http://www.pambazuka.org/images/articles/435/56583_TAR's_final_journey_11_tmb.jpgIn tribute to the passing of a giant of Pan-Africanism, Pambazuka News devotes this edition to the life and inspirational work of Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem. Following Tajudeen's tragic death in a car accident on 25 May, Pambazuka has seen a huge response from those wishing to pay their respects and salute a true colossus of African liberation. In inspired remembrance, Pambazuka's editor in chief Firoze Manji rounds up the overwhelming wave of tributes we have received in the wake of Tajudeen's sad passing.
A giant of Pan-Africanism has fallen.
That is the overwhelming view of the hundreds who have written tributes to Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem since the tragedy happened.
Tajudeen was killed in a car accident in Nairobi on African Liberation Day, 25 May 2009, while driving to the airport to catch a flight to Rwanda to meet with the county’s president on the current maternal mortality rate campaign. He leaves behind his family, Munira and the girls, Aida and Aisha. Their burden, and perhaps also their solace, is that they must share that loss with thousands of us who saw Taju as a member of our family too.
As Emmanuel Akwetey wrote in his tribute: 'Taju's footprints are gigantic and he chose to leave them not only on us but the whole of Africa.'
'Africa has lost one of its greatest giants in the struggle for human rights, justice and democracy in the continent. You fought a good fight – you left an important footprint,' says Omano Edigheji, Human Sciences Research Council. 'He was a giant by any measure. He was genuinely committed to the liberation of our continent. Maybe after all, it was no coincidence he passed away on Africa's liberation day!', says Demba Mousaa Dembele.
Tajudeen kept the universal torch of Pan-Africanism alive, writes Issa G. Shivji. 'I say universal because for Tajudeen Pan-Africanism was NOT sub-Saharan only, or black only, or Muslim or Christian or Yoruba or Ogoni only. It was truly Pan-Africanist. He wouldn't give in to culturalism or into what Nyerere once called, these territorial divisions caused by "imperialist vultures".'
For all of us, the news has been difficult to take in – we wander around in a mist of disbelief.
'I have been struggling to find the words to express the distress and the sense of loss that I have been experiencing since my dearest friend Tajudeen departed from this world.' Patricia Daley
'I just cannot believe this … just cannot. I will not accept his parting us – so much work yet to be done, so much where his particular insight and wisdom from the one and only direction and perspective to reclaim Africa's dignity comes. That voice must not leave Africa – there is no substitute. Hard to find a Tajudeen amongst us. My brother, my brother, my brother – unbearable tragic news and loss not just to family, to all of us, to all of Africa!' Mammo Muchie
'Too painful to describe will be your absence… too many are the things we shall miss. Your magic way with words with moments like these with battling for an immortal idea.' Pauline Wynter and Jacques Depelchin
'I still can't believe that somebody so vital and alive is gone.' Onyekachi Wambu
'From Cape to Cairo, Mombasa to Dakar, Port of Spain to London and beyond, our grief speaks to the magnitude of his contribution.' David Johnson
But through the haze created by our tears, we begin to get a sense of the size of the man we have lost. One of my favourite anecdotes about Tajudeen concerns his application for doctoral study at Oxford University under the Rhodes Scholarship scheme. In uncompromising defiance of university protocol, Tajudeen insisted on dressing in traditional style for his interview and exam, and challenged those on the selection committee as to why he should want to be associated with such a notorious imperialist as Cecil Rhodes!
