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Unwritten biography of first President of Tanzania Mwalimu Nyerere - 3

ON Monday of this week December 9, 2019, Tanzanians across the country duly celebrated the 58th anniversary of former Tanganyika’s independence (now Mainland Tanzania).

For the past two weeks, this column has been concentrating on giving some nuggets of useful information, that could form part of the contents of the highly desired biography of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere.

I was thus persuaded, for this auspicious Uhuru anniversary occasion, to write a similar piece on Mwalimu Nyerere’s efforts in his struggle for our country’s Uhuru.

Hence, today’s article just presents one additional installment, in my series on Mwalimu Nyerere’s possible biography tome. This one is specifically focused on Mwalimu Nyerere’s ingenious strategies, which he used in fast-tracking the achievement of Mainland Tanzania’s Uhuru.

In that connection, there is one major event which deserves to be mentioned; namely, Mwalimu Nyerere’s astute handling of the pre-independence Constitutional Conference, as a strategy for achieving his primary purpose of getting independence BEFORE the end of the year 196 1.

The pre-independence constitutional conferences

It was standard British Government practice and procedure, but amounting to a mandatory requirement for the act of granting of independence to all its colonies (and its other colonial entities known as ‘British Administered Territories)’ to be preceded by the holding of formal constitutional conferences, attended by representatives of the British Government, and those of the country seeking independence.

These conferences had the twin purposes of: (a) reaching agreement on the contents of the new Constitution of the country that was to be granted independence and (b) determining the date of that country’s independence.

Something exceptional happened

That routine was also applied to Tanganyika. But in our case, something quite unusual happened. For all the other countries concerned, the venue of these constitutional conference was, invariably, Lancaster House in London.

For example, Ghana and Nigeria, which were granted independence before Tanganyika in 1957 and 1960 respectively, had their constitutional conferences held at Lancaster House, London.

And so were those that received their independence after Tanganyika, such as the neighbouring Easter African countries of Kenya (1963), Zanzibar (196 3) and Uganda (196 4) whose constitutional conferences were also held at Lancaster House, London.

But Tanganyika became the proverbial “exception to the rule” because unlike those others our constitutional conference was held at the famous Karimjee Hall in Dar es Salaam from March 27-29, 1961.

Indeed, this was a very unusual exception which, in my humble opinion, can only be attributed to Mwalimu Nyerere’s iconic influence. It thus richly deserves a place in his anticipated biography which, not only ought to be written, but must actually be written.

Mwalimu Nyerere’s ingenious handling of that conference

We have already referred above, to the twin purposes of these conferences. An additional practice was for the British delegation to bring their own draft Constitution, which would be submitted for consideration at the relevant conference.

These were standard drafts, which invariably placed the new country into what was known, in constitutional parlance, as “Dominion” status; whereby the British Queen continued to be the Head of State of the new country, represented at the local level by a Governor-General appointed by her Majesty.

Apparently Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, who was renowned as ‘a man of principle’; was of the settled view that the British had no right whatsoever, to have any say in the formulation of an independent country’s basic law, namely its Constitution; and that this was the exclusive right of the people of the concerned country themselves, acting alone, to determine the kind of Constitution under which they will be governed.

Thus, armed with that philosophical conviction, Mwalimu Nyerere duly attended the Tanganyika constitutional conference, at the head of a small delegation of Tanu leaders, fully determined to waste no time arguing on the Tanganyika Independence draft Constitution which was brought by the British delegation and that was when the unexpected happened.

For, if you discount the unavoidable formalities of the opening ceremony on the first day of the conference on March 27 and those of the closing ceremony on March 29, 1961 the really serious business was conducted, and completed, in the record time of only one day March 28, 1961.

This was made possible simply because, after the date of independence had been agreed, to his and his Tanu delegation’s complete satisfaction. Mwalimu Nyerere felt that the primary objective of that conference had been achieved and its mission accomplished.

Matters relating to the Constitution could wait to be settled later by the in-coming “government of the people, elected by the people , and fully answerable to them”.

Mwalimu Nyerere’s main concern was only reaching agreement on the date of Tanganyika’s independence because he had solemnly promised the people of Tanganyika that Tanu would fight to ensure independence was achieved by the end of 196 1.

Consequently, he was morally bound to have that promise fulfilled. By the grace of God, it was indeed fulfilled. The constitutional conference unanimously agreed that Tanganyika would become independent on December 28, 196 1. But soon thereafter and rather suddenly, something else happened.

Fancy gossip started circulating among the British officials then working for the Tanganyika Government, that Her Majesty the Queen had rejected that date, as being inconvenient for the Royal family, and therefore unsuitable as Tanganyika’s date of independence! And the reason for that?

It was narrated, with considerable excitement, that ‘Her Majesty had decided to send her own husband, Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh, to represent her at the Independence celebrations in Dar es Salaam, and to present the relevant “Instruments of Independence” to Tanganyika’s Prime Minister, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere.

