As we celebrate 50 years of Tanzania Mainland’s independence today, it is not so easy for the majority of the young men and women of this country and even some of those who were there to remember that the country emerging from colonialism in 1961 was so weak that it could have easily fallen apart, had it not been for the astuteness of those who had wrested it from the colonialists.
They inherited a country ravaged by discriminations and its majority population characterised by three scourges, namely poverty, ignorance and disease.
Founding President Mwalimu Julius Nyerere clearly highlighted the situation at independence when addressing Parliament on 29 July, 1985, saying: “Half of our people are youngsters who do not know, and many adults have forgotten, that at independence we were a people divided by race and by religion. Our new nation inherited legal and customary discrimination both of race and of religion.
There were racially separate education and health facilities, racial representation in this Parliament, racial residential areas, and so on. Employment opportunities were influenced by race; there were few Government schools and Mission Schools were reserved for the followers of their particular religion.
All that discrimination went very quickly after the independence of Tanganyika and the Revolution in Zanzibar. And the Bill of Rights, which is incorporated in the new Constitution, outlaws any racial or tribal or religious discrimination. We are now a nation of citizens absolutely equal before the law in theory and in practice.”
It was this nation which he and his colleagues remoulded into a unified force to fight the three enemies, and adopt a path of development that galvanised the energies of the population into voluntary work as had never been seen before.
People built schools, health centres, model villages to which they also brought piped water, all on voluntary basis.
Adult literacy classes were launched throughout the country, conducted by teachers and other professionals on voluntary basis.
By the end of the 70s, over 90 per cent of Tanzania’s adult population was able to read and write.
The cornerstone of Mwalimu’s campaign for Tanzania’s development was therefore the advancement of the whole country and not of some few individuals at the expense of the majority.
We must therefore honour all those who gave their energies selflessly in those early exciting years of building and uniting the young nation, offering material and moral support to the liberation struggle in Africa and beyond.
The young men and women of those days can proudly look back today and echo Mwalimu’s words given in Parliament on 29 July, 1985 who in summing up the achievement of his administration said: “The single most important task which I set out in my Inaugural Address in December 1962 was that of building a united nation on the basis of human equality and dignity…In the most basic of all our objectives we have, after less than 25 years, great reason for pride. We do have a Nation - a united Nation… a Nation based on the principles of human equality.”
Tanzanians may well be advised to reflect on these words of Mwalimu as we struggle to maintain unity and peace of our nation.