legitimate aspiration through democratic means. In the discussion Nyerere showed that the Asian Association also opposed a system of voting that would give virtually universal suffrage to the minority of the European inhabitants while denying it to the majority. Nyerere stated that there was no conflict between Africans and Europeans. TANU was only opposed to the British policy.



The following year in June, 1957 there was another meeting of the Trusteeship Council on Tanganyika. Governor Twinning sent Sir Andrew Cohen who recently had ended his term as Governor of Uganda, John Fletcher-Cooke, a key minister in the Tanganyika Colonial Administration and Tom Marealle, paramount chief of the Chagga. Africans considered him a British stooge. Marealle was not an official member of the British Delegation.



He voiced the African point of view by asking for independence. Nyerere supported Marealle’s point and went on to prove that TANU was not racial, but had repeatedly declared that they had no intention of applying discrimination against any race. He demanded that 98 percent of the population be given 50 per cent of the unofficial seats in Legco instead of the ten to which they were restricted.



Two per cent of the population, the Europeans and Asians had 20 seats. The government however had no intention of doing this.



His second move to diminish tribalism was to mix up the secondary students who were studying in boarding schools. Instead of attending schools in their own district or tribal area they were sent to other parts of the country so that they would learn to live with and appreciate students of other ethnic groups.



Perhaps the greatest attack on tribalism came from the emphasis that he put on Swahili as the national language. Everywhere it was very evident how much the government was pushing Swahili. English continued to be a legal language of the country, but it took a second seat far behind Swahili. There was a big push in adult education throughout the country.



The widespread adult education classes throughout the country also helped Swahili to spread not only among students, but among the population in general. It was also a unifying force in the country. Today Tanzania remains as a model for ethnic group harmony. Another of the great legacies Nyerere left his people.

In January, 1967 following a three-day meeting in the town of Arusha, the TANU National Executive Committee Nyerere declared the Arusha Declaration. This declaration was hotly contested during this meeting.



A member of this National Executive Committee, Philipo Hosea, who participated in this meeting told me that Oscar Kambona was against this declaration and challenged Nyerere during it. On two occasions when the delegates were deadlocked, Nyerere, Kambona and Kawawa left the general meeting and went into discussions about it among themselves. After each of these discussions it was evident that Kawawa sided with Nyerere against Kambona.

The main point of the Arusha Declaration was that Tanzania would follow a political philosophy of Ujamaa. In 1955 when Julius was teaching me he explained to me his hopes of establishing a government that would be based on African culture. He saw the weaknesses of both Communism and Capitalism which at that time was engaged in the Cold War.
He felt that it would be better for his country to have a government that would follow the principles that had governed the lives of the Africans before foreigners came to Africa and took control of their country politically. He explained Ujamaa as a way of life as it was lived in the African extended family. In the extended family all shares all that is needed for life.
There is also private ownership of all that one produces or makes. Land was always tribally owned. Everyone in the tribe had a right to have land so that he or she could raise the food necessary for life. Water was also shared. No one could claim a spring of water as his own property. Everyone needs water for life. On the other hand if someone builds a house, this person owns it. The food one grows belongs to the person who raised it.

Nyerere felt that these same principles should be used as the basis of the government of Tanganyika so that the wealth of the country would benefit everyone in the country. He knew that Tanganyika had great mineral wealth. There are very large deposits of iron and coal in southern Tanganyika. At this period of their development, the people of the country were not capable of developing these resources.
He felt it was better to let them remained undeveloped until the time Tanzania would be developed enough and could exploit these resources rather than allow large foreign companies come and exploit this wealth for themselves while they paid only minimal wages to the Tanganyikan workers.

