I first met him last summer, the 29th of June to be exact. It was my second day in Santa Barbara, California and my first time in America.
It was about 2 o'clock and I rushed back to the hotel to meet him because I didn't want to be late.
When I emailed him a week before travelling, I didn't expect a reply. After all, he was a distinguished professor and a well-known author. To my surprise, he emailed me back and told me to write to him as soon as I arrive.
I did. He agreed to come to the Upham hotel, where I was staying at the time. He said he knows the place very well.
We talked about politics, the Sudan, the war, the referendum in 2011, the future of the country, my family, my studies, his life in the Sudan and his books.
He was my favorite author. A Sudan expert.
He was first introduced to Africa in the 50's through books. He went to Sudan a month after its independence, in 1956. For the next 52 years, Sudan became his interest. He wrote atleast 15 books on the Sudan alone, he met many intellectuals, leaders and liberation fighters and he is one of the few people in the world to have traveled in every part of the country ( including Sudanese and non-Sudanese).
He knows the country better than all of us combined.
I've emailed him a few times after I came back. A few days ago, I wanted to e-mail him about a couple of interesting articles I wanted him to read.
I forgot his e-mail so I looked at his page only to find the following announcement
"We are sad to report that Professor Robert Collins passed away suddenly on Friday, April 11, 2008. A full obituary will be available soon."
This can't be happening. We were supposed to meet again, right? I was supposed to write my phd under his supervision. He was supposed to live love enough to see Sudan at peace. He was supposed to celebrate with us.
He should've waited, 2011 is only 3 years from now. He wanted to know the future of South Sudan more than any other person.