Tanzania weeps for father of the nation

In the biggest outpouring of collective grief that southern Africa has ever seen, Tanzania yesterday threw itself into a 48-hour non-stop orgy of tears for Baba wa Taifa - the father of the nation - Julius Nyerere, who died from leukemia last Thursday in London.

In the biggest outpouring of collective grief that southern Africa has ever seen, Tanzania yesterday threw itself into a 48-hour non-stop orgy of tears for Baba wa Taifa - the father of the nation - Julius Nyerere, who died from leukemia last Thursday in London.

Tomorrow, the Princess Royal and dignitaries from all over the world, including the US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, will arrive for the state funeral in Dar es Salaam. But for now, this is very much a family affair - 30 million people grieving as one for Mwalimu - the teacher.

President Benjamin Mkapa attended a Roman Catholic funeral Mass yesterday which spilled outside St Joseph's cathedral. Thousands of people were able to watch proceedings on giant video screens. Cardinal Polycarp Openga praised former president Nyerere for his honesty and integrity on a continent where so many leaders are known for their corruption.

Mama Graça - Nelson Mandela's wife, Graça Machel - is here, always by the side of Mama Maria, widow of the late former president. On the television, a tearful little girl sings "you did more in your life than all the water in the sea''.

At the national stadium, where the body was taken yesterday after it was flown back from London, nothing is pompous but everything is meticulously arranged.

There were two weeks of prayers by all religions for former president Nyerere, who lay dying in Saint Thomas's Hospital, and the country was prepared.

The body of the man who ruled Tanzania from 1962 until 1985, when he stepped down, will remain in the stadium for viewing, night and day, until Thursday.

Yesterday, thousands upon thousands of people filed through the specially constructed glass house where the former president Nyrere lies in state beneath an enlarged photograph of him in an open-necked shirt, smiling. From time to time, a choir sang or the band struck up Nkosi Sikelel'i Afrika , the national anthem.

Lucas Kizigha, a clerk, 25, who had come to pay his last respects said: "He was our father. He united us. He knew evil and crushed it, like Idi Amin, and he knew what was good. All the southern African liberation movements - Zimbabwe, South Africa and Mozambique - have his vision to thank for their success. When he died, he was trying to bring peace to Burundi.''

Outside, the streets were mostly deserted. Dar es Salaam, which means "haven of peace'' is a city of 1.5 million people which usually bustles with the activity of hawkers proclaiming "hii katalogi kabisa garantii oringino'' (from the latest catalogue, guaranteed original) which everyone knows to mean the opposite. Yesterday, as one man said outside the stadium, "even the pickpockets are paying tribute to Baba''.

Former president Nyerere, who died aged 77, had his faults. His ujamaa, Maoist farms, introduced after a peaceful transition to independence from Britain in 1961, ran the economy into the ground. In 1979, Tanzania had more political prisoners than South Africa. But in the crowd yesterday mourners insisted that his legacy was of good.

Generally, they did not believe the prophets of doom who have predicted that, in the absence of former president Nyerere as an éminence grise , President Mkapa's ruling party could split ahead of next years elections and that Muslim-dominated Zanzibar - the island off Dar es Salaam which was brought into the fold in 1964 - might secede.

Winnie Naali, a market trader in her forties, who was among hundreds wearing black and wrapped in a kanga (cloth) featuring Nyerere's image said: "He was not very clever at economics and this was not good for the wealth of this country, but when he realised this, he said sorry and resigned. He wanted Tanzania to be one big village, a family for us all, and for all of us to take part.''

After the state funeral - at which several European royal families will be represented, as well as all of Tanzania's neighbours and high-ranking officials from allies such as China and the Nordic countries - former president Nyerere's death will return to being a family affair.

His body will be taken to his village, Butiama, by Lake Victoria, for burial alongside the remains of his father. Far from the nearest airstrip and prying camera crews, Mama Maria and Mama Graça will reclaim the family occasion.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Extras
indybest
Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Facilities Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Facilities Manager is required to join the m...

Recruitment Genius: New Business Sales Consultant - Mobile - OTE £35,000

£14000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent telecoms compa...

Recruitment Genius: New Business Sales Consultant - Unified - OTE £35,000

£14000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent telecoms compa...

Recruitment Genius: Trade Sales Consultant - Furniture

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a besp...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum