One of the original 'China in Africa' memes that still endures today among many people on the continent is that the “Chinese want to colonise ... Africa” and want to “invade” the continent using a mix of debt traps, trade dependency, and immigration.
My Eritrean colleague was on the phone when I got to the canteen, but as I approached, he put his mobile phone away, giving me his undivided attention. “It’s a sad day for us isn’t it?” he uttered in a lowered reverend voice. It was a question that required no answer.
Komla Dumor 1972 – 2014
I sighed and pointed behind him to the seating area, to one of those classy looking but never ending long benches you find in the dining halls of secondary schools across Ghana. “He was sitting right over there having breakfast just before Christmas and I wished him “Afi Hyia Pa” (Merry Christmas).
Komla Dumor’s family and I were members of the same church, and he moved to the United Kingdom our pastor asked me to get in touch. Although I did not have a real personal relationship with Komla other than attending the same university, we occasionally exchanged a knowing nod on campus. This evolved into the exchange of pleasantries in the BBC Newsroom and here at the canteen after a visit to his UK residence with our pastor.
No vicious rumour
Early evening of 18 January, the pastor called me. The concern in his voice was alarming. Finally half demanding to know whether Komla’s passing was some cruel internet joke, I told him it was the first I had heard of such. I promised to give him a factual response once I’d spoken to the newsroom. Alas, this was no vicious rumour.
Although Komla had far closer colleagues, friends and acquaintances than I, it has not stopped me from asking myself as to why his passing has affected me so much. And while It is a difficult time, I believe the stout reflection and outpouring of love and condolences from around the world is found in the passion Komla exuded for Africa.
Ever the reporter, I caught him stealing some time away from the set, before Christmas, snapping shots of the nativity scene set up just outside New Broadcasting House complete with real live sheep. I heartily chided: “upon all the goats he has experienced and seen in Ghana, he’s actually taking pictures of sheep!” He chuckled generously and rushed off in his snazzy suit.
A befitting tribute
I also recall watching Komla in an interview during which he commented on theBBC‘s International Chief Correspondent, Lyse Doucet, as being his mentor. I smiled to myself. I have often spoken to the respected Lyse Doucet and even though the BBC is a huge place, within the last 48 hours it seems to me to be a rather unassumingly close knit family.
Lyse Doucet paid him a befitting tribute on BBC World News commenting on our colleagues’ passing, her slightly offset posture, intently listening to the shared fond memories of Komla, as she wiped away tears that one could only help but feel.
Komla Dumor’s love for Africa, not only as his homeland but his work, which he represented, reported and defended to the core with his recognisable voice, stature and sheer presence, will be forever missed. Boy! Didn’t he make us proud!
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