In Memoriam: Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem

Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem, the most irrepressible Pan Africanist of his generation, died in Nairobi on 25 May 2009. His friends and colleagues are stunned at the loss of a man who was so full of life and humour, such a determined Afro-optimist, and such a devoted father to his children, Aisha and Aida. Africa is impoverished by his untimely death.

Tributes to Tajudeen are being posted on the Pambazuka and Justice Africa websites.

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12 thoughts on “In Memoriam: Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem

  1. I t is a great loss for Africa it lost one of its beloved sons and heroes. He dedicated all his life fighting for the African cause and died fighting poverty, disease and destitution among African. We will truly miss him but we must keep his fighting sprit alive. Our hearts and minds are with his wife and two lovely daughters

  2. Dr Tajudeen always gave us reason to be hopeful of what our continent could achieve and become–even amidst all the doom and gloom that has befallen our mother continent. Whenever a global event would happen, I would wait anxiously to follow the lead of Tajudeen in his Pan African Post Card columns. You played your part Tajudeen, what remains is for us the sons and daughters of the continent to keep you candle burning. For how long are we going to continue losing our children in these car crashes! Rest in Peace. As you always told us: Let us not agonise, but organise!

  3. Tajudeen was my friend and mentor for a number of years, and as I mourn him I smile, as I am sure many do, at the thought of someone who was, without fail, the most charismatic person in the room- no matter what room he happened to be in.

    I am struck by the number of comments mourning his loss from people on various fora saying that they felt that that they knew Tajudeen, even though they had never met him, through the deep relationships they established through news programmes, newspaper articles, public debates and above all his Thursday Postcard. I too knew Tajudeen before I knew him. I was a volunteer teacher in Uganda, and read his Postcard in The New Vision, so full of passion, humour and righteous fury at the injustices many felt but that he put into words. It didn’t just seem unusal in that paper; it seemed unusal for any paper to print so regularly a column so funny, so optimistic, so sure of its arguments. Never resorting to homily, or falling back on the comfortable, world-weary cynicism of so much journalism.

    I too have heard Tajudeen’s story about how he became a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. In fact, I heard it several times. At one telling (and they would vary only slightly depending on how convivial the evening had been) someone asked him why he was offered the Scholarship after such a bravura denunciation of imperialism and bourgeois values. They probably wanted to be rid of such a trouble-maker, was the reply.

    Tajudeen would insist that he was a committed revolutionary at that time, untempered and in his fiery youth. But that charm and charisma, which I have seen win over auditoria full of people – at the same time as castigating all present for being ‘hand-wringing liberals’ – had to come from somewhere. Tajudeen knew that he had a style, a mind and a voice to convince, and he deployed it unyieldingly on behalf of those less able to do so.

    A number of people have quoted his well-worn calling card: ‘Don’t Agonise!!! Organise!!!’ (The puntuation 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.

    Deepest condolences to his whole family and his wonderful girls.

  4. I am speechless. I am not sure which is more apropriate whether to be angry, furious or sad, or all and more because none is nearly enough to express the feeling brought by Taju’s death. Yet when you consider what his biological (to him all africans near and far were family) family is going through, its all confusing and I’m sure many of us who had the rare opportunity to know Taju up-close, feel a certain restlessness. This is a worst form of reminding us all of our mortal nature.

    For fifteen years, I worked with Dr. Tajudeen seven of those (1994-2000), in the same office. Much of my worldview was pretty much framed by Taju’s philosophical and ideological stand. He was one of a kind and I sorely miss him. I loved Dr. Tajudeen so dearly and I wish I had received different news however bad.

  5. My deep condolences to all at Justice Africa and all who knew and worked with Dr. Tajudeen. While I never had the chance to meet Tajudeen in person I have been greatly inspired by his writings throughout my professional career. It was with great shock and sadness that I learned of his loss.

