Obulala na Amani

How Ambwere became the richest Luyia

Ibrahim Ambwere
Ibrahim Ambwere from Bendera, Maragoli in Vihiga County. Now 80, the reclusive Ambwere, a multi-billionaire, hardly grants interviews. PHOTO: Collins Oduor

By Mercy Adhiambo, April 16 2017
In the early 1980s, Ibrahim Ambwere stunned the nation by offering to pay teachers their delayed salaries amounting to Sh48 million. He was concerned about teachers’ welfare. “That was a lot of money in the 80s, but I had it and I was willing to bail them out,” he says. Yet Ambwere, a wealthy trader in Kitale, never had formal education. His parents were too poor to afford school fees. After his offer, he says he went through stress as government officials dug through his personal life. “I don’t want to talk about it, it still causes me pain,” he says.

When Sunday Standard sought him out two weeks ago, we asked him how much he is worth today. He let out a hearty laugh and said: “My culture does not allow me to discuss that, but I am definitely worth a lot.” Residents of Kitale are, however, not shy to give an estimate. “He is worth billions. He is richer than most politicians. People call him mheshimiwa,” says one shop tenant in a building Ambwere owns.

Ambwere has property in Kitale, Mbale, Kakamega, Kisumu, Nairobi and other major towns. Yet he maintains an air of mystery. He rarely appears in public and admits he has deliberately evaded the watchful eye of the media. “I trust very few people,” he says.

He was born in 1936 in Maragoli to a polygamous family. His mother was dumb and deaf and his father left to fight in the army four years after he was born and never returned. When he was eight, his mother died. It created an arc in his life – one he says catapulted him into becoming the man he is now. With his two siblings, he went around Maragoli working in people’s farms. When he was 10, he followed a group of older men to work in pyrethrum farms in Molo, Nakuru County. “I quit on my first day. My eyes itched and my nose was stuffy due to allergy,” he says.

He then met an Asian mason who employed him as a sweeper; a job he did diligently for close to 10 years. And then one morning, his employer told him he was leaving Kenya and handed him an old toolbox as a parting gift. “That tool box is an important detail in my narrative. My life started from it,” he says. With some Sh38 he had saved, Ambwere began his long trudge towards a new life. One that would make him wealthy beyond his imagination. He traced his home in Chavakali, but got a cold reception from relatives. He then rented a house, married his first wife Zipporah and started a carpentry shop. “I only had Sh38 and an old tool box,” he says.

Ambwere Hotel in Chavakali
Ambwere Alliance Hotel in Chavakali, Vihiga County. One of the many properties Ibrahim Ambwere built.

In 1963, he struck his first big deal when Kaimosi Hospital contracted him to make beds. When the hospital could not pay him, they gave him and old ambulance. “It was written ‘Ambulance’ and I used it to transport wood to my shop,” he says. In five years, he had built his own shop and moved from the rental premises. But some say his success story is “too neat” to be believed. Paul Ogembe, an accountant who says his father has interacted with Ambwere deeply, is doubtful of the ‘grass to grace’ story the old man projects. “My father says Ambwere is a sly man, and must have had connections with people in power back then to be where he is now,” says Ogembe.

Ambwere laughs at the claims, saying young people are used to hearing stories of theft and no longer in hard work and resilience. From a carpenter, Ambwere rose to become a property owner, putting up prominent buildings that have stood the test of time in Western. However, his personal life has been buffeted by family feuds that led him to divorce two wives. He claims his former wives colluded with his children and other people to swindle him of his hard earned money. He only found peace later in his life, he says, with his current wife Ebby Ingado who he married in 1994.

He is also diabetic, a malaise that had him admitted at Nairobi Hospital between 1989 and 1992. “When I came back, my business was in ruins. I had to start over,” he says. His deficiency in formal education has never hindered him from growing his brand. When the pressure to learn how to read and write mounted, he hired a tutor, a Lawrence Kisame, in the 70s. In four years, Ambwere could read, write and communicate in English. He gifted Kisame a house. “I built him a house because he transformed me. Teachers are special,” he says.

Ambwere Plaza, Kakamega
Ambwere Plaza in Kakamega Town towers as a symbol of achievement of a man born to a deaf and dumb mother and a father killed at war.

His stories are dotted with anecdotes of politicians he has interacted with. One of his buildings, Chavakali Hardware, was commissioned by former President Mwai Kibaki who was the then minister of Finance. He also mentions former President Daniel Moi as one of his prominent guests. “But I have never desired to be a politician,” he says with a playful smile on his face. The closest he has gotten to politics was in 2002 when he was appointed national head of Luhya Elders’ Council, a position he quit a few years later, claiming Luhya politicians had too many wrangles.

He plans to expand his business and is building a mall in Kitale, one he hopes will send ripples across the entire country. His children help him with business, directing him on technological advancements he can embrace to expand his business. “My father teaches us more than we teach him,” says his son Fransico. But locals feel he is immersed so deep in his own growth that he never casts a glance towards the underprivileged around him. “His house is huge, but his neighbours and workers are extremely poor.

He has never helped them,” says one of his employees. Ambwere appears pensive when claims of his stinginess arise, but suddenly nods and says: “It is true. I rarely give people money, especially those who try to take advantage of me. I have, however, never turned my back on people who genuinely need my help,” he says. He is now 80. When he looks back at how his life unfolded, he says he can only describe himself as a son of a deaf woman who beat all odds and created a name for himself. A name he hopes will linger on, long after he is gone.


Funnyman Papa Shirandula still going strong two decades later

Papa Shirandula Charles Bukeko
Charles Bukeko "Papa Shirandula" who escaped grinding poverty through acting. PHOTO: STANDARD

By Caroline Nyanga, March 21 2016
Actor, director, thespian, singer, father, husband and good will ambassador to Asia, Charles Bukeko popularly known as Papa Shirandula is still growing strong nearly two decades down the line. A custodian at the University of Nairobi, his story is one that gives hope to thousands of aspiring actors in the country having climbed from the unfathomable levels of poverty. “I am one person who came into the industry on the right foot and ended up working with the right people which made things easier for me,” says Bukeko whose creation of the local comical programme Papa Shirandula has continuously gained fame over the years. “Nothing can go wrong if you trust in God and follow your dream and heart yearnings,” he adds.

Born in humble family background in Buhalarire sublocation which straddles the border of Mumias and Marachi sub counties, Papa Shirandula’s rise to stardom has not been an easy one. It is a tough journey that has seen him through ups and downs. “As the first child in a family of four, I had the responsibility to help my parents, Mrs Valeria Makokha and Cosmas Wafula, in taking take care of my siblings,” says the actor who attended Jogoo Road Primary School and Upper Hill Secondary. Upon completing school he moved to Nairobi’s sprawling Eastland’s Uhuru estate, where he would often trek many kilometers to the Kenya National Theatre. “Dr JPR Ochieng Odera was my first director in 1998. He gave me a line which read ‘that camera doesn’t have a film’ which I did to his satisfaction.” From then on there was no turning back for the actor who later moved to Phoenix Theatre, where he met renowned actor Ian Mbugua. The latter introduced Papa Shirandula to James Forkland who decided to train him for free on theatre basics for a period of three years, and like they say the rest is history.

Apart from the GOTV advert which he appeared on, Papa Shirandula has also been on big time commercials across the world like Coca Cola in Indonesia and Vodacom in South Africa. The Coca-Cola advert was shot in 2001 and ended up being a bang years later. While the Vodacom’s first and second concepts were in 2008 and in 2010. “In this advertisement I portray that stubborn African dictator Idi Amin Dada who is seemingly uncomfortable with the idea of new technology choosing to view it as a threat. The concept worked well making the advert very popular,” he says. This aside, Papa Shirandula who is also the Goodwill Ambassador for South East Asia, has traveled, acted and done concepts for countries like China, Malaysia, Japan, Vietnam Indonesia, Singapore, South Africa, Cambodia, Mauritius, Hong Kong and Makau.

Charles Bukeko
Comedian Charles Bukeko internationally acclaimed by his stage name of Papa Shirandula. PHOTO: STANDARD

The actor recalls that at first it wasn’t taking into consideration that he had to find a new concept for a new Swahili local programme in order to make it acceptable. “Initially it almost seemed impossible since Kenyans preferred Mexican soaps that were ruling the airwaves. Today, I am glad that I have established a name for myself both locally and abroad -where I am often referred to as African king of comedy,” he says. Papa Shirandula has featured in several movies among them Fernando Meirelles's excellent adaptation of John le Carré's novel The Constant Gardener. Another is award winning movie Maloon by Bob Nyanja where he played the role of a watchman. Other productions include Pambazuka at the Kenya National Theatre and Makutano Junction where he played the role of a cruel, arrogant and corrupt MP Harrison Matata, for a period of two years.

A few years down the line his efforts were rewarded when he won the Best Actor in a TV series while his programme Papa Shirandula won in the Best Comedy category during Kalasha Awards held in 2010. Other awards include Best Comedy in TV series while his co- actor Kenneth Mugoya bagged best performance in comedy. But like any other successful artist Papa Shirandula has had his weird moments as a public figure. He recalls that sometime back he received a threatening text message from a stranger who demanded that he sends him Sh90,000 via M-Pesa. “Unmoved by the threats I carried on my life as usual after reporting the matter to the police,” says the actor. The actor is married to Beatrice Ebbie Andega with whom we have three children Tony, Charlie and baby Wendy. “She has been the pillar of my life. A faithful humble, loving companion in life’s journey,” he says. His advice to aspiring artists is to never give up in achieving their life dreams. “It all comes down to patience, consistency and being persistent. They should always remember that Life isn’t about how much money you have but the difference you make in someone’s life,” he concludes.


National team soccer star, Jared Ingutia, is dead

Jared Ingutia
Jared Ingutia at his home in Kakamega. Photo: Benjamin Sakwa

By Francis Ontomwa, November 6 2014
Veteran footballer and Kakamega Homeboyz tactician Jared Ingutia (top) is dead. The former Harambee Stars and Kakamega’s Ministry of Works (MoW) player died on Tuesday morning after a short illness. The 59-year-old succumbed to a short illness at the Kakamega Provincial General Hospital. In his heyday in the 70s and 80s, his excellence earned him the monicker Platini, likening his prowess to then French maestro Michel Platini, currently the president of Uefa. Football lovers mourned him as a long serving player who was never red-carded in his long career. “He exhibited a lot of discipline on and off the field. He carried these traits into his coaching career. He has left a huge gap in Kenyan football,” Western Stima coach Henry Omino said. His first call-up to the national team came in 1976 then under the tutelage of Coach Eckhard Krautzun. He was quickly slotted into the team’s first squad. “He was more than a coach but also a father who spoke and everyone listened, Homeboyz has lost an icon,” said Bonny Imbenzi, Homeboyz club manager.

West Sugar Kenya Coach Hezborn Nyabinge described Ingutia as a mentor and a man who would always lend his support to young talents in Western Kenya. “We had a lot of respect for him, he understood the ins and outs of soccer and through his hands many talents have been born,” noted Nyabinge. Ingutia had guided Homeboyz to second place in the National Super League Zone B. His last league assignment would have been the much anticipated local derby against West Kenya slated for next week. He is survived by a wife and will be rested next week at his Rosterman home in Kakamega. According to fostats.com, Ingutia was capped 46 times for the national team, scoring seven times.

He was first capped on November 12, 1976 by the late Jonathan Niva as Kenya lost 2-0 to Zambia in a Cecafa Cup game in Zanzibar. He played his last game for the national team on October 13, 1985 under Marshal Mulwa as Kenya fell 2-0 to Zimbabwe in the 1985 Cecafa final. He scored his first of seven goals for Harambee Stars via an 89th minute penalty in Kenya’s 1-0 win over Somalia in a Cecafa contest played on November 11, 1978 at the Kamuzu Banda Stadium, Malawi.
Additional reporting by Rodgers Eshitemi

Source: Standard

Days of Grace Ogot as a woman of culture and letters

Grace Akinyi Ogot
Grace Akinyi Ogot


By Prof Chris Wanjala, Nairobi, January 6 2013
Hon Grace Akinyi Ogot  is woman who has powerfully influenced East Africa’s  literary narrative and played a public role not only in medicine and community development but also in the country and parliamentary politics.  She and her husband, Professor Bethwell Allan Ogot, have not only brought up a brilliant family, but they have stood by each other to foster creative and scholarly writing in our region. All the people who remember the sterling role of the East Africa Journal and its literary supplement which ran for decades as a publication of the East African Publishing remember the debates that characterized that publication. They will remember the well- documented polemics raised by the like of Okot p’Bitek, Taban lo Liyong, and Ngugi  wa Thiong’o. Grace Ogot’s own short story, Island of Tears, which followed the tragic demise of Hon. Thomas Joseph Mboya, was published in one of the issues of the East Africa Journal.

Grace Akinyi Ogot has now published the story of her life entitled “Days of My Life: An Autobiography.“ Anyange Press Limited  based in Kisumu City are the publishers of the 325 page account which traces Grace Ogot’s origin to Joseph Nyanduga, the mission boy who grew up in Nyanza, and after being orphaned sought his fortune in Mombasa where he was a locomotive driver, and Rahel  Ogori, a mission girl. Nyanduga and Ogori were Christian converts and evangelists who defied the conservative Luo mores and traditions to chart out their lives and the lives of their children. There is a way in which the couple sacrificed a lot to deny themselves a working life in Mombasa to promote Christianity in Nyanza in the best manner possible. It is apparent in this story that when African cultures went against the practical existence of the couple, they defied them and went on with their lives as they thought best. There are, however, instances where Christianity, threatened their existence. In a manner of speaking, they modified conservative aspects of Christianity and went on with their lives.

Perhaps the best examples of their existential choices are there in the manner in which Joseph Nyanduga built his own home as a newly married man, away from his parents. The procedure of establishing one’s dala (home) away from one’s parents according to the Luo culture is explained in Grace Ogot’s novel, The Promised Land (1966). Joseph Nyanduga, however, goes against all the grain, acquires an education, travels to Mombasa where he is employed and when he feels the urge to evangelize among his people, he cuts short his career and returns home in Nyanza.

Days of My Life is a well-told story by one of Africa’s internationally acclaimed prose writer; it places the author in a unique position as far as the recent spate of autobiographies by erstwhile and practicing politicians in this country is concerned. It is the story of a woman who rises from the humble background of missionary life to soar high in the ranks of hospital nurses in Kenya, Uganda, and the United Kingdom. She goes against all the odds of racial prejudice among the colonial minority who did not expect Africans to excel in Medicine, and treats fellow Africans who are patients in her hands as respectable creatures against all the brutal practices where white health workers discriminated against their African patients. She has the best training in England and comes to work at Maseno Mission Hospital and Mulago hospital, Kampala. She is appointed Principal of a Homecraft Training Centre, becomes a councilor, a church leader, a business woman, and leading politician in the Moi era.

The book goes into the author’s education in colonial Kenya, revealing her leadership qualities, her high moral values, and her ability to learn new local languages. But perhaps the most instructive thing about the book is the strength of the love between Grace and the man she married. Throughout the account is the sobriety of their relationship and the way it informed her career development including writing. Their marriage was preceded by a protracted courtship period and an exchange of lengthy love letters. She had come from a background of strong story telling tradition which merged with her husband’s interest in oral history. He was then researching the history of the southern Luo drawing heavily from oral traditions. He readily appreciated her as a writer and pointed out the poetry in her letters to him. As the editor of Ghala: the Literary Supplement of the East Africa Journal he became one of early East African intellectuals to encourage her as a writer.

Mrs Ogot comments generously on her parents, relatives, members of the protestant church to which she belongs, her siblings and her fellow writers and literary intellectuals. There are stylistic flaws and errors of fact, dates, and even information on people, events and places in the book. Per Wastberg , the current Chairman of the Nobel Committee for Literature is a man. He has done a lot of work for African literature in Europe and Africa. But Grace Ogot writes: “In March 1961, I received a letter from a Swedish lady – a Miss Wastberg – author and journalist. She was on a tour of East Africa. In her letter, she told me that she was editing an anthology of African writing for publication in Sweden later that year. She had failed to discover any authors in East Africa. Eighteen countries in Africa would be represented in her book. She had heard from several people at Makerere University College, including Gerald Moore (a literary critic).”

 The book is courageous and strong on politics and public administration of Nyanza Province and the entire country during the so-called Nyayo Era. It gives background information on assassinations on politicians in Nyanza and some of the people she replaced in her constituency.  She gives accounts of how she and her husband went through a lot of pain to have access to President Moi in order to organize fund-raising meetings to develop her constituency. The book however shows how she badly let down writers and thespians as Assistant Minister for Culture and Social Services. She never worked to improve the working climate of the Kenya Cultural Centre in general and the Kenya National Theatre in particular.

Prof Chris Wanjala is chairman of Literature Department, University of Nairobi and National Book Development Council of Kenya.

Meet John Wanyonyi Manguliechi, the revered traditional Bukusu preacher

John Wanyonyi Manguliechi
Therevered kumuse traditional orator, Mzee John Wanyonyi Manguliechi who was received a Presidential Commendation during Mashujaa Day celebrations on October 10, 2011

By Nandemu Baraza
This year, 2011 marks the 81st year sincere the famous Bukusu preacher and leader John Wanyonyi Manguliechi was born. Mzee Manguliech was born in 1930 in Kamusinga village, Kimilili Division Bungoma County. He was the only son in a family of three. His father who was a farmer and livestock keeper was called Manguliech of Bameme clan among Neala cluster of Bukusu sub tribe, Luhya tribe. Manguliechi`s mother was called Namubuya and she only had three children, two girls and one boy Wanyonyi Manguliechi. His father passed on in July 1936 when Mzee Manguliechi was only six years old. He started school in 1938 at Kamusinga primary but transferred up to Kibingei Primary in the year 1945. Mzee Manguliechi remembers his first teacher as if it was just yesterday; “My first teacher at Kamusinga was called Prokomo Matamali but when I joined Kibingei Primary, my first teacher there was called Ferdinand Mumali,” he recalls. Mzee Manguliechi was initiated in the year 1946 being Omukinyekeu the last group among Bukusu sub tribe. He was at Kibingei Primary up to 1947 but the whole of 1948 he stayed home until 1949 when he went to the settlement schemes where he worked on a white man`s farm. He was preparing bricks for sell by his boss. He returned home in 1950 and went back to school at Kimilili commonly known as Wa Nabwana. However he did not continue with his education due to lack of fees and therefore he dropped from school the same year when he was in class two.

In 1951, Mzee Manguliechi went to Endebess settlement scheme and was again employed by a whiteman at a dairy farm as a clerk. He worked there up to 1954 and came back home. He married his first wife Mary Naliaka from Balunda clan among the Bukusu in 1956. Due to a lot of hardship in life Manguliechi did not have any other alternative but to look for another employment opportunity to earn a living. He was secured a chance at Kibisi Coffee Factory from 1958 to 1961 before being promoted into being Supervisor the position he held until 1967 when he stopped and went back home. In 1969 he joined Kibingei Primary School parents association as the Committee member until he was elected the school`s chairman in 1972 the position he held until 1985.

Rosemary Nakhumicha
Rosemary Nakhumicha, the only surviving wife of Mzee Wanyonyi Manguliechi

By the end of 1985, he had started preaching as a Bukusu preacher although he had not been officially ordained. In November 23rd 1985, he was officially ordained as a traditional preacher and given official attire for his work. It is important to note here that among Bukusu people before one is approved and ordained as a traditional preacher, he has to meet certain requirements, such as being the only oldest man in the clan and his first born must be a male. Remember also that there are specific clans among Bukusu which produce traditional preachers. So you must come from that clan or be related to such a clan before you are ordained. If you force yourself into it and yet you don’t qualify, you will be inviting calamities including death. Traditional preachers are much respected among the Bukusu and their advice is always sought by both the young and old. Despite Manguliechi’s father being a member of Dini Ya Musambwa Manguliechi did not attend any services in Musambwa even when they were held in their homestead sometimes. Manguliechi was baptized in 1947 at Misikhu Catholic Church and given the name John although he currently does not like the name and in his introduction he only uses Wanyonyi Manguliechi. When he spoke to us, he says the only names he loves are Wanyonyi and Manguliechi.

Mzee Mnaguliechi remembers how he assisted Dini Ya Musambwa leader Maloba Elima who took over for sometime after the death of Elijah Masinde Wanameme in 1987. Maloba is said to have written a letter to the President in 1988 accusing the Kenyan government of sabotaging activities of Dini Ya Musambwa. In his letter, Maloba told the president to give Dini Ya Musambwa followers an opportunity to practise their faith. He threatened the president that Musambwa people with alleged ten million people will not vote for the then president unless he legalized Musambwa activities. Mzee Manguliechi says that that letter was not well received by the president and therefore he sent the Provincial Commissioner of Western province to arrest Maloba and let him face the law.

