Tributes for respected scholar Ernest Wamba-dia-Wamba

OWN CORRESPONDENT

FRIENDS and colleagues of Professor Ernest Wamba-dia-Wamba, a respected scholar and statesman who has passed away, have paid warm tributes to him.

Wamba-dia-Wamba died in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of Congo.  He taught in many universities including the University of Dar es Salaam, Harvard University, Boston College, and Brandeis University.  

The Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) said Wamba-dia-Wamba was a brilliant political theorist noted for his ground-breaking work on democracy, social movements and emancipative politics in Africa. 

In a statement, CODERSIA said: “Prof. Wamba-dia-Wamba was a scholar who sought to actualize his ideas through participation and intervention in major political processes. He was an active participant in the civil rights movement in the US where he studied. He was imprisoned and exiled from his country due to his thought and activism. He was later to lead one of the rebel groups- Rally for Congolese Democracy- during what is often described as the Second Congo War in the 1990s and then served as a senator in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Wamba-dia-Wamba was an influential member of and an active participant in the activities of CODESRIA. He published a lot with CODESRIA. His edited volume with Mahmood Mamdani, published by CODESRIA in 1985- African Studies in Social Movements and Democracy- remains a classic. He also served as the  President of the Council from 1992-1995. Wamba-dia-Wamba will be sorely missed for his erudition that was often masked by his remarkably unassuming character. CODESRIA along with the entire African scholarly community in the Social Sciences and Humanities extends its condolences to the family of Wamba-dia-Wamba. May his soul rest in perfect peace.”

Others who knew him took to Twitter to express shock at the news of his passing and to pay their respects.

Political scientist Zacharia Mampilly said: “The great Ernest Wamba-dia-Wamba has passed. He was one of the most profound & humble intellectuals I’ve had the privilege of learning from. His influence on my work was immeasurable & his frank assessment of the challenges of #rebelgovernance remain a provocation. Rest in power.”

Hisham Aidi, also a political scientist, said Wamba was a pillar of African social science, founder of the Dar Es Salaam school of social research, and an incredibly generous and compassionate teacher.

Author Asad Haider described Wamba-dia-Wamba as a “the great Congolese philosopher and decried the fact that his work has never been widely disseminated in English “but constitutes a vitally important contribution to the theory of emancipatory politics beyond Eurocentric frames”.

Historian Frank Edward said days before his death, Wamba-dia-Wamba was undertaking research for his new book. “He was one of first generation giants at the History Department, University of Dar es Salaam,” said Edward.

Political student Levi Kwabato referred to his recent interaction with Wamba: “Three years ago I was struggling to finish my MA thesis; I was done, but not quite done. I had more questions about emancipatory politics in #Africa than I had started off with. Yes, Sankara answered some, yet he still raised even more questions. I turned to Wamba…”

Nick Githuk, an assistant professor of history at the CUNY, said: “Too sad! We are losing our great intellectual giants at an alarming rate. First Thandika Mkandawire and now Wamba-dia-Wamba. This is losing African knowledge and experience by attrition but hopefully their legacy, their students will preserve & celebrate all their contributions.”

University lecturer Ida Hadjivayanis said: My last memory of Wamba dia Wamba is of 3 years ago, in his living room with his wife, discussing struggles and the passing of his son. We still have photos of his family visiting us in Morogoro long ago. A life well-lived. In solidarity with all his comrades.”