After reading 3 volumes of Rebellion & Development, I decided to take a different approach. Rather than write a conventional review I thought I would take a topic or two from each volume which I think a controversial or thought provoking and through quotes & analysis provide my views .

Book 1 focuses almost explosively on Nyerere’s personal side and what made Nyerere the man he became to be. For this book I decided to focus on Nyerere’s silent partner, the wings beneath the man’s wings, his wife mama Maria Nyerere. The reason for this is because I believe much more is left to be written about Maria & hopefully by acknowledging her contributions to the nation we can have more work written on her and other women who were part of the independence struggle such as Bibi Titi Mohammed and Lucy Lameck. I also hope that this will highlight the sacrifices political spouses are asked to make as well, taking a backsit to the ambitions of your spouse and having to be both a cheerleader and consoler at the same time.

My review focuses on chapter 2- Friends & family which dwelves into some of Nyerere’s personal relationships outside the limelight of the public eye. So without farther ado let us dig in.

On page 100 we read that, “ Life qas hard, and at one point in 1957, there were reports that Maria had gone to Butiama and refused to return to Dar es Salaam, as a protest against Nyerere’s political involvement, which deprived the family of a steady and reliable income.” Here we see Maria struggle with what most in her position would have struggled with as well, choosing between the welfare of your family to the personal ambitious of your spouse, no matter how noble and selfless they may be.

But in the same page we see Maria decide to support her husband’s ambitions and and inevitable become part of the course. “Maria made mandazi and fried fish, which she sold with small items, soap, bread, oil and sugar in the shop (page 100). Imagine going from a relatively comfortable life as the wife of a teacher with a good salary and free housing to having to being the bread winner struggling to make ends meet while your husband is off fighting for a course you are not sure will work in your favour in the wrong run. Indeed many fought for independence but not all ate the fruits of their sacrifice.

It is my belief that even though Maria was never an official member of TANU, she was just as part of the struggle for indepedende as her husband was. Her zeal and work ethic was what enabled Nyerere to concentrate on the course as he knew the homestead was covered by the more than capable hands of Maria.

Moving ahead however, I believe Maria’s biggest contribution to the nation came as first lady. Indeed the end of the independence stuggle was the end of Maria’s freedom and with Nyerere occupied in nation building, she had to accept a life dictated by Nyerere’s shear force of nature.

On Joan Wicken: “This was one of Nyerere’s female colleagues and friends who Maria saw every working day, taking up time which Nyerere might have spent with the family" (page 104). “Maria was very frustrated about this, mostly it appears, because it deprived Nyerere of time with her and the family.” (Page 100). Forgive me for the two long quotes but they capture the essence of Maria’s existance after independence. Her husband was everything to the nation but for all intensive purposes, nothing to the family. She had to accept sharing her husband with the public while her and her children were left longing for a little bit of his time whih never came.

Maria also had to sacrifice her own personal ambitions. Imagine being the first first lady of independent Tangayika, the possibilities are boundless to make her own mark, but as the book mentions, Nyerere would not allow her to even run for the post of the head of the woman wing of TANU. “The strained relationz that were sometimes rumoured may have resulted not only from Maria’a non-intellectual background, but also being forced to remain “just a housewife" when she herself was inclined to be so much more.” (Page 104). Today we see first ladies being able to chart their own paths, with mama Anna Mkapa being very active in civil society and mama Salma Kikwete herself entering politics and serving as an MP. There is no doubt that Maria had the intelligence and capability to be so much more but she never let her personal ambitions distract from what Nyerer was trying to instil as a national conscience.

Her greatest attribute however might be her humility. As the country’s first first lady she could have been treated like a queen but she famously refused such treatment by stateting “They are teachung me, mother of the nation. Do they think I’m Queen Victoria?” (page 101). Indeed “When media begun addressing her as “First Lady", Nyerere said: “She is not first lady, she’s Mrs Nyerere.” (page 101). Indeed hers is a contrast to most first ladies even today around Africa who either seek celebrity or through nepotism insert themselves in political roles. With such modesty is it a surprise then that “She continued with her shamba work. She had raised poultry in the Seaview house that they had occupied when Nyerere was Prime Minister, and she continued with in the State House gardens, and even when they moved to Msasani at the end of 1964.” (page 102).

I believe even in current day Tanzania, political spouses would benefit immensely from learning about Maria Nyerere. In fact I would argue that her life and character is more relevant today than it has ever been. Indeed I am not saying they should be a clone of Maria or even sacrifise entirely their own personal ambitions, BUT they stand to benefit from seeing the type of character it takes to help your spouse help his country.

This is is for my summary in book 1. On book 2 I will focus on the issue of citizenship heading towards independence and the events and thinking that lead to the Union in 1964.

Thomas Joel Kibwana.




Political Enthusiast

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Thomas J. Kibwana

Thomas J. Kibwana

Political Enthusiast

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