In 2002 two young Kenyans crossed into the Democratic Republic of Congo through the Rwandan border post of Goma in search of adventure.
Being lovers of Rhumba music, they wanted to experience the music right from the source. As they crossed from Republic of Rwanda into North Kivu, their guide did not warn them of the dangers inherent in crossing to the volatile region.
Being young and adventurous, they didn’t give a thought to personal security or invoke any sense of self preservation. They found themselves in a ramshackle of a restaurant.
On the makeshift stage of the restaurant, were visibly tired guitars, drums and an assortment of homemade music instruments including a Fanta bottle and a tin filled with sand.
The musicians and revellers arrived early enough and the extravaganza kicked off. One of the Kenyans was a teetotaller while the other enjoyed his alcoholic beverage called Primus as the evening wore off.
The evening was fantastic until deep in the night when hell broke loose. The restaurant was under attack. The attackers shot aimlessly, but the security officers countered them.
One of the Kenyans, the teetotaller, pulled the other to the ground and they remained in that state until calm was restored.
They arrived back in Kigali, the capital City of Rwanda the next day, with variegated memories in their bags of memory. The two Kenyans were Dr Bob Mbori and yours truly.
But Dr Mbori took his last bow while receiving treatment in India on December 22 2018 and was buried in his village of birth of Nyakenogo in Nyamira County last week. To say I lost a friend and this nation lost a committed teacher is an understatement.
Dr Mbori was a wonderful soul. His students at Egerton University, Kigali Institute of Education and Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST) have fond memories of a man best described as a free element; ready to mingle laugh dance, but extremely committed to teaching of English language.
Bob and I studied at the University of South Africa and it was at the UNISA that Dr Mbori distinguished himself as a perfectionist.
He was a man who exercised eccentric fidelity to the English grammar. As I moved to another position he inherited my perch as the director of public communication and publishing at MMUST.
In this position he distinguished himself as the best master of ceremony ever at the university.
Like any other adventurous man, he liked the best things in life. Dr Mbori once bought a yellow vehicle he christened “Fun Cargo”.
It could easily be spotted at many establishments in Kakamega Town. He later revealed to me that he chose yellow because it appealed to the child in him. Socially Dr Mbori was amiable, but truthful to the point of revealing much of himself to his friends.
His sense of humour was, as youngsters say, out of this world. It is no wonder he cracked jokes about his impending death a few days before it happened.
While in Rwanda, God blessed him in many ways. Apart from authoring a few academic works, he was sanctified to have created a fine work of art embodied in flesh and blood.
He later on joked about it by insisting to his close friends that his attempt to temper his hot Kisii blood with Banyarwanda blood was highly successful in the product.
But the resilience and perseverance that Bob exhibited was simply amazing. While chairing senate to receive the final list of graduands from various schools at MMUST, Bob Mbori was the first to submit his list as dean, but as he presented no one would know that he would be admitted to hospital and in intensive care unit the next day.
Interestingly, he saw his death coming and joked about it too often in his final days. In his Facebook post, he castigated his liver for playing games on him.
Since Bob and I spoke Kinyarwanda any time we met, he joked and told me in Kinyarwanda that “There is a crisis in my body but you should not forget that I saved your life in the DRC one evening.”
Dr Mbori is survived by his gift from Rwanda, wife Beatrice and daughters: Raveena, Rebin and Raby Jos. Rest in peace my brother.
Prof Kabaji is the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Planning, Research and Innovation) at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology [email protected]