A great man died on Monday 9th October 2002. He had devoted his adult life solving big problems facing Africa. His life was spent find solutions to poverty and peace among different. I didn’t see him often through out my life but every time I saw him, he had been coming from some distressed part of Africa and he was working on some peace deal or another. Certainly, he spent many years incubating the peace process in Southern Sudan until that was achieved – and then he devoted his time to building a bridge between the Southern Sudan and the world through Kenya – to ensure that that peace was sustained.
Growing up, this man ensured that I was more than educated. I was reading books way beyond my station all through my childhood. By the time I was 12, I had read Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa and I discussed it with him. I read Jomo Kenyatta’s anthropological thesis Facing Mount Kenya and I had many questions for him. The other side of the coin was that I never saw much of him. Between his work and his family, I only saw him a couple of times a year. Many were the days, as a child, I cried myself to sleep waiting for him to come take me to lunch as he had promised. Little did I know then, that my anguish of the time helped Africa find something she needed desperately.
My emotions about him as I grew up ranged over time between rage and feverish depression and sadness and insecurity and nonchalance (where I’d say I didn’t need him anyway). In frustration, I turned my back on him as a teenager and disowned him. I had a father (my step-father, who has been steadfast and reliable with me all through). But the few times I would see him, all that would be forgotten embalmed in his wisdom and quietly spoken knowledge and softly conveyed humour.
When I grew up, we met up and agreed to work towards friendship. And this we did over time. We fell into an easy rhythm and slowly I came to know the man. I also came to accept that the man who had now become my friend was Africa’s property and not mine. I came to be grateful for the long phone calls that we would have to talk about our passions and the lunches that we would have to discuss culture and our individual passions. I grew to cherish his comments on the views that I penned both on this blog and elsewhere. I grew to accept.
I accepted that I would never know what he was like as a father to his children, as a husband to his wife, as a land owner (if he was), I accepted that I would never know what his favorite music was or what he was like during weekends and evenings by the fire. I accepted that was for his kids to know and cherish. I accepted that I would know his brain, and that I would learn people and their characters through him. I accepted that he would mentor my young career into where I need it to go.
And I learnt a lot from this great teacher. I learnt how to communicate with people. I learnt how to handle people. I learnt how to remain even tempered no matter what. I learnt not to sweat the small stuff. I learnt to know my world and my culture and other people and their cultures. I learnt to make peace. I learnt to make my dreams come true obstinately.
And now, he has left for the next world.
I must accept that I will no longer have lunch with him and never again will I dial his number. But I shall speak to him. And now, I must accept that I need not fight my emotions and resist my anger. He once said to me, “rant and rave – its good for you. Then accept what you cannot change and make peace with yourself.”
I have gone through the process and in the final stage of things, I am writing this to accept what is my reality. I am also writing to acknowledge the man who through out was consistently there even in his absence. I am writing this to pay homage on behalf of Africa to my sensei.
A great man has passed on, Africa. He has left Southern Sudan, or Kush (as he hoped it would one day become) largely peaceful and firmly on its way to prosperity. He has done his job.
A great man has moved on. I cared about him and in his special way, he me.
As I say farewell, I have to say this out loud in Public, something I never had the chance to say before for some reason:
Daudi Waithaka is my father.
Good bye, father. Farewell sensei.