'The fall of a colossus like him is like the loss of a thousand generals.' Baba Aye, Socialist Workers' Movement
'I am shocked and saddened by the sudden loss of a friend and a man of the integrity and commitment that Taju has demonstrated in his political practice.' Gavin Williams
'A defender of Africa whose passion was tinged with humane attributes; of a leader whose nationality never mattered except the pan-African nationality.' Godwin Murunga
'He is a long distance runner for African Liberation.' Walter Turner, Host, Africa Today KPFA Radio
'He was the consummate communicator, the captivating storyteller, where the need arose, the rabble-rouser, the sympathiser and ultimately the African that had the solution to whatever manner of problem. He exhorted us not to agonise, but rather organise … and as we all know, he lived his life to the last, organising.' Ezra Mbogori, Akiba Uhaki Foundation
'He was nothing if not ubiquitous in pursuit of African liberation. We shall sorely miss his unbounded energy, his unfailing grace, his infectious optimism. Many have theorised about pan-Africanism, and theory is a good thing, but theory without practice is of little effect. In Tajudeen the theory and practice of pan-Africanism found a perfect synthesis.' Michael O. West
'Tajudeen was a complex figure – a comrade, a loving father, a unifier and a brilliant intellectual – and above all, a solid Pan-Africanist. He brought vigour and urgency in whatever progressive cause he espoused… A charismatic and larger-than-life figure, he had a strong and overwhelming presence, deploying his decisive mind and powerful voice to articulate the rights of the dispossessed and have-nots in Africa and the diaspora… Tajudeen was a born optimist and harbinger of hope. He never lost faith in the ability of the African people to transform their lives and control their destiny. He remained at the frontline of Africa’s quest for political, social and economic change and fearlessly fought for a free and united Africa.' Yusuf Hassan
'His vivaciousness, joy, his clarity of thought in the most dire circumstances, his spirit of fairness and his will to take on what is not just.' Fatma Alloo
Tajudeen was a relentless and bold critic of hypocrisy, something that so many people spoke about:
'He managed to shake us complacent diplomats and politicians to get out of the mentality of conference room when discussing African issues.' Ambassador Ahmed Haggag, Secretary General of the African Society
'The man was blessed with prodigious gifts: formidable intellect, eloquence, far-sightedness, energetic audacity, confidence, a sense of humour and pretty good acting skills. Not to mention his great writing ability and more.' Nii Akuetteh
'He filled the room with energy, razor sharp intellect and that most deadly weapon of struggle: humour.' David Johnson
'… reliable, responsible, bold, fearless, champion of the downtrodden and oppressed, friendly, human, highly intelligent, warm and honest with his opinion.' Segun Adeyi
'… larger than life, laughing, and talking boisterously everywhere.' Wangui wa Goro
'He lamented about "remunerated solidarity" from the North and the "protest by per diem" culture taking root in Africa and elsewhere in the South.' Kumi Naidoo
'... crusading advocacy work of Pan-Africanism and the unity of the African people.' Dani Wadada Nabudere
'His warmth, eloquence, oratory skills, intelligence, spirit and good sense of humour.' Ebrima Ceesay
'We invited Taju to the Centre for Basic Research to give a talk,' writes Mahmood Mamdani, Herbert Lehman Professor of Government at Columbia University, New York. 'His opening salvo was a bitter indictment of Africa’s post-independence leadership: "If an American ship docked at Lagos port today, with a huge banner reading ‘Slave ship to America', there would a queue of millions of Nigerians wanting to get on that ship." This was classic Taju: there is no time for formalities or pleasantries; the time at hand is short… The most abiding memory I retain of Taju is that of eternal optimism, the determination that it is possible to proceed whatever the odds, and that the proof of genius lies in the ability to build with materials on the ground, to take a leap from text to life. He broke decisively with the "theory first" orientation of his older comrades. Taju honoured no rules, no commandments, no limits except those he encountered on the ground. He could work with anyone, whether government, UN, donor or NGO. The worth of a relationship for him did not lie in the identity of the other side, but in who set its agenda. It is worth recalling the signature with which he ended every note: "Don’t agonise, organise!"'