Mzee Maloba who confirms the whole story as explained by Mzee Manguliechi says he was leading a prayer session at his Lugulu home one Saturday when two vehicles arrived in his homestead and took him to the DO’s office in Webuye to record a statement. He says he defended himself and argued that he was only delivering information on behalf of many Bukusu people. He was required to mention some people which he did. He mentioned among others Mzee Manguliechi, Yonah Namuli, Wangachi and Wanyama. The then DO directed for their summoning but unfortunately not all of them were found. Mzee Manguliechi, Wangachi, Wanyama were among those who were brought before the DO. Among all of those who were brought before the DO, it was only Manguliechi (pictured on a wheel chair) who defended Mzee Maloba, in fact, he went there dressed in the traditional attire and insisted on respecting his culture. After a lengthy talk with the DO which involved discussing culture and its importance, Mzee Maloba was set free. It is important to note here that all the elders who were called by Mzee Maloba to defend him at the DO’s office were traditional preachers.

Mzee Manguliech likes farming and despite being old he has been growing maize, bananas, beans, Coffee and millet. He also keeps livestock which he says have been helping him for along time. However, Mzee Manguliechi does not enjoy his life presently. He says his life changed drastically after conducting a preaching ceremony at the late Vice President Michael Wamawa Kijana’s home. “My leg developed a problem after attending the late Vice President’s traditional preaching ceremony,” he says. He was later taken by his children to Tororo, Kakamega, Kitale, Webuye, Lumboka,Nairobi for treatment but there was no change until 2007 when Hon Musikari Kombo took him back to Webuye hospital and the doctor recommended that his leg be amputated. Right now, Mzee Manguliechi has only one leg and he uses a wheel chair though it is very old despite being a respected person among Bukusu.

At the moment, Mzee Manguliechi’s family comprises of 22 children, 10 sons and 12 daughters, 80 grandchildren and 140 great grand children. In total, Mzee Manguliechi had five wives, Mary Naliaka from Balunda clan whom he married in 1956, Rosemary Nakhumicha from Baechalo clan whom he married in early 1967, Mary from Bakimweyi Batolometi clan married in September 1967, Mila Nasimiyu from Bakitang’a clan married in 1988 and Rosemary Namachanja from Bayundo clan whom he married in 1995. However, the only wife who is still alive is Rosemary Nakhumicha picured above. Among the ten sons of Manguliechi seven are married while among the twelve daughters only seven are married. One son is in Kenya Navy, another one is teacher then another son is a pastor. Mzee Manguliechi says his daughters have not been successful because among the entire twelve only one is a teacher. However one daughter is in college in Nairobi while one of the other sons who are not married is in form one at Miruri secondary school. Mzee Manguliechi says his greatest challenge is to pay school fees bearing in mind that he depends fully on his coffee which he quickly adds that it is not doing well.

On Luhya Unity, Mzee Manguliechi says he will soon call all Luhya Mps and have a discussion with them on the future of Luhya people especially on the political arena. He says the region has been left behind for so long as a result of disunity among leaders. Recently Mzee Manguliechi was feted by the president as a hero during the2011 Mashujaa Day celebrations initially Kenyatta Day. He appreciated the government for the recognition although challenged Western people to put in place plans that must ensure the region is recognized fully in all aspects. He says as it is now, other regions appear to be more respected and feted compared to Western region which he argues has also contributed tremendously in social, economic and political transformation of the Republic of Kenya besides fighting for independence and second liberation.

Source: Westfm

Seasoned judge weathers judicial storm: Meet Justice Emmanuel O'Kubasu

Justice Emmanuel Okubasu
Ouch! That hurts. Justice Emmanuel O'Kubasu being interviewed for the position of Supreme Court judge in May 2011.

By our correspondent, December 10 2011
The Hon. Justice Emmanuel O’Kubasu was born on 4th August, 1945 in Kisa (then under Kakamega District). He was brought up in Nairobi and in 1954 joined D.E.B Bahati (now Heshima Road Primary School) in Nairobi. At Standard Four he sat what was then known as Common Entrance Examination in November, 1957 and passed this Examination and was admitted to Government African School Pumwani in Standard Five in January, 1958.

In 1961 he sat what was then Kenya Preliminary Examination and passed very well and was admitted to Thika High School in February, 1962 in Form One.  In 1965 sat for Cambridge School Certificate and passed with Division One. He joined Form Five at Thika High School in January, 1966 majoring in English, History and Geography and two subsidiaries i.e. General Paper and Religious Knowledge. In November 1967 O’Kubasu sat for “A” Levels and passed in all the subjects he had taken-English, History, Geography and the two subsidiaries – General Paper and Religious Knowledge, he was then attached to the Voice of Kenya where he worked as a script writer presenter and occasionally as an announcer and news reader. In his last year in school he was the School Captain (Head Prefect).

In December, 1967 he was employed as an Assistant Manager by African Highlands Produce Company Ltd and posted to Kericho later to be sponsored by the Company for a short course in management at the University of Nairobi at Kikuyu Campus and then to another course in leadership at Outward Bound School Loitoktok.

In July 1968, he was admitted to the then University of East Africa at the Dar-es-salaam College where he enrolled for LL.B. (London). In March, 1971 the Hon Justice graduated from the University College Dar-es-salaam with LL.B. degree.

On coming back to Kenya he joined the Law Firm of Hamilton Harrison & Mathews Advocates in April, 1971 and also enrolled at the Kenya School of Law for pupilage.

In April, 1972 he was appointed a State Counsel in the Attorney General’s Chambers and also admitted to the Roll of Advocates of the High Court of Kenya.

In February, 1974 he was appointed a Resident magistrate in Nairobi and then transferred to Kiambu District in May, 1974 as the Resident Magistrate in charge of the district. In October, 1977 Judge O’Kubasu was promoted to the position of Senior Resident Magistrate but remained in Kiambu District.

On 4th June, 1981 he was appointed a judge of the High Court of Kenya, worked in Nairobi until October, 1981 when he was posted to Nyeri as the Resident Judge in charge of Central and Eastern provinces. In January, 1983 he was transferred back to Nairobi.

In 1985 he was assigned the responsibility of establishing a High Court at Machakos, a task he completed on 4th March. He worked in Machakos in March and April, 1985 and then came back to Nairobi.

In August, 1985 he was appointed a Commissioner at the Kenya Law Reform Commission. In August, 1988 he was re-appointed a Commissioner and in October, 1989 he was appointed Chairman of the Kenya Law Reform Commission.

In 1992 he came back to the High Court where he presided over numerous Election Petitions arising from the 1992 General Elections. In 1991 he was appointed chairman of the Community Service Orders Committee with a view to coming up with appropriate legislation for community service as an alternative to imprisonment. As a committee we traveled widely to study the operation of such a scheme. In the end we drafted the community service orders bill culminating in the Community Service Orders Act No. 10 of 1998 which became operational on 23rd July, 1999.

Emmanuel OkubasuEmmanuel O'Kubasu
LEFT: At home with Justice Emmanuel O'Kubasu and RIGHT: All garbed up in official regalia.

In 1996 he was also appointed the chairman of a commission of Inquiry to investigate the disappearance of a small ship “Tag Harrier” which had disappeared in the Indian Ocean. The inquiry was conducted by way of public hearing at the P.C.’s  Board room in Mombasa and at the end of public hearing he prepared a report which was handed over to the Minister of Transport and Communication.

In 1998 he was appointed a member of the Tribunal that investigated the suitability or otherwise of the then Director of the then Anti-Corruption Authority. In 1999 the Tribunal’s final findings were compiled in a Report which was then presented to the president for his final decision.

In December, 1999 he was appointed a judge of the Court of Appeal.

In December, 2003 he was appointed a member of the Counsel of Legal Education. In 2004 he was appointed the Chairman of Counsel of Legal Education as from 10th August, 2004 where he have had the privilege of overseeing the growth of Kenya School of Law from its former site along Ralph Bunche road near Nairobi Hospital into a fully fledged institution of legal training as to be the centre of excellence of legal training in East and Central Africa.

He has presented a number of papers on versions topic e.g. “Environmental Law in Kenya Law of Succession in Kenya” Law Reform Commission and its objectives etc. He has been involved in training Magistrates in Kenya (induction Trainings) each African judge conference and judgment writing in Kampala. He has widely travelled attending conferences, especially Commonwealth Law Conferences and workshops in various cities of the world.

He is a member of various clubs such as Muthaiga Golf Club, United Kenya Club, Kiambu Golf Club, Nyeri Golf Club, Kitale Golf Club, Kakamega Golf Club etc. Occasionally he plays golf but he prefers working in the gym at Safari Park Hotel Fitness Club.

Although he holds the position of a Judge of Appeal and Chairman of Counsel of Legal Education, he still thinks that there is a lot that he does not know. Hence in his spare time he reads widely in search of knowledge since learning has no end. He has attended many international conferences including Commonwealth Law Conference in Jamaica in 1986, New Zealand in 1990 and in India in 2011.

In 2011, Justice O’Kubasu was interviewed for a position on the newly constituted Supreme Court but was not successful.

Source: Judiciary, Republic of Kenya

Though he died poor, Daudi Kabaka enriched our lives

Daudi Kabakadaudi kabaka masika
Daudi Kabaka Masika, the music maestro from Tiriki lives on 10 years after his death.

By John Kabaka, 30 August 2011
I am sitting in the office at around 5:13 pm after a busy day of searching newsworthy stories in Kakamega and Vihiga counties; the areas I do cover. I am listening to the leading station and most listened to in western Kenya and the North rift, West fm. On air is one of the hit songs played by the African twist king Daudi Kabaka.

Something comes in my mind that the legend is no more but from where I’m sitting in west fm ICT centre Kakamega people are really applauding the music. As a mirror of the society I decide I should do something and find out on their behalf, who Kabaka was in the field of music. I set off the next morning and I catch up with  my car at the stage that will drop at the junction on Kakamega - Kisumu Road, from their I enter a vehicle heading to Kapsabet and after  quite a long drive I’m at the Cheptulu Shopping center of Hamisi constituency. At Hamisi I negotiate with an Ogada man who offers to take me to Muhudu the home land of the late, off the tarmac road and now to the murrum road, we pass by Shibanga sub location and after like a kilo metre, we enter a terrain you will never want to use but I’m focused. For about 5 kilometres my boda pilot as he calls himself shows me a home of only one house and a big un-dug field, as a gentleman who appreciates Kabaka my nickname and his music I’m indeed surprised like many of you will in a second.

The only house belongs to Kabaka’s son Reuben Abwonyo who is not here though but in Nairobi, I wanted to know inside me and asked myself, where is his house, and the gentleman who takes care of the home comes on and tells me that his master, Kabaka’s son pulled down the small structure that was there some months ago. He goes further and tells me that Kabaka had no house here and that structure was just erected after he died to appear he had a house of which he hadn’t. The only thing seen here is hard red soil that has been now been converted into a farmland ready to be planted. On the other side of the house lies three tombs of which one that is poorly cemented with fading off names that belong to the legend, the African king of twist. “This is where lies Daudi Kabaka, don’t be surprised because what am telling is true,” said Samuel Mboyi as I stared at him as if I did not believe it.

daudi chwaa IIdaudi kabaka
LEFT: Daudi Chwa Kabaka II (1896- 1939) after whom Kabaka was named. His father worked for Uganda Railways in Kampala and young Kabaka's birth coincided with the death of the Buganda monarch. RIGHT: Daudi Kabaka doing what he did best - entertaining audiences across the country.

At the edge of his land lies part of Kaimosi forest, the ever green forest and here is where Tiriki boys being converted into men face their knives and lives till they are well. Now we are at the legend's home, no house, nothing to show that he existed and he was indeed a legend but only his grave that will very soon disappear but his music will remain. As One of the musical architects of Kenya's burgeoning recording industry of the 1960s, Daudi Kabaka, passed away on November 26, 2001, two days short of his 62nd birthday. 

Kabaka's music and lyrics captured the spirit of a newly independent Kenya and chronicled daily life and the changing social environment. His music would be instantly recognizable to most Kenyans and those in the larger Swahili speaking region within Eastern Africa. Sadly, very little of Kabaka's music is known outside of Africa today. However, fans of Kenyan music may actually have some of his work without knowing it.

Throughout the 60s, he was one of the salaried musicians to work at Equator Sound Studio in Nairobi alongside other well-known musicians of the time: Gabriel Omolo, George Agade, David Amunga, Nashil Pichen, Peter Tsotsi, and Charles and Frida Songo, and Fadhili William. Daudi's guitar or voice is heard in such hits as Fadhili William's Malaika, Pole Musa by Peter Tsotsi and Nashil Pichen, Taxi Driver with Fadhili, and Gabriel Omolo's Lunch Time. For more than a generation, one of Kabaka's compositions, Harambee Harambee, was played hourly on the Voice of Kenya (now KBC).  It was a signature tune, played at the end of every news cast. While the use of Harambee Harambee was undoubtedly a source of pride if not income for Kabaka, he was perhaps even more pleased by his status as "King of Twist." That is, "twist" in the Chubby Checker sense. Over the next few years, Kabaka composed a series of songs with references to "twist" in the lyrics and titles, a number of which became big hits throughout East Africa: African Twist, Bachelor Boy Twist, Bush Baby Twist, Taita Twist, etc. For Kabaka and his fans, however, it wasn't the lyrics or the titles that made it twist.

Kabaka's home at Muhudu, Tiriki
Daudi Kabaka's home at Muhudu, Tiriki looks like an abandoned homestead. Kabaka, who lived most of his life in Nairobi, did not have a house at Muhudu.

It was the beat. Daudi based his twist style on the South African kwela beat. In essence, it was a fast "wemoweh" rhythm.  Yet, each of his songs had something unique or innovative about them. Even his Harambee Harambee is a version of twist.  The melody, however, sounds like the old American chain gang song, Worried Man Blues (popularised by the Kingston Trio as, A Worried Man).  While the strumming rhythm guitar provides the twist beat, the bass is walking up and down the scale on the beat, the tambourine is on the backbeat, and the lead guitar is off doing rockabilly solos. Another of Kabaka's twist tunes, Helule Helule, caught the attention of the British pop group, The Tremeloes.  They borrowed the chorus, added some English verses and made it to number 14 in the British charts in May, 1967.  For its use, Kabaka did share a substantial licensing fee with his Equator Sound producer, Charles Worrod, though Daudi questioned why he never received any further royalties. Twist was certainly not Kabaka's only style. Kilio Kwetu has the same unplugged sound as African Twist but its beat is more like a rumba. Although Kabaka's ancestral home was Tiriki in Western Kenya, he actually spent little of his childhood or adult life there.

He was born in Kyambogo Uganda (near Kampala) in 1939 (and named after Kabaka Daudi Chwa, the Buganda king who died that same year).  By 1950, his father, a railway worker, had been transferred to Nairobi and Daudi came to join him and to enter St. Peter Clavers Primary School. At the age of twelve, his father found new accommodations for him with some young men who had guitars and a phonograph. This exposed him to the music of Jean Bosco, Losta Abelo, and Léon Bukasa, among others. It was only two years later, in 1954, that 14-year old Daudi Kabaka recorded his own composition, Nie Kabaka Naimba, for the CMS label (Capitol Music Stores).  He continued with music and school up to 1957 when he took a job with a hotel and catering company. However, his career as a food and beverage manager was short lived.

In 1959, he began working with Equator Sound Studio and soon became a salaried member of the Equator Sound Boys. As suggested above, it was a time of close cooperation and collaboration between some of Africa's most gifted musicians. While owner/producer Charles Worrod was certainly looking after his interests in registering himself as the composer/arranger of Equator label songs, he also provided a fruitful atmosphere where his salaried staff could experiment, learn, and develop. In the late 60s, he enrolled six of his core musicians including Daudi in a two-year course at the Conservatory of Music in Nairobi to learn music notation and theory. That goodwill soon ended however for Daudi when Worrod learned of Daudi's membership in the PRS (Performing Right Society) in London. He resigned from Equator Sound and, in 1972, with some of his old Equator colleagues; they launched their own production company, African Eagles Recording, Ltd. The studio band worked under the name African Eagles Lupopo and had a number of successful releases through the mid-70s and tours through Zambia, Malawi, and Uganda.

Daudi Kabaka's grave
The grave of Daudi Kabaka at his Muhudu homestead in Tiriki. He was buried on December 15 2001.

Following the demise of African Eagles Recording, Ltd., Daudi continued to record, collaborating from time to time with old colleagues and new partners like the Maroon Commandos, though during this period, the big hits eluded him. The late 80s and early 90s was a period of semi-retirement. In 1993, URTNA (the Union of Radio and Television Networks in Africa) recognized Kabaka's achievements with an honorary title of "Kenyan Cultural Ambassador." This was followed in 1995 by Kenyatta University's Distinguished Service Award. With his background as a musician and his training from the music conservatory, Kabaka later taught for several years as a Creative Arts instructor at Kenyatta University.

Over the last couple of years, he started performing regularly with other veteran musicians of his generation such as Fadhili William, George Agade, and John Nzenze in Oldies Nite performances. With the passing of Fadhili and George, Kabaka had brought together a new band of younger musicians he called Wazalendo Eagles Band. Daudi Kabaka Masika was buried at his home in Muhudu, Tiriki in western Kenya on December 15th 2001. His community is like forgetting him but his name and music will forever remain.

The only hope remaining in Kabaka’s home is one tree which am told is so unique that it never grows anywhere but only where the grass used to thatch houses grow; but here it is in Kabaka’s home. Its name is Munanyenzo a tree that is said it has a medicinal value and plays a big role in the Tiriki community. It is said to send away bad dreams or demonic nightmares. It is placed under the mattress and if the owner of the bed has been having the so called “bad and scary demonic dreams” by the time the leaves are placed under the mattress the fellow will never have the dreams again. Because many might need this by the time they read this story I carried a branch with me and if you have been encountering the dreams check on so that we can find out, but the Tiriki community say it works. Kenyatta University drama and choir club has been known for playing and liking Kabaka music for long time and its band entertained the large congregation of mourners, playing Kabaka's own compositions. The legend left behind a reported 47 children.
Source: westfm

King of Bukusu music's family lives in abject poverty

By Nandemu Barasa, May 4 2011
When you mention the name Wasike Wa Musungu among the Bukusu people, and Western Kenya as a whole and further North Rift and Eastern Uganda, people will be very keen on the next statement you might put across concerning this man who left many hearts touched from the lyrics that he produced that were full of wisdom and advice. 

Wasike Wa Musungu as he was commonly known was born in 1931 in a small dull village called Lurare which is now called Nabakhwe in Malakisi initially in West Bukusu but now Bungoma West District in Bungoma County. He was the first born among thirteen children of the late Enoch Khaukha Omutaa and Dinah Khwaka Omubikhuli from Uganda. 

Wasike wa Musungu
Wasike wa Musungu's worldly possessions.

Wasike`s second name Musungu was his fathers. His father Enock was nicknamed Musungu during the colonial period after working for a white man for a long time. Wasike was baptized in the Anglican Church and was given the name Benedict. 

The late Wasike started going to school in the year 1936 at Malakisi Primary in Bungoma County although he did not take education serious because he had already developed the interest of playing musical instruments and singing. 

On several occasions, Wasike ran away from school only to be found in bushes playing musical instruments that he had developed a liking, for himself. The first instrument he played was called Walubende before moving to Ekagwo in Kiganda which is an equivalent of Silili. 

One of Wasike`s widows Dinah Nakhumicha, describes him as a person she knew from childhood though she says he used to smoke cigarettes  and many times he was found smoking from pit latrines of course because the school administration could not allow that. 

After finishing class one, Wasike stopped going to school until he was forced to go back in 1940 only to finish class four and then dropped completely from school. The late Wasike had by 1944 graduated from playing Silili and he was by then playing Limoyi and Litungu that he made it himself from a special tree.  He was later initiated in 1948 being the age set of Omunyange sia Musambwa.

It was unfortunate that just days after Wasike`s initation, his father passed on and left him when he was still undergoing treatment. 

The late Wasike`s mother moved with her family to Uganda after the death of her husband and it is there that he first recorded his first song although it did not reach Kenya. Wasike married his first wife Rosa Wasike in 1952 and gave birth to a son called Khaukha in 1956 but in the same year he married a second wife called Nasike who gave birth to a son. 

Dinah Nakhamicha

He married the 3rd wife in 1965 and had with her two children a son and daughter in 1966 and 1968 respectively. In 1969, he married the 4th wife who gave birth to three sons namely Julius Simiyu, Richard Wasike and Wabwile in 1971, 1973 and 1975 respectively. 

By that time the late Wasike was playing a guitar and when he came back to Kenya from Uganda towards 1978, he produced a hit song Amin in relation to what he had seen in Uganda during the reign of the late Iddi Amin. He went to Nairobi on several occasions to perform in different ceremonies among them, to entertain the late President Jomo Kenyatta.  