And further that December 28 would be inconvenient for the Royal family, because it meant that the Queen’s husband would be away from Buckingham Palace (travelling to and from Dar es Salaam, plus staying there for a couple of days attending those celebrations), which would keep him away for the greater part of the festive week relating to Christmas and New Year festivals.

This so the gossip went, was completely unacceptable to the Royal family. But, as it later turned out, this gossip was, in fact, representing the undisclosed truth.

For the date of Tanganyika’s independence was indeed changed to December 9, 196 1 (instead of the originally agreed date of December 28, 196 1) and also yes, it was the Queen’s husband who turned up to grace Tanganyika’s independence celebrations , on December 9, 196 1.

It is pretty obvious that Mwalimu Nyerere had no influence whatsoever over the alleged Royal family concerns because the news that December 9, 1961 was going to be the new date for Tanganyika’s independence, was first announced in the British Parliament, the House of Commons, by the then British Government Secretary for the colonies, Ian MacLeod and only conveyed to the Tanganyika general public the next day, through the mass media.

Except that, the bringing down of that event to such an earlier date, must have taken into consideration, Mwalimu’s determination to have independence achieved before the end of the year 1961. Thus, for him, the earlier the colonialists left, the better.

The quick disposal of the unacceptable Independence Constitution

We have already referred above, to Mwalimu Nyerere’s firm conviction, that the an independent country’s Constitution should not be the subject of negotiations with the out-going colonial Administration, as it was a matter solely for the people of the country concerned themselves, to determine the kind of Constitution that would govern them.

We also referred to his strategy of refusing to waste valuable time discussing the British-initiated draft of Tanganyika’s independence Constitution, during the constitutional conference.

But, although Mwalimu Nyerere and his Tanu delegation had meekly accepted the British draft which was presented there; That was only Mwalimu Nyerere’s ingenious strategy for fast-tracking the achievement of independence (Kubali yaishe).

For, he did not mince words when, subsequently, he expressed his true feelings about that (imposed) document, in the following scathing words:- “It was, essentially, an alien document which, in the eyes of the people of Tanganyika, appeared to be the embodiment of colonial, or neo-colonial, paternalism”.

This was due to the fact that the said Constitution had, actually, retained the British Queen as the Head of State of an independent Tanganyika, who was to be was represented here in the country, by her appointed Governor-General.

The executive power of the new State was to be exercised by the Governor- General, who was empowered to appoint the Prime Minister , and all the Ministers. He was also the chairman of the cabinet.

The appointed Prime Minister would, indeed, become the ‘Head of Government’; But many ordinary people, could not notice the narrow distinction between the powers of the ‘Head of State’ (the Governor-General) and those of the Prime Minister; just because the Governor-General continued to live and operate from State House, surrounded by all the visible symbols of State power, while the Prime Minister had to live privately elsewhere in town and to operate in far less dignified surroundings.

This basic principle, i.e, the need for a governance system which is clearly understood by the people, is what made Mwalimu Nyerere unwilling to negotiate the contents of the newe independent Tanganyika’s Constitution with the British Administration, who might not readily understand, or even appreciate, the need for a Constitution which is radically different from their standard model Constitution that separates the ‘Head of State’ from the Head from the ‘Head of Government’; Which they routinely imposed on all their former Administered Territories. Thus, true to his word, within a mere one month after the country’s independence, Mwalimu Nyerere formally initiated the process of giving the country a brand new, ‘home made’ Constitution that would make sense to the people, whose end result was the Republican Constitution of 196 2, which took effect on December 9, 1962, the first anniversary of the country’s independence anniversary.

The enactment of the Republican Constitution was the culmination of a lengthy process, involving close consultation with the people, premised on what was called a ‘Government White Paper’, (The issuance of “Government White Papers” was a typical, inherited British practice).

‘Government White Paper’ simply means ‘ a document published by the Government, giving detailed explanations regarding an important policy matter, that is to be subsequently submitted to Parliament for legislative purposes’.

The White Paper in this case, contained detailed proposals for the proposed new Republican Constitution, which would be based on the two basic principles namely: “(i) That as far as possible, the Instruments of Government must be such that they can be easily understood by the people concerned and (ii) That the Executive should have the necessary powers to carry out the functions of a modern State, specifically, the achievement of rapid economic development, and the provision of the essential social services”.

The White Paper further elaborated, that “an economically underdeveloped country faces particularly difficult tasks in holding the new nation together, plus eradicating widespread poverty, ignorance, and disease. Hence, the difficulty of these tasks requires that the Executive should be given extra powers”.

The enactment of the Republican Constitution was, undoubtedly, one of Mwalimu Nyerere’s ‘happiest moments’.

piomsek wa@ gmail.com /07 54 7 67 57 6

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