And many of the tributes attest to the extraordinary combination of the personal and the political:
'Taju was always so helpful, cheerful, reliable and just good – all the time. We shall always remember him as the bold, happy person who always made us think, laugh and do.' Roselynn Musa
'We are proudly perched on a rare African baobab. Charisma, vivacity and integrity spout from him like water from the Mosi-oa-Tunya. His unforgettable presence, wisdom and brilliance constantly guide us through life.' Sylvie Aboa-Bradwell, Centre for Democracy and Development
'I came to have the utmost respect for his intellectual integrity, his brilliant analysis of the African predicament, and his untiring commitment to the pan-African cause. His exemplary life and work should remain a beacon for present and future generations of all Africans who are committed to putting the natural wealth of our continent to the service of the deepest aspirations of our people.' Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja
'His incisive analysis and sharp wit will be sorely missed by Pambazuka readers. Taju was one of those people that sparked any event he attended.' Deborah Bryceson
'A number of people have quoted his well-worn calling card: ‘Don’t Agonise!!! Organise!!!’ (The punctuation was deliberate). But that wide-eyed passion and righteousness, and a refusal to accept Africa’s, or his own, predicament as final is summed up for me in another of his phrases: 'Nothing For Me Without Me'. Alastair Roderick
Several commented on Tajudeen's commitment to the struggle for women's rights:
'His unwavering fight and contribution for justice in Africa and its women in the global effort to fight poverty and injustice is commendable. Dr Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem will be especially remembered for his outspokenness and strong leadership in campaigning for global justice, good governance and what we stand for as Akina Mama wa Afrika. The women of Africa will always remember him for his for holding their hands in the fight for their rights and travelling this journey of stamping out inequality and the tenets of patriarchy in its various forms.' Solome Nakaweesi Kimbugwe, for and on behalf of Akina Mama Wa Afrika
'Taju understood that an African liberation can never be, without the liberation of African women. He departs the stage at a time when we need many more like him … and they are hard to come by.' Stella Mukasa, Uganda
'Thank you Taju for speaking up for the women of Africa. "Yes Jjaja", he said, "Women should not lose their lives while giving life." Not in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that our final conversation would be on life and rights. Oh Taju, that you should lose your own life fighting for women’s health rights, breathe your last on African Liberation Day.' Fatoumata Toure
'He has been an inspiration in the struggle for African liberation and African unity and in my professional life.' Doreen Lwanga
'He always sought alternatives where the mainstream had boxed us into a corner. Never one to retreat from an impasse, he’d always quote Amílcar Cabral: "Claim no easy victories, tell no lies."' Fatoumata Toure
Even those who were not fortunate to have met Tajudeen spoke highly of this giant:
'Although I never had the privilege to meet him in person, he was a firm and fixed star in my personal universe.' Henning Melber
'A great man has been lost but he leaves us with thousands of words for us to ponder on Mother Africa but more importantly to ACT, to DO, to SPEAK – thats what Tajudeen did and we should follow his way now more than ever.' Sokari Ekine
'I do not know Tajudeen personally but have been a silent admirer of the sort of charisma with which he maintained his fingers on the keyboard to inform, educate and entertain Ugandan readers in particular and Africa and the world at large.' Tumusiime Kabwende Deo
And due recognition has been given to Tajudeen by the Pan African Parliament:
'A group of us were gathered to meet with the Pan African Parliament (PAP), a body that Tajudeen had so much wanted to have legislative powers so that it could speed up the integration of Africa; a continent that was so close to Taju's heart. ... Twice, the Parliament gave a minute's silence in remembrance of an African icon; a man who knew every single leader on the continent; a man who never minced his words, even in the face of the most ruthless dictators, like his former President Sani Abacha who had wanted to kill him.' Dimas Nkunda
'In his work within the Pan African movement, Tajudeen was a consummate diplomat. Behind his disarming wit lay a critical understanding of the need to reach the people. Tajudeen knew the social movements across Africa. Within the Pan African movement he had to interface with many of the leaders who had come to power through the movement for change. From Kampala, Tajudeen worked tirelessly with the movement for peace in the Sudan. Opposition to wars and genocide was not an intellectual matter for Tajudeen, it was a matter of urgency that required skilful negotiation of African politics. Tajudeen was as opposed to the senseless war in Northern Uganda as he was opposed to the militarism and genocidal violence in the Sudan. He wanted to ensure that he was able to be effective as an opponent to these violations and betrayals. At times the betrayal was most painful as in the moment of the tragic death of John Garang of the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Movement. The record of the meetings for peace convened in Kampala remains a record to be built upon by those committed to the Pan African principles of peace.' Horace G Campbell
THE WAY FORWARD
'What can we do to memorialise this great patriot of our Africa? We won't stop mourning anytime soon, but after our tears have dried up, can we start planning something in his name?', asks Akwasi Aidoo from TrustAfrica.
