I thank Ambassador Manongi for organizing this event. I am honoured to join you on behalf of the Secretary-General in paying tribute to the late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, a great statesman and one of the founding fathers of modern Africa.
His high ideals, moral integrity and personal courage continue to inspire people around the world – including me.
I had the honour of serving former Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme, who developed deep friendship and admiration for President Nyerere through their various contacts.
They shared many common values. Both President Nyerere and Prime Minister Palme co-signed a message to the US and Soviet leaders in 1986 calling on them to halt the nuclear arms race.
President Nyerere offered inspiring lessons in diplomacy which inspired my own work as a mediator. When I served as the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to Darfur, my partner, the African Union Special Envoy, Dr. Salim Ahmad Salim, would often cite late President Nyerere. I remember him once stressing that Nyerere used to say “in a democracy, you can and should have a multi-party system but you cannot have a multi-army system”.
I am also fortunate to have succeeded as DSG a great daughter of Tanzania, Asha-Rose Migiro. She would often encourage students to contribute to the nation as President Nyerere had hoped for them to do. And of course like him, she has been a teacher.
Mwalimu had great vision, exceptional intellect, warmth and wit. He was a man of ideas, a creative thinker and was always engaged and fearless in the struggle for justice and freedom.
President Nyerere was a champion for Africa taking control of its own destiny, free of dependence.
In his 1973 publication on Freedom and Development, Mwalimu Nyerere noted that people have to be truly involved for real development to take place. He lived up to high standards in his own leadership. He believed that political success clearly was not measured by accumulated wealth – but by selfless service to the people in the public interest.
Leaders around the world today should heed this wise approach.
Mwalimu Nyerere fought for unity, solidarity and the sovereign equality of nations. He acted on the belief that all human beings deserve freedom, justice, respect and dignity.
These are the same values that the United Nations is to uphold and defend. Let us remember that “We the Peoples” are the first three words of the Charter.
In preparing for today’s event, I reviewed some documents in the UN archive. I realized that Julius Nyerere himself signed the application of his country – then Tanganyika – to join the United Nations.
When he came to the United Nations for our 25th anniversary in 1975, he made a powerful statement. President Nyerere said he did not want to congratulate the Organization – and he explained why.
“It would be a little odd for me, as the representative of Tanzania, to offer congratulations to the United Nations,” he said, “for the United Nations is not an abstract thing, nor is it governed and run by creatures from outer space. The United Nations is us – its Members. It does not exist apart from us; it can do only what we, its Members, are prepared to do, acting together.”
This is a wise and strong call to common action that rings equally true today.
On this Mwalimu Nyerere Day, I pledge my firm resolve to forge an ever closer partnership between the United Nations, Africa and the United Republic of Tanzania – and realize to the proud vision of its founding President.