Monday, July 6, 2015

Who influenced Nyerere: his Ujamaa Philosophy and Azimio Principles?

..Ironically, in Tanzania Nyerere became our pioneering doubly conscious policymaker. It was Nyerere who resorted to cultural identity as a basis of his initial policies on development. Operating under the double consciousness cultural mode, he resorted to fuse traditional African ways of doing things with modern, primarily Euro-American, ways of doing things. But how far did he go in striking a balance between the two forms of consciousness?

...With the help of the notion of double consciousness we can also locate the emergence of Nyerere’s stance in his belief that the presidency could benignly blend and marshal traditional and modern resources to develop us. As Chachage (1986) notes, in 1956 Nyerere even confided to a Marknoll father that the British had romanticized the Maasai but they would have to develop like anybody else. He stressed that they have to fall in line and thus asserted that we had to build a strong presidency into the constitution of our country and yet somehow protect the individual. As Nyerere (1966) philosophical synthesis of the individual and society attests, he saw this inherent tension or conflict of interest between the individual and the society as a big problem.

Thus the Nyerere who formed the Ministry of Culture and Youth in 1962 and proclaimed it as his most important ministry was a president vested with so much discretionary powers. He was now the chief architect of development, both as a policymaker and implementer. Prior to his ascension to the presidency in the beginning of that year he had produced his 'Ujamaa – the Basis of African Socialism'. This became a blueprint of Tanzania’s development policies and programs.

As Nyerere (1962) disclaimer underscores, this blueprint set to examine African socialism as an attitude of the mind rather than define the institutions that could embody it in a modern society. The blueprint asserts that socialism is rooted in our African past i.e. in the traditional society which produced us. Its foundation and objective, the blueprint affirms, is the extended family. Applying this ‘traditional’ African way of life to the ‘modern’ settings, Nyerere (1962) stressed that, in its modern manifestation, African Socialism can draw from its traditional heritage the recognition of our African society as an extension of the basic family unit. However, ever beset by double consciousness, Nyerere went ahead to give primacy to modernity in his first President’s Inaugural Address towards the end of that year:

I say ‘transform’, for to build this country we have to make many changes. And in order to change it we must be willing to try what is new. It is useless to long for good things of today if we are not prepared to change the habits of the past which prevent our making use of the means to achieve those good things (Nyerere 1962: 183)

Clearly the good things of today referred to things Euro-American. No wonder he further asserted that we needed to change our old methods of cultivation and our old ways of living. Here he was referring to the use of a hand-hoe and the practice of living far apart from each other respectively. “If we want to develop”, he further appropriated the ‘there is no other alternative to developmentalism’ discourse of modernity, “we have no choice but to bring both our ways of living and our way of farming up to date” (Ibid). Thus we had to start using tractors. But in order to do so, the “first and absolutely essential thing” that had to be done was “to begin living in proper villages” (Ibid). Of course proper village primarily meant modern villages modelled on Euro-American modernity rather than the purported African way of life...

...The proclamation of the Arusha Declaration in 1967 marked a turning point in the Tanzanian policy landscape. The declaration explicitly systemized, institutionalized and thus reinvigorated the country’s ideology of socialism and self-reliance. It introduced anti-capitalist leadership qualifications and nationalistic measures of public ownership. It also “began a new series of deliberately socialist policy initiatives” (Nyerere 1968: 231). Thus, in that year Nyerere produced two key ‘post-Arusha’ policy directives: 'Education for Self Reliance' and 'Socialism and Rural Development'. These papers were to have significant impacts on the reconstruction of the Ministry responsible for culture. Interestingly, it is the latter that had an initial impact.

In Socialism and Rural Development, Nyerere (1967), reasserts and elaborates his earlier claims in 'Ujamaa – the Basis of African Socialism'. However, he infuses these claims with a strong modernist tone as he vacillates between the tradition and the modern. He starts by trumpeting three basic assumptions of traditional Ujamaa/Familyhood life namely mutual respect, joint sharing of production and work by all. Interestingly, he then offered a feminist as well as a developmentalist critique of the inadequacies of this traditional system.

According to Nyerere (1967), two basic factors prevented the traditional society from fully flowering. The first was the acceptance of one form of human inequality, that of women’s marginalization. The second was the failure to break away from poverty due to ignorance and a small scale of operations. Although he was careful enough to claim that there is nothing inherent in the traditional system that caused this poverty, the reasons fits with what Diagne Souleymane Bachir & Henri Ossebi (1996) call an elitist and discriminating vision of culture inherited from humanistic prototypes of European Rennaisance. This modernist discourse of civilization viewed Africans as backward and in dire need of enlightenment. The following observation aptly captures the origin of this elitist/ethnocentric discourse and its entrenchment in the African consciousness of the nationalists who seized power in the wake and aftermath of independence:

As nationalists, they professed to hold power in trust of the whole population. With ascension to power, the classes of the society began to divide themselves and the nationalists began to turn around upon their former allies, assuming an indifferent or hostile attitude against every class or organization which contradicted the ‘modernization’ goals, and concluded alliance with the colonial and bureaucratic interests…The new rulers proclaimed that they embodied the essence of equality, education, development and science and were waging war against ignorance, disease and poverty. The aspects of the struggles against the trio of enemies – poverty, disease and ignorance – in essence summed the assumptions of modernization/development and the general thinking of the educated in general: ‘poverty and ignorance are always linked in English and other European languages’ in which ignorance is taken to mean lack of knowledge and proper culture (Chachage 1986: 328)

Arguably, Nyerere who penned the two post-Arusha policy directives exhibited Eurocentric tendencies of this elite group, albeit in benevolent garbs. The thrust of his policy on rural development was to modernise tradition. To that modern end it aimed to combine the three principles of traditional Ujamaa life with the knowledge and the instruments necessary to defeat poverty that purportedly existed in that traditional setting. As the following statement from the directive attest, the primary reference point of this knowledge was Euro-America: “We must take our traditional, correct it shortcomings, and adapt to its service the things we can learn from the technologically developed of other continents” (Nyerere 1967: 4)...

... As the following quote from a policy booklet on rural development indicates, this is what our first president seems to have in mind before he allowed his bureaucratic developmental state to use, misuse and abuse its monopoly of political power to enforce development as modernity at any cultural cost:

The social customs of the people also vary to some extent. The Masai are traditionally a nomadic cattle people; their family structure, their religious beliefs, and other things, have been shaped by this fact. They are therefore somewhat different from the social beliefs and organization of, for example, the traditional agricultural Wanyakyusa. The steps which will be necessary to combine increased output with social equality may therefore vary; the important thing is that the methods adopted should not be incompatible with each other, and should each be appropriate for the attainment of the single goal in the particular circumstances (Nyerere 1967: 14).

That was Nyerere at his best. Our departure from this fairly balanced application of universal/global and particular/local approaches to culture and development is what still hinders sustainable development in Tanzania....

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