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Mailu, David G.

Julius Nyerere: Father of Ujamaa

Illustrated by Khalid Yusuf. Lion Book series. Nairobi, Kenya: Sasa Sema Publications, 2005. 82 p. ISBN 9966-951-32-6. Ages 6-13.

This is a biography of the first president of Tanzania, Julius Kambarage Nyerere. Born in 1922, Nyerere grew up in the home of Chief Burito during the colonial era. He was a precocious child who enjoyed the search for knowledge, and who grew up to be a highly educated economist, philosopher, and president.
The biography is interwoven with images and metaphors taken from African lore, hence recreating the traditional setting in which Nyerere acquired his values. Additionally, imbuing the story with an African philosophical worldview emphasises the importance that Nyerere attached to indigenous African knowledge in the development of Tanzania. For instance, young Nyerere watched his uncle charm a goat to submission by using herbs. From that incident the young boy became aware of the strength of his people’s knowledge. Later, when he became a leader, he always felt that the successful harnessing of this power was the key to social and economic advancement.

Nyerere is portrayed as a strong leader who was willing to defend his ideology and live by the words he preached, but who at the same time was not afraid to admit his mistakes. His philosophy of Ujamaa, meaning “community” or “family” in Kiswahili, involved putting together self-sustaining villages with farms and other useful facilities, thus “translating traditional African socialism into practical modern socialism” (68). When his ideology came under fire from scholars, Nyerere was willing to listen to their ideas.

The author explains complex political, social, and economic ideologies in simple, accessible language. Careful use of white space, a large type, and evocative illustrations make this an appealing biography for young readers who are interested in exploring world leaders, countries, or belief systems. Other biographies in the Lion Book series include the following titles:

Jaramogi Oginga Odinga: People’s Revolutionary
Bildad Kaggia: Voice of the People
Dedan Kimathi: Leader of Mau Mau
Elijah Maside: Rebel with a Cause
Jeevanjee: Rebel of the Empire
Jomo Kenyatta: Father of Harambee
Mekatilili: Woman Warrior

Field Marshall Muthoni: Mau Mau Heroine
Mohamed Amin: The Eyes of Africa
Mwai Kibaki: Economist for Kenya
Mwana Kupona: Poetess of Lamu
Nelson Mandela: Fighter for Humanity
Ronald Ngala: Teacher with a Mission
Shaka Zulu: Great Warrior King



Sasa Sema Publications Ltd.