    In deepest sympathy,

  6. Dear Alex,

    This is really a great loss not only to Justice Africa, but to all. Our hearts are with his family in these extremely difficult days. I did not had that much interaction with him, but of course with Dr. Tajudeen it is always as if you knew him for ages once you meet with him. He was such a humble, energetic, and intelligent character, with lots of sense of humor.

    I can’t forget his hospitality, support, and contributions during the Sudan Civil Project Conferences in Kampala, Uganda, 1999 and 2000. I can’t also forget his inspiring Saturday Postcards since the time he used to send them to us by email. My deepest condolences to all those who knew him and who inspired by him.

  7. It is Sad,Very Sad to Loose Taju,
    Having worked with him During my Internship at the UN
    This African Man was Great resource in deed,his ideologies no matter how
    Differnt they wer they were at all times so acceptable and true that nearly all would abandon what they believed in for his strong belief in Human Justice and Pan African Ideology

    To sum it all in his own words when a village looses and elder they loose a Library.For sure ALibrary we have lost in Tajus demise.

    It is Sad Very Sad in Deed

    However as he would say Do not Agonise!! Organise

  8. Dear Alex and Justice Africa,

    I join you today to mourn Tajudeen. Please convey my heartfelt condolences to his friends and colleagues at Justice Africa, and to his family. His contributions will continue to inspire us.


  9. I join shocked fellows in mourning the passing away of Taju. Though, I have never met him in person, I have severally met him through his texts and touching ideas. I have red a number of his publications, not least his legendary “Postcards”. He left this world suddenly; it will not be easy to easily replace him. But as the struggle continues, we will gradually come to terms with this loss, bear the vacuum he left behind, and enduringly pursue his visions and dreams for Africa and mankind. May Taju rest in perfect peace. Aluta continua.

  10. Dear Alex and everyone at Justice Africa,

    I just found out the news from my Dad in Nairobi. He was hoping to contact Tajudeen while he was in Kenya. Odette, my father, and I all send our deepest condolences to his family and friends. I greatly admired Tajudeen’s integrity, humor, and compassion. Tajudeen was an example of how to live a life of consciousness and commitment.


  11. Alex,

    So much has been said about Taju’s charisma, his work, his humour, the subtlety, cheek and exceptional wattage of his intellect and his remarkable honesty. Taju’s optimism for Africa was probably most evident in his love for children and his commitment to enhancing the values and capabilities with which they grow up.

    Sometime in 2002, Taju and I went out in Islington, London, in the company of some colleagues. My son, Dilim, who was then just under six, was with us. When Dilim saw us, he went up to Taju and greeted him with: “Taju, how are you?”. Taju called my son over, lifted him onto his laps and admonished him with all that caring authority that only he could muster “I am Uncle Taju or Uncle Tajudeen to you, do you understand?” A chastened Dilim said “Yes”. Taju turned to us, laughing heartily, “Can you see? You have to be careful with these children. You laugh with them but you have to make sure they don’t lose their values and respect for their elders. I am not his mate.”

    Since that day, my son and all the friends that were there that day called him “Uncle Taju.” Last Summer, Taju gave my son and his daughters a great meal in London. So, last Monday, 25 October, I had to tell my son, now 12, as he was preparing for school what had happened to “Uncle Taju”. He was inconsolable: “He’s gone, he’s gone Uncle Taju”, Dilim kept repeating. “Why?” I wished I could give him an intelligible answer. But I was in tears too.

    As we left the grave side in Funtua the following day, Tuesday, 26 May, just after sun-set, all I recall is the sight of the hundreds and hundreds of children who sorrounded the graveside like their lives depended on it, long after all the adults had left. Taju’s passing was all very personal to all of them. He had impacted on their lives in ways that none of us could even describe. Single-handedly, Tajudeen, despite all his international commitments, had found time and used his personal resources to invest in these kids. He gave the a chance to acquire basic education and skills for the 21st century. Taju didn’t just believe in the promise of a better Africa; he committed himself and his resources to creating a generation to prove it.

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