Broken Pump in Tanzania.jpg

The Broken Pump in Tanzania: Julius Nyerere and the Collapse of Development Economics


by E. Michael Jones

Bishop Michael Msongazila invited E. Michael Jones to the diocese of Musoma to do research on Julius Nyerere, Tanzania’s founding father and first president. Bishop Msongazila’s predecessor had promoted Nyerere’s cause for canonization. Intrigued by the idea of a statesman-saint, Jones traveled to Tanzania to tell his story.

What he found was not what he anticipated. Instead of writing a hagiography, Jones wrote a cautionary tale about development economics that focuses on a broken pump in Komuge. Six miles from the second largest source of fresh water in the world, the village of Komuge was once a model of Ujaama socialism. Now the pump is broken and the village’s inhabitants send their children to scoop up muddy water from a dried up pond. Virtually every water pump in the Mara region is broken. To explain why, Jones journeys from Dar es Salaam to Musoma to the current heart of darkness caused by a combination of socialism’s failure and capitalism’s revenge. Along the way he meets Joseph Conrad, Che Guevara, Robert McNamara and a host of heroic Maryknoll missionaries, who wrought wonders and then abandoned them in the wake of Vatican II and the collapse of the Church’s traditional understanding of missionary activity. Over them all stands Julius Nyerere.

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s claim that every institution is the lengthened shadow of one man is true of Nyerere and Tanzania. Understanding how it is true is the best way to understand why the pump in Komuge is still broken and what it will take to fix it.

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