Liberal Peace Conflict, Gender, and Peacebuilding

Liberal Peace Conflict, Gender, and Peacebuilding

Thursday 14 September 2023

ANOTHER IMPORANT AND SIGNIFICANT PIECE OF OUR POLITICAL HISTORY: MWALIMU NYERERE’s DETERMINATION TO ‘MODERNIZE’ THE RURAL POPULATION.

 


We have regularly been presenting, in this column, different important/significant pieces of our rich political history. For today’s presentation, we have selected the story of President Nyerere’s  strong determination to ‘modernize’ the country’s rural population, by re-settling them into properly organized“vijiji vya maendeleo”.  Well- designed stories usually carry some lesson to be learnt there from,  And, as we shall see later  below, this story has its own lessons. One is that it clearly reveals the ‘unshakeable’ determination of a Head of State to implement what he believes will provide positive development for the people under his jurisdiction; such as is reflected in President Samia’s slogan Kazi iendelee”. The other is that it exposes the ‘crimes’ which can be committed by some unscrupulous officials who are assigned the task of implementing the relevant project.  

            At the time when President Nyerere’s project was being implemented, it was known as Operashen Vijiji vya maendeleo” ; which actually commenced much earlier in 1962, as a ´Village Settlement” programme. However, unfortunately, its implementation was badly designed, and badly executed, leading to its failure and total abandonment; simply because of its ‘capitalist orientation’ nature.                                                                                             
        For it involved the provision by the government to every family in the established village, of a house built by the government, common tractors for tilling the soil, and even the provision of seeds required for planting the crops. The financial burden was, obviously, much too heavy for the government to bear. Thus, this ambitious, but obviously ill-conceived initiative, had to be totally abandoned; and subsequently ‘resurrected’, in 1973/74;  in the new form of “Ujamaa Villages”.
         It is probable that this bold initiative remains practically unknown to the present generation of Tanzanians. But it is nevertheless a very significant part of our socio/political history.  And it is for that basic reason, that today’s presentation has been designed to focus on that matter.
The background to that ’village resettlement’ drive.
        There may, probably, be many people, who either still remember, or who  have been so  informed as a result of their own learning of Tanzania’s history, about Prime Minister’ Julius Nyerere’s voluntary resignation from that high position very soon after the country had achieved independence from British colonial rule.                                                                                     
        Looking back at that matter now with the advantage of ‘hind sight’; it becomes quite clear that  this was Nyerere’s personal strategy  to give himself time, to quietly prepare the country for the subsequent fundamental changes which occurred on 9th December that year, when Tanganyika (now Tanzania Mainland) became a Republic,  with him being at the apex of the country’s leadership, both as  ‘Head of State’ as well as ‘Head of Government’.                   The lessons referred to above.
In my considered opinion, there are two useful lessons which could be learnt from this story. One, that it was, indeed, President Nyerere’s ‘unshakeable’ determination, to implement the “village settlement” project;  for he knew, perhaps better than anyone else,  the benefits that would accrue therefrom. For example, in a comment he made regarding the American successful landing on the moon in 199; Mwalimu Nyerere said this: “While others go to the moon, we are going to the villages”.
President Nyerere’s plans.
         President  Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, revealed his plans for the country’s future, in his inaugural ‘Address to Parliament’, on 10th December, 1962. In that powerful speech he said the following,  among other things:- “The Tanganyika we intend to build, must be different from the Tanganyika that we inherited from colonialism”. And continued as follows: “If you ask me what our government is planning to do in the next few years, the answer is simple.  It is that  for the next few years, the government will be doing all it can to enable the peasants of Tanganyika to live together in properly organized villages.                                      
          And if you ask why the government wants them to live in such villages, the answer is equally simple, namely that  unless they do that, we shall not be able to provide them with the things they need to raise their standard of living. We shall not, for example, be able to provide schools for their children, or provide medical infrastructures, or clean water facilities, which are close enough to their homesteads. And even if we had plentiful supplies of electricity, we shall not be able to connect that power  to each isolated homestead. 
         However, I do not want anybody to start thinking that by just going to live in an organized village, he will find himself miraculously supplied with all these good things. No, that is not what I am saying, for I know that we shall still be a long way away from solving all our problems, even by the time we succeeded to resettle every peasant family in an organized village community. All I am saying, is that if our peasant population does not live in proper village communities, then all our endeavours to develop our country will be just so much wasted effort.”.                                                      An unfortunate ‘false start’.
The President’s initial ‘experiment’ (obviously upon persuasion by the expatriate advisers and officials who had been given that advisory role); was to establish what were then called “Vijiji vya maendeleo” (Development villages). For the implementation of this project, a government “Village Settlement Agency” was established; which was mandated to do the design, as well as the  operational  system that would apply to  these villages. We were informed then, that these new villages  would consist of ‘collective dwellings’ called “village settlements”; that  each  of them would consist of 250 family households; and that they would  be established on previously unoccupied land.                    
