Letters - The long arm of myth

Michela Wrong's writing in the NS on modern Africa is usually pertinent and well informed. Sadly her characterisation of Julius Nyerere's government as "well-meaning and incompetent" (20 June) shows how an otherwise excellent journalist can be taken in by mythologies. Nyerere's government, for all its faults, set out to spread democracy and to "make poverty history" across Africa in the 1970s. His government gave first priority to free healthcare and education as well as self-sufficiency in food. This focus reflected the continuing inequity of low margins on primary exports and high margins on manufactured imports. Its second priority was to support Africans in establishing democracy. Tanzania played a vital, and economically very costly, role in ridding the continent of Idi Amin and other oppressors.

The economic ills in the 1970s resulted mainly from two external factors: oil-price rises and the determination of western governments to teach Nyerere, and other "upstart" democrats, a lesson.

Howard Horsley
Much Wenlock, Shropshire

This article first appeared in the 27 June 2005 issue of the New Statesman, Smokescreen