His wife alleges that in those ceremonies her husband got nothing and that what was given out for him ended up in the pockets of a strong politician by that time in Bungoma.  Wasike`s family claims that even though the late brought them all the fame, he lived a miserable life due to what they term as being conned by producers. 

Despite the hardships that he went through, his wife and son Richard reveal that the late liked meat, fish and he tried hard to ensure there was fish to be served with other traditional food such as cassava, sweet potatoes and others. 

James Otung`uli who featured in most of Wasike`s songs describes him as a gentleman who worked hard, liked consulting unlike the current musicians who would just move to a production studio and record anything even before they consult. On that Otunguli credits Wasike adding that it contributed to his success as his songs were full of lessons and with discipline. 

Otunguli who is still in the music industry also confirms that many artistes have failed due to piracy and being conned by producers and he calls upon the government to ensure adherence of laws on music so that the artistes can also enjoy the fruits of their labour. Other artistes that Wasike collaborated with include Wesley Barasa, Andrea Kakai, Peter Wanundu, Kelas Wanjala, Wanjala Wambukha and James Otunguli among others. 

All along Wasike had good health but started experiencing health problems in 1990s up to Thursday November 23, 2000 when he succumbed to kidney failure.  He had boils all over his body and could not be cured as it was coupled with kidney problems leading to his death. He was buried on Monday 27 November 2000 but unfortunately no senior politician attended his burial except the area councilor despite his fame. 

Wasike`s family had expected senior politicians to attend his burial bearing in mind the late`s contribution in the politics of the area especially in building Ford Kenya which for a long time has been the region`s party of choice. Right now the late`s widow Dinah lives in a grass thatched house on the farm where his husband was buried together with her son Richard who is now married but has nothing to support his mother. However one of the late`s son is a priest in the Anglican church in Bungoma County.

Wasike wa Musungu grave
The grave of Wasike wa Musungu where his remains rest. He was buried 11 years ago.

Songs that Wasike recorded include Ndi mukeni muuyi okhanjarira lucho, Balebe sina bano, Lia ne babasio which is a favourite laced with strong message, Enombela and the one he sang last called Kolongolo among many more. Wasike recorded 17 albums the last one being Kolongolo. By that time he was being sponsored by Sharrif of Shariffs Supermarket in Bungoma. 

After his death, his son Richard who also has a talent of singing performed a section of his songs in a visual CD but because of the same issue of producers and sponsors conning him, he got nothing from it and therefore decided to sit back. When he spoke to West FM`s Nandemu Barasa in company of his mother, Richard called upon well wishers to assist him keep up the dream of his father and by so doing also be in a position to assist his mother whom she said leads a miserable life. 

He said unlike other communities who really value their departed heroes, Wasike`s community has never honored him except for some short prayers which are always held on every 27th of November to mark the day he was buried. For anybody who has ever listened to Wasike`s songs, you will agree with me that his songs were full of wisdom and it might take a very long time before we get an artiste like him. He is the Franco of Bukusu land. Rest in Peace Wasike wa Musungu.

Source: Westfm

Mwana Mbeli chorister honoured by a national award

William Ingosi Moshi
Musician William Ingosi Moshi (right) after receiving the Head of State Commendation during the presentation of State investiture award at the Permanent Presidential Music Commission Grounds in Nairobi on Wednesday. Mzee Ingosi who has been belching music over the past five decades was accompanied by his son Jackson Ingosi (left). Photo: Hezron Njoroge

By Joy Wanja, April 21 2011
He easily shakes a leg and boogies at the strike of his one-stringed fiddle, shiriri. As he rose to receive the Head of State Commendation, William Ingosi Moshi played the shiriri and danced rhythmically on the way to the stage, leaving no doubt he is a sprightly septuagenarian. Ingosi, who popularised the vibrant Luhya folk tune Mwana wa mbeli (the firstborn) was on Wednesday among 12 other Kenyans decorated with State medals for their contribution to the arts.

The 72-year-old is in his golden years and the State recognition, is a feather to his cap. “I am grateful to God for the medal,” he said in Kiswahili after receiving it. Ingosi performed many times for Kenya’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta, in the 1960s. He founded the Ingosi Cultural Band in 1960 and had the enviable chance of playing Mwana wa mbeli - well, some pronounce it mberi - at independence in 1963.

Ingosi says he first played Mwana wa mbeli - a traditional Luhya tune - at Jomo Kenyatta’s home in Gatundu. On this occasion, the musician dedicated it to Kenya’s first president. He is dexterous of hand as he plays the fiddle to the delight of his audience. Ingosi received the national medal in recognition of his contribution to music in a span of five decades. He is a founder musician of Bomas of Kenya and has travelled to Japan, France, United Kingdom and Holland to perform.

Born in 1939 in Bulukhova Location, Tiriki in western Kenya, Ingosi says he started playing traditional music and instruments when he was seven years old and it developed into a lifestyle rather than a leisurely affair. His learnt the art of playing the fiddle at the feet of his grandfather, a skill he has passed on to his son and 18 band members. He has lectured music at Kenyatta University on how to construct the shiriri. In 2003, Ingosi was diagnosed with an advanced case of intestinal cancer and went to France for treatment. He has since recovered and continues to entertain. “I will continue to do it until my knees are supple no more,” he says.

His son, Jackson Ingosi, who was with him at the presentation of the awards on Wednesday at the Permanent Presidential music Commission grounds in Nairobi, was involved in a hit-and-run accident in Nakuru in 2009. Jackson, 41, fractured both feet and was admitted to hospital for nine months. The Ingosi Stars continue to perform at national events and social events such as weddings and burials. National Heritage permanent secretary Jacob ole Miaron, who presented the medals, congratulated the recipients and urged them to mentor young talent.

Others who received the Head of State Commendation were gospel singers Emmy Kosgei of the Taunet Nelel fame and Kayamba Afrika director Juma Odemba. Reuben Kigame received the Head of State Commendation and the Order of the Grand Warrior. Music professor Caleb Okumu received Elder of the Burning Spear, while both the Kenya National Human Rights Commission official Lawrence Mute and Ms Salome Kimata received Order of the Grand Warrior of Kenya.

Source: NATION

Prof Chris Wanjala a literary sphinx now hungering for culture

By Shad Bulimo, March 8 2011
Out of the undulating valleys and hills of Bungoma looms Prof Chris Wanjala, a literary sphinx that has dominated the world of literature in East Africa and beyond for nearly four decades. The word, as in written, has it that the 67-year old Christopher Lukorito Wanjala from Kimilili shows no signs of retiring any time soon.  He is a busy with a number of projects lined up including authoring books and implementing the national cultural policy.  Perhaps this explains his longevity in a world that has seen many stumble and fall by the wayside who dared retire to unfamiliar pursuits.  A fierce literary critic, author and poet, Prof Wanjala reveals himself as an avid scholar, conscientious of the pitfalls of neo-colonialism that have plagued the intellectual scene on the continent.  His approach, which has won him accolades and scathing barbs in equal measure, is syncretism; creating a literary fusion of rural and cosmopolitan, the cultural with modernity.

Prof Wanjala’s worldview is influenced or, at least informed by the history of colonialism in Kenya, and in particular, the British exploits in Western Kenya, the land of his ancestors.  We get a sense of the character of his people, the Bukusu from a description by CW Hobley (the Luhya called him Obilo), the chief architect of colonial rule in Luhyaland.  Writing in his anthropological memoirs, Hobley referred to Babukusu (then referred to as Kitosh) as ‘a powerful tribe same as the Wanga but with a strain of Hamitic blood.’  Hobley’s observations were to later prove prophetic.  When he tried to extend colonial hegemony to Bungoma, he encountered the raw fierceness of Babukusu.  

Attack on Lumboka

First he attacked Lumboka, a Bukusu walled fort but had to back off after fierce resistance.  Humiliated and furious, he called in reinforcements of British and Sudanese legionnaires who eventually overpowered Babukusu and brought down the walled village (lukoba).  The Bukusu warriors retreated to Chetambe fort in Webuye but here too Obilo deployed even more firepower that finally brought to an end Bukusu resistance to colonial rule in what came to be known as War of Chetambe (1895). An exploration of the historico-cultural disruption of Luhya social order by imperial invasion is the subject of a Prof Wanjala’s much awaited chronicle entitled INGWE (leopard) for which he has been compiling material for the last 30 years. The book is due out before the end of this year, he assured this writer.

Watch this space for Prof Wanjala's title INGWE - coming up

Prof Chris Lukorito Wanjala
Prof Chris Lukorito Wanjala, professor of literature at the University of Nairobi and the driving force behind a cultural policy for Kenya.

Ran before he could walk

Born to the late Timothy Lukorito (1901-1994) and Ayasi Nekesa (1922-1988), Prof Wanjala received his early education at Kamusinde FAM School and Chesamisi Intermediate School in rural Kimilili between 1952 and 1961 before proceeding to Bungoma Secondary School where he sat for his ‘O’ Levels in 1965.  He passed with flying colors and was admitted to Friends School Kamusinga for ‘A’ Levels in 1966 and University of Nairobi (then University College) in 1968 in the Faculty of Arts to study English, History and Education. He dropped two subjects to major in Literature, a subject for which he qualified so well he was fast tracked to a doctorate program.  

Prof Wanjala who enjoys a meal of obusuma (ugali) and traditional vegetables known as saka (solanum psedocapsicum) got a teaching job at the department of Literature in 1973 and juggled between his teaching duties and a PhD program on a part-time basis graduating in 1978.   In 1985 he was appointed a Senior Research Fellow and director of the Institute of African Studies (IAS) and returned to the Department of Literature as Associate Professor in 1985. In 1990 he moved to Egerton University as a full professor where he started an undergraduate and master’s program before returning to University of Nairobi in 2000 where he remains until today.  In addition to academic load, Prof Wanjala has also served as a director of Kenya Airways.

Where his ancestors fought enemies with an arsenal of spears, bows and arrows, the tenacious literary warrior has taken the war on ignorance to the national and international arena using academic tools.  As chairman of the National Book Development Council of Kenya (NBDCK) his task is to create an enabling environment that encourages creativity and book authorship in order to promote literacy and a reading culture in Kenya. The council brings together publishers, writers, critics and government representatives from the Ministry of Education and Culture and National Heritage. In 2001, Prof Wanjala founded the Kenya Non Fiction Writers Association on whose board he still sits but has delegated executive duties to other officials to concentrate on NBDCK. 

Although literature is Prof Wanjala’s passion, it is only a component of his overall mission to put indigenous culture on the national agenda.  His name (Wanjala) implies he was born during a hungry season.  His hunger for matters cultural was not lost to stakeholders and in 2004; he was appointed by the government to coordinate drafting of a cultural policy for Kenya by the Department of Culture, Ministry of Gender, Sports and Culture. 

Among other things, the committee recommended and the government approved the establishments of a cultural center in every county.  The 47 centers envisaged around the country will be responsible for identifying cultural monuments like the kaya shrines of Miji Kenda at the coast and collating information on artifacts of cultural significance.  In Luhyaland, such centers are planned in Kakamega, Vihiga, Busia and Bungoma.  Among cultural monuments to be preserved include Chetambe and Lumboka in Bungoma, king’s tombs in Wanga, Mungoma caves in Maragoli, the ikhongo murwi crying stone in Isukha, among others.  Establishment of independent cultural centers is a major step forward in the cultural revolution of the people who have so far been beholden to political patronage where annual cultural festivals exist such as Maragoli, Samia and Bunyala. 

For Prof Wanjala, it will also be a personal triumph of sorts for he has crusaded cultural emancipation for more than three decades.  For instance, in 1982, together with Dr Simiyu Wandabba, he organized a conference which recommended the establishment of Chetambe Cultural Centre in Webuye.  Despite the apparent victory, hurdles remain before the proposed CCC is realized.  The Tachoni are resisting attempts by the Bukusu to claim Chetambe and Lumboka. “We have sought an engagement with Tachoni leaders like Webuye MP, Alfred Sambu and have managed to reconcile our differences,” he says.  “The only bottlenecks remaining are individual families living on the historic sites who do not want to move but we keep talking to them.”


An intellectual of no small measure, Prof Wanjala is also deeply traditionalist with a brood of 18 offspring from several marriages.  His first marriage was to Everlyn when he was still a student at Friends' School, Kamusinga and it gave him 5 children: Rose, a graduate of Egerton University now a librarian at Laikipia University College, Levi, working with Kenya Airways, Oliver and Givern, working in the building industry in Nairobi and Christian Bernard, a medical laboratory graduate of Mount Kenya University.  Rose, Levi, Oliver and Givern have given Wanjala grand children.

His next wife Sarah is a retired secretary with Uzima Publications while his last wife is Dr Ruth Kibiti, a former lecturer at the University of Nairobi now attached to the UN Southern Sudan Peace mission.  With Sarah Prof Wanjala sired seven children - five sons and two girls.  The first born son is David Wanjala who is married with two children.  The second born is Michael, then Alex (teaching in Literature Department with his father), Caroline working with Safaricom, Catherine doing masters at Daystar, Emmanuel, a design and communications expert and Barnaby, a third year university student. . More...
Remembering music maestro, Jacob Luseno five years on

Jacob LusenoFlorence LusenoJacob Luseno
Jacob Luseno, the music maestro who died five years ago (left), his wife, Florence and his homestead at Mumbetsa in Idakho with his grave in the foreground.

By Kabaka John, Jan 28 2011
It is five years since the legend and renowned music composer Jacob Luseno left us. Jacob Luseno was born in 1936. He went to Goibei Intermediate School in Tiriki where he started singing folk Luhya songs. Jacob’s education was temporarily interfered with when his parents moved from Tiriki land to Mumbetsa Imasaba in Idakho where he joined Mwikhomo Intermediate School. After Mwikhomo, the legend joined Pepsi Cola in Eldoret as a driver delivering the product to Uganda. The most surprising thing while at Pepsi Cola is that Luseno used moved around with his hand made guitar. He moved from Pepsi Cola to Salsbury Hotel in Kericho later being transferred to Nairobi to work as a laundry machine operator.

With his passion for music burning, Luseno quit his job and joined Starlight Night Club - the leading night club in Nairobi owned by Armstrong. It is here he met other music legends like Daudi Kabaka and Fadhili Williams. He formed Nabongo Success Band and recorded his first hit song Jane Wanje. Jane was his firstborn daughter and Luseno sung this song in remembrance of his only beloved daughter Jane. Thereafter he composed other songs like Injete Muteithi, Ikwenjeri, Inzala Liani, Useni Mwana, among other hits.

Getrude Mwendo
The music continues even without the maestro. Luseno's band, Phonetex performing at Safaricom function in Bungoma in 2010 with the original lady vocalist, Getrude Mwendo (left).

The legendary singer founded the famous Phonetex Band together with Gertrude Mwendo in 1965 while Isaya Mwinamo and Fadhili Williams were the original producers. The band predominantly sings in Luhya with a few Swahili songs. The band is currently run by his son, Obed Luseno and Julius Etenya who sing in traditional Ingolo style away from the usual lipala. Other styles include Mutivo and Mabeka. Luseno went underground for sometime after leaving the Star Light Club in 1979. He rose to shine again with a band nicknamed Indumba Jazz where he recorded hits like Dinnah, Rael Nandi, Nabongo, Ikhabi Yanje among others. For the second time, Luseno sunk for 8 years from the music limelight and after a long absence, he partnered with Zamalek’s music producer and singer Samule Libayi Omusula.

While with Zamalek, Luseno was like a blazing dry bush, recording his hit songs like Mukangala, Khutsi Khungo, Lenah Kumi Kumi, Ingokho ya Malore, Appointment, Narc Shihubi, Wrong Reverend, Shifwabi, among other hit sensations. He was joined by another regional musician by the name Omari Macho with whom they recorded his second last song, Akanire (Has Refused). His last song was Nyina Mwana - meaning a mother of children in 2004.

Luseno used to perform live in BoraBora Club in Nairobi’s Kawangware Estate from 2004. It is here that the original Phonetex Band split into two - Phonetex the “original one” and Phonetex the “rebel band”. It is said that the band broke due to misunderstanding between its members. Today, the original Phonetex Band still exists managed by Luseno’s only standing son, Obed Luseno. It still retains Luseno’s renowned lady vocalist, Getrude Mwendo and Julius Shivachi also known as Itenya.

Since his demise, band members have produced hits like Likhutsa lia Luseno (Death of Luseno), Speed Governor and Soldier. Soldier talks of a gentleman who is healthy and very strong who moves to the city to search for employment but finally  ends up in more problems in the city as a watchman. Luseno died after short illness. While on his sickbed, his only son Obed, moved him from Nairobi to his home in Mumbetsa where he passed on in the morning of 3rd January 2006.

Luseno was finally laid to rest at his home in Mumbetsa on 14th January 2006. Luseno left behind his beloved wife,  Florence Luseno and his son Obed who is married to Christine. Family, friends and clansmen congregated at his Mumbetsa home in Idakho on January 29 for a 5th anniversary celebration of the legend's life. 

Source: West FM

Prof Eric Masinde Aseka: Kenya's foremost political historian

Eric Masinde Aseka

By our correpondent, Jan 13 2011

Professor Eric Masinde Aseka is a renowned political historian with a profound interest in leadership studies. He believes that turning around Africa requires institutionalizing quality and effective leadership on the continent. He is one of the longest serving members of Kenyatta University where he has taught since 1985 rising through the ranks up to the present position he holds of Full Professor.

He became a senior lecturer in 1993 and served as Chairman of the Department of History (1993-1997). He rose to the position of associate professor in 1997 and was elected as Dean of School of Humanities and Social Sciences in 2001. He was appointed full professor in 2002 while serving as Dean. He also served as a member of the Executive Committee of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) from 1998-2002. He chaired this Executive Committee’s Sub-Committee on Programs throughout the duration of its tenure. He has also served as external examiner for five universities in Kenya including University of Nairobi, Moi University and Maseno University, and also Makerere University in Uganda and University of Cape Town in South Africa.

Dr. Aseka, Omukambuli clansman from Khwisero in Kakamega County, received his undergraduate degree at Kenyatta University (B. Ed) in 1980, his MA (in History) at the University of Nairobi in 1985, and his PhD (in History) at Kenyatta University in 1992. He is an alumnus of Allidina Visram High School in Mombasa where he sat for his ‘A’ Levels and also excelled in athletics.

He wrote his dissertation on “The Political Economy of Buluyia”. He specializes in African political history and history of political and economic theory. He has written Jomo Kenyatta: A Political Biography (1992), Africa in the Twenty-First Century (1996), and Transformational Leadership in East Africa: Politics, Ideology and Community (2005) among other books, articles in edited works and journals. He has completed a manuscript entitled: Croaking Voices in African History. Aseka was born on July 2nd 1956 at Ekambuli Village in Khwisero District, Kakamega County. Prof Aseka was a Fulbright Scholar-In Residence at Kennesaw State University in the 2006/2007 academic year.
Adapted from: Kennesaw State University

Webuye beauty is crowned conquerer of the Commonwealth

Doreen Khayanga Wasike
Doreen Khayanga Wasike beat a bevy of beauties from the Commonwealth to win the prestigious Miss Commonwealth Beauty pageant held at Stantonbury Campus, Milton Keynes, UK 30th October 2010. CLICK HERE to view more photos.

By Topi Lyambila, December 4 2010
Khayanga Doreen Wasike 28 was on 30th October 2010 crowned Miss Commonwealth International –Africa, at a pompous Commonwealth International Cultural and Charity Evening TV-Special Showcase (CICCETSS) ceremony held at the Milton Keynes’ Stantonbury Campus Theatre beating a bevy of beauties drawn from various countries to the title.

Khayanga, an ICT student in London, started her modelling interest in Kenya making the finals of the Ford Supermodel in 2002, in a show put together by Lindsey Macintyre who launched the aborted Elite Models-Kenya.

The Commonwealth International beauty pageant is a unique and prestigious title that one holds for life. The Title holders never fade into oblivion after their year of reign.  The titles remain perpetually recognised and are as important any day as at conferment.  Holders can continue to use their tiles, authoritatively, to promote good causes, through life.

In differing with other beauty pageants which concentrate on image; the Miss Commonwealth International covers a wider scope of women between the ages of 16-61.  It is an ‘inner beauty’ contest in a class of its own, an empowerment platform, designed for Commonwealth women and fostering a unique Cultural & Charity brand of beauty, that empowers women to promote increased cultural awareness and community charitableness.

The pageant is divided into three main categories;

  1. Miss Teen Commonwealth International (16-19yrs)
  2. Miss Commonwealth International  (Over 20 yrs)
  3. Mrs Commonwealth International   (25 and over)

Khayanga, who hails from Webuye in Bungoma County, told KLN that she is now keen to use her position; to promote charitable activities within communities in Africa which are in hardship areas without water and basic necessities.  She believes that everyone should be able to enjoy fresh water in their homes.   Her face suddenly pales when she speaks about the IDPs in Kenya, saying they should have been returned to their rightful homes by now.

