Martyrs’ Day celebrations: Nyerere hailed for his exemplary life

The late Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere

What you need to know:

  • Nyerere, who is remembered for his charismatic and influential leadership style, died in 1999  aged of 77.

A special Mass was yesterday dedicated to the late Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere at the Namugongo Catholic Shrine.

The annual occasion is held days to the Martyrs’ Day celebrations with the intention of praying for the beatification and canonisation of the former Tanzanian leader.

The prayers were attended by high profile individuals, including Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo, Security minister Maj Gen Jim Muhwezi, minister for internal affairs Kahinda Otafiire, and the Inspector General of Government, Ms Beti Kamya.

A delegation from Tanzania, which comprised the country’s High Commissioner to Uganda, Dr Aziz Ponary Mlima,  also attended the Mass.

Mr Otafiire, who represented President Museveni, hailed the late Tanzanian leader as a great man.

“Nyerere was a unique man and I had the opportunity to see him before he died. When we were in Congo just before he fell sick, President Museveni sent me to see him in Arusha and when I got there, I wanted to deliver his [the President’s message] and come back [home], but then the late Nyerere told me not to be in a hurry,” Mr Otafiire said, adding: “He told me to wait so that he could talk to me, but little did I know that he was saying bye, bye.”

Internal affairs minister Kahinda Otafiire (centre), Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo (2nd right), and IGG Beti Kamya (3rd left) join family members of the late Julius Nyerere at the Catholic Martyrs Shrine in Namugongo, Wakiso District on June 1, 2022. PHOTO/FRANK BAGUMA

Noble character

Remembered for his charismatic and influential leadership style, Nyerere died in 1999 at the age of 77 while undergoing treatment for leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. 

Similarly, Rev Fr John Chrysostom Kyazze, who was the main celebrant at the prayers, applauded the late Nyerere who was also fondly  refered to as mwalimu (teacher), for having been a person who did things in a simple and unique manner while valuing prayers.

“My friends, put God before everything and all your prayers will be answered, but if you forget God, whatever you will do will be blank,” Fr Kyazze said.

 Ms Maria Nyerere, the widow to the late Nyerere, wasn’t in attendance. However, her granddaughter read a message to the congregation on her behalf, applauding Ugandans for continuously praying for the family and showing up for intercessory Mass at Namugongo to pray for the success of the beatification process.

Dr Suzie Nansozi Muwanga, the executive director of the Julius Nyerere Leadership Centre, said she was indebted to Mr Museveni for pledging support to the institution.

The late Nyerere passed the first step towards becoming a saint following a former declaration of him as a servant of God and testimonies from witnesses about his Christian virtues. Other studies are continuously being done on the deceased and if they find that he lived a life above blame, he will then be considered for beatification.

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