Kä Mana was one of the first among theologians to accompany the WCC Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiatives and Advocacy Programme in West Africa Regional Office in publication while he was based in the University of West Africa UPAO. His critical reflections were transformative in shaping the work within the ecumenical world.
The WCC extended deep sympathies and condolences to Isis Kangudie, WCC Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiatives and Advocacy regional coordinator for Central Africa, and to Kä Mana’s entire family. The ecumenical fellowship expressed solidarity and accompaniment in this time of bereavement and pain.
He was born on 3 November 1953 in Dibaya, Western Kasai, in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. He spent his early childhood in Boya, his home village in Eastern Kasai.
He studied in the seminary for Catholic priests in Mbuji-Mayi, a step that would later determine the future and the career of the theologian and philologist that he became.
In fact, according to his own testimony, “by chance, necessity and irony, one day the principal of his school, a priest, entered their class and asked if anyone wanted to go to the seminary and become a priest. No one raised their hand.”
He was shocked by his classmates’ lack of reaction. So he raised his hand without knowing what the seminary was or what it meant to become a priest. For him, he raised his hand because he felt he had to raise his hand. From that moment on, his life took the direction it was supposed to take until 15 July 2021, when he passed away in Goma.
His academic career was both rich and varied. After graduating from high school, he opted for religious life in the congregation of the Josephite Fathers. This was another step towards building his awareness as an adult. He later continued his studies at the Gregorian University in Rome, then at the University of Strasbourg and the Free University of Brussels, earning doctoral degrees in philosophy and theology.
As his author’s name translates so well, Kä Mana was “the man who finishes things and pursues arguments to their logical conclusion.” He was therefore involved in all the intellectual and theological battles in Africa.
His reflections on identities, inculturation, crises in Africa and Egyptology made him a benchmark for theories on the dialogue of cultures. After the liberation of Nelson Mandela and the signing of the Bicesse agreements (Portugal 1991) by the parties to the conflict in Angola and the accession of the frontline countries to independence in Southern Africa, Kä Mana proposed to the African churches the path of the theology of reconciliation to lay the foundations of unity between the communities. His writings and publications are both rich and varied. In addition, Kä Mana travelled to all continents to preach and share his ideas and thoughts. In the course of his active life, he was an intellectual and itinerant theologian. This did not prevent him from returning towards the end of his life to settle in his native country, to continue his work as president of the Pole Institute, an intercultural institute in the Great Lakes region.
Kä Mana wanted to sow in season and out of season in order to leave for posterity benchmarks and intellectual tools for analysis. It was to this end that he recently stated that: “Death is sometimes more fruitful than life, especially when it raises someone from the slough to feed the energy of liberation.”