Khayanga has a special interest in promoting the Boy Scout and Girl Guide Association among other charitable units in Africa.

The Kenya High Commission in London, which facilitated her registration in the Commonwealth Pageant is keen on supporting the Kenyan beauty Queen to achieve her desired goals and also utilise her newly acquired status in promoting the image of the country in line with the Vision 20-30. This was disclosed to KLN by Mr. Muganda, – the Commonwealth Attaché at the Kenya High Commission in London.

Sources at the KHC in London, indicate Doreen Khayanga Wasike, the Miss Commonwealth International-Africa Beauty Queen, who is also the Miss Commonwealth International-Kenya Beauty Queen, may be unveiled at the Jamhuri Luncheon in London set for the 9th of December 2010.

Source: Topi-talk.com

Meet Evans Wadongo, Africa's representative at CNN Hero of the Year Awards in Los Angeles

By Antony Nyongesa, Sept 28 2010
He is little known in towns including Nairobi where he is based. But Evans Wadongo is a hero in the rural areas of Western Province and parts of Rift Valley where his solar-powered lantern lamps have lit hundreds of homes, earning him recognition from many including billionaire entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson. It is because of this that Evans is a nominee of the CNN World Heroes project whose champions will be selected on November 25 in Hollywood, US. There are 10 finalists from a list of 100 nominees and Evans is representing Kenya and Africa as a whole. Sir Richard was on the panel that assessed Evans’ work. “You don’t have to be rich to support the community. The fact that my efforts have been recognised is a great motivation, bearing in mind there are a number of great people with great ideas out there who did not get a slot,” says the 27-year-old who graduated last year from the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology with a degree in Engineering. Although he began the project four years ago, it did not bear fruit until he completed his studies and dedicated his full time to it. He could even skip a meals to ensure he raised money for the project. Evans says his eyesight was affected when he was in primary school because of the smoke emitted from the kerosene lamp commonly known as ‘koroboi’ in Kiluhya. This is part of what drives him to give back to the community by supplying the lamps free of charge.

Evans Wadongo
Evans Wadongo with the invention that has catapulted him into the international limelight. The young man is carrying the weight of a whole continent as Africa's representative at the CNN Hero of the Year Awards in Los Angeles, California later this year. He deserves your VOTE

50 community groups have already benefitted

“This is done through community groups of 30 members within each village. It is painful that poor people in villages spend the little money they get on kerosene. With the solar lamps, they will be able to save the money and spend it on food and clothing,” says Evans. There are more than 50 groups from western Kenya that have benefited from his organisation - Sustainable Development for All-Kenya - whose headquarters is in Nairobi’s South B estate. A section of his office has been turned into a store and workshop where all the materials are assembled and worked on. With a team of five, he is able to make 100 solar-powered lamps daily. “My dream which I strongly believe will come true is to have more than 100,000 lamps distributed to different homes countrywide by 2015,” says Evans who has been on many TV shows including CNN’s Larry King Live.

The traditional koroboi which for decades has been used by thousands of rural folk as the principal means to light their households. This is how students studied at night. It is this backdrop that has inspired our hero.
Lighting rural homes

According to him, 14,000 lamps are already lighting different homes in rural areas. The solar-powered lamp can light up for six hours if it is fully charged by being left in the sun during the day. The inventor says the life span for the lamp is between six and 10 years. “But all this depends on how the lamps are taken care of. They can even last longer than this if they are well maintained.” He is working on the latest models of lamps that will have a radio to enable the users to listen to news and be entertained as they light up family homes. “The modification will be done to also include a charging system for mobile phones because in rural areas, people don’t have easy access to electricity to charge their phones,” says Evans who was born in Malava, Kakamega. The last born in a family of five, Evans attended Malava Primary where the memory of the “koroboi” smoke and the constant fights with siblings over a single kerosene lamp are still fresh in his mind. Despite all these, he did well in KCPE examinations and joined Kakamega High School and later JKUAT where he graduated last year. “My background instilled discipline and hard work ethic in me. Had I been brought up where electricity and other comforts were, I would not be where I am today.” Evans leaves the country on November 15 for Hollywood and he believes Kenyans will vote for him to clinch the award. “I’m banking on Kenyan votes and I believe they will give me an opportunity to be able to serve the rural areas better,” he says. Voting that can only be done online, began last Friday and closes on November 18. The address for voting is www.cnnheroes.com

From rural Malava to world fame

Profile: Moses Marango, the author

By our reporter, Sept 2 2010
Moses Marango, the author of the best selling Broken Covenant is offering his candidature in Bumula. Moses Marango was born in Bungoma , Kenya and educated in Kimwanga R.C. then Friends’ School Kamusinga before joining JKUAT for his Bsc in Applied Mathematics and Physics. He later pursued his Msc in Project Management & Governance at the Keller Graduate School of Management in Houston, Texas. He also studied Electronics Engineering Technology at NIT- Houston.

While at JKUAT, he was elected as a student leader in various capacities and as a result, served on the Board – Faculty of Science, University Senate and Council as well. He further served on the 8-4-4 Review Commission- JKUAT Chapter. Throughout his career, Marango from the Balanja clan has fearlessly defended the voiceless and championed the cause of the oppressed. His father worked for Kenya Railways while his mother sold eggs, sukuma wiki, and sweet potatoes at the local trading center to supplement the family income. He currently runs his business between Houston and Nairobi. He is married to Charity Alice, a Proverbs 31 woman. Read all about Marango.

Moses Marango
Moses Marango, the author and international businessman who wants to put into practice what he preaches if the people of Bumula can join him on a journey towards a new covenant. CLICK HERE TO BUY THE BOOK
Moses Marango, teh broken covenant
Whatever happened to the covenant?: When President Kibaki succeeded Moi in 2002, Kenyans were optimistic and ready to forget Moi’s dictatorship that was eulogized for its cancerous corruption and tribalism. Yet, five years later, political leaders, the church as well as the Police Force, embraced tribalism that eventually killed more than 1,500 Kenyans and created 500,000 IDPs.
Former MP now a herbalist in Nakuru

By our correspondent, Sept 2 2010
When former Nakuru Town MP Dr. Lwali Oyondi lost his bid to make a comeback in the ninth Parliament after the 1997 second multiparty elections, he had many options to jump-start his life. He had a choice to return to his profession as a veterinary doctor or even go back to the drawing board and continue with politics hoping that come the 2002 elections, he would convince the voters to renew his mandate. But as he pondered his next move, one option that never crossed his mind, at least at that point in time, was for him to join the cut-throat business of small-scale traders selling wares and other items along the streets of Nakuru town and its environs. Having lost in his second attempt to join Parliament in 2002, Oyondi is now hawking herbal medicine along the streets of Nakuru town. Indeed if you met him for the first time strolling along the congested streets carrying a simple handbag and chatting away with small traders, nothing would suggest that he was once the area MP.

Occasionally the hawkers and other citizens who know him would interrupt him by shouting greetings 'habari Mheshimiwa' and this is the time you would turn your head and have second glimpse of the man carrying an ordinary black handbag on his massive shoulders. Dr Oyondi, now in his early 60s, served as the area Member of Parliament between 1992 and 1997. For him selling herbal medicine is business as usual and the black bag has turned out to be his most treasured item as he carries the commodity which he sells to hawkers and other customers. "I left Parliament in 1997 and I can tell you I have done a lot of things. You think I have been idling around and mourning that I lost the seat? Not me. Maisha lazima iendelee (life has to continue)," he told us during in an interview at his private office in Nakuru town. Dr Oyondi who once served as the diocesan chairman of the Catholic Men Association in Nakuru has spent much of his life attending to religious matters in his mother Church in Lanet, Nakuru East. "I was brought up in a religious set up and in all my political life I avoided as much as possible speaking blatant lies which are now the hallmark of our politics," he told us. Oyondi is angered by the manner in which MPs were conducting business inside and outside the August House by telling lies so as to win votes and pass motions. The younger brother of veteran politician and former Butere MP, Martin Shikuku, believes that proper religious teaching could be the ultimate saviour of this country. "Religious teaching has been taken for granted in our schools for many years and time has now come for those concerned to enforce its teaching by making it compulsory right from primary school up to the university," he says.

Lwali Oyondi
Lwali Oyondi, former Nakuru Town MP and Martin Shikuku's younger brother. He believes religious education can produce faithful leaders.
Lwali Oyondi
Dr Lwali Oyondi showing some of his products.
Stumbled upon a wonder drug

He believes that by enforcing religious teaching in schools, the country could produce a generation of faithful men and women who can fight the evils facing our societies.The culture of lies, he says, has not only ruined the country politically but also caused untold suffering to many marriages which are now wobbling and crumbling everyday. But how did the former MP enter into the business of selling herbal drugs? Oyondi says he carried out a social survey in Nakuru town and its environs and found that nearly 95 per cent of the residents had problems with their teeth. It all started with his wife who had problems with her molar teeth which saw her suffer swollen cheeks causing her deep pain while chewing hard food. And as they pondered what action to take, they came across herbal medicine from the United States which the wife used and was cured. "When my wife used the herbal drugs from the US and got healed I thought I should spread the gospel as I had come across many people with teeth problems in the town," he recalls. He says the wonder drug is safe and he is now importing it from the US in large quantities and later selling it to retailers and hawkers in the town."Many hawkers along the streets of Nakuru town and other citizens have come to appreciate the drug and that is the work that keeps me going today," says Dr. Oyondi, himself an alumni of the University of Nairobi's school of Veterinary Medicine between 1965 and 1969.Dr. Oyondi traces his life as a civil servant and recalls his first posting at Moi's Bridge where he worked for nine months. He says his services there were evident as 30 years later some farmers who knew him still consulted him."Today's civil servants are an amazing lot. They want to earn good salaries and drive posh vehicles yet laxity and laziness is what they worship most," he laments the ex-legislator. He blames this on the 8.4.4 education system saying it was not laying a strong foundation for future workers and instead was churning out half-baked graduates from the institutions of higher learning. "I still believe the old system of education where students had to undergo two years of advanced learning in High school was the most appropriate system of education as it ended up producing mature and focused graduates," he added.

I was offered land in Mau Forest to keep quiet but I refused - Dr Lwali Oyondi

Reflecting on his days in Parliament, Oyondi says MPs then were paid peanuts as evidenced by the paltry Sh6,000 monthly pension he earns today."What the current MPs are earning per month is what I got for the total five years I was in that August House and to me this is a dishonest reward they are enjoying at the expense of poor Kenyans," said Dr. Oyondi. He challenges the legislators to justify the huge perks they were getting saying during his tenure his colleagues forfeited sitting allowances unlike the current MPs who were pocketing Sh5,000 for every session."Some of us thought by attending the committee sessions that was part of our duty as leaders and we never submitted any claims," he says with pride. Dr. Oyondi says he hated amassing wealth through shady deals as his colleagues did and swears that whatever little he had was through sheer hard work. He owns a five-acre piece in Lanet."If someone can prove that I illegally took even a square millimeter of land anywhere in Kenya while I was an MP I am ready to return it," swears the ex-MP. He recalls that once the government offered him free land in Mau forest in order to silence him but he refused and stood firm. "The reason I joined politics was to fight corruption and bad governance and I could not accept to take the land in Mau forest as a bribe to buy my silence," adds Oyondi who was nearly killed during the fight for the second liberation when some unknown gunmen attacked him at his Lanet farm on the outskirts of Nakuru town.

Fighting land grabbers

It is this strong resolve to fight corruption that saw Oyondi fight land grabbers in Nakuru town who were targeting prime land belonging to schools and other public utilities. And while recalling his performance as MP, Oyondi says he fully participated in the reforms which led to the constitutional review especially the Chief's Act and the subsequent reforms which trimmed considerably the powers of the Police force.
Pointing at the scar inflicted by a bullet on his chest, Dr Oyondii says his heart weeps whenever he sees former reformers who put their lives on line complementing the same leaders who trampled on the rights of Kenyans. Does he want to go back to Parliament? Dr. Oyondi says he is not yet decided but is quick to add that he stood by the slogan coined by Mr. Kenneth Matiba which says 'let the people decide.'

Source: Naivasha News

8.4.4 education system ruined a whole generation of Kenyans
Meet Givan Ingari - the elephant of Khwisero

By Shad Bulimo, August 1 2010
Khwisero is a sleepy village on the eastern fringes of Butere in Kakamega, Western Province. It has remained in a sleepy mode for centuries like a wounded elephant despite the abundance of natural resources. This is the home of intellectual giants like Prof George Eshiwani, Prof Arthur Eshiwani and Prof Eric Aseka Masinde; accomplished writers like Barrack Okwaro Muluka; legendary music maestros like David Amunga and Sukuma bin Ongaro, famous comedians like the late Peter Shicheya Lukoye (Tamaa), world class sportsmen like Mickey Weche and John Shoto Lukoye, the footballers and Evans Ashira Oure, the Denmark-based boxer. It is even where Francis Atwoli,  the rumbustious  trade unionist who eats and breathes fire across the land calls home not to mention the former KTN screen queen, Esther Arunga (Now Mrs Timberlake).  Here also Weboko Inyundo, the engineer and his English wife, Jill live in retirement.

To the visitor, Khwisero is an idyllic setting fit for the Queen except that what fish is harvested from the fish farms that famous retirees own is not shared among all the people who call Khwisero ingo. The relative tranquility belies the abject poverty that has blighted the community for generations. But if Khwisero is well endowed, why is it sitting at the bottom rung of the national economic ladder? I set out to find answers to this complex situation and my journeys crossed paths with one angry resident going by the name of Givan Okallo Ingari. “Politicians are to blame,” he fired back rather abruptly.  Surely matters of development are much more complex and it cannot be up to politicians alone to drive the process of economic development, I wondered.

Culture of trust: Ingari, who is given to talking in parables, transported me to the land of the beasts to see if the jungle can help us find answers. Although not exactly George Orwell’s Animal Farm, Ingari offered that if you observe the behaviour of elephants going out to pasture or to water wells, you will always find that they move as a herd with one in front leading the pack. “If it turns left the rest turn left. If it turns right, the rest follow suit because in the animal kingdom, the elephants have a far more developed culture of trust with clear leadership structures from which everyone benefits,” he postulates. “In Khwisero, we don’t have that top elephant.”  

Givans Ingari
Givan Ingari during the interview at his offices in Nairobi: Just call me and I'll be there for you.

“Instead, we have hyenas that keep fighting with jackals for political spoils and leftovers without a clear vision of where the people of Khwisero can find fertile economic pastures or ever flowing water springs. The people of Khwisero have become disillusioned with the current crop of politicians,” he says. Assuming there is vacuum in political leadership, is Ingari the missing elephant?

Mahatma Gandhi philosophy: Born in Khwisero but raised in Nairobi, Ingari who finds inspiration in Mahatma Gandhi’s political philosophy says he cannot promise the people of Khwisero that he will deliver development singlehandedly. Development, he says, is a process which has to be about people. In that regard, he says he can only appeal to the people of Khwisero to join him on the journey so that together they can find answers and solutions to the economic malaise.

“I am a strong team player and I believe everyone has not just a role but a duty to participate in the game of economic development.  We need leadership that can mobilise our engineers and professors to sit with the people and understand their problems and work through solutions jointly,” he says. “We don’t need professional politicians who keep making empty promises and never involve the people once elections are over.”

Ingari says that it is inexcusable that Khwisero should have poor infrastructure that is ten percent below the national average. He cites the example of Khwisero Secondary School which, for two consecutive years, has been named the worst performing. “This is not acceptable to me even with the excuses of poverty because Khwisero has some of the best brains in the country,” he says. These brains include, Prof George Eshiwani, ex Vice Chancellor of Kenyatta University, Prof Arthur Eshiwani, a board member KCA University, Prof Eric Masinde Aseka of history department, Kenyatta University and John Liboyi, one of the first IT specialists in Kenya. More...

Simani Sangale - profile of a Tiriki cultural warrior
Simani Sangale
Simani Sangale: Author and Lawyer

By Shad Bulimo, June 26 2010
He is neither a professional author nor an anthropologist. He is a lawyer, the first one to join a select group of learned friends from Tiriki. This is Simani Sangale, who through sheer interest in ethnography has devoted his time and resources to study the customs and traditions of his people, Abatiriki.  The product of his many years of field research and oral study is a book entitled: Tiriki Community Customs and Traditions.

Before Simani’s book, everything about Tiriki culture was seen through the prism of Western scholars of whom the American, Walter H. Sangree stands out. It is a brilliant exercise in originality that debunks some of the myths portrayed by those with a colonist mindset or using secondary and third party sources. Unlike foreign anthropologists, Sangale, a Mutiriki himself, gives an original perspective of the Tiriki culture born out of his upbringing, observations and interviews (in Lutiriki) with various elders in the community.

Cultural crossroads

His father, Benjamin Sangale was a respected elder in the community and it is his commitment to serving his people that the young Sangale derives inspiration.  Surprisingly, the young Sangale was not the first choice to inherit his father’s mantle in the cultural leadership of the Tiriki. Traditionally this role automatically goes to the father’s first son. Although third born, Tiriki elders preferred him   because he had demonstrated keen interest in cultural matters from a very early age.

Maragoli are the largest immigrants
It was a time when the Tiriki were at a cultural crossroads; caught between the advancing army of schools and Christianity and preserving their culture in its original format. The turning point came in the early 1940’s when through a combination of circumstances, a venerated idumi elder, Nuhu Sakwa, converted to Christianity (Salvation Army). Sakwa became the face of a new type of idumi  (circumcision rituals) which incorporated aspects of the traditional and modern practices acceptable to both traditionalists and Christians. Simani was among the first initiates to be circumcised under the new order in 1944 at Sakwa’s Christian Kavunyonje (circumcision grove in dense forest).

With this initiation, Simani knew what his future role in the community entailed. And, although he had undergone the necessary drilling in tribal culture, especially the need to protect the secrets of the idumi rituals from women and the uninitiated (avasoleli), he felt he needed to learn more about his people in order to lead them through the transition. “I said to myself let me have a proper look at what this role entails and what goes on in the community,” he says.  “Luckily for me I found knowledgeable elders willing to give me all the induction I needed in the customs and traditions of Abatiriki.”

He soon realised that the subject matter was weighty and although he understood most of the contents, he felt with time he could easily forget especially because he was spending a lot of time in pursuit of education. “I said to myself this needs to be captured in writing otherwise it will disappear with time,” he says.  Over a period spanning many years, he carried out several interviews with different elders in Lutiriki which he carefully documented.

Tiriki Culture

Benjamin Sangale
The author, Simani Sangale (right) with his father, Benjamin Sangale (left) and two of his sons – Andrew (left) and David.

Who is a Tiriki?
At the core of Tiriki culture is the definition of “who is a Tiriki?” Because the tribal area is populated by clans from various tribes, this is a legitimate question. However the answer is surprisingly simple. “To be a Tiriki, one must accept the Tiriki culture. If children are circumcised in the Tiriki way, they automatically become Tiriki, irrespective of where their parents came from,” he says.  An adult immigrant made an application to the council of elders. If he was already circumcised, he would be exempted from certain aspects of the idumi rituals such as dancing naked but had to spend some time in the hut of seclusion known as erumbi. Additionally he had to brew a large quantity of traditional beer known as busaa and invite elders for a feast.

The name Tiriki is derived from the Kalenjin tribe, the Terik, said to have split from the Elgon Masai (Sabaot) sometimes in the 19th century. Scores of Luhya clans who immigrated and got assimilated transliterated the name Terik into Tiriki. The largest immigrants are Maragoli, but there are also clans from Bunyore, Wanga and Bukhayo in Busia.

Sangale says the elaborate idumi rituals were not just about circumcision as a rite of passage from boyhood to manhood. “It was the only college that offered induction into various aspects of Tiriki culture. At the base of these teachings was the fact that if a boy is going to be made into a man, to do his job properly, he has to be toughened to appreciate the challenges he would face in the administration of his social duties.” More...

To be a Tiriki, one must accept to be initiated into the idumi circumcision rituals
Football gave Moses Mutuli a life
Moses Mutuli
Moses Mutuli from Lunza in Butere can now afford a smile. It wasn't always easy even to grin in Huruma slums where he grew up. His dream of making it big in football dashed, he has found another BIG door opened - in the City of London where he is in a select group of few individuals who call themselves actuaries, a financial risk management profession said to be tougher than nuclear physics. He attributes his success and ambition to football.

By Brian Oliver, London, June 6 2010
His football dreams died early, but his involvement in the game has helped former goalkeeper Moses Mutuli to make the most of his gifts in other fields. While others who played in the same leagues in the Nairobi slums have gone on to fame and fortune in European football, Mutuli is about to join a very select group of financial risk experts.

Later this year a great deal will be written about his homeland when two Kenyans take part in the Champions League. McDonald Mariga, who won a medal when Inter beat Bayern Munich in last month's final, will be joined by Dennis Oliech of Auxerre. Never before has Kenya, or any other country from East Africa, had two men at such an exalted level.

There will be no fanfare for Mutuli when, by the end of the year, he qualifies as an actuary at Deloitte, for whom he works in London. It might not quite match the Champions League players' achievements but it is not bad, for the total number of Kenyans who have qualified as actuaries is, depending on whose figure you take, either two or four. Ever. There are, says Mutuli, who will return to Africa when he qualifies, "3,000 to 4,000 working in the UK".

It has been quite a route for Mutuli, 33. From his early days in Mathare, one of the biggest and most deprived slums in Africa, via Oxford University, to the City. He owes much of his success to the Mathare Youth Sports Association (Mysa), a remarkable organisation that has been so successful since its inception 23 years ago that it has twice been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, in 2003 and 2004.

According to Mysa, the largest self-help youth sports and community organisation in Africa, the slum area in which Moses grew up is home to more than half a million people. More than 350,000 of them are hardworking mothers and their children whose husbands and fathers died or abandoned them. They live in overcrowded shacks made of mud, sticks, cardboard and flattened tins. Mathare's makeshift homes lack water, electricity, toilets, rubbish collection and sewerage. Local residents say: "When it rains the shacks leak, and water carries rubbish and human waste through our homes. Many kids get sick and die. Aids is also a serious threat."

"People I was friends with at school have died, been shot by police, turned to crime," says Mutuli, whose father died when he was 11, leaving behind a family of five boys and two girls. "It was very hard for my mother. There was a lack of food, materials for study, electricity, water. Life was just about survival. There was a very big problem with self-esteem."

Which is where football made such a difference. Mutuli remembers his first meeting with Bob Munro, the Canadian who was an environmental policy adviser for the United Nations before founding Mysa in 1987. "We were playing footy when he came to watch us. We used a ball made from paperbacks – tear out the pages and make them into a ball – and Bob had a real adidas football. That was memorable."

Mutuli, who was 10 at the time, became involved with Mysa and captained his team. In Mysa's many leagues – they now have 25,000 boys and girls playing in 16 separate competitions – teams are awarded points not just for winning, but for completing clean-up projects and other community work. Every team is a mobilised youth group, run by their own elected leaders. Tasks include persuading children to attend school; working to combat drug abuse and disease, and especially the spread of Aids; encouraging artistic talent; helping jailed children who have to survive appalling conditions; and much more.

"Being captain of my team, Huruma Flats, in the Mysa League, gave me confidence and self-esteem I wouldn't otherwise have had," says Mutuli. "It was very important when I was interviewed for a Rhodes Scholarship. The interviewers kept on and on about Mathare, and what I'd got from football. That was a career-changing factor for me. I learned my life skills from football."

He learned how to cope with failure. "I wanted to be a big success at football and my chance came in 1992, when Mysa sent teams to Brazil, where we would meet Pelé at an environmental summit, and Norway for sponsored international tours. There were three goalkeepers and I didn't make it for the Brazil trip, so I knew I'd be going to Norway instead. But I wasn't picked for that either, and I cried and cried. I had been rejected. But I had a long talk with my mother, she said maybe there were other means of travel (I'd never been on a plane or been anywhere) by studying. That was important to me, so I concentrated on maths. I was much better at it than others."

He excelled at high school and university, worked for a Kenyan insurance company, then got the scholarship to Oxford and the job with Deloitte.

"I gained the confidence to do it from football. Football has definitely changed my life."

Source: Guardian Newspaper, England

David Amunga - the 1960s music maestro shows no signs of ageing

By Shad Bulimo, May 25 2010
Some internet sites had written him off as long dead.  But I discovered him not only alive but still kicking hard, very hard.  I found him quite eloquent, informed and bulging with tonnes of energy. His looks belie his real age. He looks 50 but is actually 72. This is the story of David Amunga, he of the America to Africa fame, a tune that lit the music scene in the 1960s and spread like wildfire not only in Kenya but also in Tanzania and Uganda. 

Unknown to most, Amunga did not compose the music because he felt lonely in the US.  Yes there was loneliness involved but it was not his. The composition was a piece of artistic ingenuity prompted by a letter from his best friend George Blastus who had gone to the US as part of the 1960s airlift organised by Tom Mboya, the slain former minister for planning in the Kenyatta government. “This place is not like home,” Blastus wrote. “I feel lonely and I miss home.” Those words touched Amunga’s inner sanctum and he set out to compose a song that would become a signature tune for all East African students abroad and a favourite of the political class of the day.

Born to a Luo mother, Elita Manyasa from the Umira Kager clan in Alego (the combatively traditionalist clan that made headlines during the SM Otieno versus Wamboi burial saga in the 1987), his maternal grandfather, Analo Okusimba was a traditional music artist and it was from his genes that Amunga owes his interest in music.  It was a talent that entertained both man and beast and brought fame if not fortune to young Amunga.

I am going back to Kenya

If the song was celebrated in Kenya, it was worshipped in Tanzania. When Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, the late Tanzanian first president, wanted a musician to perform at the opening of Mount Kilimanjaro Hotel in Dar es Salaam, the pre eminent landmark that dominates the skyline of the Tanzanian capital, it was to Amunga that he turned to except that he (Nyerere) was not happy with him.   “Kwa nini uliharibu wimbo mzuri?”  Nyerere blurted out .  “Ungeimba kwa Kiswahili.” (Why have you spoiled a good song like that? You should have sung it in Kiswahili).

It was during a time when Nyerere was doggedly fighting to steer his newly independent nation on a socialist path against fierce opposition from the West, especially the US.  Therefore anything that depicted America as an unfriendly place was music to Nyerere’s ears.  After the show, Sheikh Karume, then vice president asked Amunga what the Kenyan government had done for him. “When I told him nothing he said that I should migrate to Tanzania and they will give me shamba (farm),” he says. “But I refused. I told him that I loved Kenya so much I had no wish to move anywhere else.”

Grand Warrior

Although saints and heroes are never recognised in their own countries, for Amunga some measure of recognition came on 12 December 2004 when President Mwai Kibaki awarded him the Order of the Grand Warrior, the first Kenyan musician to receive a presidential commendation. It was a fitting birthday present for Amunga, then 66, born on a day that would later coincide with Jamhuri Day.

Descended from Muchisa, the tribal ancestor who led the Kisa people from Samia several generations ago into their present locale, Amunga of the Abakambuli clan started singing as a herd’s boy.  While out with the cattle on pasturelands, he learnt to play the flute (omulele) and played it so well cows stopped to listen. His parents had warned him that his flutes were attracting snakes, monkeys and other beasts which were devouring their chickens.

If you want to colonise people, start by killing their culture...

I loved Kenya so much I had no wish to move anywhere else...

David Amunga
Music maestro: David Amunga in Nairobi
Entertaining man and beast

“One day, I was sent to chase away monkeys which had made a habit of frequenting our farm. While looking out for them, I sat on a tree trunk and started playing my flute. Suddenly, I heard a strange noise. When I turned back, I saw this python looking at me; transfixed in a trance and instead of attacking me, it just sat there dazed. I believed it was enjoying the tunes because of the unique way in which I was making the musical sounds,” he says.

This incident confirmed to Amunga what his parents and other elders had been telling him. It was then that he realised he was talented and set out to learn more instruments.  At that time, the Luhya had many traditional instruments like litungu, an eight-string instrument played primarily by older people while the youth preferred isikuti drum because it was accompanied by pulsating and rigorous sexy dance.  Other instruments included omutimbuli, a string instrument made with a debe (square-shaped metallic drum) and a bent stick and buried in a hole about 5-6 inches deep.  “Every time I played this instrument, dogs came round,” he boasts.

Expert at various instruments

Hunger for music lead the young Amunga to learn another instrument known as olukhuche, a one string instrument made from olusiola tree.  His sister, Erica was better at it than him, he says. Other instruments that he was exposed to included esiriba (wind instrument made from clay), obukhana (a four-string instrument), eshilili (African violin), limuika (made from a large gourd) and ebikhuli (rattles).

“These were the instruments with which we made music to entertain ourselves but the colonial government and especially the Christian schools outlawed our lifestyle as heathen. Colonialism, in that sense was tantamount to negative change. If you want to colonise people, start by killing their culture,” laments Amunga whose fighting spirit is derived from his father, the late William Aseka, a traditional wrestling champion.

Luhya music legends

Amunga is quick to add that colonialism was not all musically negative.  He says that the pre independence music scene was enriched by Western instruments like the accordion (introduced after the First World War) and guitar (introduced at the end of the Second World War). The soldiers who fought in the two World Wars as part of the Kenya Kings Rifles contingent learnt the instruments while in battlefields in Burma and brought them home.

Speaking to Amunga, you get the sense that the man is a rich repository of the history of music not only in Luhyaland but in Kenya as a whole. As far as composing lyrics is concerned, the first Luhya to do so was a man known as Akukha from Wanga in early 1940s while the first Luo was Olima and in Kikuyuland, there was one going by the name SIna Kikombe. Other early music legends from Luhyaland include Joshua Omwami and Bulimo both from Kisa.  But it was a litungu player, Atieri who was the first Luhya to have a record cut in mid 1940s. Atieri from Ebbayi in Bunyore lives in relative obscurity, something that deeply troubles Amunga who is fighting for the rights of musicians like Atieri, Daudi Kabaka, John Mwale, John Nzenze, among others as a member of the advisory copyright board put together by the Attorney General, Amos Wako.  

Guitarists were considered social misfits

Amunga remembers days when playing guitar was judged as a social misdemeanour. Guitar players roamed from place to place entertaining people at beer parties and were paid in kind by alcohol. “My elder brother, Musa Omutere was one of them. He was a good guitarist and played in a band that included Joel Okello and Charles Rasto,” he recalls. “These are the people I learnt from. They couldn’t allow you to use their guitars. I was only allowed to dust them but never play. They were folk heroes and seemed to have everything including beautiful women. They influenced me. If by accident they left one guitar behind, I started learning and with time, found myself playing very well. “

His chance came when one day during a tour of Ulumbi in Luoland, his brother’s band took a break and was gone for a long time when the patron asked Amunga and his friends to try and hold the audience. “We took to the stage and played so well that when the main musicians returned, they were told that we were better,” he says. “Although this caused a big clash with my brother’s band, it gave me the confidence that I needed to play to an audience.”

Caught red handed

By now an expert at guitar, Amunga’s fame spread quickly and because of that he found himself involved in an incident at Ebukambuli School that could potentially have ruined his life.  As he puts it, a ‘crazy’ boy from Ekwanda in Bunyore known as Manase had heard that he played guitar so he brought one to school and approached him. Those days, if you were found with a guitar you risked summary expulsion. During the day, they would hide the instrument in a neighbour’s house and sneak it into the dormitory in the evenings. This attracted crowds of students.  One day a teacher disguised himself as a student and caught Amunga red handed.

Amunga panicked and knew straight away what the consequences were. The headmaster at the time was Enoch Mulembo from Emusire.  “He looked at me fiercely and asked if I was aware that I was in a mission school.  Timid and shaken I answered ‘yes’ expecting to be expelled.  I was shocked when he told me that he was not going to punish me, “ he says. “Instead, I was to use my guitar to promote only Christian music.”  With this narrow escape, Amunga took to singing hymns and other Christian melodies using his guitar. One of those tunes Nobusangali ne Milembe Po became a big hit throughout Luhyaland. More...

David Amunga and Shad Bulimo
David Amunga and Shad Bulimo

Atsango Chesoni: Like father like daughter...

Atsango Chesoni
Atsango Chesoni, deputy chair, Committee of Experts on Constitutional Review

By Susan Anyangu and Shad Bulimo

Like father like son used to be the popular saying. But that was those days when men ruled the roost without abandon. These days, we might as well put a spin on the age old proverb and call it 'like father like daughter' which perfectly befits the subject of this feature article. The deputy chair of the Committee of Experts on the Constitution Review process, Ms Atsango Chesoni is the daughter of the late Justice Zaccheaus Chesoni. Besides serving a distinguished career on the bench, Justice Chesoni rose to become Kenya's Chief Justice and died as the chairman of the Electoral Commission of Kenya on September 5 1999. The tough veins that flow through Atsango Chesoni reminds one of her father. She abandoned medicine for law to fight for justice; not for herself but for millions of Kenyans especially women whose daily lives are characterised by severe judicial deficit. A true Omumachina, she has come a long way from Chimoi in Kabras, Kakamega the land of her ancestors.

Trying to set up an interview with Atsango Chesoni as a piece of cake, despite her busy schedule as a member of the newly appointed Committee of Experts on the Constitution Review Process. With just one phone call, during which I promised to focus on the women’s movement and women’s involvement in the constitution review process, Atsango slotted me into her schedule. Within no time we were making plans to meet the next day at her apartment which doubles as her office.

When you walk into Atsango’s home, it is clear that she pays keen attention to detail and is not one to entertain clutter. A professing Panafricanist, Atsango ranks herself with the likes of the late Julius Nyerere, Kwame Nkurumah, Chinua Achebe and Ngugi wa Thiong’o. And indeed Atsango’s home is a living testament of this.

African theme at home

The living room is sparsely furnished with tastefully chosen pieces of African artefacts. A look at the paintings that hang on the walls reveals a person who is in touch with and proud of her African roots. Her music collection on the other hand is clear proof of someone who appreciates poetry and the beauty of language. Her CD collection is largely African — musicians whose themes are not only timeless but also tell profound stories.

atsango chesoni

Atsango Chesoni. Her track record and involvement in the push for a new constitution has earned her a seat in the Committee of Experts. Photo: Maxwell Agwanda

And on the corridor stands a bookshelf, which tells another story of Atsango. She is a poet, whose inclination is toward African literature, a Panafricanist, feminist and indeed an avid reader. Possibly, every literary African writer can be found on Atsango’s shelf. And she has no apologies for her devotion to books.

"When I was returning to the country after studying abroad, I shocked immigration officials at the airport because of the number of books I brought with me. I had a number of huge trunks filled with books. I love reading and all I did while studying in the USA and UK was buy books," Atsango says.

While she is a lawyer by profession, Atsango is also a poet, who has written volumes of poems that she is yet to publish.

"I went to university as a Biology major, but later switched to being an English major who then later went to Law school. Everyone in my family has an aptitude for the sciences and indeed my late father who was a lawyer by profession was initially expected to study medicine at the university. Despite having an aptitude for the sciences I opted to study English and Law because the sciences became too boring," she says.

However, with more probing, Atsango reveals that she was propelled into Law School because of a tragedy that happened to someone close to her.

"I studied Law to find out why the rape of a girl meant less to my society than the theft of a cow. I have always been interested and concerned about rape. I started reading newspapers at an early age and I remember asking one of my uncles what ‘carnal knowledge’ was because that is what it used to be called. A two-year-old girl had been raped and another person had stolen a cow. The one who stole a cow got a stiffer penalty and I was puzzled about this," she recounts.

Journey begins

While this story would have a significant impact on Atsango’s life, the rape of someone close to her would seal the deal, converting this would-be scientist into a lawyer and later a champion of women’s rights.

"In my first summer I received a letter from home. Someone close to me had tried to kill herself because she had been raped. I began to deal with this by writing poetry. I lost interest in Biology...it stopped being exciting…the life went out. For me it was more about doing something about what had happened to the person who was raped," she says.

atsango chesoni

Atsango indulges in one of her life’s passions — reading for knowledge.

And so her journey to becoming a lawyer began and this gave birth to Atsango, she that champions women’s rights. As she makes an entry into the limelight on the Committee of Experts on Constitution Review and sits as its vice chair, she is no stranger to the clamour for a new constitution. Indeed, Atsango professes that her track record and involvement in the push for a new constitution is what has earned her a seat in the committee.

"For a long time now, women have been organising themselves around matters on the Constitution. I have been involved in it for over a decade of my life. Way back in 1997 I was involved in the drafting of demands women made during the National Constitution Conference," she says.

Atsango believes present practices in Kenya prevent women from enjoying full rights of ownership of land and other property.

Quoting Pricilla Abwao, the first nominated woman member of parliament in Kenya, Atsango says: "I consider this position inconsistent with the realities of life in the 20th Century and that anything less than the right to own property is reactionary and unbefitting. This is where our struggle resonates and it is at the heart of what we have been struggling for, for a long time". It is on this note that Atsango says she has premised her push for a new constitution.

She continues to state that the current constitution discriminates against women and thus they must push for a review if their lives are to become better. She, however, warns that one does not have to be a lawyer to be involved in the process.

"Women who have been involved in this cause have come from a place of passion. Wanjiku Kabira and Pheobe Asiyo are good examples. We need to understand there is a long history and we are standing on the shoulders of women who have worked long and hard to give us a new future. Especially, Abwao who was the only African woman at the Lancaster conference," she says.

Women’s efforts

Atsango cautions women not to leave all the work to the members of the committee of experts but rather to rally from the outside and push for involvement and fair representation in the constitution review process.

atsango chesoni

Atsango being sworn in as a member of the Committee of experts on the Constitution Review Process. Photos: Family Album/Courtesy

"You must always have the people who beat the drum from the inside and those who beat it from the outside. It is not sufficient to have Prof Christina Murray, Njoki Ndung’u and I in there. We require somebody to beat the drum from the outside. There are three organs of the committee and that includes parliamentary select committee, legislative and referendum. All those offer opportunities for women to be involved in the process," she says.

Atsango urges women to stay vigilant and use every opportunity, but she says the prerogative to ensure women’s rights are improved also lies with the men. She argues it is not in the interest of this country to have half of its workforce being oppressed. She says there are men who can be allies and even if they do not want to be, they have the moral responsibility because women vote for them and pay taxes.

As Kenyans focus on the reforms agenda and particularly review of the Constitution, Atsango states that the demands remain consistent — that what women want is to be included in decision-making and given at least a third of the positions.

Affirmative action

Says she: "The figure of one third is not abstract, it is based on research and experiences of other countries where it has been used. The basic minimum needed to begin to make a difference is one third. The concept of affirmative action is based on research and past experiences. Affirmative action is not rooted in women’s rights issues but black movement. South Africa is a good example which has used affirmative action with regards to the blacks".

Atsango says the provision of a third of the positions reserved for women should be entrenched in law and accompanied by clear mechanisms of enforcing the same. She argues that Kenya has a legacy of violating this, thus the need to be succinct.

She also states that there is need to focus on the issue of citizenship, since it is one of the ways women are discriminated upon within the current constitution.

Together for change

"We need a mechanism that is clear and that is not at the discretion of anyone. Women need to look out for this. How will that one third be achieved? This is not a one-woman battle. It requires women to stand together, acknowledge and offer each other sisterhood, acknowledge other women who have previously been involved in process and seek their advice based on their experiences. The biggest lesson is, to learn how to listen to each other and work together regardless of party affiliation, ethnic background and whether or not we like each other. If we stand together I think we can win. If want a new future for our women, mothers, daughters we need to stand together as a country and say this is not acceptable," she says.

Atsango maintains that unless Kenya has a new constitution peace will continue to be elusive. And she cautions that the current constitution is unfair to women and thus, if they must have a new dawn, a review is urgent.

Until she was called to serve her nation on the committee of experts, Atsango was working as a private consultant. She has done work for the United Nations in Southern Sudan monitoring the impact of conflict on women and children.

She describes herself as a human rights monitor, who documents human rights violations.

She also works as a policy and legal reform analyst. She advises on policy and law reforms, human rights and women’s human rights. She also does work in evaluating development initiatives. Her clientele is highly varied and impressive and includes the World Bank, multi-lateral agencies, African Union and Action Aid International.

Atsango is inspired by many people including, Abwao, Asiyo and Graca Machel. She says of them: "They are graceful, amazingly strong, powerful and yet humble".

Source: Standard

Masinde Muliro: A man for whom principle mattered more than material wealth

By Anver Versi
Masinde Muliro, politician, born Matili Kenya 30 June 1920, died Nairobi 14 August 1992.
AT THE highest level, Kenyan politics often resembles a game of poker played by some of the most astute minds in Africa. Over the last six months, a fascinating struggle for the leadership of Kenya's main opposition party, FORD (Forum for the Restoration of Democracy), has held the Kenyan masses in thrall. But as the rivalry for FORD's leadership and, by implication, the national presidency intensified, the sophisticated dealing gave way to a naked lust for power among the country's major opposition figures.
FORD, the only organisation that has a realistic chance of wresting control of the government from the ruling party, KANU (Kenya African National Union), was on the verge of disintegration when the veteran nationalist Masinde Muliro startled everyone by declaring his intention of entering the presidential race. The 70-year-old Muliro had emerged from political hibernation to become a founder member of the opposition FORD movement and had since played a low-key, supportive role, as vice-chairman of the organisation, to more flamboyant personalities like Oginga Odinga.

