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Africa: Remembering Dr. Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem

Africa has lost one of its greatest sons, Dr. Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem.

Dr. Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem passed away on the eve of Africa Day. He died in a car accident in Nairobi on his way to launch a maternal health campaign in Kigali, Rwanda.

Tajudeen was the Director of Justice Africa, General Secretary of the Pan-African Movement, Chairperson for the Pan African Development Education and Advocacy Programme (PADEAP), Chair of the International Governing Council of the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) and Outreach Coordinator on the Millennium Development Goals in Africa. He also wrote weekly columns in The African (Tanzania), the Monitor (uganda), the Weekly Herald (Zimbabwe), Weekly Trust (Nigeria), Nairobi Star (Kenya) and Pambazuka News (Online).

In remembering Tajudeen and his work, Making Sense of Darfur blog reprints three columns he wrote on Darfur:

In tribute to the late Dr. Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem, Pan-Africanist committed to the liberation of Africa from all forms of oppression, we reprint three of his columns on Darfur.

Alex de Waal writes, “In Memoriam: Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem,”

Tajudeen was born in Funtua, Katsina State, Nigeria, in 1961. His commitment to his home town and family remained undimmed throughout his life. He was educated at Government Schools in Funtua from where he went to Bayero University, Kano, where he graduated with a first class honours degree. He was winner of the Nigerian Government’s Merit Award as the best student of Political Science between 1980-82 at Bayero University.

Alex tells an interesting story of his appearance before the selection committe for Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford:

After his National Youth Service, Tajudeen applied for a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford. He challenged the selection committee by dressing in traditional style for his interview and exam and demanding why they should want to associate someone like him with the name of the grand imperialist, Cecil Rhodes. To the credit of the Rhodes Scholarship, they selected him, and Tajudeen spent three years at St. Peter’s College, Oxford, writing his DPhil degree in politics. While there, he invigorated the Africa Society (serving as president) and injected his unique mix of humour, anecdote, sharp political analysis and enthusiastic optimism into the university’s African debates. Tajudeen was engaged in an astonishing range of African and anti-imperial activities including the Pan African Movement, the All African Anti-Imperialist Youth Front, the Movement for Awareness and Advancement, the Anti Apartheid Movement, the Save the Sharpeville Six Campaign and several magazines including the Africa Research and Information Bureau (ARIB).

And another one about his unique style of writing:

Those who knew him cannot forget his rapid one-fingered typing, bold and articulate and immediately dispatched into the public realm without a spellcheck.

Tajudeen was a wonderful person but an editor's nightmare, says Firoze Manji, the editor for Pambazuka News:

“His respect for deadlines didn't exist and he typed as he spoke and thought.
“He simply sent us copy that was unpunctuated, no spell checks – straight off the cuff – a nightmare and yet worthwhile because what he had to say was always pertinent.”
Mr Manji said it was poignant that he died in the early hours of 25 May, designated Africa Day.
“He insisted it be called Africa Liberation Day, not just Africa Day, because that sounds like celebrating something in the past whereas Africa's liberation is a struggle still to be achieved.”

He was known for his lack of good humour:

Tajudeen’s candid lack of guile and good humour enabled him to say things that for many others were unsayable, and to ask the most difficult questions without provoking defensiveness. At the time of the constitutional referendum in Zimbabwe, he demanded of the government, “what happens if you lose?” and of the opposition, “what happens if you win?”, discovering that neither had planned for this. He castigated his pan-Africanist allies in government without hesitation when they fell short. When told that Kofi Annan had won the Nobel Peace Prize he famously retorted, “for what?”

Speaking to a human rights conference in the UN conference centre in Addis Ababa in 1996 on the then-unfolding war in Zaire, the electricity suddenly went off and he declaimed, “even speaking of Mobutu makes the lights go out!” In the same hall a few years later he challenged Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, noting that European and American delegates to the conference could get an Ethiopian visa at the airport—but not Africans. “How can this happen in the capital of Africa?” he demanded. Prime Minister Meles said that no answer could match the passion of Tajudeen’s questioning. A couple of weeks later the Ethiopian government waived visa regulations for African delegates to international conferences.