It was interesting to me that Father John Civille wrote his doctorate dissertation on “Ujamaa Socialism: An Analysis of the Socialism of the Julius K. Nyerere in the Light of Catholic Church Teaching.” It is found in Tanzania and Nyerere: A Study of Ujamaa and Nationalism by William R. Duggan and John R. Civille published by Orbis Books in New York in 1976.
The book points our how close are Nyerere’s political philosophy of Ujamaa and the Catholic Church’s teaching on human rights and the relation of the citizen to the state. I remembered how Julius had told me how eager he was after his baptism to understand his Catholic Faith. He not only read, but studied all of the Papal Encyclicals while he was at Makerere University.
Mwalimu welcomes Nelson Mandela to Dar es salaam
A second emphasis of the Arusha Declaration was to build self-reliance. This would be possible only by promoting rural development. Ninety percent of the populations were rural peasant farmers. They lived off the food they raised. Many were subsistence farmers, barely able to raise enough food to feed themselves and their families.
This is because of their primitive implements of farming, mainly their dependence on the hoe. They also needed to depend on the rainfall that in some areas of the country is erratic. There was also encouragement to return to the custom of farmers working together and sharing together in the harvest.



This concern of Nyerere for the poor rural people extended to his concern for their medical needs.



The doctors wanted to use what limited resources that Tanzania had for building large hospitals in urban areas. Nyerere realized that these hospitals would not meet the every day medical needs of the peasants. He also knew that highly educated doctors would find it difficult to live in rural areas. He therefore opted for training Medical Assistants and Rural Medical Assistants and for building small Health Centers in the rural areas.



These would have male, female, children, maternity, and isolation wards. They would also have laboratories as well as facilities to handle outpatients. Medical assistants and trained nurses staffed these Health Centers. They were located throughout the rural areas where the farmers could easily reach them. I saw them in operation many times. They provided excellent service to the people. Many cases of people with severe malaria and other common ailments need a period of rest when getting their treatment. They could do this in these Health Centers. In dispensaries when the people get treated they are obliged to walk long distances after treatment. This nullifies the treatment that they are given. The more complicated cases that the Medical Assistants felt that they could not handle were sent to the hospitals in the urban areas. These Medical Assistants could after a short experience in the Health Centers continued their studies in the Medical Schools and become fully qualified Medical Doctors.

I will not attempt to go into many aspects of the work and decisions Nyerere made together with his government after independence. He was living in Dar es Salaam and I was living in missions in Musoma Diocese of. He made mistakes. But he was always willing to admit his mistakes.
When he made a mistake and saw that it was a mistake he would change the policy to correct it. From my understanding of him I know that even when he made a mistake, it was not for any personal gain for himself or any particular group to profit from this action. He made his decision because he thought that it would be for the good of the whole country and especially the poor people in his country. An example of this was villagization.

He explained to me that he felt that when people lived together, they would exchange ideas more frequently. This would bring about speedier development in the country. He also wanted to promote universal primary school education. He wanted the schools to be close enough to the people so that the children could get to school easily and especially get home at noon to eat and then return to classes. This could only be done if the children lived in villages.

Mwalimu leads the way during the walk to second the Azimio la Arusha from Mwanza to Butiama

It was his intention to bring good drinking water to all the people in rural areas. Again this would be impossible with the limited finances of the country if the people lived scattered over the countryside in their small peasant farms. Again the solution to this water problem was to move into villages. A third benefit that he saw for the poor peasants was to have medical facilities close at hand. In each village the government could provide a medical dispensary with a Rural Medical Assistant. Being close to a medical dispensary they could get early treatment.

It was his hope that these villages would develop and be able to have their own markets, shops, and workshops. With these attractions he wanted the youth to remain in the villages and be able to have a social life and also have opportunities of making money. If this took place then they would not flock to the large cities that cannot provide them with jobs. Also in the cities many could get into crime, prostitution, and other difficulties.

At the time of villagization there were some tribes and individuals who rebelled against moving into villages. In some cases this was due to the poor location of where the village was to be located. From the directions that we were given by the government for the location of a village, we were told to select a site at an established mission, a school, a trading center, or cotton store. Each family was given an acre of land in the newly formed village area. Most people could choose which plot they wanted.