Going for the highest office: His quietly stated decision to go for the highest political office when the whole opposition movement appeared to be floundering was typical of the man. He was offering himself as a compromise candidate in order to maintain unity within the opposition ranks. His candidature had an immediate and sobering effect on the opposition front-runners, Odinga and Kenneth Matiba. It also galvanised a surge of public support for this professorial, highly idealistic politician who had never relinquished public respect since his entry into politics some 35 years ago. One month after his decision to run for President, Muliro died of heart failure while he was on his way back to Kenya after a brief visit to London.

South African calling: Masinde Muliro was born in 1922 at Matili in western Kenya. His farmer father was a Roman Catholic. He attended several mission schools run by the Catholics, including the intellectually stimulating St Peter's College in Tororo, Uganda. His early political and social ideas were formed when he was at the University of Cape Town from which he graduated in 1954 with a BA in History, Philosophy and Education. When he returned to Kenya, he lectured at the Siriba Training College but he was already laying the groundwork for a future in politics. He met the passionate and fiery Odinga and the two embarked on a course of radical politics that was to shape and define the African struggle for independence in Kenya.

Clash of principles: Muliro fought for and won a seat in the first ever direct African elections to the colonial legislative council in 1957. The scholarly, pipe-smoking former lecturer often found himself clashing with some of his less far-sighted colleagues on the council. He formed the Kenya National Party, a multiracial organisation that made radical demands on the colonial government. In 1960, the two largest ethnic groups in Kenya, the Luo and the Kikuyu, formed KANU (Kenya African Nationalist Union) as the political instrument that would take the country into independence. Muliro (who came from the third largest ethnic group, the Luhya), Ronald Ngala, from the coast, and Daniel arap Moi formed KADU (Kenya African Democratic Party) to represent the interests of the smaller ethnic groups.

Okhwa Makinia: Son of Makinia

Masinde Muliro
Although KADU was defeated in the 1961 elections, Muliro retained his seat and was made Minister for Commerce, Industry and Communications in a joint government. In 1963, KANU, now under the leadership of Jomo Kenyatta who had been released from detention in 1962, prior to independence, swept all before it and comprehensively defeated KADU. The following year KADU was dissolved and former members of the party, including Muliro, crossed the floor to join KANU. At this point, Muliro, who had acquired a reputation as an intellectual and a formidable debater, appeared to lose his appetite for political in-fighting and instead turned to commerce. He became chairman of several parastatal marketing boards and developed his own farming and transport interests. Nevertheless, he remained the undisputed leader of the Luhya community and always spoke out, succinctly and often devastatingly, against injustice and corruption from the parliamentary back benches.

No doubting his sincerity: Muliro had carved out a unique position for himself in the country's political landscape. While he was regarded as a non-conformist by the government, there was no doubting his sincerity or idealism. In parliament, the force of his logic during debates made him an outstanding champion of causes which might otherwise have been lost. In 1969, the government, under Jomo Kenyatta, made him a full minister in charge of Co-operatives and Social Services. His penchant for standing up for his principles, however, brought him into direct confrontation with the government.

Only KANU member to support Odinga: When the government tabled a motion to proscribe Odinga's Kenya People's Union (KPU) after some members of the party stoned Jomo Kenyatta during a political rally, Muliro was the only member of the ruling party to set his face against the motion. He said that while he found the incident abhorrent, banning the opposition party would make Kenya the laughing stock of Africa. Odinga's party was eventually banned and Kenya became a de facto one-party state.

Masinde Muliro, Martin Shikuku and Odinga Oginga
Scions of second liberation: From right: Masinde Muliro, Jaramogi Odinga Oginga and Joseph Martin Shikuku.


Makers of Kenya's History: Masinde Muliro by Prof Simiyu Wandibba

Only minister to vote against govt on JM Kariuki

In 1975, Muliro was the only minister to vote against the government over a report into the murder of a popular politician JM Kariuki. His vote swung the balance and the government lost the motion. For his pains, he was dismissed from his ministerial post by the imperious Kenyatta and was never to regain any position in government. He continued to speak out against some government policies from the back benches but preferred to do so from within the party. There were several attempts to unseat him but he successfully petitioned one election result through the courts and regained his place in parliament.

Hit at Moi and Kanu: From 1986 onwards, now under Daniel arap Moi's presidency, Muliro's criticism of the government and the ruling party increased. He accused the party of rigging elections and said that the cult of sycophancy being encouraged in parliament was turning it into a 'rubber stamp' for the executive. He engaged in spectacular public clashes with Shariff Nassir who controlled the port of Mombasa and was one of President Moi's most loyal supporters. Nassir called him 'anti-government' and accused him of being in the pay of 'foreign masters'. Muliro countered by saying that parliamentary democracy was being eroded by the likes of Nassir who did not want members to 'speak out their minds and freely express their opinions'. Although Muliro retained the support of the Luhya community and the respect of the nation, he had antagonised too many people by refusing to go along with the tide and he lost his parliamentary seat for the last time in a by-election in 1989.

Champion of second liberation: He appeared to have dropped off the political landscape after this but bounced right back nearly three years later to become a founder member of FORD. His initial role as vice-chairman of FORD was that of a bridge-builder between the strong personalities who represented the largest ethnic groupings in the country. His own declaration of intent only came when the opposition party began to fragment and only after strong public pressure had forced his hand. Masinde Muliro always took the lonely road of honesty and plain-speaking in public affairs and it was perhaps this dedication to democratic principles that denied him higher office in government.

Josiah Mwangi Kariuki
The slain former Nyandarua MP, JM Kariuki. Muliro was the only minister to vote against the government in a motion indicting Kenyatta's regime for JM's murder.

The purpose of Muliro's brief visit to London was to persuade the Foreign Office to keep faith with FORD. He also met a delegation from the UK branch of FORD who expressed their dismay at the personality clashes within the opposition group and told them categorically that he was willing to relinquish his bid for the presidency if that would enhance party unity. The chairman of UK FORD, Joseph Gitari, who probably held the last formal discussion with Muliro, said that he, more than any other politician, had emphasized the defence of human rights above other political considerations. 'What he wanted above all,' said Gitari, 'was the restoration of true democracy and he told us quite emphatically that his, or anyone else's, personal ambitions mattered not the least in the interests of the national good.'
Source: The Independent, UK

Profile: Prof Fanson Kidwaro

A man for whom hope is everything

By Shad Bulimo, Oct 1 2009
Never give up. Never lose hope for Hope is everything. These words from
Professor Fanson Majani Kidwaro are a lifeline to millions of Kenyans who have lost hope in their country, leaders and themselves. They are only words of course, but words have the power to change an individual’s world in ways that guns or handouts cannot. Restoring hope in a people whose spirit is broken is a gigantic task. For Prof Kidwaro, it is a challenge that he embraces wholeheartedly. He is one of the few people who believe that his people of western Kenya will rise from valley of hopelessness, doom and despair; conquer their fears to claim their rightful place at the top table in Kenya. All they need is hope and a strong sense of self belief.

It is a belief that has propelled this unlikely hero from humble beginnings in the sleepy village of Chavavo in South Maragoli to claim a coveted seat in one of America’s top academic institutions. The sixth born in a family of five girls and four boys, Prof Kidwaro was only 13 when his father, Mark Kidwaro a former personnel manager with the ministry of education died in 1981.

Prof Kidwaro, whose hero is former South African President Nelson Mandela, attended Chavavo Primary and Mwihila Secondary schools before moving to the USA in 1983 to pursue further education. He Holds a BS Degree from Truman State University, an MS degree from University of Central Missouri, and a doctorate (PhD) from University of Missouri-Columbia.  He is currently the chairman of the Department of Agriculture at the University of Central Missouri where he has been teaching since 2001.  Dr. Kidwaro resides in Lees Summit, Missouri with his wife Florence and sons Andrew and Mark Kidwaro. His mother, Jedidah Jumba, is a local businesswoman in Vihiga but is currently living in Missouri with her son and his family.

Family members

Prof Kidwaro comes from a strong Christian family and his siblings include, in order of seniority: Michael Mmata, a vet in Maseno; Janet Kavetsa Zintambila of Illinois; Mary Majani, a nurse in South Carolina, Florence Mijinde of Eldoret, Beatrice Mwange of Chicago, Phoebe Aluda of Nairobi, late Phinimore Kidwaro and Joshua Kibisu  of  Nairobi.

Like his hero, Nelson Mandela, Prof Kidwaro is a strong believer in the philosophy of leadership by service. He believes individuals are successful only when measured against the community in which they live or come from. As a community leader in Kansas City where he served as president of Organization of Kenyans in Kansas City for two years, Prof Kidwaro had the distinguished honor of representing a strong Kansas City community in the 2003 meeting between President Mwai Kibaki and George Bush at the White House.

“We have hosted Kalonzo Musyoka, the vice president, Hon. William Ruto, the minister for agriculture and the late Kipkalya Kones, Raila Odinga, the prime minister and every year we organize Madaraka Day celebrations - a function that brings all Kenyans in Kansas City together as one people. The community is very united and cherishes the “harambee” spirit which embraces collective responsibility.  This spirit has come alive during important community events such as weddings, funerals, and sports. For example when there is a funeral, within a week we raise enough funds to transport the body back home,” says Prof Kidwaro who was last month elected president of Halala Kansas City chapter.

A believer in faith, the soft-spoken Prof Kidwaro belongs to Breakthrough Community Church where he is a Men’s ministry leader. It is one of five Kenyan community churches in Kansas City.  Prof Kidwaro plays soccer on the Kansas City Kenyan team. He also enjoys playing golf and tennis. When he is relaxing, he likes to listen to the inspirational music of award-winning Tanzanian gospel singer, Rose Muhando and loves playing with his energetic two boys Andrew and Mark.

A dream too far

It is a far dream for most boys from Mwihila Secondary School. The school is not one of those institutions that one associates with pedigree achievers like say, Alliance High or even Kakamega Boys High School. In fact few people will tell you they know it or have heard about it. It is one of those rural schools that exist on the margins of society and the only time they come into the news, it is almost always for the wrong reasons like students rioting. Yet, it is here that Prof Kidwaro nurtured his ambition to achieve academic excellence and make something of his life despite his humble environment.

“I went to Mwihila because my brother had gone there and my mother suggested that I go there as well. I also had a few friends schooling there. It was very peaceful and conducive to academic study with little to distract you such as you see in some urban based schools,’ he says of his former alma mater.

Prof Fanson Majani Kidwaro
Man of Hope: Prof Fanson Kidwaro at work as head of the department of agriculture, University of Central Missouri in the USA and below with his beloved wife, Florence and children Mark (left) and Andrew (right)
Fanson Majani Kidwaro

Coming to America

After his ‘O’ levels, Prof Kidwaro who likes a meal of chapatti a lot, wanted to go to Kakamega High School for his ‘A’ levels but his sister, Janet Kavetsa Zintambila arranged for him to come to the United States where he enrolled for a Bachelor’s degree at Truman State University. Still armed only with hope, Prof Kidwaro got a soccer scholarship at Truman which helped pay his fees. From here he proceeded to Central Missouri State University for his masters and a PhD at the University of Missouri –Columbia which he received in 1997.

Now in the labor market, Prof Kidwaro who comes from Avasali clan first got a teaching job at Metropolitan Community College in Kansas City but in 1999 he was hired as an adjunct professor at the University of Central Missouri and two years later his positive mien turned hope into a dream job as a full time professor at the same university where he has risen to become head of the department of agriculture. So how did he do it?

Growing up in the village, there was little else to widen the scope of imagination of a young lad. But what little there was, Prof Kidwaro made use of it. The smallholder tea farming plots in Chavavo village inspired Prof Kidwaro to want a career in agriculture so that he could be employed by top companies in Kenya. “I wanted to be employed by either Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) or Kenya Breweries to work in their barley research unit. They were the best employers then,” he says

Revolutionary research

Although coming to the USA changed the direction of things, the ambition to achieve is still burning in Prof Kidwaro who is deeply involved in various research projects. He is currently conducting research in cereal crops (wheat), forage crops and switch grass at the university agronomy farm to be used in the production of cellulosic ethanol and biogas as part of the Centre for Alternative Fuels and Environmental Systems (CAFE) program. The keen football enthusiast is excited about the research opportunities for students at the new Prussing Research Farm funded by 20 companies in the first research of its kind. Some of his research papers have been published in the respected Journal of Plant Nutrition and Missouri Academy of Science Proceedings Journal. He has presented papers at Agronomy and Crop Science Societies of America.

Prof Kidwaro’s appetite for research shows no signs of diminishing. Ever so hopeful, he will shortly begin research into a variety of rye grass which is reportedly yielding plenty of animal feed for farmers in the southern states of Oklahoma and Tennessee. Preparatory to the impending research, his department has hired a new Animal Science professor who will collaborate with him on feeding trials. He is also working on development of a new forage crop legend II Lespedeza funded by a local seed company, Cutting Edge Technologies.  

So how can Prof Kidwaro’s research skills be harvested to benefit his homeland? “A lot of the research that I do can be replicated in Kenya. Napier grass for instance can be researched to develop a variety that grows faster and plenty. KARI has the capacity to do so but they always complain they have no money,” he says. The problem in Kenya is a cultural one, he says. “For instance goat milk is just as nutritious as cow milk but people are reluctant to use this milk although they are happy to eat goat meat. It is important that a cultural shift occurs to ensure we have a variety of food products. Small ruminants like goats do not need much space and food to breed like cows.”

In touch with his roots

Talking to Prof Kidwaro, one comes across a self assured, confident and sociable individual.  Although he has lived in the United States for the last quarter century, he is deeply attached to his roots. “Before I got married, I used to go home twice a year. Now I go once a year,” he says. He is not all about academics though. Of course his world view is shaped by his socio-cultural orientation and he seems to see opportunities where others may see problems. Around Kansas City and Missouri, he is something of a hero primarily as a result of his community leadership skills. He is unassuming and welcoming of strangers. His interest in leaving the world a better place than he found it finds expression not only in community initiatives but also, perforce, politics. He takes up the story:

Florence Kidwaro
Florence Kidwaro with sons Andrew (left) and Mark (right)
Luhya unity

Luhya unity: Even though we have 18 sub tribes, if you ask all of them to list their problems, chances are they’ll come up with a similar list. So whether you are a Kabras or Tiriki, all Luhya are facing the same problem. We need to exploit cultural components such as language and aesthetics that bind us together in order to achieve unity in diversity. A political structure is another cultural component that we as Luhya don’t seem to appreciate. The culture of poverty makes us gullible so that whoever comes and gives us something, we follow them and in the process, compromise our integrity and our values.

We need to mobilize people in Nairobi and other urban areas and the Diaspora to push the agenda for development in Western. For instance, Halala has come up with the idea of a mobile clinic. This is a timely idea. At the moment, people do not seek medical help if they appear sick; they have to be almost comatose for anyone to wheel barrow them to a hospital.

People like Masinde Muliro, Moses Mudavadi, Martin Shikuku, Silas Jirongo and Fred Gumo have tried to unite Luhya. Their efforts need to be complimented by all Luhya by shunning petty differences.  The late Moses Budamba Mudavadi was exemplary in offering service leadership. He was the kind of leader who would actually serve you tea personally where other leaders want to be served and hero-worshipped as mheshimiwa. That kind of service leadership is lacking in our leaders. Masinde Muliro earned the respect of most Luhya and Shikuku’s outspokenness highlighted the issues facing the poor of which Luhya are a majority. Jirongo, on the other hand, seems to seek Luhya unity to get him votes to become the president. He commissioned a report which I presented to him that identified the issues that needed attention and a definite road map to achieve targets. He promised to follow them through but I never heard from him again. He seems to be surrounded by wakora (conmen).

Political journey

Politics: In 2007, I embarked on a learning journey to test the waters in politics. I started off by visiting schools and talking to teachers and several community groups about development issues across the board. What I discovered was that politicians in Kenya are a jealous lot. The moment they realize you are making inroads, they seek ways of putting your head on the chopping board. In my Vihiga constituency, the then incumbent Andrew Ligale saw me as a threat even though we are friends. So I decided I won’t seek nomination from ODM like him but use another party out of respect. I settled on Jirongo’s KADDU.

Big joke

However, when it came to nominations, the process was nothing but a big joke.  The ballot boxes could not arrive on time for some reason and the party leader said we use any means so long as we gave him a candidate. In the meantime, my main opponent, Tom Kisia, the secretary of Knut, Vihiga branch had intimidated all the teachers whom I had earlier talked to. I went with Alice Kirambi who was also contesting the Sabatia Parliamentary seat on a KADDU ticket to Nairobi to see Jirongo and lay our frustration at his door only to find out that the process was nothing but political business at work.

When that too proved shambolic, Ligale called me for a meeting at Kenya United Club and said he’ll talk to Uhuru Kenyatta for me to join Kanu and get the party’s nomination. Even parties like Chama cha Wakulima and UDM called me to say that I should go for their certificate to be their candidate in Vihiga, but I realized that when people are hungry, visionary leadership is a pipe dream. I therefore decided to postpone my political aspirations and concentrate on my career first.

Community worker

While politics has taken a back seat, Prof. Kidwaro has concentrated his efforts in serving his community. In August this year, he was elected interim president of Halala Kansas City chapter during the annual convention in Maryland where he was invited as a key note speaker. Halala USA is the umbrella organization of the Luhya community in the United States. It now has five branches. With leaders like him who never give up, it is only a matter of time before all Luhya people worldwide speak with one voice. | Click here to access printable version
Thank you World Vision: You gave me education now I am in parliament, says Kizito, new Shinyalu MP

By John Ngirachu, Sept 8 2009
When he first followed neighbours to school as an eight-year-old boy 31 years ago, he was merely doing what his friends did, but his parents neither knew nor cared about it. And while at Chilobani Primary School, Ileho Division in Shinyalu Constituency, he loved to play football. But just months ago, Justus Kizito Mugali rose at his father’s funeral and bowed to pressure from elders who had been pestering him to declare his candidacy for the seat left vacant by his friend Charles Lilechi Lugano. I campaigned “I campaigned for him after being asked to give way in 2007. You see, I’m from a poor family, and he was respected and more recognisable,” said the MP on Monday. He eventually won with 14,452 votes against the 5,080 garnered by his closest rival, Kaddu’s Daniel Khamasi.

Two funerals and one election: Mr Kizito had just lost his father two days after the former MP died, and had to help organise two funerals, with his father being laid to rest on May 23, a week after Mr Lugano was buried. Although he had to borrow his mother’s leso as a child as he waited for his uniform to dry after washing, circumstances have since improved. He holds a masters degree in education administration and finance, and has his sights set on a seat in the Cabinet and eventually, his name on the ballot card as a presidential candidate. Now he has a personal assistant, a bodyguard and a driver, and telephone calls are coming in two a minute; the assistant is fully occupied answering and redirecting them. He is in a buttoned-up black suit and swings comfortably in the chair, the picture of a man doing well. “My father had two wives, 14 children and just two acres of land on which he depended to feed us. It was no coincidence that I was the only one who got educated,” said the 39-year-old Shinyalu MP, who last week became one of the newest members of the august House. At school, he realised it was not hard to grasp what was being taught. The teachers noted that the barefoot boy was bright, and encouraged him to stay in school. He sat the primary school examinations in 1983, and was admitted at Mukumu Boys School, one of the few boarding secondary schools in Shinyalu. It was set up with the support of the Catholic Church.

World Vision to the rescue: “I approached a man called Henry Lubanga, who was then a manager with the Muhuru Family Project of World Vision. They looked at my history and agreed to pay half the fees,” said Mr Kizito. It was at the World Vision headquarters at Karen in Nairobi that the Nation met him on a visit he had made to thank them for the help they gave him back then. World Vision is dependent on sponsors, says sponsorship manager Muthoni Ngugi. There are currently 139,909 registered children under the programme. But while Mr Kizito’s burden had been halved, it had not gone away yet and he says many were the times he dropped out for up to a month to earn the balance by burning charcoal at Kakamega Forest. Still, he qualified for Advanced Level and joined St Peter’s Mumias, where World Vision paid Sh5,700 per year for his fees. He performed well and eventually went to Egerton University in 1993 to pursue a bachelors degree in languages.

Justus Kizito Mugali
Newly elected MP for Shinyalu, Mr Justus Kizito Mugali with World Vision’s Muthoni Ngugi when he visited their offices on Monday. Mr Kizito is a beneficiary of the institution’s education programme. Photos: PETERSON GITHAIGA

Boy child is an endangered species

After a brief stint teaching at Olkejuado Boys High and Matasia Secondary School, he went back to school, this time to Kenyatta University for his masters degree. He eventually went on to teach at Eregi Teachers College and the Catholic University of East Africa. It is perhaps from this background that he speaks with passion about the education problems facing Shinyalu constituents. “The boy-child there is endangered and for the five girls’ secondary boarding schools, there is only one - Mukumu Boys,” he said.

