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Centre of African Studies: Research


Paper Details

Author: David M. Edwards

Title: Matetereka: Tanzania's Last Ujamaa Village

Year: 1998

In the early 1960s approximately 1000 settlements emerged spontaneously throughout rural Tanzania in response to President Julius Nyerere's call for the formation of socialist 'Ujamaa Villages'. The vast majority collapsed after the first couple of years. However a few genuinely socialist communities emerged and prospered. The most successful of these were in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania where seventeen villages formed a democratic co-operative organisation called the Ruvuma Development Association (RDA) to co-ordinate their activities, educate their children, market their produce, and specialise in various cottage industries. At first, the RDA attracted considerable interest and support and in 1967 Nyerere used the RDA as a model for the nation's rural development programme. However village democracy of this kind soon proved to be too great a threat to the legitimacy of many of those who held powerful positions within the Party and the Government, and in 1969 the RDA was declared a prohibited organisation, its assets were confiscated, and further activity was suppressed. The only village which survived the disbanding of the RDA with its democratic and communal institutions intact was Matetereka in the north of Ruvuma Region. The original settlers of Matetereka also survived the resettlement of 180 new families within the village during the Government's villagisation programme in 1975 and, despite sustained opposition from both inside and outside the village, is still a powerful political and economic force within the locality. The aim of the paper is to describe and analyse the history of the Ujamaa Group in Matetereka, the reasons for the support and resistance its members received, and the successes and failure they experienced. The survival of the group can be attributed largely to the quality of its leaders: their ability to motivate, organise and unite their members, their practical and intellectual skills, and their political influence at different levels of the Party and the Government.

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