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Thursday, October 14, 1999 Published at 14:41 GMT 15:41 UK

World: Africa

Songs of grief for Tanzania's founder

The streets of Dar es Salaam are quiet and some businesses are closed

By Tira Shubart in Dar es Salaam

Tanzania was plunged into national mourning today with the announcement of the death of former President Julius Nyerere, known here as the Father of the Nation.

The usual bustling streets of Dar es Salaam are almost silent as people gather around any available radio listening to President Benjamin Mkapa's tribute to Nyerere, which is repeated every few minutes.

Tanzania's foremost gospel singer Captain John Komba and his choir had composed and recorded a song of tribute and mourning, which was recorded earlier this week for television and radio.

The lyrics repeat the refrain:

"The nation is weeping. The father of the nation is gone, he has left us in tears. We will remember him forever. The nation is mourning, the nation is weeping. He was a soldier of Tanzania, he was a soldier of Africa"

[ image: Julius Nyerere's death has hit the nation hard]
Julius Nyerere's death has hit the nation hard
Churches throughout Tanzania have convened special prayer services in memory of the man who led his people from colonialism to independence.

Some businesses have already begun to close down for a period of mourning. The official announcement for the funeral arrangements is expected shortly.

The government has called upon Tanzanians to remain calm and to respect the values embraced by the man they call 'Mwalimu' or Teacher, the first occupation of the nation's founder.

The most striking thing throughout Dar es Salaam is the intense sense of personal loss felt by virtually every Tanzanian.

Nyerere not only brought the country to freedom but also dominated the political and emotional life of Tanzania for half a century.

There is stunned disbelief that he is gone despite a long decline into illness in London's St Thomas's Hospital.

Although for many years he had no formal role in politics, he played an integral position behind the scenes and his influence was felt by every politician.

He was the last surviving giant of the days of emerging African independence and until his death certainly the best known and most widely respected East African leader.

Now, on the quayside, people have left their offices, gathering together under the tropical trees, singing along with the radio: 'Nearer my God to Thee...'

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