It is with great sadness that we learned of the unfortunate demise of Professor Iba Der Thiam (1937-2020), a renowned historian, pan-Africanist, leading scholar and a shining light of the African intellectual community. Professor Iba Der Thiam was former Minister of National Education of Senegal (1983 to 1988) and had a stellar record of service which will remain indelible in the annals of posterity. Indeed, with his passing, Africa, and the entire scientific community has lost a great monument, a trail-blazer and an intellectual of high repute. A former member of UNESCO’s scientific committee responsible for writing the History of Africa, Professor Iba Der Thiam was known for his in-depth knowledge of the continent’s historical, sociological, cultural, political and economic realities. He was also known for his commitment to the defence of Africa and its dignity.
Professor Iba Der Thiam is the author of several scientific books on the colonial and post-colonial history of Africa. We had the chance to rub shoulders with him closely, and to work with him from the end of 2013, at the very beginning of the project of writing the General History of Senegal (GHS) from the origins to the present day. This was an exciting and ambitious project that was truly close to his heart, and in which he invested his heart and soul. Towards the realization of this project, he had approached the Council for the Development of Research in Social Sciences in Africa (CODESRIA), which hosted the secretariat for the first three years. As Executive Secretary of CODESRIA, we had to work together, in collaboration with the Department of History of the Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, mobilizing the university community in all disciplines, and using all the sources to which we had access, including oral sources. The project aroused great enthusiasm, far beyond the university community, with support as diverse as those of the City of Dakar, the Ministry of Higher Education and Research, the Presidency, private companies and religious entities in Senegal.
I must express my gratitude to the administration of CODESRIA, including the Program Manager, the very dedicated, Mr. Coumba Ndoffene Diouf, the Head of Information and Communication, Abdarahmane Wone who worked closely with me and helped to mobilise resources for the success of the project. Scientifically, the initial inspiration was the General History of Africa in 8 volumes published by UNESCO.
Professor Iba Der Thiam’s ambition was to advance the decolonization of Africa’s history already well under way, notably by UNESCO under the leadership of Professor Amadou Mahtar Mbow, and by other great African intellectuals such as Sheikh Anta Diop, Joseph Ki-Zerbo, Walter Rodney, Ade Ajayi, Djibril Tamsir Niane, and others. He ensured that the GHS, as a project, was well developed and was an example of success that would be replicated in the sub-region and elsewhere. He surrounded himself with an excellent multidisciplinary team that included Babacar Diop Buuba, Rokhaya Fall, Yoro Fall (RIP), Ibrahima Thioub, Saliou Mbaye, Hamady Bocoum, Professor Tandia, Momodou Fall, Mor Ndao, and others) and invited all those who could contribute to the success of the project to take part. At the time, we called on great journalists such as Ibrahima Bakhoum, Daouda Mané du Soleil and the late Moussa Paye to strengthen the project’s communications committee.
A staunch Pan-Africanist, Professor Iba Der Thiam has always responded favourably to the invitations of our foundation, TrustAfrica, and all the organizations that work for the unity of Africa and the well-being of its people. He has always encouraged and supported us in our various projects and companies. To the scientific community of Africa, to the Senegalese people, to his family and to his widow, Dr. Marema Touré Thiam, we offer our deepest condolences and pray Allah to welcome him to his paradise.
Dr Ebrima Sall,