The Climate Science community in Africa learned with shock of the sudden passing of Professor Laban Ayieko Ogallo on the 20th November 2020 in Nairobi due to sudden illness.
Recalling his wise words of counsel, his patience, humility and openness, it is easy to understand why those he interacted with are so profoundly saddened by his death.
As a trailblazer, a mentor and champion of meteorology, Prof. Ogallo’s leadership in the region will be greatly missed. Prof. Ogallo had a long and distinguished career that started in 1975 with a brief stint at the East African Meteorological Services. He then joined the meteorology department of the University of Nairobi, from where he was seconded to the role of Secretary and CEO of Kenya National Council for Science and Technology before joining the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) between 1996-2000. In 2000, he was appointed project coordinator of the UN regional drought monitoring centre in Nairobi (DMCN). DMCN grew under him to become the IGAD Climate Prediction and Application Centre (ICPAC). Prof. Ogallo was the founding director and led DMCN until 2014. In 2007, he was in the IPCC team of Scientists awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He returned to the Department of Meteorology at the University of Nairobi in January 2019 and retired in January 2020.
Following the 2013 African Climate Conference (ACC-2013) that was held in Arusha, Tanzania, the African climate change fraternity mandated the UN Economic Commission for Africa and WMO to establish the Climate Research for Development (CR4D) programme, to champion Africa’s climate research agenda. Prof. Ogallo was subsequently selected by the CR4D board to sit on the scientific advisory committee. He discharged this role with dedication, commitment and enthusiasm, often mobilizing his peer climate scientists in the region to participate in meetings and to enrich the climate research discourse in support of development.
As an elder and mentor, Prof. Ogallo will be remembered by the youth in the region as a motivating factor and role model for youth involvement in climate science, a cause that he espoused from very early on in his career. He has been awarded the WMO Award for encouragement of young scientists in 1982.
Prof. Ogallo was also a leading light in the development of an African climate change narrative and discourse. An avid participant in the Climate Change and Development in Africa (CCDA) conferences, he graced a majority of the events where he often took up speaking roles. In October 2016, he was indeed a natural choice to deliver the inaugural Professor Godwin Olu Patrick Obasi Memorial Lecture on Climate Information Services at the 5th CCDA conference.
On behalf of the Technology, Climate Change and Natural Resources Management Division of UNECA, I send my condolences to Prof. Ogallo’s family, his professional colleagues and associates at this difficult time. May his gentle soul rest in eternal peace.
This article was first published on United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA)