Every 14 October is Nyerere Day in Tanzania, a day to honour the memory of the nation’s first president and the number one leader in its independence movement. He also led in effecting the union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar into the single nation of Tanzania.
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However, despite Julius Nyerere’s status as “Father of Tanzania” and his great popularity, he is also a controversial figure. Most in Tanzania would agree with his push for an end to British colonial rule, but what came after independence is where the controversy begins.
Nyerere ruled as president of Tanzania from 1964 till 1985, and then left the country in the hands of his chosen successor. Beginning in 1967, he adopted a socialistic approach to governance, which he called “Ujamaa.”
Over the years, Tanzania’s economy worsened, basic goods became scarce just like in other socialist countries around the world, and corruption was rife in the government. When Ujamaa had clearly not worked out, Nyerere began to force village farmers onto “collective farms” and even began burning down villages of those who resisted. The nation moved nearly to the point of starvation and became heavily dependent on foreign aid.
Despite these flaws, however, many remember the good things about Julius Nyerere, such as his successful bid for national independence and national unity. Therefore, his death anniversary every 14 October is honoured by many as a day to remember a national hero.