Voter bribery: “Did you bribe voters?” He seems surprised at the question, but says he did not, insisting that voters’ mind-sets are changing, although they are always willing to take the money that’s dished out to them. When Mr Lugano died, it was even difficult to get photographs of him. “It is up to the media to follow MPs who do things for their constituents, not just those who shout; you will discover there are many of my colleagues doing something to ensure their people don’t suffer the way people like myself did,” he said confidently.

Source: Nation, Sept 8 2009

SAUTI SOL in EUROPE: Special Feature

Sauti Sol: Blue Uniform - Imekubaliwa (top) and right, a minage of the sensational boy band members and their first album called Mwanzo (beginning)
sauti sol

Sauti Sol: Mafunzo ya Dunia
Sol Band: New kids on the block

The multi-talented Sauti Sol is something you have ever experienced before. The African acoustic band consists of 4 members; Bien-Aime Baraza Alusa, Willis Chimano, Delvin Mudigi and Polycarp Otieno who met in high school and originally started as an accapella group. When they cleared their O-levels in the year 2005 they decided to take up music professionally. The band is inspired by the choices, consequences and challenges that the Kenyan youth face and the need to revamp the music industry with a different unique sound that cuts across all age groups. Musically, they are inspired by Fadhili Williams, Daudi Kabaka and other established African artists such as Salif Keita and Lokua Kanza. They are currently touring European cities since August. Their debut Album, Mwanzo, is Number One in Kenyan top of the tops charts. More...

London shows

In London they'll play at African Centre in Covent Garden and Club Afrique on Sept 4 and 5. Make sure you get your ticket in advance to avoid disappointment. Tickets cost £15 for students and £20 for others and are available from the following persons:
DJ Dubwise: 07886 395 578;
Awinja: 07882 341 401 or;
John: 07882 430 284

Sauti Sol
Sauti Sol in Europe: After shows at the Africa Centre in London on September 4 and Club Afrique on September 5 and a Swedish tour, they will come back for the launch of the Sauti Sol Album "Mwanza" on Wednesday September 23 in Club Bitterzoet, Amsterdam. More...
Proud parents - John and Grace Baraza

The parents of Sauti Sol lead guitarist, Bien-Aime Baraza Alusa are John and Awinja Baraza pictured right. Awinja is from Ebusikhale Epang'a in Bunyore and John is from Isukha, Kakamega.

Number One: Sauti Sol's debut album, 'Mwanzo' is number one in Kenya's Top Ten Charts.
John Baraza and Awinja Baraza
Face to face with Shikuku

By Shad Bulimo, August 5 2009
In the beginning there was Joseph Martin Olukhanya but his father Johana Oyondi called him simply Shikuku.  He started life as a seminarian at St Peter’s Seminary in Mukumu, Kakamega.  His teacher, the late Mwalimu Matayo Shiundu Mukenya from Mumias described him as ‘’a clever and naughty boy.” It was a trait that was to catapult Shikuku into national limelight when at the age of 20 he quit the calling of serving the Lord to embrace the urgent need to emancipate his people from the yoke of colonialism.

But not before he tried to find a career that would earn him a living. His first job was a laboratory assistant at Magadi Soda.  Although he liked his job, Magadi Soda was located in a remote outpost it did not suit a gregarious individual like Shikuku who got a kick by being closer to crowds. Consequently, he quit the chemical firm and found work as a train guard in Nairobi, the first African to hold that post. Although he had become politically aware aged only six in 1939 and was active since 1952 when Mau Mau fronted struggle for uhuru, it was not until 1960 that Shikuku was elected by Kadu as the national youth leader.  Now well positioned to put his debating skills to good use, his first most important task was to travel to London as part of a delegation that was to negotiate the constitution of independent Kenya at Lancaster House, London.
The rest as they say is history.  Shikuku has for five decades been at the centre of politics in Kenya.  When the powers that be felt he had gone overboard and was snooping too closely on their vested interests, at best they threw him into detention.. More...martin shikuku
Martin Shikuku in Cambridge, England writing his memoirs.

Martin Shikuku
Martin Shikuku, former MP for Butere

My father Yohana Oyondi

My father was a wise man. He taught me that I should not encourage borrowing or lending for this causes feuds and schisms. However if you must lend, he cautioned, do so only as a last resort; but you must immediately write off the loan in your mind. And should your debtor repay you, give thanks to God and take 10% to Church as an offering. If your debtor has reneged on repayment, do not go for him. Instead make a conscious effort to avoid him; for his quilt may drive him to kill you.

Shikuku the grave digger

I got stick from Bukusu traditionalists and some Christians for digging my own grave in Kimilili Settlement Plot Number 259 in Bungoma where I live but I tell you preparing your final resting place is not unchristian as some people would have you believe. Jesus of Nazareth was buried in a grave that belonged to Joseph of Arimathea. It was a common practice to prepare your final resting place and that is the tradition that I am following. As for Bukusu traditionalists, I told them that I am not a Bukusu and therefore not in breach of their traditions. More...

Shikuku's real Luhyas

Musa Amalemba:  Moses (Musa) Amalemba (immortalised by an estate bearing his name in Kakamega) pioneered initial steps at forging Luhya unity. Before independence Amalemba from Idakho formed Buluhya Political Union (BPU) as the voice of the Luhya in the political dispensation emerging in Kenya at the time. When he had a position in Kenya Airways, he was not ashamed to employ Luhya.

Canon Jeremiah Musungu Awori:  I am a great admirer of Canon Awori for his contribution to the intellectual stock in Luhyaland. He sired 18 children from one wife – a record – all of whom have gone on to achieve great things. 

Moses Mudavadi:  Mudavadi had Luhyaism in him. When he was in a position to help, he would help Luhya people first.  For instance, when he was minister for local government, City Hall was like a Luhya village.  And when he was minister for education, it is open secret that the majority of untrained Luhya teachers got employed by his direct intervention.  Politically we did not see eye to eye as he was part of an oppressive system of Moi dictatorship which I was fighting. 

Silas Jirongo:  Unlike his contemporaries, I find that Jirongo is not afraid to take the bull by the horns.  At least he tries to reach out to the community or involve himself in things that matter to the community. He has been chairman of AFC Leopards and was instrumental in setting up the Luhya Council of Elders which he funded. However, he seems to be interested in these initiatives for short term gain and when we refused to endorse him for president, he abandoned us. More...



Michael Werikhe Documentary. In his honour, The East African Wildlife Services has an annual award called The Michael Werikhe Perpetual Trophy which is sponsored by the EAWLS each year and awarded by the Rhino Ark. There is also the Michael Werikhe Foundation which is continuing the work pioneered by the late legendary conservationist. Mr Werikhe died in 1999 and is survived by two daughters.

Coastweek - - Those who knew Michael Werikhe well; those who are here today to pay their very special respects to a man of rare quality; knew him as a deeply caring man, an impeccably honest, modest, loyal friend and colleague. But in the ways the outside world normally measures a person, Michael Werikhe was a very ordinary man. And in many respects he led a very ordinary life.

So why did President Daniel arap Moi, President Ali Hassan Mwinyi, U.N. Secretary General Perez de Cuelleur, the Rev Jesse Jackson, U.S. President George Bush, and Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh all want to meet this ordinary man, and shake his hand ?

He wasn't rich.

He wasn't powerful.

He wasn't a sporting superstar.

He wasn't a great scientist or writer or speaker or artist.

He didn't invent anything.

He was just an ordinary man.

From an ordinary home.

Doing an ordinary job.

From afar, here was one of life's most ordinary people, strolling down the road, wearing a funny little cap and carrying a rucksack in which he kept his pet python, stopping here and there to chat to people along the way. So why did several of the the most eminent leaders of the modern world notice this man who liked to slowly walk and quietly talk as he ambled across the surface of the earth during his time upon it.

Why did the Guinness Corporation, the World Society for the Protection of Animals, the Goldman Environmental Foundation, The Zoological Society of San Diego and the Kenya Wildlife Service bestow upon him their highest honours ?

Why did the Eddie Bauer Institute acclaim him as a member of their elite "Heroes of the Earth" ? Why, among the hundreds, even thousands, of conservation organisations, societies, clubs, zoos, sanctuaries, environmentalists, sponsors, researchers and leaders of mankind's efforts to save wild animals in general and endangered species like the rhino in particular, was Michael Werikhe known and loved and respected the world over as: "The Rhino Man" ?

When that is the name that brings you to the door of State House, the White House, the U.N. Headquarters and Buckingham Palace, it is no mere nickname.

It is a title that carries recognition of a truly massive achievement. It is a statement that here is the champion of a global cause, the symbol of a worldwide commitment, the standard-bearer of an international care and concern on a subject of importance to all mankind. He did this with no special advantage of birth or wealth or education or special influence of any other kind.

He had only one special ingredient: a deeply caring concern in his heart for the natural things of the earth, and all the creatures upon it. He did not seek glory or recognition, and was never much absorbed with accolades nor impressed by fame when it was thrust upon him. His only ambition was to share his love of the wild, with anybody and with everybody, equally. Back at work as a security supervisor at AVA, it made no difference whether he had just walked out of the bush or just met George Bush.

His work was exemplary, and he continued to give his superiors, his colleagues and his subordinates his open-hearted friendship, his honest respect - no more than he would give to a barefoot toto; no less than he would give to the president of the United States. His modesty and his integrity brings to mind the words of Rudyard Kipling's great poem. . .

"If you can walk with crowds and keep your virtue,
And talk with kings nor lose the common touch. . ."

Michael Werikhe might never have read those lines, but he lived them, more literally and more completely, than any man I know. So genuine was Michael Werikhe's character and mission, I suspect that in his quiet personal moments and with his children Acacia and Kora, he never reflected:

"look at me, ordinary Michael Werikhe, meeting presidents and royalty".

And by that very real and very true self-effacement he turned the tables on the high and the mighty. He wasn't meeting them with pride. They were meeting him, perhaps with envy. He was not for one moment deterred by the fact that with nothing he might get nowhere. His life's philosopy, I believe, was:

"Perhaps there is very little I can do. But I will do whatever little I can."

With that quiet determination, he took the first and every succeeding step of his walk through life, for 46 years. And as all of us here well know, he achieved much; in large part because he did not waste one atom of his scarce resources in achieving anything for himself. His every care, his every thought, and his every act, was for others.

Therein lies the meaning of Michael Werikhe. Much more than any conservation specifics or awards or achievements, the message Michael Werikhe carried through the world, and the gift he leaves us with now, is the knowledge that even the most ordinary life can be lived in the most extraordinary way.

That poem of Kiplings, which summarises the very finest qualities any man can aspire to, might well have been written with a Michael Werikhe in mind, even to the very end, where he was so bravely true to the challenge:

"If you can meet with triumph and disaster,
And treat those two impostors just the same. . ."

The Rhino Man will be sorely missed and never forgotten. It was a great privilege to have worked with him and known him.

- P.J.C.H., Mombasa.

Source: Coastweek

enock ondego
Enock Ondego: composer of Kenyatta's favourite song 'Kenya Yetu'

Composer who sang Kenyatta's last tune

By our correspondent, July 27 2009
After being (rejected) by the new government I decided to go back to teaching. I was posted to Kwale district. I did not want to go to Maragoli. “I taught at Samburu primary school near Maji ya Chumvi, on the main Mombasa-Nairobi highway. We were all very happy, and Kenya was celebrating – I started to compose songs crying for our struggle and praising our new country and the new leaders. This is how I became the first teacher to sing for the president. When Kenyatta was on his way to Mombasa, I arranged that we would come to the road to cheer. I was the first in Kenya to do this. Before me choirs were only in churches.

Now there is something I have not told you. In Nairobi things were terrible. Even if I was not a Gikuyu, I was very moved by the things the colonial government was doing. I saw a lot. I saw women in Shauri Moyo. They made them sit with their legs open and their skirts hiked. Then – I am a man of God, it is improper to say this – the askaris molested them with Tusker bottles – the long Tusker bottles… they would put in between her legs and one would kick with all his strength, until the woman collapses. It was this that made me start to compose.

''We also sang the other song, Kenya’s most famous independence song. Did you know that I composed it? The song is called “Huu ni Wimbo wa Historia (This is a Song of History)”
Enock Ondego

Enock Ondego’s story begins in a village called Mazigolo, Kenya in what was then known as South Maragoli in Western province, where he was born in 1930. He started teaching at 17 and would soon leave for Nairobi to join the pre-independence clamour for African political rights, working with the likes of Tom Mboya, James Gichuru and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga.We pick up his story shortly after independence after his attempts to run for the Mombasa parliamentary seat were thwarted by Kanu in favour of home-grown Juma Boy.

jomo kenyatta
Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya's first president. He used to call Ondego 'Maragoli'. Below is Ondego's song which Kenyatta liked so much he decreed it becomes a National song to be sang on National days only.

Kenya Yetu (Our Kenya)
It is a thing of wonder, our Kenya
Let us hold hands and make it come to life
Many of us shed blood
But we must let go of what has passed
And build our Nation
Keeenya, is ours
We love it, for it has brought togetherness
Keenya, is ours
Our love for it is strong…

Song that moved Kenyatta to tears

Then, one day I saw a blue tractor with a harrow. There were Gikuyu women chained to the harrow with one hand, and to the bridge with the other, the bridge above the dirty water in Pumwani. There were seven women. They were asking them, “Where are your husbands?” “We don’t know,” they were saying, “We don’t know.” “So you die,” said one of the Askaris. And one of the women said, “Then we will be with God.” And so the tractor roared into action, and the women were dragged, and started to hit each other as they were stretched, and they were pulled until they died there. I saw everything...the blood, the screams…they kept calling God’s name. Ngai, Ngai. I felt a lot of pain. And that was the subject of the song I sang for Kenyatta, and when he heard my children singing, he cried. We also sang the other song, Kenya’s most famous independence song. Did you know that I composed it? The song is called “Huu ni Wimbo wa Historia (This is a Song of History)”:

You could hear the children’s voices singing there on the road that day, and it was beautiful. Mzee Kenyatta listened to all the songs.
Do you know of anybody who saw Kenyatta shed tears? Police stopped all the cars coming to and from Nairobi, and they all heard us singing. It was very powerful. People came out of the cars and started clapping. Mzee asked me where the school was, and I pointed it out to him. He told me to have uniforms made for the choir, so they can go to sing in State House, Mombasa.

It was the fifth month of 1964 that I started to go to State House to sing. The Mzee would come to Mombasa in April, August and December, when his children were out of school. He loved Mombasa. We were taken by the community lorry. I would not rest when he was in Mombasa. I performed with my choir everyday. Mohal Lal, an Indian man, made our uniforms. The first choir had 62 children. It was at this time that I composed the song that everybody in Kenya has come to love. It is also Kenya’s most loved freedom song:

When Mzee heard this song, he said it must be taught to the police band. They sent me to Kahawa to teach the band. I taught them, and they played it for Kenyatta, and he told me that I was only to perform the song on State occasions. So we found a routine. When the president needed me, a message would be sent to the District Commissioner, who would summon my local chief, and a car would be sent for us.
There was always a stage and shelter for Kenyatta and the VIPs. When the President approached, there was a whistle and we stood up. Kenyatta would wave to the public to relax, and then we would start to perform. By this time there were different groups: dancers and other traditional performers. I was very well known now. I was not born again yet. So I would arrive and the Presidential escorts would take me behind their canteen and I would have some beers.
They were very moved by my songs. Once I was asked to compose a song in three days, to welcome Emperor Haile Selassie at Port Reitz. He was a good friend of Kenyatta’s. He visited Kenya in 1967, 1968 and 1969.

Another time, Mzee asked me to conduct a mass choir; I had now 2,600 children from six choirs for the opening of the “Uhuru na Kazi” building in Mombasa. I conducted them all while standing on a table. That day Mzee said I was to be promoted to P1 straightaway.
Although there were many groups now singing for the President, and many people started making things difficult, if Kenyatta found we were not at an event, he would fire those in charge of the programme. Other times we were in State House, and he would wave away the dancers, the likes of Mwomboko and Nyakinyua and call for the Mwalimu. “Bring on the Teacher,” he would say, “bring on the Teacher.”

We would sing 8 or 9 songs, I would get very tired, and people got upset at me. I was never paid any money by Kenyatta. Kenyatta only gave money to people from his tribe. Nyakinyua got millions, and beach plots in Mombasa. The only gift I got was a promotion to P1. He gave money to the Gikuyu basket weavers at Mwembe Tayari. Nyandarua group were also given a lot of money.
In Gatundu he would receive so many Gikuyus. One day he asked those who wanted money to raise their hands. They raised them. Then he asked them to move to one side. Then he asked those who had come for shambas. They moved to another side. Then he asked his Askaris to chase the ones who came for money, they beat them away. Those who came for shambas queued, and the PC started taking their names down. I used to go to State House and he would ask me, “Maragoli who taught you these things, all these words you sing?” And I would tell him I am just talented.

Once, he took me alone to his special room, and opened his cabinet, full of many bottles of expensive alcohol. And we drank together. But I lie, there is a time I got money from Mzee. After some years, I became tired and decided to desert Kenyatta. It was very difficult. He loved Mombasa - he would stay all of April, and leave in May. Then August to September. Then the whole of December. So while every other teacher and student was on holiday, I was conducting. Everyday I was conducting.
The choirmaster took a bus to his rural home where he remained for several years while Kenyatta asked after him. Finally, he was traced to a hotel where he had found a job as a waiter and taken back to Kwale in 1974 on orders of the Coast provincial commissioner Eliud Mahihu. In the car, they said, “You know, Mzee has asked us to take you to Kwale.”
We drove until the Likoni ferry. We crossed and went straight to the DC’s office. This was in ‘74. From the DC’s I was taken to Kwale Primary School. Then I was told, by the DC, “This is where you will be. We have told the people from Kenya National Union of Teachers that there will be trouble for them if you disappear.”
They gave me a house near the road. And there was always The DC’s Land Rover parked nearby, watching me. Sometimes Mzee came to the DC’s grounds just to be sang for. We got new uniforms. Kenyatta, all those years, ordered new uniforms seven times for my choirs. So from that day, I never missed performing for Kenyatta, until he died in 1978. In fact, we played for him the day he died.
This was in August of 1978. That week he had been strange. He was asking us to play for him a lot. He seemed all right, but you could not see his eyes. He was wearing spectacles. On the Monday, we were told we were going to sing for him in Tiwi. We sang there for one day, then the Guard told me he said he did not want to be there.
So we left and went to Msambweni, a place called Bombeni. He had called all the Cabinet and ambassadors and his family. They had built a huge stage, 30 feet long. There was a toilet in the back and a place for him to go and rest. They planted flowers. The place is still there.
By the end of the fourth day, all the family was there. Then he said he did not want anybody to sing, just my choir. So I went to the stage. We started performing. But after a bit, I noticed that he looked strange – I looked at his hand, and there was no fly whisk! It was made of a cow’s tail. I had never seen him without it – but now it was sitting between his legs. Then it fell, and it was taken to the car.
Usually we had a signal, I would put one hand up when we needed a break and he would signal that we could stop. After 5 songs, I was tired. I had tried signalling but no response. I bowed to suggest we leave, but he raised his hand, signalling that we continue. After 8 songs, he looked at Mahihu, and they surrounded him and took him to the toilet. That child of Peter, the one from Juja, took the fly whisk from the car and put it in his hand.
It was during the 9th song that Mzee collapsed. He was surrounded immediately. Somebody ran to the door and pushed a button and the door was open. Then they lifted him through the back to the car. I am telling you people must have died that day because the car mowed through the crowd. It was Ramadhan, so there were many people. They left so fast, even the guards did not know Mzee had left.
His wife and Mahihu were in the car. Cars followed...ni noo ni nooo... They were screaming. But on the way, the car met Dr. Mngola’s car coming to see the Mzee, and they turned back. We thought he had fainted.
We were told to go home. That a car would come for us the next day. We waited but the car did not come. At 1O’clock we heard that he was dead. That day I wondered how stupid I was. He used to tell me, “open there, take anything you want.” The fridge had a glass door, and made a sound like khrrrr, and I would take two beers and be drunk.
If I had been wise I would have told him that I had no land. So I started crying and the children started crying. They came to pick us up for the wake – and we saw his oiled face. He was glowing.

The Life of Mzee Ondego, an autobiography, is published by Kwani? Trust © 2009. Copies of the book are available directly from Kwani Trust from today and from all leading bookshops from August 2.
Price: Sh300
Dr Jedidah Enoch-Onchere
University academic turned IT professional wishes a day had more than 24 hrs

By Shad Bulimo, July 13 2009
The Bible says be kind to a stranger, she could be an angel in disguise. She prefers to remain invisible. You need more than normal eyes to spot her in an audience. Yet this unassuming daughter of Butere is a Luhya gem that I feel privileged to have discovered recently. In a busy office block in Hackney, East London, a lot is going on pretty much unnoticed by the outside world. Deans London, a brainchild of Dr Jedidah Enoch-Onchere is restoring hope to hundreds of people for whom life had ceased to have a meaning through vocational training programmes that lead to immediate employment.

