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Lynda Tilley - Obituary

It is with great sadness that we report the death of Lynda Tilley who was our Africa correspondent. She was a joyful and vivacious presence in our monthly editorial meetings on Zoom, and her passion for humanism and for the human rights struggle in Africa was infectious. She will be greatly missed. The main tribute below was written by Paul Ewans.

"I am out of words now. I can't believe she has gone. Lynda has been a dearest person, friend and mother. She had absolute love for Africa and humanity at large. We shall live forever to remember and celebrate her legacy." Muwanguzi Rogers, Eagle's View Humanist School, Uganda (on Facebook)
"Her love for a strong and vibrant humanist community in Africa was unwavering." Kato Mukasa on Facebook

Lynda was born in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) during the freedom struggle (1960s/70s), and she recalled being required by her mother to take refuge in a linen cupboard with her sister whenever they heard explosions. Her father was a former Liverpool police officer from a non-religious family who emigrated to Africa in 1963, and her mother was 8th generation Zambian-born from a family of traders and shopkeepers.

Lynda was educated in government schools, and then, following her marriage, she lived on a farm in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, and wrote a popular blog about her life and travels in East Africa. She later worked in the tourist industry in Tanzania as the manager of a guest lodge in a wildlife reserve.

In 2020, Lynda was living in Durban, South Africa and experienced the urban riots which occurred there that year. She realised that the mainstream media were not reporting the troubles accurately and decided to do so herself. She thus launched her career as a freelance investigative journalist reporting on stories from across the continent.

Like many Humanists, Lynda was appalled by the 2020 arrest and subsequent conviction of the prominent Nigerian Humanist Mubarak Bala. Driven by her compassion and by her strong sense of justice, Lynda reached out to Humanist and Atheist organisations across Africa to rally support for Mubarak, and for his wife and child. In doing so she acquired an enormous number of contacts across the continent, many of whom became personal friends. She also became exceptionally well-informed about the difficulties faced by non-religious people in highly religious societies, and she was unsparing of herself in her attempts to help them.

Lynda was always deeply concerned about violations of human rights, whether in South Africa or elsewhere. She went to great lengths to help workers in South Africa who were being exploited by their employers, placing herself at significant risk while doing so. In the last weeks of her life she was heavily engaged in securing documentary evidence of repressive actions by government agencies in Sierra Leone, evidence which she lodged with human rights organisations.

Lynda died very suddenly following a stroke. She was 52.

The day before she died, Lynda sent me a voice note about a builder who had been shot in the groin by soldiers as he stood on his scaffolding in Freetown. She wanted me to know that she had managed to get some money to the man’s family so that they could take him to hospital for treatment. Lynda believed that even in the midst of a general disaster it was always worth trying to save just one person’s life if you could.

Obituary by Paul Ewans

Lynda was a founding member of United African Humanists and a member of the Advisory Board for Humanist Global Charity, California. She was based in Durban, South Africa.

Tributes on Facebook

Articles by Lynda

How human rights are faring in Africa

Why the phrase 'the Common Good' made me wince

Death by Drone in Africa: A dystopian future awaits us if we're not vigilant

Power to the People: How humanists in Africa are feeling empowered

Africa and the Commonwealth: A case of double standards

Making a home in a refugee camp

There are many more articles by Lynda in our PDF archive.

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