AFRICAN JOURNEY. Tanzanian politics -- stamped with the Nyerere seal
(Page 2 of 2)
As party chairman, Nyerere is expected to remain in a position of overriding influence. ``In this country,'' declared a Dar Es Salaam businessman,'' the party is the real government. Nyerere may have stepped down as President, but the landlord has not changed.''Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Tanzania's new Cabinet, observers also note, consists primarily of political appointees in the Nyerere mold. Among the Tanzanians, diplomats, and foreign development officials interviewed, it is generally agreed that only a thorough overhaul of the economy can raise the country from the doldrums. This means a change in the socialist ideology that has guided this nation since Nyerere's 1967 landmark Arusha Declaration, in which he set forth his guiding principles. Changing course?
Tanzania, they say, must reduce its heavy reliance on international aid handouts, dismantle inefficient state controls, and stimulate private initiative, notably among its peasant farmers. ``The Tanzanian people could have told Nyerere years ago that his policies were disasterous,'' complained one Tanzanian agriculturalist from Arusha.
``Under the British, the African peasant proved what could be done. He is willing to work 24 hours a day for himself, but not for a commune. Only now is the party beginning to recognize this, but we have lost a lot of time. The best Nyerere can do is retire to his village, be respected and let us get on with the job,'' he added.
Recent months, however, have brought apparent improvements. More imported goods can be found in the towns, foreign exchange restrictions have been eased, and basic incentives for private enterprize introduced. After hitting rock bottom two years ago, residents say the country is beginning to edge its way back up. Whether Mr. Mwinyi will bring more changes or simply act as a stopgap president is far from clear.
In a recent BBC interview, he indicated that the present liberalization was only a temporary measure. Nevertheless, some observers see no turning back.
Stressed one Tanzanian company manager: ``There is real demand for change -- a demand that comes from the people. They believe Nyerere favors reforms, but prefers to push from behind.''
Said another Tanzanian, ``How can he admit publicly that he may have been wrong all these years? He's still in charge. No decisions are going to be made without his blessing.''
Others, however, maintain that as long as Nyerere remains in the picture, the situation will not alter greatly. He has admitted certain mistakes. ``Yet he still feels his socialist policies are correct. It's only their implementation that has proven faulty, coupled with external factors, the world recession or high oil prices,'' observed a West European diplomat. Nyerere's achievements
For years, Nyerere has been viewed with reverence both at home and abroad. One of the most repeated comments is that he is a charming, charismatic, and well-intentioned gentleman. History, however, may judge him harshly. By critics he is increasingly seen as an intellectual who experimented with his country but who lost touch with the way his people think and feel.
There is much that Nyerere has achieved. He has given Tanzania relative political stability, a common language, and, despite certain tensions among its 120-odd tribes, a sense of nationhood.
Such unity is rare in Africa. Only in Zanzibar, which united with Tanganyika in 1964 to form Tanzania, are secessionist feelings voiced.
Nyerere has also distinguished himself as a fervent frontline leader pushing for change in South Africa and supporing certain anticolonial liberation movements. However, he has turned a blind eye to the ruthless repression practised by black African regimes against their own peoples such as Burundi, Zaire, and Ethiopia, to name but a few.
Only in the case of Idi Amin's Uganda did he intervene, at a high cost to Tanzania.
Yet what really matters to Tanzanians is that Nyerere's socialism has failed to deliver to them what it promised almost 20 years ago.