Pwani Tribune

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John Areba; Memorial Tribute.

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This past weekend I lost a great friend of many years. John Areba lost his life in the early morning hours of last Saturday through a road accident in Nairobi. When the call came from a friend (Stephen Omusula) informing me of his death, I was shocked and confused. Still coming to terms with it. My last WhatsApp conversation with Areba had just been on Friday evening, where he expressed his thoughts on the Mombasa County muguka ban in an ever critical way of how our politicians run things. That was Areba, you always expected an honest conversation on politics and things that made headlines, many times with typical funny Mombasa vulgarisms that I will not quote today.

I knew Areba in the mid-90s, living in the same neighbourhood in Mombasa. Not much changed with him since then until his death. He loved sports, he played football and basketball, being great at both. I recently learnt from other friend tributes that he also played rugby at Aga Khan High School Mombasa. Expected. He would never let himself be left out of a team. I am sure David Onsare will remember this fondly, they were both as competitive as each other. This love for sports was perfectly manifested in his love for Arsenal Football Club. Areba loved Arsenal, well and truly. He was a founding and active member of Arsenal Kenya Supporters’ Club with who he participated in many charity activities. Being a fellow Arsenal fan, great wins and disappointing results were discussed in equal measure. Some of my most cherished memories with him were Arsenal games we watched together whenever I was in Nairobi. One in particular was when Nketiah scored a last minute winner against Manchester United in the 2022/2023 season. What followed was pandemonium and a very heavy hangover.

Areba loved Young Africans Sports Club (Yanga) of Tanzania too, and their slogan ‘Daima Mbele Nyuma Mwiko’. He went to see Yanga play live in Tanzania on quite a number of occasions. Including when Yanga played Mamelodi Sundowns in the CAF Champions League at Benjamin Mkapa Stadium in March this year. He lived life, never postponing anything for the future. What he felt like doing he did, almost like he was in a race against time. It was great to see tributes flowing from Tanzania from Arsenal and Yanga fans alike. Testament that his encounters with Tanzanian football fans had similar lasting effects he left all he encountered with. You could not fail to notice him, be it the semi-dyed beard, signature cap worn backwards (90s style) or his overall life of the party persona.

But Areba was more than this, and he was quick to remind me one time when he sent me a photo while at work, with the caption ‘In my element, I am a serious person in society’. The photo was one of him performing physiotherapy to a child in a remote part of Kenya. Areba was a very capable and respected physiotherapist who loved working with children. He carried the mantra ‘Even if you change just one life, you have changed the world forever’. The organisations he worked with have lost a diligent and passionate worker. More importantly, he was a loving father and husband. Nothing meant more to him than his wife and daughters who he referred to as ‘my tribe’. My heart goes out to them.

As John Areba is laid to rest today, I will remember him as an invested friend. He could pop up with anything to end a period of silence. One time he messaged me out of the blue, ‘Huu mwaka usikubali kulala kama panga baridi’. Alluding that it was time for me to get married. He was always keen on inquiring on my stay and arrangements when in Nairobi. It is a blessing to live life having experienced genuine friendship. Stephen Omusula and I experienced it from Areba, the three of us had very memorable encounters. I am sure many from High Level Estate Mombasa and friends from Nairobi will have their own cherished memories and experiences. He was a special character. My deepest condolences to his wife and children, his larger family and especially the Onsare family with whom he spent many years of his life.

Go well John Areba. You left us too young, too soon.

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