In Summary
  • Professor Mabel Imbuga, the former Vice-Chancellor of the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, was actually our host at the launch.
  • It is true to say that Mabel and Francis “made” each other, and determined what each became not only as a family person and parent but also as a professional in their different careers.
  • Mabel Imbuga could have advised Francis Imbuga to turn to other pursuits for his own safety and that of the family.

Last Monday, I attended the launch, at Kenyatta University, of The Cherished Footprints, Masinde Kusimba’s biography of the late Professor Francis Davis Imbuga. I need not tell you about the book, as I know you will read it. Nor need I tell you about Francis Imbuga, the Betrayal in the City, Aminata, Man of Kafira author, who is a household name in East Africa.

Rather, I wish to share with you the startling insight I had into the fascinating relationship between the two professors, Francis Davis Imbuga and Mabel Imbuga, which made them such successful family and professional partners.

Professor Mabel Imbuga, the former Vice-Chancellor of the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), was actually our host at the launch. I felt particularly honoured and touched by her invitation to the occasion.

It gave me the opportunity not only to share with her our memories of Mwalimu Imbuga but also to express my own admiration and respect for her for what she has achieved in the past two decades.

I must have made honourable mention of her somewhere in these columns, as when I wrote about the age of the female vice-chancellor.

UNDERSTATEMENT

Prof Mabel Imbuga is, however, a person of strong understatement, and I could not talk decently about her in my usual, loud boastfulness. But it would not be boasting to say that the two first female vice-chancellors of Kenyan public universities are close acquaintances of mine, the other being Prof Olive Mugenda of KU.

Being a VC, whether man or woman, has never been an easy job. Now that my sisters are honourably out of the hot seats and not burnt to cinders there, I can quietly congratulate them. This is of course in view of my firm belief in the benefits of my sisters’ leadership in every field. If we can run a university, we can run bigger things. My readers will know that we (my sisters and I) are gunning for such, as early as 2027, if not earlier.

But I did not get to say any of these things to the good professor at the launch of her husband’s biography, for two main reasons. First, the galaxy of writers, academics, publishers, media gurus and other public figures around her made it a struggle even getting close to her.

Second, and more importantly, Prof Imbuga suggested to us, both in the format of the launch and in her brief and articulate personal testimony, that we were celebrating much more than the illustrious scholar and creative genius that Francis Imbuga was.

She was, most importantly, sharing with us her intimate knowledge of the unique human being, the man to whom she had been married for 39 years, following a friendship and courtship that lasted five years and dated from their teen years at the Alliance Schools in the late 1960s.

It is true to say that Mabel and Francis “made” each other, and determined what each became not only as a family person and parent but also as a professional in their different careers. Mabel is full of testimonies of how Imbuga kept encouraging her and urging her on to advance in both her educational attainment and professional advancement.

Page 1 of 2