It was unfortunate that this policy of moving the people into villages in our Mara Region took place when there were four years of famine, 1970-1973. The people blamed the famine on the government. It is true that there was less agricultural work done when the people were moved a mile or two away from their fields.

They continue to work the same fields as they had done previously. However, because of the distance they had to walk to get to their fields, the time that they spent working on them was reduced. Another problem was protection of their crops from cattle being herded nearby and wild animals. When they lived next to their fields they could protect them better.

The people with large herds of cattle, sheep, and goats were probably the most affected. When the government agreed and gave permission for the people to return to their small peasant farms, the ones who did so were mostly those with large herds of cattle. Most people were happy to continue to live in the villages.
During the serious famine in 1974 the Tanzanian government provided famine relief, but the food was not getting to the people who complained to the authorities.

President Nyerere heard about the complaints and decided to visit all the storehouses of the National Milling Company (NMC) where the food was being kept.

One day Nyerere visited the NMC in Shinyanga. He disguised himself as a beggar wearing worn out clothes and an old hat. When he arrived at the gate of the NMC no one recognized him. He passed through the gate without permission and went straight to the office of the manager. He knocked on the door and yelled out, “Hey, you people in there. Help me. I don’t have any food.” The manager answered, “Stop bothering us, old man. We don’t have any food here. Go to the market and buy some for yourself.”

Mwalimu with Mama Maria Nyerere and Foreign Minister John Malecela in a rare moment with Uganda's strongman Iddi Amin Daddah

Nyerere continued to cry out, but no one paid any attention. The manager and his assistants were busy with some local business men who were buying the famine relief food that was supposed to go to the Tanzanian people. Finally Nyerere opened the door and walked into the office.

He immediately took off his hat and made himself known. Needless to say, the manager was speechless. After President Nyerere returned to Dar es Salaam, it was announced that the manager of the NMC in Shinyanga had been fired together with some of his assistants.

I am sure that historians will deal with the many difficulties that Nyerere had to deal with as president such as the Army Mutiny in 1964, the detention of individuals, the revolution in Zanzibar, the union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar to create Tanzania in April, 1964, the conflict with apartheid in South Africa and Zimbabwe (formerly Southern Rhodesia), the war with Idi Amin in Uganda, and other problems that Nyerere had to deal with during his 24 years as president.

I did meet him occasionally during this time, mainly when he came on vacation to his village of Butiama. In all our conversations I saw that he continued to be concerned with justice and peace for his own people in Tanzania and the people of Africa in general.

There is a commonly used Swahili proverb translated into English as: When elephants fight the grass (reeds) gets hurt. It means the feeling of powerlessness in the midst of larger forces. In the 1970s Julius Nyerere used this proverb in a speech at the United Nations in New York. He explained that in the Cold War between the (then) two great super powers -- the United States and Russia -- it was the poor Third World countries such as those in Africa who suffered and were victimized.

For many years Nyerere was the chairperson of the South-South Commission. This commission was an organization of the developing countries. It tried to promote justice on the world market by showing the injustices that the wealthy countries practiced since they were able to control the prices both of rare materials and manufactured goods on the world market.

He was also the leader of the Frontline States that assisted the South African Blacks in their pursuit of independence and the end of apartheid. At his inauguration as the first president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela recognized Julius Nyerere’s contribution to overcoming apartheid. He did this by giving him at the independence celebrations the first seat of protocol.

The humility of Julius Nyerere was very evident to me. The two earliest biographers of Julius K. Nyerere were Judith Listowel and William Edgett Smith. Judith Listowel’s book is The Making of Tanganyika published by London House & Maxwell, New York in London in 1965. William Edgett Smith’s biography is called We Must Run While They Walk published by Random House in New York in 1971. Both of these authors came to visit me at Zanaki Mission. I helped them with information especially on Nyerere’s life as a youth.

