The Tanzania Times
Eastern Africa News Network

Nyerere Statue in Ethiopia Raises a Storm of Protests

He may have died in October 1999 but surely everybody should remember how Mwalimu looked like.

Except another giant statue trying to depict the profile of former Tanzanian President, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere is causing uproar of protests on social media platforms across East Africa on how it portrays the late statesman’s facial profile wrongly.

The alleged Nyerere Statue, which was erected at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, seems to bear little, if any resemblance to the founding father of the Nation who also pioneered the Organization of African Union (OAU) alongside the former Ghanaian leader, Dr Kwame Nkrumah.

The African Union was hatched from the OAU and in the AU’s attempts to honor Mwalimu Nyerere; the continental body came up with a statue which seems to be doing more harm than good to the image of the former East African statesman.

The statue has caused sparking criticism online, with some users noting that it bears little resemblance to the real Nyerere, a very popular personality across Africa and globally.

Protests started to go viral online before being picked up by giant media outlets such as the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and the News Central Africa.

Tanzania’s famous activist, Maria Sarungi wrote in her handler; “I know the gesture counts most, but this statue’s face has very little or no resemblance to Mwalimu Nyerere (old or young).”

This is the third Nyerere Statue to raise concern over resemblance; the first was revealed at the launch of Burugi Chato National Park in 2020 by former Tanzanian President, John Magufuli. The ‘Head and Shoulder Statue caused much uproar forcing authorities to take it away.

Previously another Nyerere edifice erected in Mwanza city of Tanzania, also did not look like the former leader and also had to be removed.

As for the latest one, the African Union together with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) unveiled the said commemorative statue of Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere of Tanzania during the 37th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Union at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa.

Standing atop a granite base inscribed with Nyerere’s impactful words from October 22, 1959: “We would like to light a candle and place it on top of Mount Kilimanjaro which would shine beyond our borders giving hope where there was despair, love where there was hate and dignity where before there was only humiliation.”

As the first Prime Minister of independent Tanganyika (1961) and subsequently the first President of the new state of Tanzania (1964) the effigy of the former Tanzanian leader and Pan-Africanist joined the distinguished ranks of monuments at the AU Headquarters.

In 2012, the statue of Ghanaian Pan-Africanist Kwame Nkrumah was unveiled, followed by the statue of Emperor Haile Selassie in 2019, recognizing their significant contributions to the OAU.

Leaders who attended the unveiling of the statue include Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, President of Mauritania and AU Chairperson, SADC leaders like Samia Suluhu Hassan, President of Tanzania, Hakainde Hichilema, President of Zambia and Chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, and João Lourenço, President of Angola.

Others are Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, President of Zimbabwe, Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa, Pravind Jugnauth, Prime Minister of Mauritius and Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister of Ethiopia.

The event drew the presence of leaders from Comoros, Ghana, Kenya and South Sudan.  Among the esteemed guests were former President of Tanzania, Jakaya M. Kikwete, and former AU chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

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