“African will remain proud of your contribution,” writes Ugandan journalist Rosebell:

It's hard to take in but Dr.Tajudeen is dead. Died in a car accident in Nairobi. Africa will remain proud of you and your contribution to the deelopment of the continent.

Tajudeen was one of the most facinating people that blogger Adewale has ever met:

Relentlessly witty, incredibly eloquent and naturally charming. Always caught between bombast and genius, he could hold court like Oscar Wilde and challenge like Marlon Brando. In fact he reminded me of Marlon Brando in his later life, a man of great awareness and wisdom resting in the presence of unachieved possibilities. Taju was my brother even though he had a suspicion of me as a consultant. He was a true African , a rarity amongst those of us who project that desire but never actualize its actions.

Negrita remembers when she met Tajudeen in Rwanda:

as we celebrate africa day, we also celebrate the life of renown pan African scholar and expert, Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem.
he was a staunch activist, tirelessly promoting and advocating pan-African solutions to African problems. he tended not to dwell on what had gone wrong, but rather sought to find solutions from within.

he was, in the words of Firoze Manji we have indeed lost ‘a giant’ in the struggle.

i met him once, ten years ago, when i was doing an internship at Rwanda's then-brand-new first English newspaper. he walked into the office, and–although i knew who he was on paper–i did not recognize him in person. he began asking me questions about what i studied, what articles i was editing, etc. we eventually got onto the topic of a pan African solution to the instability in the Great Lakes Region and i wound up quoting him to himself, from an article i had read of his in a Ugandan newspaper the day before. it was not until i met him again a day later, at my parents’ home that he laughingly told me who he was.

Adieu Tajudeen:

From Facebook, the news began trickling in. Tajudeen , that behomoth of Pan Africanism and African thought was no more. Tragic road accident in Nairobi,Kenya is all the news we could get.
I knew about Tajudeen in 1994 as a secondary school student. He was the Secretary General of the Global Pan African Movement secretariat, then with offices in Muyenga,Kampala suburb.

The world, especially Africa, is a poorer place because of his passing. We have lost a powerful voice that feared not to say and see it the African way with inspiring optimism of the promise that is Africa despite the tragedy that falsely seems insurmountable. Adieu Tajudeen. You live on in your works and in the movement you have spawned.

May his soul rest in eternal peace:

Inna lillahi wa inna ilahi raji’un. “Verily we belong to Allah, and to Allah we return.”

  • http://afri-news.blogspot.com Tula Dlamini

    I first met Tajudeen in Kampala in 1994 during the 7th Global Pan African Congress where he was crowned Secretary General of the movement. In the years that followed – it was as though we came from the same womb. He had this kind of effect on lots of people. He visited and stayed at my home. He would occassional inquire via email and sms about my health and that of my family. His last sms – “My bro – am in Jhb for the day – let’s get together if you can make it”. Had I known this was his last – I would have broken my leg to be with him. Taju was an extraordinary being – exceptionally wise and yet as humble as a dove. In the memories of those who knew Taju – this brave son of Africa will live on.

    • Matilda Moyo

      Tula, sesihlangana ngendubeko.

      Sad moment indeed, for all of us. Africa has lost a great son and I a mentor. May his soul rest in peace. The flame he ignited in all of us through his love for the motherland will certainly live on.

      Go well bro Taj, till we meet again in eternity.

  • Yusuf Lawal Katsina

    INNALILLAHI WA INNA ILAIHI RAJI’UN. ALLAHU AKBAR! Taju, you still remain in my heart and i will never forget your inmense contribution to community in Nigeria and African continents your passion in democracy and fight against corruption and your good habits towards people will also be remembered. I pray to Almighty Allah to forgive you and put you in RAHMA and grant you with Aljannah firdaus. Amien! We lost you.

    Taju says “Don’t Agonise, organise…”

  • Pingback: Africa: Africa Day Celebrated on Twitter · Global Voices

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