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Coinciding 22nd death anniversary of Nyerere, some hail him for anti-colonialism, pan-Africanism, others call him autocratic democrat

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania

Experts in Africa have asked leaders to revive the spirit of pan-Africanism as propagated by late Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere and avoid narrow nationalism being circulated under the guise of patriotism.

Coinciding the 22nd death anniversary of Nyerere -- the father of the pan-African struggle for independence -- Issa Shivji, the director of Dar es Salaam-based Nyerere Centre, told Anadolu Agency that there was a need to revisit the vision of the departed leader.

He said that Nyerere believed that collective freedom was the only legitimate cause for African nations to attain real democracy.

“African democracy is in prison, it has been taken hostage by party pundits, handcuffed by neo-liberal ideology, and mutilated by the barbaric capitalist system,” said Shivji.

He urged African countries to revive the spirit pan-Africanism and desist sinking into narrow nationalism propagated under the guise of patriotism.

“We need an ideology that transcends parochial nationalism,” he said.

Nyerere, who died of leukemia in London on Oct. 14, 1999, at the age of 77, was a leading figure of Africa’s struggle for independence who strongly advocated for political and economic emancipation.

According to Shivji, the insatiable hunger for material accumulation by western nations has devastated nature and decimated the ideals of people’s freedom that Nyerere stood for.

“Nothing, absolutely nothing is out of the reach of capital … capital respects nothing, least of all freedom and democracy,” he said.

As a charismatic leader of razor-sharp intellect and great personal integrity, Nyerere not only united Tanzania but also helped liberation struggles in southern African countries providing them politically, material, and moral support.

The expert, who is also a professor at the University of Dar es Salaam, said Nyerere felt it was an obligation to assist other African nations to achieve freedom from colonial rule.

"Our country offered itself as a base for those fighting for liberation, that was a great honour," he said.

Nyerere also promoted the Kiswahili language and wanted it to become Africa’s lingua franca.

Autocratic democrat

Nyerere who ruled from 1961-1985 is being hailed by some for his advocacy against colonialism and promoting African socialism. But many criticize him for being autocratic and the one who failed to bring prosperity to the continent.

“He was an advocate for democracy, but by reasoning that each country built its style of democracy, he built a one-party state that regularly violated democratic values,” said Paul Bjerk, a renowned author of African history.

But political commentator Jenerarali Ulimwengu described Nyerere as an ethical leader who will be remembered for his remarkable leadership skills, unity, tranquility that Tanzanians enjoy today.

Born in April 1922 at a village of Butiama on the eastern shores of Lake Victoria into a Zanaki tribe Nyerere was the architect of Tanzania’s independence and a key figure in the struggle against foreign domination.

He became the first Tanzanian to study at a British university when he went to Edinburgh on a government scholarship

He governed Tanganyika as prime minister from 1961-1962 and then as president from 1963-1964. When the island of Zanzibar was unified with Tanganyika to form Tanzania, he served as president of the country from 1964-1985. Kizito Makoye, Anadolu Agency

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