Democratic Republic of Congo loses an academic trail-blazer

I find that many of the people I most admire are those who focus their energies on local universities and science.  Generally receiving far too little recognition, their contributions live on in the programs they create and the students and colleagues they motivate to continue on in science.  The long-term impacts of these contributions are substantial for the regions these dedicated academics represent.  Together with Charles Kahindo, our long-time colleague who is a professor at Université Officielle de Bukavu and the Project Manager of WWF-Lake Tanganyika Catchment (Uvira, D. R. Congo), we have prepared the following:

On 2nd July 2012, Dominique Nyakabwa Mutabana, one of the most important biologists in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo succumbed to an illness at the age of 64 while working in Kisangani.  Prof Nyakabwa, or just “Prof” as he was generally known was a botanist with more than 50 publications on plants of the eastern Congo. For more than 30 years, he was a professor with attachments to multiple academic institutions.  He began his teaching career at the Université de Kisangani after completing his Ph.D. in 1982.  He helped found the long-awaited Université Officielle de Bukavu (UOB), which started as a branch of Kisangani University in 1993, and he diligently headed the institution for 16 years until 2009. Through the years, he would travel back and forth between the Bukavu and Kisangani to teach and administrate, even as war crippled the region.  In Bukavu, he had additional associations with Université Catholique de Bukavu and the Université Evangélique de Bukavu.  He also was a guest lecturer at universities in Rwanda and Burundi.  He participated in several of our PBEATRA training courses through the years and we always met with him in Bukavu to discuss the university and plans to continue educational programs.  Through these different institutions and though other connections, he served as an advisor for many Congolese and Belgian graduate students.

Prof. Nyakabwa teaching during the 2002 PBEATRA course at the Centre de Recherche en Sciences Naturelles, Lwiro.

Prof was a teacher, advisor, and able administrator who cared deeply about moving forward biological sciences in the region.  In Bukavu, he leaves behind a cadre of younger professors at UOB who will carry on his commitment to universities and science. The news of Prof Nyakabwa’s death news passed quickly to the many people he interacted with through the years and friends, colleagues, and former students came from Kinshasa, Goma and Kisangani to Bukavu to honor his life this past weekend.  His accomplishments were substantial and critical for a region where science and education are essential for the future. 

Me, Josh Engel, and three of Prof Nyakabwa's Université Officielle de Bukavu Biology colleagues, Jean-Berkmans B. Muhigwa, Bertin Murhabale Cisirika, and Christian Amani touring a newly constructed lab on the UOB campus, April, 2012