Monday, June 29, 2009

Rest in Peace Prof. Haroub Othman

(pichani Prof. Othman akihutubia mkutano jumamosi, masaa machache kabla ya kifo chake. Watu wanasema alionekana mwenye mzima kabisa)


Shock, disbelief as Prof Othman dies suddenly in Zanzibar

Renowned academic Prof Haroub Othman, 66, is dead. The University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) lecturer died in his sleep early yesterday at a hotel in Zanzibar.

However, the cause of his death had not been established by the time of going to press.

His son, Mr Tahir Othman, and family spokesman Ali Uki said Prof Othman was in good health when he went to bed on Saturday night after attending various events.

His last public appearance was at the official opening of the 2009 Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF) on Saturday evening at the Old Fort, where Zanzibar Chief Minister Shamsi Vuai Nahodha was the chief guest.

Mr Uki said yesterday Prof Othman arrived in Zanzibar from Dar es Salaam on Saturday morning and attended the launch of a book titled Race Revolution and the Struggle for Human Rights in Zanzibar, jointly authored by Prof Thomas Burgess, Mr Ali Sultan Issa and Mr Seif Shariff Hamad.

"He was not sick? I think you saw him at the launch of the book and later at the ZIFF function," he said.

Prof Othman was the founding chairman of the Zanzibar Legal Aid Centre.

He joined the UDSM in the 1970s, and worked at the university as a lecturer until his death.

Prof Othman, who was a lawyer and lecturer in development studies, will be remembered as a member of the renowned Nyalali Commission, whose findings and proposals led to the re-introduction of political pluralism in the country.

UDSM vice-chancellor Rwekaza Mukandala said the university community was shocked by the sudden death of one of its most hardworking and respected lecturers.

Funeral arrangements were being made at Prof Othman?s residence at Michenzani area in Zanzibar, and his is burial is scheduled for today at Masharifu Chuini area.

He leaves behind a widow, Saida Yahya Othman, who is a lecturer in linguistics at the UDSM, and a son, Tahir.

Mr Hamad said Prof Othman's death had shocked him as they had met only a few hours earlier during the launch of a book about his (Mr Hamad's) political career.

"I'm deeply shocked?it was only yesterday (Saturday) that Prof Othman was among guests who attended the launch of the book on my political life. He also edited the book," said Mr Hamad, who is also secretary-general of the opposition CUF.

He noted that this proved that Prof Othman was dedicated to his professional work.

"The University of Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, Tanzania and Africa in general have all suffered a big loss?Prof Othman was a man with considerable knowledge in politics and law," Mr Hamad added.

Prof Othman will be remembered for his bold stand on various issues. He never hesitated to criticise the leaders of both the Union and Zanzibar governments whenever he thought they had gone astray, particularly on Union matters.

He had spent all of his adult life at the UDSM?s Institute of Development Studies (IDS), where he was once its director.

The soft-spoken don has left a treasure of literary and academic works at the UDSM and in many other academic circles.

The head of the UDSM Political Science and Public Administration Department, Dr Bernadette Kilian, was among those who expressed their shock upon learning of Prof Othman's sudden demise.

A prominent Pan-Africanist, Prof Othman was a leading authority on African issues. He had on numerous occasions commented on internal conflicts and post-election violence in Africa.

The local media has also lost an important source in that he was readily available to comment on various issues. Prof Othman regularly featured in The Citizen's Political Platform magazine, which is published on Wednesdays.

Apart from Union matters, he discussed a wide range of issues from the collapse the former USSR and its implications to global politics to the strife in Somalia and Darfur.

He pursued graduate and postgraduate studies in law in the former USSR where he graduated with an LLM. He later pursued a postgraduate diploma in refugee law at Antwerp University in Belgium and a PhD in law at the UDSM.

The executive secretary of the Media Council of Tanzania (MCT), Mr Kajubi Mukajanga, said the death was a big blow to the local media fraternity.

He said Prof Othman had twice served as chairman of the MCT Finance and Administrative Committee.

He was an ordinary member of the council after relinquishing his leadership posts last December.

"He was a most articulate and resourceful person and his death is a severe blow to the media, academia and the country in general," Mr Mukajanga said.

Reported by Salma Said in Zanzibar and Elias Mhegera in Dar es Salaam



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