Church and State in Tanzania: Aspects of Changing Relationships, 1961-1994

By Frieder Ludwig | Go to book overview

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

THE MWINYI YEARS

18.1. Christian-Muslim Relations

In November 1985 Julius K. Nyerere retired as President of the United Republic of Tanzania. His voluntary decision to step down— very unusual for African politicians—was a consequence of a change in the constitution made in 1980 which limited the presidential term. Although he continued to exercise a great deal of influence for another five years as the party chairman, his resignation must be seen as marking a decisive change in the political history of the country, because his successor Ali Hassan Mwinyi introduced structural economic reforms which would have been impossible under Nyerere. In 1986 the government accepted a programme of structural adaptation which had been agreed with the IMF and the World Bank. This programme which commenced in 1987 signified a clear break from the principles of Ujamaa socialism, even if this was not admitted by the government or by the party. Officially the Arusha Declaration remained the centrepiece of politics.

The development of the relationship between church and state is characterised by a similar costellation. Although the presidency of Mwinyi did mark a fundamental change in these relations, in his public announcements he continued to express the same views as his predecessor. During his opening speech to the Conference of East and Central African Roman Catholic Bishops Mwinyi reminded the public of the excellent cooperation between church and state since independence: “At all levels we have talked, argued and worked in cooperation—sometimes in joint projects. When there have been difficulties, we have talked them out and solved them.” He stressed that the state as an organisation should not subscribe to any particular religion. According to Mwinyi, not the differences but the common ground of the religions were important: “(…) all the great religions of the world—certainly all those found in East and Central Africa—are based on the principle of man' s equality before God.”1 Mwinyi used

1 Tabora Archives 730.001: Daily News, Friday (May 2nd, 1986): “Church and
State Partners in development. Opening address by President Ali Hassan Mwinyi at
the conference of East and Central African Roman Catholic Bishops”, Moshi, Tan-
zania, 21st April 1986.

-205-

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