Both of them told me that Nyerere had agreed to give them interviews. However, he would only give these interviews on the condition that their books would not be called Julius K. Nyerere. He was very much against any self-glorification. He would not allow statues to be erected to honor him.

He did not want titles of honor, but preferred the title Mwalimu ((Swahili for “Teacher”). He was always the enthusiastic teacher and animator.


I was with Julius Nyerere when he died in St. Thomas’s Hospital in London on Thursday, October 14, 1999. When I returned from the states a short time prior to this, Father John Sivalon, our Maryknoll Regional Superior, had informed me that Julius was ill and had gone to London for routine treatment.

Dr. Robert Carr first diagnosed Nyerere as having chronic lymphocyte leukemia in August, 1998 and started his treatment. He returned to London again in November, 1998 for further treatment. A week before he left for London in August, 1999 he was in poor health. This trip to London was described in the local newspapers as a routine medical check-up.

Maria told me that previously he had developed shingles which bothered him greatly. However, he had recovered from these.

President Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania after visiting Nyerere in the hospital on September 25 gave a press conference in Dar es Salaam when he returned there the following day. He announced that Nyerere was in critical condition and asked the nation to pray for him.

When I got word that he was not improving I flew to London on Sunday, October 10 and went directly to see him. I found him in a coma in intensive care. He had a smile on his face. With him was his wife Maria, his two sons, Charles Makongoro and Madaraka as well as his three daughters, Anna, Rose, and Paulette. President Mkapa had sent as his personal representative to be with Nyerere, Mr. Kingunge Ngombale-Mwiru, the Minister of Regional and Local Government. The Tanzanian High Commissioner in London, Dr. Abdulkadir Shareef was also in attendance.

Joseph Butiku who had served as Julius’ personal secretary when he was president and was also a relative was present. General Masuburi who was a retired general in the Tanzanian army that defeated Amin was also in attendance. Rashidi Kawawa also came to pay his respects to Nyerere while I was there.

Near his bed in intensive care was a small shrine with a crucifix, pictures of our Blessed Mother, and a rosary. His family took turns of sitting at his bedside praying and being with them. I was privileged to take my turn at his bedside. His two daughters, Anna and Rose, spent each night praying the rosary throughout the night.

On Monday, October 11 Dr. Carr decided to do a Cats Scan on Julius. When they returned him to intensive care, Dr. Carr called together Maria, his family and others in attendance. He said, “I am sorry but I have to tell you that your husband and father has gone to God. He has had a massive stroke. There is nothing that we can do to repair or help him.”

The family saw him breathing well as he had previously done. They found it difficult to accept that he had died. I was able to explain to the family that due to the development of medical science the Catholic Church now recognized that a person was dead when his brain was dead.

Dr. Carr was very gentle and took time to spend with the family. We also prayed together. We were allowed to celebrate mass in the Anglican Chapel of the hospital. Maria mentioned to me that she suspected that he had this stroke on the previous Thursday.

The Catholic chaplain, Father Bradley, who came two days a week, had previously given Julius the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. Later Maria asked another Catholic priest, Canon John Devane, to give her husband Extreme Unction. He did and later explained to Maria that the Anointing of the Sick was new name for the sacrament of Extreme Unction.

On Monday night Charles Makongoro and Joseph Butiku asked to speak to me in private. They told me that the Tanzanian government officials had decided they would pull the plug on the life supports for Nyerere on Tuesday and that a plane would come on Wednesday to take his body back to Dar es Salaam.

However, Dr. Carr spoke with Maria and her family when I was with them and said that he would only follow the wishes of the family in this matter. He saw that they were struggling with accepting that Julius was dead when they saw him continuing to breathe.

When his daughter Rose asked Dr. Carr to explain, he said that he was continuing to breathe because the machines were keeping him breathing. She replied. “Well, in that case we can keep him breathing indefinitely.”

