African Social & Political Thought

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  • Topic: Julius Nyerere, Tanzania, Ujamaa
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PHL 305: AFRICAN SOCIAL AND POLITICAL THOUGHT

QUESTION: TAKE ONE AFRICAN SOCIO-POLITICAL PHILOSOPHER AND DISCUSS:

A. HIS POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY

B. THE PROBLEM HE TRIED TO SOLVE

C. THE EXTENT TO WHICH HE WAS SUCCESSFUL.

African socialism was one of the earliest theories proffered by many African leaders at the outset of independence. Leaders such as Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Obafemi Awolowo and Leopold Senghor all supported this concept but had different approaches to it.

In this essay, my focus will be on Julius Nyerere and his approach to the idea of African socialism.

Julius Kambarage Nyerere was born on the 13thof April, 1922 in Butiama in then Tanganyika (Tanzania).As President of the United Republic of Tanzania in 1964; he had a difficult course to steer. He believed that the new states of Africa were one and that they faced the problem of rapid economic development and the creation of new ideas based on African experience and heritage. How to achieve these objectives according Nyerere was the greatest challenge of African leaders. He came to the conclusion that socialism was the solution to the socio-political problems faced by African states and Tanzania in particular. He believed that development is liberation from the shackles of colonialism and that it was two ways, personal and social. Personal in the sense that the individual must develop himself, hence self-reliance. The foundation of Nyerere’s political philosophy was the principle of Ujamaa, derived from the Swahili word for extended family or ‘Family hood’, which was first articulated by Nyerere at Arusha popularly termed as ‘The Declaration of Arusha’ on the 5th of February,1967.Here the term socialism was taken to mean basically ‘an attitude of mind’. To him Ujamaa was an expression of the natural African condition and that Africans need not be converted to socialism than we were taught democracy. He believed that Ujamaa was the natural path for the emancipated new African state to follow, a path that will ensure development because it is the African way of life, and the content of his mental disposition. The socialism of Nyerere laid stress on equal opportunities for all and the need to reduce social inequities. As he stated: ‘The objective of socialism is to build a society in which all members have equal rights and opportunities; one in which all can live in peace with their neighbours without suffering or imposing injustice, being exploited; and one in which all have a gradually increasing basic level of material welfare before any individual lives in luxury’. By this he meant that the African society was poor before colonialism. There were no distinctions between rich and poor. Wealth was shared equally according to our African values and wealth was not a deciding factor but what was important was the use to which it was put.

In addition to raising the standard of living, he believed that socialism should aim at developing a particular quality of life which is people centered. It is only through the development of people rather than things such as roads, buildings and agricultural production that people’s true freedom and human dignity can be preserved. He said: ‘A new road extends a man’s freedom only if he travels upon it’. Here Nyerere was talking about the fact that socialism was supposed to be some kind of service to mankind regardless of race, color, size, ability or skill, which he also extended to the participation of government, where development required the participation of the people in the planning and decision making process pertaining to their own development. He believed that exploitation is based on private ownership of the means of production by individuals which are evident in capitalist system of government, where there is a continual conflict between man and man.

In a nutshell, Nyerere conceived of development in terms of a more equitable distribution of wealth and the absence of...
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