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Beatification inquiry for Tanzania's Nyerere January 30, 2006

The Diocese of Musuma, Tanzania, has opened a cause for the beatification of the country's former president, Julius Nyerere. A spokesman for the diocese says that the local investigation into Nyerere's life has authorization from the Vatican.

Nyerere, a devout Catholic who attended Mass daily throughout his public life and was known for fasting frequently, was a respected African leader for three decades. Already an influential figure in the British colony then known as Tanganyika, he became the country's first prime minister after independence in 1961, and was elected president the following year. He remained in that office until his retirement in 1985, and continued to chair the country's ruling party until withdrawing from political life in 1990. Nyerere died in London in 1999.

Although admired for his idealism and personal integrity, Nyerere left a mixed political legacy. He presided over a one-party state, with severe restraints on political opposition and persistent complaints of corruption among his subordinates. Having studied economics in the Fabian tradition at the University of Edinburgh, he adapted the socialist program to his own African country in a policy known as ujama, emphasizing collective farming. Later in life he acknowledged that his economic policies had been disastrous, and Tanzania remains a severely impoverished country.

Nyerere was a leader of pan-African initiatives. He was prominent among the leaders of the "front-line" African states that supported the drive for black majority rule in Namibia and South Africa, and provided a base for guerrillas seeking to overthrow the government in Mozambique. In 1979, he sent Tanzanian troops into Uganda to overthrow the regime of the despotic Idi Amin.

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