With President Julius Nyerere

October 18 1976


With President Julius Nyerere

October 18 1976


With President Julius Nyerere

As Britain and the United States intensify their search for a constitutional settlement in Southern Africa, Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere has emerged as perhaps the one national leader remaining with the influence to prevent the exercise ending in failure and a bloodbath. A committed socialist, Nyerere commands the respect both of the black guerrilla leaders in Rhodesia and Southwest Africa (Namibia) and of U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. After his first full round of shuttle diplomacy in the troubled continent, it was to Nyerere more than to any other leader that Kissinger turned for support for his proposals. At the urging of the guerrillas and African nationalists, Nyerere expressed reservations about parts of the American package but carefully avoided scuttling it entirely. Whether the Tanzanian president would be able to convince the guerrilla leaders to suspend their terrorist campaigns entirely so that a constitutional conference of blacks and whites could take place remained an open question, but there was a growing belief in international circles that if he proves unable or unwilling to do so, there, is nobody else who can.

A graduate of Edinburgh University and a fervent Roman Catholic, 54-year-old Nyerere is chairman of five so-called frontline black African leaders who have met at least a dozen times during the past year to plan the overthrow of white supremacy in Southern Africa. Because Tanzania serves as the external base for numerous guerrilla forces, Nyerere’s credentials with black nationalists are solid. And because of a close friendship with Kenneth Kaunda, the president of strategically located Zambia, his relations with moderate leaders are equally good.

His writings and speeches have made Nyerere a kind of cult figure among Western liberals, but those who have followed Tanzania's painful efforts to become economically self-sufficient often find fault with his leadership, with his inability at times to make his ideology workable, his weakness in controlling the bureaucracy and his unwillingness to mete out stiff punishment for inefficiency. He was Tanzania’s first president after it became independent in 1961 and he has been reelected three times without opposition in the one-party republic. A wiry man, with a high-pitched voice and an easy, joking manner, he is known to Tanzanians as Mwalimu, the teacher. It is an apt title to describe his constant haranguing, exhorting and chastising. Addressing

Chagga tribesmen in Tanzania, he once said: "While the Americans and Russians are going to the moon, we Africans are dancing. Our friends are using their brains while ours sleep and grow fungus. They are sending rockets into outer space while we are eating wild roots."

Nyerere has always attached great importance to setting a personal example of good conduct for his countrymen. True to


his socialist principles, he gave up his poultry farm under his own nationalization law and recoiled at the prospect of living in the State House, an impressive Moorish mansion on the harbor front in Dar es Salaam. Instead, he borrowed from a bank and bought a small house for his wife, Maria Gabriel, and their seven children. He was interviewed for Maclean’s by Canadian free-lance writer Valerie Miner.

Maclean’s: Many questions have been raised about American involvement in shuttle diplomacy in Southern Africa. But perhaps we should start with questions about Tanzanian involvement. Just what is Tanzania ’s role in the independence of Namibia, Zimbabwe [the black nationalists’ name for

Rhodesia], South Africa and, in the past, in Mozambique and Angola?

Nyerere: The headquarters of the Liberation Committee of the OAU [Organization of African Unity] is located here. Many of the liberation movements have headquarters here. In this sense we are involved on behalf of the OAU. We are also involved directly. Mozambique had its training based here because it was convenient. We helped with the training of Frelimo troops. It was not so easy for Angola to have bases here, but we did help with the training of the MPLA [Popular Movement for Liberation of Angola], We received arms and passed them along. We are committed to the liberation of Southern Africa, like other committed countriessuch as Nigeria. Maclean’s: Does Tanzania have any selfinterest in this involvement?

Nyerere: To quote the late Kwame Nkrumah. "The independence of Ghana will be meaningless as long as other parts of Africa are not free." So as long as Mozambique was under the Portuguese, it is true that Tanzania was not free. Until the independence of Zimbabwe, there will be no independence for Tanzania.

Maclean’s: Do you see yourself in a mediating role? Asa moderate influence? Nyerere: I am engaged in confrontation, not mediation. I am joining the other African nations, not mediating with colonial powers. The freedom of other African nations is our freedom. I can help in establishing the conditions under which the freedom fighters work. I don’t dislike being called a moderate. I am forced by circumstances only to advocate violence. 1 helped to build the freedom forces with Frelimo. and I am helping build them with Zimbabwe. Independence by negotiation is an objective we will pursue to the end. If that is not possible, armed struggle is a means we will pursue to the end. Maclean’s: Are you hopeful about the outcome of this shuttle diplomacy?

Nyerere: We have dealt with Rhodesia for a long, long time. Our attempts in 1974 to achieve majority rule failed for two reasons: one. Smith had not accepted majority rule; two. the nationalist movements were disunified. To move forward, we need a change in especially the first factor. Maclean’s: What period of transition to majority rule would be acceptable to you in Namibia, Zimbabwe and South A frica? Nyerere: I am not talking about South Africa. but to answer your question: we want independence yesterday. Once the colonial power and the representative of the colonies agree to negotiate, they will sit down and decide a date. It’s not up to me, it’s up to the people of those countries to decide.

