Julius Kambarage Nyerere, born in 1922, attended a mission school in Tanganyika, Makerere University College in Tanganyika, and the University of Edinburgh. He returned to teach at a Roman Catholic school near Dar es Salaam and was known as Mwalimu, or teacher.
In 1954 he organized the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) and was elected to the legislature as Tanganyika prepared for full independence in 1961. Nyerere was elected as the first prime minister of the newly independent state and became President of the Republic in 1962. When Tanganyika and Zanzibar unified as Tanzania, Nyerere became the nation’s first president in 1964.
In the 1967 Arusha Declaration, Nyerere instituted a state program of ujamaa (familyhood) based on collective sharing, traditional African values of the family, and collectivization of farms.
Ujamaa, a form of African socialism, was supported by the People’s Republic of China, but in the global economic system, Nyerere’s ujamaa failed to bring economic growth, and in 1976 he was forced to admit defeat and end the program.
Nyerere was an effective spokesperson in the campaign to end the apartheid system in South Africa and was also one of the founders of the Organization of African Unity (OAU).
He hosted the African National Congress and Pan-African Congress, as well as other African nationalist movements that struggled against western imperial forces in Mozambique and Rhodesia. He was also a sharp critic of African dictatorships and publicly condemned Idi Amin’s dictatorship in Uganda.
In the first contemporary military intervention by an African state against other, under Nyerere’s leadership, the Tanzania military attacked Amin and forced him out of power.
Refusing to run for reelection, Nyerere retired voluntarily in 1985. He was succeeded by Ali Hassan Mwinyi and served as a sort of elder statesman in Africa until his death in 1999.