Dr. Carr told her that it would be better if the doctors in intensive care would explain what the machines were doing as this was their specialty. One doctor from intensive care did come and talk to all of us. He said that if you want to know what we are doing in intensive care now with your husband and father I can only say, “We are prolonging his death.”

Even with this the daughters found it difficult to make a decision.

Finally after prayer and much discussion they agreed that on Thursday morning, October 14 that the monitors could be removed. They did not agree to remove the life supports. However, God is good. At 2:00 a.m. on Thursday Nyerere took a turn for the worst. Maria and his sons were called to his bed. The daughters were already there.

The doctors worked on him until 6:00 a.m. when he stopped breathing completely. I arrived at 8:00 a.m. at the hospital. Dr. Carr met me and told me that Julius had stopped breathing. All were gathered around his bed praying. Dr. Carr asked that we give the nurses the opportunity to remove all the wires and instruments and to clean him up. We left his bedside.

When we all returned we found him covered with a sheet except for his face. His wife Maria immediately went to his side. She uncovered his hand from under the sheet, grasped it between her two hands. The way she did it showed how great was their life long love that they shared during their 47 years of marriage.

She then intertwined a rosary between his fingers as all of us prayed and said the rosary. At that time I wished that all the Catholic married couples in Tanzania could have witnessed this expression of love that Maria and Julius had for each other throughout their life long faithful marriage.

The Requiem Mass, which was celebrated by Monsignor George Stack in Westminster Cathedral, London, was filled to capacity. Large crowds of Africans filled the plaza outside the cathedral because there was not enough room inside. After the mass they came to pay respects in a side chapel until it was necessary to stop because another mass was going to be said at the main altar.


I was privileged to accompany Nyerere’s body together with Maria, his wife, his children and many government dignitaries on the plane that brought him home to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. It is impossible to describe the huge crowds that waited for his arrival at the airport in Dar es Salaam.

Looking down from the plane, all one saw was a never ending sea of people, all standing in quiet respect for their beloved Baba wa Taifa (Swahili for “Father of the Country”).

If as in the early days of the church, saints were recognized by the Vox Populi (“Voice of the People”), Julius Kambarage Nyerere would have been canonized that day. Not only were the people there at the airport, but they lined the 15-mile route that the entourage took carrying his remains in state to his home at Msasani.

This day, Monday October 18, was reserved for members of his extended family to pay their respects to their beloved father. His wife Maria sat near the coffin as members of the family came to view and pay respects to his body. Next to Maria was Mrs. Nelson Mandela who had flown from South Africa to assist Maria. Fortunately when she recognized how tired Maria was from the long flight from London and then the funeral procession from the airport to her home, Mrs. Mandela persuaded Maria to go rest.

The following day, October 19, there was a Requiem Mass for Julius Kambarage Nyerere in St. Joseph’s Cathedral, Dar es Salaam. Cardinal Polycarp Pengo presided at this celebration. There were 13 archbishops and bishops assisting including the Apostolic Nuncio.

Because this cathedral is not too large, only VIPS such as President Benjamin Mkapa, his wife, members of the diplomatic corp. and a limited number of 50 priests and religious were able to attend. Crowds remained outside in prayer and respect. After this mass his body was taken to a house in the National Stadium.

This house had been built with air conditioning so that people could come to pay their respects. The lines began and continued all Tuesday night, all day and night Wednesday until Thursday morning when ecumenical services were held and speeches given. People had to walk many miles. But even in the middle of the night there were crowds of people that came to show their respect.

After this service in the National Stadium his body was flown to Musoma and from there taken to his home in Butiama. Once again in Musoma and then in his village of Butiama there very large crowds waiting to show their respect and love for him.

At Butiama crowds of people came from all over Tanzania to view his body and pay their respects. This went on from the time the body arrived there, then all day and night long Thursday, and all day Friday until it was time for his burial mass.

