23 February 2016

Tanzania: Honouring a Legend - Julius K Nyerere

opinion

Julius Kambarage Nyerere is a symbol of freedom in Africa.

He fully supported the liberation of the continent from colonial rule, after gaining independence in 1961 in his own country, then called Tanganyika.

He facilitated the Union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar to become the United Republic of Tanzania and served as its first President.

Tanzania hosted the Liberation Committee of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) that provided diplomatic support and materials to the liberation movements, who now govern several independent countries in southern Africa.

Nyerere chaired the Front Line States grouping of leaders in the region that supported independence and opposed apartheid in South Africa, and he later chaired the South Commission and the South Centre.

Nyerere, who was affectionately addressed as Mwalimu (Teacher), recognized the key role of knowledge as a strategic resource for freedom and development, and he became the Founding Patron of the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC), established 30 years ago in 1985.

In response to the decision of its regional Board chaired by Hon. Peter H. Katjavivi, now Speaker of Parliament in Namibia, SARDC developed a plan to honour the Founding Patron with three initiatives, including naming the SARDC premises in Harare, Zimbabwe as Julius K. Nyerere House.

Guest of honour at the naming ceremony on 18 February was His Excellency Benjamin Mkapa, former President of the United Republic of Tanzania, who as Mwalimu's foreign minister was a key adviser on the establishment and early development of SARDC, which has grown to become a widely respected regional policy institute and think tank.

Speaking at the naming ceremony of the SARDC building as Julius K. Nyerere House, Mkapa said it is important for SADC and the rest of the African continent to value and be guided by the ideals and principles of Nyerere, who believed that unity, integrity and knowledge are critical for socio-economic development.

"We realised the need to educate, not only the oppressors and their allies but also our own people in order to steer them up to support the liberation movement," Mkapa said, adding that the Front Line States expressed the need to establish an information centre that would collect and disseminate accurate information about the region across borders.

"Towards the end of the 1970s, when it was very clear that we are going to win, we said now the challenge is not just the question of getting freedom, but also using that freedom in order to strengthen our capacity to develop, and we would require the same knowledge, or more knowledge now, to disseminate it more widely and more deeply so that our people can be inspired to self-develop and our friends can assist us in that development process.

"And that is how the thought and development of the SARDC was conceived," he said.

Mkapa paid tribute to the Founding Directors of SARDC, Phyllis Johnson and the late David Martin, a journalist widely respected for his integrity and factual reporting. He described Martin as "a nationalist beyond borders, a true Africanist," who used his arsenal of words as a freedom fighter.

Mkapa urged SADC and Member States to give practical support to SARDC as the centre is playing an important role in tracking progress and raising awareness of regional development issues, achievements and challenges.

"I hope SADC member states can move forward to strengthen the capacity of this centre, but also to drive member states to exchange more information about their development challenges, about their development strategies, (and) about their development paradigms so that we can truly move together in unity towards greater freedom of our people," he said.

SARDC Executive Director Munetsi Madakufamba concurred, saying "SARDC shall endeavour to uphold Nyerere's ideals and principles and carry forward his legacy."

He said the SARDC Board took the decision to name the building in honour of Nyerere's contribution to freedom and pan-Africanism some time ago, and this event marks the achievement of this goal.

SARDC's first Executive Director, Phyllis Johnson who is now responsible for Special Projects, said the organisation is proud to be associated with the ideals and principles of Nyerere.

"Our work is rooted in Nyerere's determined and positive outlook when he often said, 'It can be done, play your part'."

SARDC is a widely respected development research institution that provides knowledge support to regional policy initiatives such as industrialization, energy development, climate change, water resources, gender and development, and China-Africa relations.

The Centre is made up of four institutes covering regional economic integration, environment and water resources, gender, and the recently established Institute for China-Africa Studies in Southern Africa.

These institutes work in partnership with national, regional and international research institutions and think tanks, as well as regional organisations such as the SADC Secretariat with whom it has a Memorandum of Understanding first signed in 1995 and later reviewed in 2005 and again in 2015.

SARDC also runs a regional news service, Southern African News Features that provides knowledgeable background articles about development issues and events in southern Africa and the African continent, and is accessible on www.sadc.int as well as the SARDC website, www.sardc.net.

The other two SARDC initiatives to honour Mwalimu Nyerere have also been completed, with a public lecture by former President Mkapa delivered at the National Defence College in Harare, titled "Mwalimu Nyerere: His Pan-African Concept and Legacy", which will soon be published.

The first initiative was a book entitled Julius Nyerere, Asante Sana, Thank You Mwalimu that was co-published with four other institutions in Zimbabwe and Tanzania, and was first launched in August 2015 at the 35th SADC Summit in Botswana, by the then SADC and African Union Chairperson, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

He later conducted a well-attended national launch of the book at State House in Harare in January this year before travelling to the African Union Summit, where the book was distributed to African leaders.

The book is a compilation of key statements and perspectives by Nyerere on development issues, and is well illustrated with historical photographs. The Foreword to the book was written by President Mugabe as chair of SADC and the African Union, and the subject is introduced with a lively article by David Martin.

These three initiatives to honour Mwalimu Nyerere were inspired by President Mugabe two years ago when he urged the region and continent to honour Nyerere.

During his tenure as African Union chairperson in 2015, the AU named its Peace and Security headquarters after Mwalimu Nyerere.

Zimbabwe honoured Mwalimu in 2005 with the Royal Order of Munhumutapa, the highest honour that the country bestows on a foreigner.

SADC was the first to formally recognize the contribution of Nyerere when it honoured him as the first person to receive the Sir Seretse Khama SADC Medal, presented to him at the SADC Summit in Angola in 1986.

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