“I believe very strongly in unity,” said Tanzania’s founding President Julius Nyerere. “Sometimes, I am accused of supporting unity for its own sake but I believe unity is an instrument of liberation.”
Known affectionately as “The Teacher”, Nyerere made his comment in an interview with Nawal El Sadawy in Egypt’s El Mussawar in 1984. Throughout his life, Nyerere was known as a compassionate leader and an African socialist with a passion for human rights, dignity and liberation beyond the borders of Tanzania and Africa.
His East African country is well known for its glorious fight for independence from British colonial rule. Nyerere and his comrades made history by overthrowing a colonial government and turning their country into a haven for other liberation movements across the continent. Their new position allowed them to set up training camps, provide material and logistical support, and express diplomatic solidarity with global liberation movements in international forums.
Tanzania was also home to several liberation movements from beyond the African continent, such as the Tupamaros of Uruguay and liberation fighters from Palestine. Julius Nyerere was among the first African leaders to recognise the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) under Yasser Arafat. In the same interview for El Massawar, he stated: “Our generation was a generation of the nationalist struggle for the independence of our own countries, but the plight of the Palestinians is very different and much worse… They have been deprived of their own country; they are a nation without a land of their own. They, therefore, deserve the support of Tanzania and the entire world.”In 1973, Dar es Salaam became home to the first PLO embassy in Africa after cutting all diplomatic ties with Israel. Tanzania was also part of a group of Frontline States that formed the backbone of resistance to the apartheid regime in South Africa. Nyerere was among those who launched the global anti-apartheid movement in 1959 in London. At that time, he called for an economic boycott: “We are not asking [you] for anything special. We are just asking you to withdraw your support from Apartheid by not buying South African goods.”
From the time of Tanzania’s struggle for independence until his death on 14 October, 1999, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere remained a supporter of unity in the struggles against global oppression and injustice. His legacy of global solidarity and the contributions he made as a leader on the African continent have confirmed him as an invaluable model of integrity for future leaders.
It is on the shoulders of such giants of African liberation and human solidarity that we stand when we make the clarion call for solidarity with the Palestinian people and all other oppressed peoples of the world. It is the moral clarity, courage of conviction and righteous indignation of Nyerere that inspires activists in organisations like #Africa4Palestine to continue the quest for a peaceful and just world.
May President Nyerere’s spirit always guide us in our efforts for a free Palestine and in shaping a better, more peaceful and just world.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.