The Arusha Declaration (1967): Ideology and Social Engineering in Tanzania

Posted: June 18, 2016 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Books, Columnists, Mayen Ayarbior

By David Mayen Ayarbior, Juba, South Sudan

SPLM/A Founders

SPLM/A Founders

June 18, 2016 (SSB) — Here are extracts from “House of War: Civil War and State Failure in Africa 2013 (p.101-104). After I examined different case studies of civil wars, I thought of ending with a hopeful tone by looking at a positive picture in Africa.

”The Arusha Declaration and TANU’s [Tanganyika African National Union’s] Policy on Socialism and Self-Reliance (1967), more commonly known as the Arusha Declaration, was one of the most publicized documents across Africa during the region’s immediate post- independence period.12 As it came in the aftermath of waves of bitter African nationalist struggles for self-determination and independence, it established a political and economic blueprint for nation building that was opposite to imperialism.

The Arusha Declaration built on a concept of “African Socialism” which was promoted by many of the intellectual founding fathers of African states such as Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Leopold Senghor of Senegal. African Socialism advocates for the formation of a political community that equitably shared all its resources in a manner identical to the African extended family system where all resources are communally owned. The state, which should behave like a father who equally cares for all of his offspring, must be a socialist entity driven by an African identity and culture (Friedland and Rosberg 1964).

Nyerere and members of TANU thought that their vision of an African socialist nation-state in Tanzania should be reproduced all over Africa, for they believed that it was the only compatible sociopolitical system for the region (Spene 2004, Sebastian 2012). Consequently, like many countries in the region, Tanzania became a one-party state under TANU. There was a prevailing conviction all over Africa that multiparty democracy was incompatible with the region’s sociopolitical makeup, and that single party democracy was a unifying system that allowed further consolidation of state power (Mazrui 1976-83, Mathaai 2009).

“All citizens together possess all the natural resources of the country in trust for their descendants; That in order to ensure economic justice the state must have effective control over the principal means of production; and That it is the responsibility of the state to intervene actively in the economic life of the nation so as to ensure the well-being of all citizens, and so as to prevent the exploitation of one person by another or one group by another, and so as to prevent the accumulation of wealth to an extent which is inconsistent with the existence of a classless society” (Arusha Declaration, Part One, g-h-i).

The principles of African socialism as explained in the Arusha Declaration are based on twelve main objectives:

1– Consolidating state power and independence.

2- Upholding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

3- Establishing a democratic socialist government of the people.

4- Promoting cooperation with like-minded SSA political parties.

5- Eliminating poverty, ignorance, and disease through equitable sharing of 6- Establishing state-run cooperative organizations.

7- Nationalization of the economy.

8- Upholding citizenship-based equality among citizens.

9- Eradicating all forms of exploitation, intimidation and corruption.

10- Effective control and facilitation of the principle of collective ownership of resources.

11- Promoting pan-Africanism and African unity.

12- Cooperating with the United Nations to enhance world peace.

TANU declared that it is “involved in a war against poverty and oppression,” and that its “struggle is aimed at moving the people of Tanzania (and the people of Africa as a whole) from a state of poverty to a State of prosperity.” To achieve high levels of assimilation among his country’s ethnic groups and improve the standard of living for most inhabitants of rural Tanzania, President Nyerere nationalized Tanzania’s economy and took control of local and foreign enterprises in 1975. He set out to establish agriculturally self-sufficient villages through a policy of African socialism referred to as Ujamma (Swahili for what he termed in English as “familyhood”). By 1977 the largest mass relocation in modern Africa’s history resettled about eleven million people in new Ujamma villages where social services were provided.

In analyzing Nyerere’s policy, Meredith (2005, p.249-258) contends that “by bringing together the scattered rural population into Ujamma villages, Nyerere hoped to raise agricultural productivity; peasant farmers would gain access to modern techniques and equipment” when they chose to relocate to those relatively modern settlements. For many, relocation was perceived as a win-win-situation in which they got employment in farms and enjoyed other amenities; meanwhile their children got free access to public schools where Nyerere’s dream of a “Swahili nation” was being gradually molded.

While Nyerere’s vision for a better, productive, competitive, and self-sufficient nation-state was being preached from an economic view point, what was largely conceived from a social engineering perspective was that his population concentration was for promoting his dream of creating a linguistically homogenous nation-state out of multiple linguistically heterogeneous tribes. The later objective, not economics as such, was popularly appreciated by most Africans who saw it impressively successful.

Nevertheless, Ujamma has also had its critics who regarded it as an unnecessary uprooting of people from their ancestral lands under the pretext of agricultural self-sufficiency. According to many reports, lack of sufficient funds to finance all agricultural schemes coupled with draught between 1975 and 1977 led to some people being taken to empty bushes, even before services were provided in those locations. As a result, in 1975 the Tanzanian government “had to be rescued by grants, loans and special facilities arranged with the assistance of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and by more than 200,000 tons of food aid” (Meredith 2005, p.256).

After ten years of implementation, Nyerere himself admitted that Ujamma did not fully achieve what he intended and that it would take longer than TANU’s initially anticipated timeframe to achieve full self-reliance. Nonetheless, apart from Nyerere’s largely isolated but successful social engineering project in Tanzania, the region’s postindependence history suggests that ethnic response to centralization of decision-making has been hostile.

Nyerere’s personal leadership style made for positive ethnic response to Ujamma and his socialist project. In terms of ethnic tolerance, Tanzania stands today as a benchmark against which inter-ethnic relations in countries all over Africa are measured. It is regarded by many political observers as Africa’s only beacon of hope which demonstrates that there is a possibility for the regions hostile ethnic groups to live together in a state of sociopolitical tranquility.

Mayen Ayarbior has a Bachelor Degree in Economics and Political Science from Kampala International University (Uganda), Masters in International Security from JKSIS-University of Denver (USA), and Bachelor of Laws (LLB) from the University of London. He is the author of “House of War (Civil War and State Failure in Africa) 2013” and currently the Press Secretary/ Spokesperson in the Office of South Sudan’s Vice President, H.E. James Wani Igga. You can reach him via his email address:


  1. Gabriel Wilson Lagu says:

    I hope our leaders could learn 50 percent from Nyerere.


    • Bol-pabaarchikok says:

      Then, Where is Riek machar there, so he don,t have right to eat the fruit of other,Sweat of other, blood of other, our next president is Kuol Manyang, after kuol since Nyuon Bany is not there, then south sudan will see who will take over.
      by Bol-Pabaarchikok


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