KAMPALA: The family of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere says as they pursue the canonization of the former Tanzanian president, they are not seeking to glorify him.
This was said during prayers at the Namugongo minor basilica to mark Nyerere day, on which the faithful from Uganda and Tanzania congregate to pray for the beatification and eventual canonization of Julius Nyerere.
According to Bokhe Nyerere, a grand daughter to the fallen leader, they do not want to be perceived as cunningly lobbying for his Canonization.
Bokhe adds that if Nyerere was meant to be a saint, he already is in heaven, where they believe he is. She says they do not need to wait for the Vatican to declare him a saint in order to follow in his footprints.
“The church teaches that the main aim of the Canonization is to pray and ask God to reveal to us whether Mwalimu Nyerere is a saint, and if he is, then the church will recommend him to the faithful as an exemplary figure to the faithful to be emulated,” she said, adding, “We already know of his beliefs and we are constantly reminded of his exemplary deeds be it in the political arena or family as well as a Catholic faithful. So as we keep on praying for intercession let us always remember that emulating Nyerere’s way of life could be the best prayer in the eyes of God.”
Mwalimu Julius Nyerere who died on 14th October 1999 at 77 years of age, has passed the first step to sainthood when he was declared a servant of God in 2006.
For a person to be declared a saint, he must have performed miracles during his life or after death. In Nyerere’s case, the church is currently looking out for an extra ordinary miracle performed through the intercession of the deceased statesman. The miracle must be backed by scientific proof.
Since 2007, the intercessory Mass has been held in Uganda praying for the beatification of the servant of God Nyerere. The first such Mass was said in one Emmanuel Katumba’s home led by His Eminence Emmanuel Cardinal Wamala.
Since 2009, the faithful have held the Mass at Namugongo one day ahead of the Martyrs Day celebrations, with the congregation praying for the beatification cause of Nyerere.
Pilgrims trek from Tanzania to honour this day. Nyerere’s family is always represented in such prayers by Mama Maria Nyerere. However this year, she did not physically attend the prayers.
While a section of the faithful and church are pushing for the canonization of Nyerere, there are voices, most so Catholics in Uganda, who are against it. They argue that Nyerere doesn’t qualify for sainthood as he is believed to have presided over the war in which thousands were killed the Tanzanian army entered Uganda while repulsing the invading Uganda Army from October 8th 1978 to June 3rd 1979. June 3rd was initially a public holiday in Uganda for celebrating the total liberation of the country by Mwalimu Nyerere’s forces, being the day the drove the last Amin soldiers into the Sudan at the border of the two countries.
The president of the Catholic Lawyer Society in Uganda, Jude Mbabaali insists that Nyerere is no saint. According to Mbabali, many Ugandans especially in the Southern region (which consists of greater Masaka) suffered under his orders during the 1979 liberation war that ousted President Idi Amin Dada.
” We hold our ground that Nyerere is not a saint,” Mbabaali said. “He caused death and suffering of our people when he used strong weaponry like the BM21 commonly known as Sabasaba to many Ugandans. These are satanic actions, not godly at all. Many were killed discriminatorily and Nyerere never apologized for his actions against humanity,” he said.
While speaking about the former Tanzanian president, the minister of Constitutional Affairs, Kahinda Otafiire who was representing President Yoweri Museveni showered praises on Mwalimu Nyerere whom he described as a devoted Catholic who was not corrupt.
According to Otafiire, Nyerere treated everyone the same regardless of their religious or cultural affiliations as a visionary leader.
Maj.Gen Otafiire says current leaders should look up to the good example of Mwalimu Nyerere. Although there are voices opposing canonization of Nyerere basing on his decision to support the liberation struggles in Uganda, Otafiire says that Nyerere did this in the spirit of unity and removing bad leaders who were causing misery.
To him, Nyerere whom he see as the greatest African who ever lived, never did or killed anyone outside the law as many early African Presidents did.