The people sang and prayed for him during all this time. Archbishop Anthony Mayala was the principal celebrant. Cardinal Polycarp Pengo, Bishop Justin Samba of Musoma Diocese and five other bishops assisted.

There were a number of speeches by President Mkapa, President Museveni of Uganda, the Vice President of Tanzania and others at the grave. He was laid to rest in a simple grave.

One day when I was visiting Maria after the death of Nyerere, she mentioned that Julius had wanted to build a small shrine to our Blessed Mother.

This shrine would be built among the large granite rocks near where he would be buried. After his death Maria started to build this shrine. Julius had chosen the type of statue he wanted.

When I saw a picture of the statue I recognized that it was Our Blessed Mother, Lady of Grace. I was able to temporarily borrow such a statue from the Immaculate Heart Sisters of Africa at their Baraki Postulancy. The Maryknoll Society agreed to donate a permanent statue.

We ordered a marble statue from Italy that was placed on the top of the large granite bounder near Julius’ grave. At the insistence of Maria a sign was placed on the mount holding this statue that acknowledged that it had been donated out of Maryknoll’s respect for Julius Nyerere.

Over many years we Maryknoll missionaries had a close friendship and working relationship with Julius Nyerere and his family. . Six weeks after his death picture this moving scene.

Thirty-one members of the Maryknoll Family in East Africa gathered in the Catholic Church at Butiama, 35 miles from Musoma on Saturday, 4 December, 1999: eight lay members of the Maryknoll Lay Missioners (MLM); 11 Sisters of the Maryknoll Congregation, and 12 members of the Maryknoll Society (10 priests, one Brother and one seminarian).

They joined with Mama Maria Nyerere and other relatives and friends to pray for Mwalimu Julius Nyerere who had died on October 14, 1999. I was Principal Celebrant and John Sivalon the homilist. Maryknoll Lay Missioner Liz Mach and Sister Gertrude Maley read the Scriptures. The feeling was a family spirit: small, informal, personal and friendly.

It was a day of mourning. With heavy hearts we remembered this outstanding Catholic, husband and father, teacher, Founding Father of the Nation and international statesman Julius Kambarage Nyerere. It was a day of celebration. Wearing white vestments and using the Mass of the Resurrection we prayed for Nyerere’s final journey to heaven and his joining our ancestors in Christ.

A special time in the liturgy was the introductions of the Maryknollers present. It was a touching moment when Maryknoll Lay Missioner Lisa Nolan walked over and personally greeted Maria before introducing the MLM members.

Sister Mary Reese did the same thing before inviting each Sister to introduce herself. In their introductions many of the priests and Sisters recalled a special moment or anecdote in our long relationship with Nyerere. In fact, from Maryknoll’s arrival in Tanzania in 1946 there has always been a warm bond of friendship and collaboration with Nyerere and his family. In his homily Sivalon emphasized that Julius Nyerere promoted the spirit and practice of the equality of all people at all levels of life.

He recalled Nyerere’s simplicity and closeness to the ordinary Tanzanian people. He described a scene during the viewing of the body of Nyerere at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam. Among the thousands of Tanzanians who patiently waited in line for hours, a woman with a baby on her back, a man on crutches and a simply dressed young boy each walked by the casket, paused a moment, bowed and quietly passed on. A moving tribute to a great man of the people!

Julius Nyerere has always been an inspiration to so many people. People come from distant regions in Tanzania to visit his grave to show how much they loved him. They realize how much he loved the poor of his country and tried to help them.

Maria mentioned to me that even when he was seriously ill Nyerere told her that he needed to go to Arusha where he had been involved with the leaders of those fighting in Burundi to try to bring peace among them. Nyerere’s whole life was a testimony of his efforts to bring justice and peace to Africa.

He had worked with the former president of the USA, President Jimmy Carter, in other efforts to bring peace among warring groups. What now remain for this nation of Tanzania and its people is to adhere to Julius Nyerere’s teachings on unity and respect for each other despite racial, religious, or ethnic differences

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