Julius Nyerere , in full Julius Kambarage Nyerere, also called Mwalimu (Swahili: “Teacher”) (born March 1922, Butiama, Tanganyika—died October 14, 1999, London, England), first prime minister of independent Tanganyika (1961), who became the first president of the new state of Tanzania (1964). Nyerere was also the major force behind the Organization of African Unity (OAU; now the African Union).
Nyerere was a son of the chief of the small Zanaki ethnic group. He was educated at Tabora Secondary School and Makerere College in Kampala, Uganda. A convert to Roman Catholicism, he taught in several Roman Catholic schools before going to Edinburgh University. He was the first Tanganyikan to study at a British university. He graduated with an M.A. in history and economics in 1952 and returned to Tanganyika to teach.
By the time Nyerere entered politics, the old League of Nations mandate that Britain had exercised in Tanganyika had been converted into a United Nations trusteeship, with independence the ultimate goal. Seeking to hasten the process of emancipation, Nyerere joined the Tanganyika African Association, quickly becoming its president in 1953. In 1954 he converted the organization into the politically oriented Tanganyika African National Union (TANU). Under Nyerere’s leadership the organization espoused peaceful change, social equality, and racial harmony and rejected tribalism and all forms of racial and ethnic discrimination.
In 1955 and 1956 he journeyed to the United Nations in New York City as a petitioner to the Trusteeship Council and the Fourth Committee on trusts and non-self-governing territories. After a debate that ended in his being granted a hearing, he asked for a target date for the independence of Tanganyika. The British administration rejected the demand, but a dialogue was begun that established Nyerere as the preeminent nationalist spokesman for his country.
The British administration nominated him a member of the Tanganyikan Legislative Council, but he resigned in 1957 in protest