'... may I humbly propose to create a "Tajudeen Annual African Prize" to be given to a personality whom a panel decide has done a great service for the cause of Pan- Africanism.' Ambassador Ahmed Haggag, Secretary General of the African Society
'… immortalising him to guide a rising generation of socialist, pan-Africanist activists, by compiling his profound writings and making this widely available.
Sun re o, egbon Taju…sun re.' Baba Aye, Socialist Workers' Movement
'Let each NGO recruit brand-new activists (as few as one and as many as capacity allows). Call them "Tajudeen Fellows". And train and mentor them to become brilliant activists. In this training, it is crucial that each learns to uncover a problem challenging global Africa. However, having exposed problems and challenges, they must not agonise, but must organise.' Nii Akuetteh
'… start thinking of working out a strategy for an AU and ECOWAS summit to declare Taju an African hero of our time.' Nana Busia
'The best we can do to honour his tireless efforts in promoting social and political justice in Africa is to continue exposing the injustice that exists and call for a renewed sense of quality African citizenry. ' Ronald Elly Wanda
'The Prof has done his deed, living his life to the fullest and inspiring a multitude of Africans. The ball is now in our court.' Salma Maoulidi, Sahiba Sisters Foundation, Tanzania
'He would not want us to mourn him long. Instead, he would want us to remember his words on every African Liberation Day – "Don't agonise, organise!" – until the continent is free.' Patricia Daley
'You will be missed dear friend but we know well, like Biko, Nkrumah, Lumumba, Cabral, Rodney, and countless others, your spirit lives!' Emira Woods, Institute for Policy Studies
'Tajudeen led, now we must follow.'
Michael O. West
'I am only certain about one thing. If one had asked Taju which day he would love to go in the far future, I am sure Taju would have said Africa Day. And as long as Africa Day is celebrated, Tajudeen will be remembered. For years Tajudeen has embraced this liberation day, and today it has liberated him from all earthly responsibilities and embraced him tightly, never to release him. It is one sad and symbolic gesture of the day claiming its own postcard, its one giant who has identified with the day all these years. It gives me a tiny thread of consolation that Tajudeen’s memory has been preserved, immortalised in a significant day that will always be alive. Because of this I pray, "Go down gracefully, Taju, and shine on." Amen.' Mildred Kiconco Barya
'In the words of Thomas Sankara, Tajudeen "dared to invent the future". He had a vision of Africa as she is meant to be and offered us his love to join him in making it a reality. May we all continue his legacy. Forward ever!' Hakima Abbas
Pambazuka News is proud to have been given the responsibility of hosting a page where tributes to this great comrade, friend, fighter and leader can be shared. Please continue to send in your tributes: we know that there are many who will write once they have managed to control the grief that we all feel deeply.
I am consumed by grief, but also by anger: Tajudeen was famous for railing against the failures of the neocolonial elite. Perhaps amongst one of their greatest failures has been to have done almost nothing to prevent the escalating epidemic of road traffic injuries in Africa that claim the lives of millions every year. I cannot prevent the sense of outrage that their neglect has contributed to the death of this hero of Africa.
In celebration of his writing over the years, Pambazuka is re-publishing a selection of Tajudeen's weekly Pan-African Postcards and is also planning to publish a printed collection in collaboration with Justice Africa and others. We hope that all institutions will consider the suggestions made above to establish initiatives that enable the fight that Tajudeen so profoundly believed in to continue. I hesitate to use the phrase that many have, 'A luta continua'. Whenever Taju and I met, we would bemoan the fact that our elites merely translated that slogan to mean 'The looting continues!'
We all share the sense of disbelief – and even betrayal – at your departure, Taju. But as they said about Hotel California, 'You can check out any time, but you can never leave'.