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Pambazuka News presents a selection of memorable quotations by the late Mwalimu Nyerere, on the topics of Palestine, imperialism and racialism, good governance and life lessons. This material previously appeared in CHEMCHEMI, Bulletin of the Mwalimu Nyerere Professorial Chair in Pan African Studies of the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.


Our desire for friendship with every other nation does not, however, mean that we can be unconcerned with world events, or that we should try to buy that friendship with silence on the great issues of world peace and justice. If it is to be meaningful, friendship must be able to withstand honesty in international affairs. Certainly we should refrain from adverse comments on the internal affairs of other states, just as we expect them to do with regard to ourselves. But to stay silent on such issues as Vietnam because one or more powerful nations do not like what we say would be a disgrace.

In the Middle East we have seen yet another outbreak of dangerous and destructive war in recent months. The fighting there was brought to a halt very quickly, but the situation remains one of great danger to us all.

Large areas of UAR, Syria and Jordan remain under Israeli occupation.

We are thus very obviously concerned in the matter. But we have other interests too. It is not, and should not be, part of our policy to gloss over an act of aggression because we recognise and have diplomatic relations with the country which commits such aggression.

The establishment of the state of Israel was an act of aggression against the Arab people. It was connived at by the international community because of the history of persecution against the Jews. This persecution reached its climax in the murder by Nazi Germany of six million Jewish men, women, and children. The survivors of this persecution sought security in a Jewish national state in Arab Palestine. The international community accepted this. The Arab states did not and could not accept that act of aggression. We believe that there cannot be lasting peace in the Middle East until the Arab states have accepted the fact of Israel. But the Arab states cannot be beaten into such acceptance. On the contrary, attempts to coerce the Arab states into recognising Israel – whether it be by refusal to relinquish occupied territory, or by an insistence on direct negotiations between the two sides – would only make such acceptance impossible.

In expressing our hope that a peaceful settlement of this terribly difficult situation will soon become possible, it is necessary for us to accept two things. First, Israel's desire to be acknowledged as a nation is understandable. But second, and equally important, that Israel's occupation of the territories of UAR, Jordan and Syria, must be brought to an end. Israel must evacuate the areas she overran in June this year – without exception – before she can reasonably expect Arab countries will begin to acquiesce in her national presence. Israel has had her victory, at terrible cost in human lives. She must now accept that the United Nations which sanctioned her birth is, and must be, unalterably opposed to territorial aggrandisement by force of threat of force.

That is Tanzania's position. We recognise Israel and wish to be friendly with her as well as with the Arab nations. But we cannot condone aggression on any pretext, nor accept victory in war as a justification for the exploitation of other lands, or government over other peoples.


Humanity has already passed through many phases since man began his evolutionary journey. And nature shows us that not all life evolves in the same way. The chimpanzees – to whom once we were very near – got on to the wrong evolutionary path and they got stuck. And there were other species which became extinct; their teeth were so big, or their bodies so heavy, that they could not adapt to changing circumstances and they died out.

I am convinced that, in the history of the human race, imperialists and racialists will also become extinct. They are now very powerful. But they are a very primitive animal. The only difference between them and these other extinct creatures is that their teeth and claws are more elaborate and cause much greater harm – we can see this even now in the terrible use of napalm in Vietnam. But failure to co-operate together is a mark of bestiality; it is not a characteristic of humanity.

Imperialists and racialists will go. Vorster, and all like him, will come to an end. Every racialist in the world is an animal of some kind or the other, and all are kinds that have no future. Eventually they will become extinct.

Africa must refuse to be humiliated, exploited, and pushed around. And with the same determination we must refuse to humiliate, exploit, or push others around. We must act, not just say words.


It reminded me of the social history of Great Britain before the advent of the welfare state. The extremes of individual or family poverty within that country were dealt with through the philanthropy of rich persons to whom such human misery was unbearable. But their charity was given only to those they regarded as the 'deserving poor'. This, in practice, meant that it was given only to those people regarded by the philanthropist as having demonstrated an acceptance of the social and economic status quo – and for as long as they did so.

As the world's powerful nations have not (as yet) accepted the principle of international welfare, they apply the same 'deserving poor' notion to the reality of poverty outside their own countries. 'Aid' and non-commercial credit are regarded not as springing from the principles of human rights or international solidarity, regardless of national borders, but as charity extended as a matter of altruism by richer governments to the less developed and very poor nations. However, the quantity of this 'official' charity being increasingly inadequate to meet the most obvious needs, one of the criteria for a nation being classified as among the world's 'deserving poor' came to be having 'good governance' as defined by the donor community.

And in practice that phrase meant and means those countries having multi-party systems of democracy, economies based on the principle of private ownership and of international free trade and a good record of human rights: Again as defined by the industrialised market economy countries of the North. It was in this kind of context that we in Africa first heard about 'good governance'; and this was the manner in which it was brought up at the Harare meeting to which I have referred.


There are things that I would have done more firmly or not at all. For example, I would not nationalise the sisal plantations. This was a mistake. I did not realise how difficult it would be for the state to manage agriculture. Agriculture is difficult to socialise. I tried to tell my government that what was traditionally the family's in the village social organisation should be left with the family, while what was new could be communalised at the village level. The land issue and family holdings were very sensitive. I saw this intellectually but it was hard to translate it into policy implementation. But I still think that in the end Tanzania will return to the values and basic principles of the Arusha Declaration.




* This article first appeared in the maiden issue of CHEMCHEMI, Bulletin of the Mwalimu Nyerere Professorial Chair in Pan African Studies of the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and is reproduced here with the kind permission of the Editorial Board of CHEMCHEMI.
* Mwalimu Nyerere was Tanzania’s first president.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

[1] Excerpts from a speech on foreign policy made on 16th October 1967 at the TANU Biannual Conference in Mwanza before more than 2000 delegates.
[2] Nyerere, J. K. Freedom and Socialism, p. 371
[3] Written 12:04 PM Oct 13, 1998 by [email][email protected] in cdp:twn.features
[4] Interview with Ikaweba Bunting published in the New Internationalist Magazine, issue 309, January-February 1999.
[5] Written, perhaps in a visitor’s book, at one of the Commonwealth conferences.