Calestous and I

Today as we bid farewell to this erstwhile giant of Kenya, Africa and the world, I wish to end my mourning by sharing with the world how I came to consider him a friend, mentor and a father.
I first met Calestous when as part of a studens organization focussed on finding the elusive silver bullet to kickstart the African renaissance, a body founded by African students at Harvard University, we were organizing a seminar that was to be held at the infamous Bretton.Woods Hotel where the organizations that bear that moniker were founded and whose neo-liberal policies had worsened the status of Africa made bad by dictators and a filthy cold war. I was to be the MC and I think being Kenyan or for other reasons, I was asked to approach Prof. Juma to give the keynote address. The conference never happened as planned but I did get to meet Calestous Juma. Being then the head of the Kennedy School of Government, I was apprehensive when going to meet him. When you are abroad, a number of Kenyans who have “made it” are usually suspicious of Kenyans wanting to meet them (yes I had stated I was a Kenyan graduate student in my request foe an appointment),thinking you want favors to pay tution or looking for a job or help with straightening your papers. But not Calestous. He hugged me on our first encounter and spoke swahili. “Vipi ndugu yangu?”. His English was straight out of Port Victoria with a slight “kh” instead of “h”. How could a renown scholar and.advisor to the AU and UN not have an American twang or Bostonian drawl? Later in another function I delivered a speech and I was to introduce him but he would not let me do his profile, the way we joked on stage you could think we were brothers. He couldnt stop talking to a student because a top honcho from.World Bank was standing there waiting to chat him up, and when he did turn to the world bank top honcho he would hold your hand and introduce you and make you stand there as they talked. With Calestous, I lunched and dined with top figures of the world from Jeff Sachs he of the Millenium Villages to everybody else at flashy hotels like The Charles in Boston. He always shared his works, finished and those in progress and received my critics of them with a big smile, at times agreeing with me.

Calestous would regale mw with tales from his chats with presidents in Africa where he always gave a speech at the AU assembly from the King of Swaziland to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia. He ones told me after I asked him how he thought Africa could rise again “Look at the priorities of the presidents by the ministries they place under the office of the president. Through out Africa, no president has the ministry of Economic Planning in their offices but those of security and defence. This tells you they are insecure and only interested in protecting themselves.” That was Calestous, incisive in his analysis.

Calestous believed that Africa must embrace science and technology and invest in “small” technology that is appropriate then build up. I remember how excited he was when he held the first solar-powered laptop and he was eager to show it to me exclaiming how kids in his native Port Victoria could now access technology. I think he bought some to donate to the primary school. Few people know that Calestois was the driving force behind the founding of Great Lakes University that was to focus on technology. He ropped in Raila Odinga to grow it but Raila let him down. The university didnt quite well pick up as he had hoped.

Calestois was what we call a social hub, he had links to many people and leaders all over the world. He was tireless, and as Uhuru Kenyatta said, Calestous would respond to an email almost immediately at whatever time. One time he made a presentation and I didnt quite agree with a point he made so late at night around 2.00 am I shot him an email recounting my point of departureknowing he wouldnt call me at that hour or respond. Fifteen minjtes later my gmail came alive and Calestous had rebutted.

For a man who “failed” in high school and went to Igoji ttc to train as a primary school teacher, then later went into journalism for the Nation penning articles on science and technology till unesco gave him a masters scholarship based on his body of work which proved he was ripe for graduate studies but the local universities turned him down, he achieved far much more and contribited immensely than the A student professors prancing our campuses thumbing old beaten notes that were first used at tbe university of Timbuktu.

Fare the well my mentor and friend. May God bless Port Victoria that gave you life, nurtured you and gave you to the world.

A beautiful and poignant eulogy.

Pole Sana @Koolibah . May he Rest In Peace.

in your discourse did you happen to bring forth mediatek vs snapdragon talk?

Not directly but he was for appropriate and affordable technology for Africa. Mediatek is right up his alley. He was against replicating the western industrial revolution in Africa in a decade yet in the west it took hundreds of years hence his excitement at a cheap solar-powered laptop.

Amen and thanks.

Look up his twitter handle and you will see that he was hailing technology that is fit for Africa. He is the big shot who twitted how Google Chrome sucks up the juice on yoir laptop battery shortening its life

That’s personal lakini Kuna mahali lazima ungesqueeze in rwnbp??

Its true GLUK was headquartered in Kisumu and Raila was the guest at the launch. Calestous shared his dreams with me about it. At one time he wanted to secure me a position there only I dont have a science and tech background and I didnt want maybe he would have found space for me.

Thenks Koolibah, that is a real piece. The reason I just want to hang out with Kenyans that consider themselves Kenyans starting 2018 is reading such stuff. It is our Country and we all belong.

We all belong. I agree sweetest muratina

Pole sana Koolibah I learnt something different from your eulogy.

Pole man.

Pole sana Koolibah. Great memories here.