Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere (1922–1999), the first president of the United Republic of Tanzania (1964–1985) was a prominent figure in Non-Aligned Movement. Nyerere embraced NAM as a symbol of Third World Unity. Nyerere supported the principles of the NAM on detente, disarmament, development, anti-colonialism and the struggle for a reshaping of the international economic order.
Nyerere called for an active involvement in world politics to achieve the principles enshrined in the Non-Aligned Movement. At the Sixth Conference of Heads of State or Government of Non-Aligned Countries held in Havana, Cuba in 1979, Nyerere remarked that “the Non-Aligned Conference is not an organization of neutrals bound to some kind of neutrality in international arguments. On the contrary, we have positive policy commitments of our own. First we are a group of States committed to fight against imperialism in all its forms. The Non- Aligned States are, by definition, anti-colonialist and anti-imperialist, and we are committed to the struggle against those forces”.
Nyerere develop the philosophical basis of African socialism in what he referred to as Ujamaa. When Tanzania became a republic and he was elected president in 1962, he pointed out that in the new society under construction, development must be human-centered and closely linked to freedom: ‘For the truth is that development means development of the people. Development brings freedom, provided it is development of the people”.
In January 1967, President Nyerere presented to the Tanzania African National Union (TANU), the country’s ruling party, a program to be implemented throughout Tanzanian society as the basis of a socialist policy. This program, which TANU adopted, became known as the Arusha Declaration.
The Declaration emphasized the following key policies of socialism and self-reliance: (1) the need to build a society where no person exploits another, everybody works and reaps a fair return for their labour; all major means of production and exchange in the nation are controlled and owned wholly or in part by the peasants through their democratically elected government and cooperatives; (2) the need to de-emphasize the importance of money and industries as starting points of development; and (3) The need to de-emphasize urban development and focus on rural development. The Arusha Declaration was one of the most important statements of principle in relation to the development problems facing the developing world.
Nyerere furthered his principles in what he referred as the Economic South. Nyerere was nominated to chair the South Commission at the NAM meeting in 1986. He recognized the need to strengthen South-South cooperation in international affairs. In 1987 the South Commission was formally established under ex-president Nyerere’s chairmanship and subsequently produced its report The Challenge to the South in 1990 which called for greater South-South cooperation. He chaired the South Commission from 1987 to 1989, when it became the South Centre.
Nyerere reiterated his commitment towards establishing South-South cooperation at various international forums. At the Opening Ceremony of the Second Meeting of the Council of Representatives at the U.N. Trusteeship Council in New York on the 21st September 1998, he stated that “If we in the developing countries arc to shape our own destiny, and participate fully in shaping the future and the nature of the world in which we live in, we have to have an effective voice. But we will not have that effective voice if we do not work together, at least in some areas of vital concern to all of us. Together we can reduce our separate weaknesses. Acting together we can become stronger; we can gain at, least some more influence In the world”.
Nyerere’s total commitment to global equality, solidarity, and eradication of poverty made him one of the most respected, persistent, and principled voices for the underdeveloped world at the Non-Aligned Movement and the South Commission. In recognition of his exceptional contribution to global justice and equality for over three decades, for example, Nyerere was unanimously elected the first chair of the South Commission He also earned the Nehru Award for International Understanding in 1976.
In 1982, he was awarded the Third World Prize by the Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi. In 1985, he received the Beyond War Award for his distinguished service to humanity. In 1987, he was recognized with Lenin Peace Prize (erstwhile Soviet Union’s equivalent of Nobel Peace Prize) for his tireless efforts to build a just and peaceful world.
By Dr. Pawan Mathur