Tribute to Thandika Mkandawire by Dr Ebrima Sall

Dear Friends, Sisters and Senior Sisters, Brothers and Senior Brothers,

Our dear Thandika Mkandawire was laid to rest this Wednesday, 15 April 2020.

As you know, he passed away in Stockholm on Friday 27th March 2020 at 4am.

We have lost a brother, a friend, a man of great integrity, and a true citizen of Africa and of the world whose commitment to social justice was total. He was an intellectual giant who understood the importance of building a truly pan African intellectual community and devoted all his life to building that community. As someone working for one of the funding institutions described him when he completed his second term as executive secretary of CODESRIA in 1996: “Thandika breathed CODESRIA”, an institution that he never ceased to believe in, defend, or support.  

For me, and for many other people, it was a blessing to have him as a mentor. He was generous with his time and knowledge, and combined maximum scientific rigour with humility and accessibility. “Social science is not for monkeys. It is for human beings”, he once told me as we were discussing the social sciences and social transformation in Africa. His contribution to the advancement of the social sciences has been highlighted in many of the wonderful tributes that have been written by people who knew and worked with, studied under, or read him. His contribution to policy debates are equally important, as more tributes will show (including a longer one that I am writing).

As fate would have it, he left us at a time when we couldn’t even bid him farewell because of the lockdowns. But that probably was the whole point: we are not supposed to bid farewell to what he represents or stood for. In that respect, he is actually not gone: he lives, and will continue to live in many of us, and in everything that can make Africa more dignified and the world fairer, more just, and better.

My deepest condolences to Kaarina, Joshua, Andre and all the Mkandawires; to the CODESRIA, UNRISD, and LSE communities; to Africa, and to you all.

A Dieu Mwalimu. Rest in Peace!

Ebrima Sall,
Executive Director


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