Canada-based professor among victims of Ethiopian Airlines crash

Pius Adesanmi was founder of Carleton University’s Institute of African Studies

March 12, 2019
Pius Adesanmi
Source: June Creighton Payne/Carleton University

Tributes have been paid to Pius Adesanmi, the Nigerian-born professor who was head of Carleton University’s Institute of African Studies, after it emerged that he was among 157 people killed in the 10 March Ethiopian Airlines jet crash.

Professor Adesanmi was on board Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 from Addis Ababa to Nairobi, where he planned to attend an African Union conference, when the jet crashed shortly after take-off. There were no survivors.

He came to the Ottawa campus in 2006 as a professor of literature and African studies, after a career as a writer, during which he had established himself as an outspoken critic of political and social problems in his homeland.

He had left Nigeria to pursue a PhD in French studies at the University of British Columbia, and served as assistant professor of comparative literature at Pennsylvania State University between 2002 and 2005. 

Professor Adesanmi joined Carleton after rejecting offers from Princeton University and other US universities, and led a call for changes on campus that produced the Institute of African Studies.

His death comes just as he and the institute were hitting “full bloom” with the imminent arrival of its 10th anniversary, said a friend and colleague, Nduka Otiono, an assistant professor at the institute.

The institute had become “a vital essence and a missing link in Canadian academics” that Professor Adesanmi made into a “home” for many minority students, Dr Otiono told Canada’s Global News.

Professor Adesanmi’s work includes several award-winning books examining Nigeria and Africa, including Wayfarer and Other Poems, You’re Not a Country Africa: A Personal History of the African Present, and Naija No Dey Carry Last: Thoughts on a Nation in Progress.

His contributions to Carleton were beyond measure, said Pauline Rankin, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

“He worked tirelessly to build the Institute of African Studies, to share his boundless passion for African literature and to connect with and support student, she said. “He was a scholar and teacher of the highest calibre who leaves a deep imprint on Carleton.”

Professor Rankin added that she was remembering Professor Adesanmi’s “warmth and friendliness, his booming laugh, his enthusiasm for his work and his deep dedication to Carleton”. “He is irreplaceable in our faculty and in our hearts,” she said.

Kenyatta University, in Kenya, said that two its academics – Isaac Mwangi Minae and Agnes Kathumbi – were also among the victims of the crash.

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