                And further that in Its first phase, the project would consist of 22 such ‘model’ villages; established in different selected areas of the country. The entire operational costs of implementing this project, were to borne by the government. Such costs included:  the construction of houses for all the intended residents thereof, plus  the provision of tractors (and other farm implements), for tilling the soil;  the provision of seeds for planting,  plus  fertilizers, where these items were required.               
            In other words, these villages were  (unwittingly), given the equivalent of the status of “state farms”, where the people working there are  employees of the government!                                      
              Such ‘capital intensive’ undertakings, obviously, could not possibly cover the whole vast country, and were clearly unsustainable. The project was a kind of ‘false start’, and was, obviously, bound to fail, as it eventually did;  and had to be totally abandoned.                                   
        It was, in other respects, a case of “conflict of interests”; contradicting  the  Arusha Declaration policy of “Ujamaa and Self-reliance”.  For it was, by its nature, ‘a capitalist oriented project’,  which was  being undertaken by the government in a  country that was determined to build ujamaa!
        But the idea itself, of “resettling the rural population into properly organized villages” was not abandoned; for it was later vigorously ‘resurrected’ in 1973/74, under the code-name “the ujamaa villages development programme”; when  the entire Regional Administration  establishment, was mobilize  to  concentrate on this particular  undertaking, and, for that purpose, was  given a specific time-period, within which to complete that the exercise. 
            As if to illustrate his firm  determination to make  the village re-settlement  project a resounding  success; at one regular meeting of TANU’s National Executive Committee, President Nyerere revealed that when he was  resting at Butiama during the previous  year’s Christmas holidays;  he had noticed some kind of reluctance,  in responding to the directives to  re-locate to the designated villages; and that he had consulted his brother the Chief of the Wazanaki, regarding what he thought could be the cause of this reluctance. The Chief’s reply was: “Mwalimu, the people have not yet been convinced that this is what the government actually wants them to do. They still believe that these are mere noises coming from groups of rabble rousers.                                      
         Mwalimu Nyerere further inquired:  ”Chief, what then,  do you suggest  should be done, in order to convince them”?  The chief’s reply was: “Mwalimu, Just mount an ‘exhibition’ of a small contingent  of the military forces, passing  through parts of the rural areas, but  doing no more than just urging the people there  to heed  the government’s  call  to  re-locate to the designated development villages, and you will be surprised by the peoples’ response”.
             Mwalimu Nyerere said he was persuaded by the Chief’s advice, and gave appropriate instructions to the  Chief of the Defence Forces.  The intended ‘small exhibition’ was duly mounted; and indeed, the targeted people immediately responded, and very positively.
Lessons to be learnt there from.
The Holy Bible says the following in Ecclesiasticus:-“Miss not the discourse of the elders, for  from  them thou shall learn understanding, and how to give answer as needth”, The  “villagezation” story is one such ‘discourse’, and from our own very distinguished ‘elder’, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, fonder President of the United Republic of Tanzania.                                          
        As already stated above, there are two useful lessons that could be learnt from this little story. One, it shows that a Head of State can go to very a Head of State can go to very great lengths, in order to ensure that what he believes to be a positive development project for the people who are under his jurisdiction; as we have just seen above, in the part relating to Mwalimu Nyerere’s consultation with his Chief of the Wanzagi people. (It may also be remembered that President Nyerere had, in1963, engineered the abolition of the colonial “Chiefs’ Ordinance”; which had vested all the tribal Chiefs with certain Executive, legislative, as well as judicial powers, to  be  exercised in their respective areas of jurisdiction.          
        This incident also helps to clarify the point, that the said legislative action, did not at all  remove the said Chiefs’  traditional roles, as custodians of their tribal customs and traditions; which has been misunderstood by some people, such as those who  questioned President Samia’s recent  participation at a traditional ceremony at the Bujora Sukuma Cultural Center, arranged and managed by the country’s  current Chiefs. 
        The second lesson, is that, the story exposes the ‘crimes’ that can be committed, without the knowledge of the boss, by some unscrupulous officials who are given the task of implementing the relevant project. This is illustrated by the cruel, anti-human treatment, which was, in some areas, perpetrated on some of the people who were involved in this exercise,  when forcing them to move to  new areas. There was evidence to show that in some extreme cases,  people were forced to move from their previous dwellings  to some empty areas of land, and just abandoned there, under the  trees, and left there to fend for themselves, without any assistance; and their previous homes were burnt down, in order to prevent them  from returning there.                         
        Many of the offenders were subsequently apprehended, and punished  appropriately according to law;  but, as that famous English Playwright William Shakespeare said a long time ago:  “The ‘good’ that men do, is often interred with their bones, but the ‘bad’ lives  long after them”. The said “bad things”, or crimes, that were committed by those unscrupulous officials have lived long after their commission. These are matters that should, perhaps, best be forgotten. But we cannot obliterate history.