Obama toasts failed African socialist

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
Font Size:

President Barack Obama toasted the founding dictator of post-colonial Tanzania on Monday, who collectivized the nation’s low-tech agricultural sector, established a one-party state and left that African nation’s economy in ruins.

“[Y]ou might say an American child is my child. We might say a Tanzanian child is my child,” Obama said after quoting the Tanzanian saying “my neighbor’s child is my child.”

“In this way, both of our nations will be looking after all of our children and we’ll be living out the vision of President [Julius] Nyerere,” Obama continued.

“The core values that he proclaimed for Tanzania also describe what both our countries seek — wisdom, unity, and peace — Hekima, Umoja, na Amani,” Obama said at a state dinner, held at 9:00 p.m. local time.

“So what I’d like to do is to propose a toast … to our gracious Tanzanian hosts, to our Tanzanian friends and to wisdom, unity and peace that we all seek in the world. Cheers,” he told the invitees at the dinner, which took place in the Tanzanian capital, Dar es Salaam.

Nyerere “led a one-party state that nationalized key industries and created ujamaa, a rural, collective village-based movement of ‘African socialism’ and ‘self reliance,'” according to a 2011 report by the Congressional Research Service.

That ujamaa policy was very fashionable among U.S. and European progressives in the 1980s, when Obama was attending Colombia University and Harvard University.

But it wrecked the nation’s economy, just as similar socialist planning wrecked the partly-developed economies of numerous African countries after European powers gave up their territorial claims in the continent.

From the 1950s to the 1970s, socialist-themed policies crippled the economies of Kenya, Uganda, Egypt, Somalia, Ethiopia and several other African countries.

In Tanazania, Nyerere “was succeeded by the president of Zanzibar, Ali Mwinyi, who oversaw political reforms and a gradual transition to a market economy, in part due to economic collapse brought on by ujamaa and centralized economic management,” says the CRS report.

Follow Neil on Twitter