Maclean’s: But for the sake of informing Canadians about reasonable expectations, what would you estimate?

Nyerere: Mr. Callaghan, when he was foreign secretary, laid down conditions for negotiating independence with Zimbabwe. He said there must be independence in 18 months or two years. Whites said this was ridiculous. Joshua Nkomo has said two years. This will give you some perspective.

Maclean’s: Why don’t you want to discuss South Africa? Some people are concerned that South African independence is being traded or delayed in compromise for majority rule in Zimbabwe and Namibia. Nyerere: Although the problem of Southern African liberation is a single problem, we have to take it step by step. We concentrated on Mozambique and Angola. Now we are concentrating on Namibia and Zimbabwe. When they become independent, we will concentrate on South Africa. We’re not able to do everything at once. Maclean’s: What is your policy regarding “compensation” or “economic guarantees” to white Rhodesians? Dr. Kissinger implied that this would be done on the initiative of Tanzania.

Nyerere: Yes, it was our initiative. 1 first started considering this idea at the Commonwealth Conference in Canada in 1973. As usual we spent a lot of time talking with the Rhodesians, and as usual we talked about majority rule. At that time I was thinking about guarantees to those whites who would stay in the country. At the beginning of this year, we realized that what you really need is a fund that enables those who don’t want to stay in the country to leave. I said, shouldn’t we be first thinking of persuading those who want to leave to go?

Maclean’s: Critics complain that the guarantees won’t go to individual emigrating settlers, but to multinational corporations and that by paying them off you are acknowledging their legitimacy. Isn’t this inconsistent with the policies of a socialist country? Nyerere: Yes, some of the guarantees will go to companies. And they will probably move to othercapitalist countrieslike Canada and Britain.

Maclean’s: Isn’t this accepting, indeedfostering, capitalism?

Nyerere: As a socialist I think it is better that I pay the capitalists than shoot them. Maclean’s: What countries have offered to put up these guarantees?

Nyerere: The United States and Britain. Other Western countries are considering it, like Canada, I believe.

Maclean’s: What do you think about guarantees for those whites who decide to remain in Zimbabwe?

Nyerere: After Tanzania’s independence, we provided guarantees for the white and Asian minorities here. They soon rejected it because those who wanted to stay

wanted to be part of Tanzania. They considered the guarantees a discrimination against them. 1 think this will happen in Zimbabwe. In Canada and the United States there are no guarantees for minorities, why should we need them in Africa? It’s a question of individual rights, not rights as members of racial groups. Maclean’s: What are the reasons for current United States involvement here? Dr. Kissinger says he is impartial, that we should credit his involvement to the persuasiveness of African presidents. Should we? Nyerere: I think that question is best addressed to Dr. Kissinger.


Maclean’s: Did you invite the United States to be involved?

Nyerere: I cannot answer that question. Maclean’s: But Dr. Kissinger said in Zurich that he was welcomed by the leaders of Southern Africa. And (two nights ago) here in Dar es Salaam, he said that he had been invited.

Nyerere: We did not ask him in. When he came in April, he didn’t ask, he just said he was coming. I have no power over the United States. If they can use their influence toward independence, we will not discourage them.

Maclean’s: The “big power” division of the globe is only one kind of political economy. In Canada and other countries, academics and politicians are concentrating on ties among smaller countries—trade agreements, diplomatic exchanges. Doesn’t this shuttle diplomacy put us back in the “big power” mentality?

Nyerere: The United States is going to be

involved whether I like it or not. My problem is helping determine what kind of involvement. I ask what is your involvement here? They say they are engaged in competition with the Soviet Union. In Ottawa, some people suggested that the Third World was against détente. I answered with the Swahili saying, “When the elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.” To which my quick-witted friend, Lee Kuan Yew, the Prime Minister of Singapore, said, “But when the elephants make love, it is the grass that suffers.” I cannot stop the United States from being involved. Maclean’s: What do you think of the presence of Cuban troops in A ngola?

Nyerere: I don’t understand the obsession of a big power like the United States with a tiny island like Cuba. I don’t understand how a superpower says we are engaged with Cuba in competition for influence in Angola and Cuba pushed us out. What did the United States want in Angola? Who asked them? The government of Angola invited in the Cubans. Who invited the Americans?

Maclean’s: What are the chances of a Third Force, uniting ZANU [Zimbabwe African National Union] and ZAPU [Zimbabwe African People’s Union], coming together and liberating Zimbabwe?

Nyerere: First of all, I have been told there is no Third Force. The armed wing of the liberation movements are united—with members from ZANU and zapu—although the political wings are not yet organized into one group. The failure of the political leaders should not stop the armed struggle. They are fighting for independence, not ideology.

Maclean’s: Independence for what? How can you know that a majority government will be any better if you don’t know its political commitments?

Nyerere: It is inconceivable that men and women can engage in armed struggle without knowing what they are fighting for. They want independence. I make a very clear distinction between the liberation of my continent and the social system of different countries in Africa. When it comes to independence, Tanzania is no more independent than Malawi. We are involved in Zimbabwe and Malawi because we house the OAU liberation leaders. What social system they choose is their business. Smith has just said that the biggest problems in Rhodesia are the security situation, the drop in white immigration and the economy.

