The impressive and colorful life of the man called "Y.B.B.," Yoasi B.B. Mushala, was ended Wednesday night by a robber's shotgun blast inside the Georgia Avenue tavern he and several friends owned.
Mushala, a native of Tanzania who once hiked up Mount Kilimanjaro, was, as one friend said, "a human dynamo." Along with his work at the Kenyon Grill, he taught philosophy and geography at Howard University, and translated farming news and reports from the United Nations into Swahili, which he broadcast to millions of listeners in Africa over the Voice of America. He and his wife Margaret brought up eight children.
The mood was somber in the Swahili division of the VOA office yesterday as fellow broadcasters attempted to put their programs together while mourning the brutal death of their friend. "There's just such sorrow here," said Abdullah Mbamba, who called the 46-year-old Mushala "very much a fatherly figure" in the office.
Three months ago, Mushala and four friends were searching for business ventures and decided to buy The Kenyon Grill at 3119 Georgia Ave. NW. The corner brick bar, painted olive green, has been there for at least 40 years and has long been a watering hole for neighborhood residents and Howard University staff members.
At 7 p.m. Wednesday, there were just a few customers in the bar when two men, one armed with a shotgun, walked in and began grabbing money from the cash register. The men also robbed one customer. When Mushala tried to reason with the robbers, he was shot once in the abdomen, and died a short time later. The robbers escaped with an undisclosed amount of money.
According to friends, it was not the first time Mushala had been a victim of crime in Washington. In 1971, he was returning to a party given by Tanzanian friends in an apartment building on New Hampshire Avenue and walked in on a holdup. As Mushala fled he was shot in the arm, said Emmanuel Muganda, another VOA broadcaster.
Muganda and his coworkers listened intently to newscasts about their friend yesterday and paid visits to the stunned family's home. Muganda said Margaret Mushala's bags had been packed for a long-awaited trip back to Tanzania. She and two of her children were to have left yesterday.
"He was a very enterprising and sociable guy . . . the life of the party," Muganda said. At farewell parties for VOA colleagues, "Mushala would always give the speech that would get everyone laughing," his friend added.
"It's a very sad thing," said William Banner, the former chairman of Howard's philosophy department.Banner said he has known Mushala since his arrival in Washington, and they had become good friends.
Mushala was born in Tanzania and studied in Ethiopia, Lebanon and Uganda. Climbing expeditions in eastern Africa took him up the sides of both Kilimanjaro, the highest peak on the continent, and Mount Elgon, a 14,000-foot-high extinct volcano.
He came to Washington in 1966 to attend Howard as an undergraduate and worked as a free-lance translator at the Voice of America. A year after he arrived, he sent for his family.
In 1973 Mushala was awarded a master's degree in philosophy from Howard and he began lecturing there and at Federal City College, now part of the University of the District of Columbia. Since 1976, Mushala had been an instructor of geography and philosophy at Howard.
"Africa has lost a very dedicated servant . . . apart from his family, the closest thing to his heart was to further the education of people from his country," said Athanase Maijo, one of Mushala's close friends at VOA and a business partner.
Maijo and the other co-owners of the Kenyon Grill have closed its doors. It will remain closed, Maijo said, "until we transport our friend's body back home."