Aaclean’s: Is Southern Africa emerging as a political bloc as well as a geographic area? Tanzania, Mozambique and Angola are now independent socialist states. In many senses Zambia is also socialist. Listening to the programs of the liberation leaders in Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, one assumes they are going to be socialist countries.

Nyerere: We are engaged in liberation for majority rule. We are not fighting for one kind of ideology. This is a cardinal point that I make time and time again. What I wish for Tanzania, I wish for the rest of Africa. But I cannot assume that every country will want socialism. I believe that this will happen, but I can’t say. If any outside country tried to interfere in the independence of an African country, nomatterhow capitalist it was, we would fight the outsider, no matter who it was.

Maclean’s: Is your priority unity or is it socialism?

Nyerere: Unity. The United States is troubling me because of its size, not because of its capitalism.

Maclean’s: If your country is a socialist country, aren ’tyou riskingyoursocialism by maintaining such strong ties with Kenya and Uganda in the East African Community? Wouldn’t it be better to form a union with Mozambique and other Southern African countries?

Nyerere: If I had to make a choice in East Africa between unity and socialism, 1 would choose unity. If 1 were forced to give up one of the two, I would give up socialism. Suppose one province in Canada was more socialist than the others, would they choose socialism over unity?

Maclean’s: What about nationalist movements in Europe? Like Scottish nationalism which—in its leftist support—is seen as a vehicle to socialism. What about the idea that a socialism is best nurtured in a small, uncompromised country?

Nyerere: I oppose the nationalism of disunity. I don’t want to balkanize Africa. Balkanization is weakness. You achieve independence, then unity, then socialism. Even if you had a capitalist Africa—a United States of Africa—that does not stop me from being a socialist. But without the strength of independence in Africa, we cannot have any chance of socialism. Maclean’s: If you oppose superpower diplomacy, why do you accept arms from the Soviet Union? Do you think any “nbutral” countries like Canada or Sweden ever might contribute armaments?

Nyerere: First of all, how is Canada neutral? I thought Canada was a member of NATO. As for Sweden, on principle they won’t give arms. We need arms. We have to take them where we find them. We cannot be victims of the ideology of non-alignment by reducing ourselves to bows and arrows. If Dr. Kissinger wanted to donate arms, even if everyone said it was part of a CIA plot, 1 wouldn’t object for one moment. And again on Canada: you can tell how much we trust your country—we asked you to train our troops, your armed forces were here for five years.

Maclean’s: Why are they no longer stationed here?

Nyerere: You cannot be here forever. Maclean’s: What can you expect the government of Canada to do for or with the independence movements?

Nyerere: Sweden is working with us in a useful way. They don’t try to control the direction of their money. They give according to what the liberation movements

want—medicine and materials. I would suggest to Canada that they might look to Sweden.

Maclean’s: In your address to the Royal Commonwealth Society last November, you said, “Political independence can be a sham without economic independence. Dialogue or confrontation will depend upon whether the rich will recognize that the poor have a right to economic independence and then seriously embark on the process of establishing a new relationship between rich and poor. ” What was the response to this? Nyerere: Not very good, judging from the proceedings at UNCTAD-IV [ UN Conference on Trade and Development IV], Once the colonial powers regarded it as their right to colonize. Then they recognized political independence as the right of their colonists and the colonial people recognized this right themselves. This wasn’t an ideological move. The colonial powers recognized that they could decolonize and continue their economic advantages. This economic dominance is as intolerable as political dominance. When we say we want to be economically independent, they say they want to give aid. That means they have not begun to understand what we are talking about.

Maclean’s: A s an alternative to aid projects which are controlled by the donors, the Commonwealth Committee of 10 has suggested that UN aid targets be aflat transfer oj 1% of the GNP of rich nations. Sweden and the Netherlands, I believe, are following this target. And Norway is going further. What other response have you had? What are your expectations?

Nyerere: Negligible and not very good. Maclean’s: How do you regard Canada’s consciousness and behavior in respect to these matters?

Nyerere: cuso and CIDA are aid. I oppose aid. But in the meantime, what am I to do?

1 need electricity. Do I stop developing the country until the world economy changes? It’s like the sea out there. When it rains, there is a tendency that the land goes to the sea. We have immense problems keeping the land away, back where it belongs. Maclean’s: What is the difference between the aid Tanzania receives from the West and what it receives from China?

Nyerere: Aid is aid. On the other hand. China is a Third World country. It is poor. It has no colonies.

Maclean’s: What can Canada do to strengthen ties with these developing countries and to help establish this new economic order?

Nyerere: I can’t tell Canadians how they can become conscious. That’s up to you, yourselves. It’s as though we poor countries are the employees and the rich nations are the employers. If you don’t understand our economic needs—the necessity of independence—there is going to be an explosion. That’s all I can say. 1 cannot educate Canadians. That’s a task left to the renegades within your society. The Canadians will have to educate themselves. v>