Born to a church leader, Enoch Obulemire and Flora Apondi of Ebushirotsa, Butere, Jedidah Asumwa is the last born in a family of seven. Her siblings include Margaret Nandwa, Joel Eyinda, Fanuel Matati (deceased), Bernard Omolo, Jasper Mani, Eric Apindi (deceased).  The first born child of Enoch and Flora, Shitseswa, died aged just ten.

Butere Girls School a gift from her father: The soft-spoken Jedidah says although her mum inspired her, her dad had the greatest impact on her life. He was not only spiritually enriching, he was just a good person to the extent people always referred to him as omunabi (prophet). He was so selfless; Butere Girls High School is built on land he donated. His only request to the Board of Governors was that each year a girl from his clan, the abashirotsa gets a bursary. It is understood that this covenant is still observed to this day, 31 years since he left this world.

Top of her class: Jedidah says her life has been guided by the values of hard work and fair play instilled into her as a child by her father. These values saw the young girl breeze through her “O” Levels at Butere Girls as a top student in 1969 with a very strong Division One of seven points (a point short of the maximum six). That earned her a place at the coveted Alliance Girls High School in Central Province where she studied her “A” Levels. She scored top grades to earn a place at the University of Nairobi, Kabete Campus to study Bachelor of Science in Agriculture.

Winner of Shell Prize: But while Jedidah was studying hard, others were watching. The academically-gifted Jedidah was adjudged the Best Student in her year in 1975 and won the coveted Shell Prize. This recognition only spurred Jedidah to work even harder. She was immediately admitted back for a master’s degree programme as part of staff training at Kabete. She specialised in Soil Science and went on to graduate in 1978.

PhD scholarship at Reading University: As part of her field work, she worked for one year at Muguga Agricultural Research Centre as a soil scientist. In the meantime, the rising star of Jedidah was attracting attention from all manner of places both local and international. Spoilt for choice, Jedidah chose to pursue academics at Reading University in UK after winning a scholarship from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Atomic energy always conjures up memories of Hiroshima and Nagasaki where the Allied forces dropped the deadly atomic bombs to the recalcitrant Japanese who were fighting alongside Hitler during the Second World War. Our girl could have chosen to study the science of making weapons of mass destruction; she was wiser; she chose soil chemistry graduating with a PhD in 1982.

Love in the air: Few mortals can cope with an intense academic programme let alone combine with anything else. But not for Jedidah. While she was busy submitting term essays, her eyes had also caught the eyes of a dashing young man by the name of Simeon Onchere, a son of the Abagusii, also at Kabete studying Agricultural Economics. The chemistry between the two young lovers generated so much heat it increased global warming.  Conscious of the impact of their actions on the physical and social environment, the lovebirds solemnised their betrothal in a matrimonial ceremony in Nairobi in 1976 at St Andrews Church.

Children arrive: A year later, God rewarded them with a son, Edward (married to Rachael from Hull, England) in Nairobi followed by a daughter, Diana in 1981 (now Mrs Diana Humphrey) in Reading, England. Besides the two, Jedidah also has Sylvia Kanya, 22 whom she adopted from Uganda. She has two grandchildren, Sophia, 3 (Diana’s) and Siena, 2 (Sylvia’s).

The marriage to Onchere lasted 21 years. Jedidah says she has no regrets that the marriage went on the rocks because she tried everything to make it work but “ultimately if you can’t reach a compromise, you have to let go.”  She says her and Onchere were two very ambitious people who complimented and supported each other very well in their careers and contact networks.

Choice between family and career : After acquiring her PhD from Reading, Jedidah went to teach chemistry at Egerton College (now Egerton University). She was here for two years when her husband was appointed coffee attaché at the Kenya High Commission in London. “It was hard choice to make to join him in London as a housewife because I needed to continue with my career,” she says. A breakthrough came when the Kenya Government awarded her a research grant that allowed her to come to London to carry out research on soil fertility at the world renown Rothamsted Research Station, Harpenden, Hertfordshire (the oldest agricultural research station in the world).

But that grant was only for one year and so in 1986, Jedidah decided to make another of those decisions that only super mortals are capable of – switch career. She enrolled for a diploma course in computing and artificial intelligence (precursor to satellite navigation technology) at London South Bank University. On completion she got a part time job at Barnet College teaching basic computing skills like word processing. “This gave me an opportunity to look after my family and earn an income,” she says.

World Bank and UNDP consultant: During this time, another window of opportunity opened. She started consultancy work with World Bank and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). They say you need to be in work to get better work. For Jedidah, her consultancy work with the two world organisations boosted her profile so much she was head hunted to lead an information technology community project in Stonebridge Park, one of the most deprived areas of North West London.

“It was here that I first got the inspiration to branch out on my own. I felt I needed to put something back into the community. If we can’t create opportunities for ourselves, we cannot expect anyone else to create them for us,” she says.

jedidah enoch-onchere
At work: Jedidah in her office at Deans London College. The former Egerton College (now university) chemistry lecturer says she wishes a day had more than 24 hours to enable her complete the workload in her in-tray.

''Few Luhya are serious. We are always playing the underdog but why should we when we have so many educated people?”
jedidah enoch-onchere
Dr Jedidah Enoch-Onchere. Chemistry lecturer turned IT professional.

Giving something back to the community: Armed with the desire to make a difference in the community and fully equipped with the technical expertise and experience, Jedidah embarked upon setting up a series of Information Technology Colleges (ITeCs). Her first college was North London ITeC which she set up in partnership with two Nigerians, Joe Okoli and Ose Akpom. “The first two years were difficult as local authorities didn’t trust us. But we were prepared for the long haul. Our determination finally started bearing fruit and funding began flowing in and grew from strength to strength. Today me, Joe and Ose are no longer actively involved but the college is in full bloom. We are only consulted as and when necessary,” she says.

Gave away her baby: Like her father before her, Jedidah created the North London ITeC and gave it away. Few can understand the logic of investing so much time, energy and resources in a project only to give it away when it begins to bear fruit. “From the beginning, the idea was not to benefit me or an individual but the community,” she retorts.

The same deterministic zeal has seen Jedidah create three more colleges which again are running independent of her. First was UXL in Hackney where she fought to have Cisco taught at the tertiary level to the surprise of industry technocrats who always thought Cisco was strictly a university-level course. Next were East London ITeC and South London ITeC with another Nigerian, Peter Osalor. All these colleges are still running and besides the traditional IT training, she has added other vocational courses like sound engineering.

Renew Trust: The sky looked like the limit but still laden with tonnes of energy, Jedidah was again head hunted to run Renew Trust, an agency that was involved in recycling domestic appliances. That was in 2002. Her remit was to set up 14 training centres across the UK to train people in recycling techniques within three years. Within one year, she exceeded all expectations. She set up eight in Gateshead, Plymouth, Harlow, Dagenham, Telford, Merseyside, Northampton and Leeds. But the travelling up and across the country took its toll even on the indefatigable Jedidah. So after just one year, she quit Renew Trust to set up Deans London.

Deans London: Jedidah started Deans London with a small grant of £15,000 from The Learning Trust to teach people English but after one year, she decided to add domestic appliance repairing courses. In the last two years, she has added security training, customer services, cleaning and construction skills (plumbing, electrical installations, kitchen and bathroom installations), GCSE for disaffected young people, training to her stable. In addition, Deans London also offers courses in business administration, customer care and consultancy services. Last year, it won a major grant to document the culture of the Igbo tribe of Nigeria.

Creating jobs: Most graduates eventually work as self employed. Deans London also provides:

  • Business Start-up
  • Employability
  • Skills and Skills for Life - English courses - ESOL and preparation for IELTS, Citizenship,
  • Modern Arts,
  • Literacy & Numeracy,
  • Information Advice and Guidance and ICT

In 2007/2008, Deans London trained 738 people with additional 865 people enrolled this year alone (including 110 young people aged 14-19 years old). At the beginning of this year, Deans London employed 23 people but due to credit crunch, this number has shrunk to 17 while each of the four ITeC’s employs over 20 people.

Success! What success?: Personal success doesn’t excite Jedidah much.  She says her greatest satisfaction is to see the life of young people, especially black boys, transformed into something meaningful. With a strong outreach team, Deans London looks out for these youth and offers them a chance to train within their own post code area if they can’t travel far because of gang crimes. “To see people previously written off achieve something in their life is surreal,” she says. When one young man came in and said “thank you so much; you actually saved my life,” she felt her eyes twinge. Nonetheless, it is not lost on close observers just how much this woman from Butere has achieved. Last year, she won a Barking College Award for Excellence.

Low moments: While Jedidah is self assured and satisfied with her work, she is only human and has her low moments. However the way she deals with disappointments and moments of emotional distress is to put everything on a scale. That is she rates everything in terms of importance or usefulness. For instance if she gets cross with you or something annoys her, she quickly evaluates whether it is worth spending her emotional energies locked up in a fit of anger. “If I decide it’s not worth my time, the most I can be angry is ten minutes,” she says. “I cannot invest more than 10 minutes in anger. It’s negative energy.”

I wish a day had more than 24 hrs: Jedidah, whose favourite dish is a fish called lisatsu, says sometimes she feels disappointed with herself because she can never seem to do enough and wishes the day had more than 24 hours. Also she feels she disappoints people who build hopes in her and yet she can’t live up to their expectations simply because she just doesn’t have time.

The altruist: The chemistry academic turned IT professional is also something of an altruist. She says she sees good in everyone and everything. “It is a matter of training your mind. If you are looking for negatives, you’ll see plenty,” she admonishes. It is a philosophy that has guided her life throughout. And while her father played a large part in influencing her way of life, it is her strong Christian faith that she finds soothing. When the bishop of her local Anglican church in Thamesmead, Christopher Chissum, needed a facilitator, it is to Dr Jedidah Enoch-Onchere that he turned to. “That was shocking,” she says. “It was a great honour.” That honour lasted 18 months spanning the years 2006-2007. Two years later she hasn’t recovered.

Inspired by her mother: While her father influenced her conscience, her entrepreneurship is largely derived from her mother. The daughter of a Luo chief, Flora Apondi trained and worked as a teacher, nurse and farmer. At the same time, she conducted a successful wholesale business on the sides. “She was quite enterprising and inspirational,” she says of her mother who died in 1992 aged 78.

Jedidah on her people, the Luhya

Most people prefer to live in self denial. Not Jedidah. Of her people, the Luhya she says they are not aggressive enough. She says we Luhya like to play Mr. Nice and wait for someone to employ us. She says it is not bad to be nice but we need to learn to switch to Mr. Nasty if that is the way to achieve economic empowerment. “Sitting down and complaining about other tribes while we are doing nothing ourselves is self defeatist,” she says. “We have a jealousy streak. We are not happy when other people are succeeding. Few Luhya are serious. We are always playing the underdog but why should we when we have so many educated people?” she asks.

Entrepreneurship: Jedidah whose favourite musician is Meatloaf (strange enough) says Luhya people need to recognize opportunities and learn to become entrepreneurs as jobs are scarce and traditional land tenure systems can’t sustain the next generation. Her example shines like a beacon of hope to millions of girls in Luhyaland. All you need to do is “Abide with me.''

Jackie Odanga's music is inspired by God and Luhya tradition

By INGONEWS Reporter, June 01 2009
Jackie Ochieno Odanga truly defines the meaning of a natural artist and a God chosen leader. She has the ability to lead her audience not only in cultural and traditional singing and dancing, but most importantly in the presence of God through powerful praise and worship. Born in Kenya, she attributes the discovery of her musical talent to her grandmother, Jedidah Ochieno, who constantly taught and sang for her Christian songs.

Jackie grew up in Madaraka estate, Nairobi.  Her passion for music started in Mukumu Girls, Kakamega. Later on she joined the Nairobi Pentecostal Church (NPC Central) choir where her talent was developed.

She continued to explore her musical talent in Sweden where she studied for a couple of years. Jackie is now the worship leader at International Faith Outreach Ministries (IFOM) in Massachusetts, USA and she has had the privilege of ministering with great musicians such as Carol Mbithi and Reuben Kigame, among others. She has also had the opportunity of singing for powerful ministers such as Reverend Grace, Apostle Baraza and Apostle Frank Mwebesa among others at various crusades and concerts.

Furthermore, Jackie has had the opportunity of touring various cities in the U.S. While on these tours, she captivated her audience and people would always ask her to record a CD. After a lot of prayer she finally decided to work on her debut CD:  “HERITAGE”.  She enlisted the help of her nephew, Tony Akenga of Worcester, Massachusetts who helped her produce and arrange the music. Thereafter, she mastered her CD with 12th Note production in Boston Massachusetts. As a result, her versatility is showcased.

Her music comprises of traditional Luhya instrumentation fused with modern high end music production that embodies Jackie’s musical talents .This CD is guaranteed to keep you, the listener on your feet all the time.  Jackie is married to Robert Odanga and together God has blessed them with two wonderful children, Shawn and Shawntell.


How to buy the CD:

Top get a copy of Jackie’s pulsating CD, please visit: http://cdbaby.com/cd/jacquiheritage


Watch Jackie on Youtube:


Jackie Odanga striking the pose of artistic confidence

Inspiration for Heritage CD

Our primary goal was to put our music on the world stage where the rich sounds and the unique Luhya beats are appreciated by all. The other motivation stemmed from the need to preserve our cultural (traditional) music, modernize it and ensure that the authentic beat and rhythm is maintained. We aimed at producing our music with the highest professional standards and making it available to the world digitally.

We mastered the music at 12th Note production, and replicated the music at Our Links within the community and other communities give us a rare opportunity to market our music as a Kenyan treasure. The music will soon be downloadable as ringtones and I tunes. We chose to replicate this Music and not duplicate it so that the consumer’s receives a high quality product.

We are currently working on our DVD that we hope to launch towards the end of the year or early next year. We believe that our people will have a sense of pride in their music. We hope that they will avoid duplicating this CD but rather support us by buying this CD and encouraging a friend to buy one. This will enable us to fulfill our vision and keep our heritage alive.

Papa Shirandula says bye to poverty through comedy

By our correspondent, April 12 2009
Today Charles Bukeko will take his family out to a fancy restaurant in Nairobi to eat together in the spirit of Easter celebration. He can afford it, in sharp contrast to a few years back when hunger was a part of his life. Just the other day, Mr Bukeko would walk all the way to town from Eastlands because he could not afford the Sh10 matatu (public minivan) fare.

Now the worst seems to be over as Mr Bukeko is a millionaire and a celebrity of international repute. Having a conversation with him in public for five uninterrupted minutes is next to impossible. Hardly a minute goes without someone coming over and yelling “Brrr!” to him or shouting out his on-screen name, Papa Shirandula. The greatest attention comes from security guards, who can never let him pass by without violently shaking his hand as they try to tell him how much they love his show and enquire why he decided not to tell his on-screen wife what he does. He is used to this status and basks in its glory with humility. That’s understandable, considering that he was recently broke and living on nothing but hope for a better day. But the reception in Kenya is nothing compared to the kind he gets whenever visits other countries.

Dinner with presidents:

On his last tour to Mauritius, for example, one would have been forgiven for thinking he was a political figure or a Hollywood celebrity. Though he has always received first class treatment abroad, the experience was a bit of a surprise. Private security “They had four fully armed, private security guys in shades and suits, and before I checked into my room, they had sniffer dogs check out if the room was safe,” he said. There was even an armed man stationed outside his hotel room. Then he got a surprise call. “I was informed that the president wanted to say hi to me over dinner. I thought someone was playing tricks on me but, luckily, it was for real.” “He was so happy to meet me because of the Coke ad, and he had seen the Vodacom South Africa one where I acted as Idi Amin. There was nothing specific we talked about, but it was one moment I will never forget,” he said. The president knew of Bukeko’s arrival from the media.

papa shirandula
TV comedian Charles Bukeko (Papa Shirandula) joins Isukuti traditional dancers during the Vihiga cultural festival celebrations at Mbale town in Western Kenya - photo by NATION

Toasted in South Africa like a celebrity

In South Africa, Mr Bukeko is a superstar. The hotel where he stays is usually kept secret for security reasons. Crowds of fans would jam the lobby to say hello if they knew the location. When he goes down south, he is received by Kenya’s ambassador, who also sees him off at the airport.

He recalls a time when a security guard mishandled his luggage at Oliver Tambo Airport, and he was angry. “He ran to call for backup and when they came, they realised who I was, and we started laughing and shaking hands. Before I knew it, I had been whisked away to the VIP section, and it has been like that every time I travel to South Africa,” he said.

Coke "Brrr" is the real thing

All this started with the “Brrr” advert for Coke. The promotion has run around the globe wherever Coca-Cola is sold, and even though few know his name outside Kenya, Mr Bukeko’s face is recognisable everywhere. Interestingly, he does not hav a manager, and negotiated the Coke deal on his own.

“I met with a director of Coke from Atlanta, and he told me he was trying to come up with a concept involving an African politician who has travelled to a workshop in a very hot area. He was looking for a way to express the tingly feeling one feels after taking a cold Coke, and we came up with the “Brrr!” effect,” he recalled.

Although he won’t give details, Mr Bukeko does acknowledge that the money he has received from the promotion, said to be millions of shillings, is beyond his wildest of dreams. Today it is hard to imagine that he once walked from Nairobi’s Eastlands to the city centre because he could not raise the fare. He drives top-of-the-range cars. “I never thought this would be possible a few months ago,” he says. This year, he is scheduled for a month-long activation programme in Asia.

Struggling at National Theatre

A reputable stage actor, Mr Bukeko still remembers how he used to hang out at the Kenya National Theatre trying to get a gig. There were many of them, and some are still waiting for their big break. “We started from rock bottom, but what kept us going was the fact that we knew when it came to acting, we were the best there was, and we knew one day we would make it,” he said.

Started as a janitor

Starting out as a halls custodian at the University of Nairobi, Mr Bukeko got into acting by accident when, during a production he was helping a friend organise, actors dropped out at the last minute, and he had to go on stage to save the day. He would wake up at 3 a.m. to rehearse his lines and leave the house early to be in town by 9 a.m.

Too proud to let people know of his challenges, Mr Bukeko only told his mother of his predicament, and she would send him food to last him three months. “She kept telling me to go back to shags (rural home) where there was enough food, but I refused,” says Bukeko.“Transport was Sh10, but we could not afford it and would walk to town with a tie in one pocket, a shoe brush in the other so that we looked presentable when we entered someone’s office for an audition for which we would be paid, at most, Sh5,000,” he added.

They did get jobs, at least six in a year, but they often had to beg for their money from the agencies. “I would go to agencies, do a voice- over for a radio ad perfectly but getting my money was always a pain. Sometimes there were no jobs, and I would hang around KNT to look for shows which would give me some money for fare home,” he recalls. His biggest pay day came when he featured in a show by Ochieng’ Odero, for which he was paid Sh30,000 for just one line, “The film doesn’t film”. “I panicked when I heard how much I was to be paid because the initial amount was Sh15,000, but the show exceeded expectations, and they decided to double our pay. That was a lot of money. I did not even want visitors in my house!” he said.

The big break

His turning point came when he was introduced to legendary theatre director James Falkland, the founder of Phoenix Players. “He advised me to start thinking about production rather than just acting, and he trained me for two years for free, and we even explored sponsorships for our shows.” Mr Bukeko’s dream was to become a professional football player, something that set him on a collision course with his father who wanted him to be a lawyer or an engineer. He played for PanPaper before he broke a leg and quit on the account of his father, who was concerned about his joblessness. His father would ask him: “What do you want me to tell my friends my son does when we meet?” But the old man is proud of his first-born son today. The big money and opportunities began coming in after he volunteered to play a security guard in Bob Nyanja’s 2006 film, Malooned. After that, Wachira Waruru, the Royal Media Services managing director, approached him with an proposal to develop his character in the film into a television series.“Local productions were still a big No, and I remember Waruru saying that we take a risk and see how it would turn out, and that is how Papa Shirandula was born,” her says. The initial target audience was the lower class viewers, but the show exceeded expectations and was an instant hit with everybody. “The funniest part is that security guards look at me like their hero,” he said, adding that he sometimes got scripts from them telling him how hard their lives are. Now that he is rolling in money and fame, the actor plans to start local productions that will help improve the quality of shows and provide employment.

Source: Nation

catherine kasavuli
Ageless smile: Catherine Kasavuli at work in Nairobi.

Kasavuli gets rare order as a grand media warrior

By INGONEWS Reporter, Jan 5 2009

Catherine Kasavuli's smile on the TV screen radiates charm and confidence that have become her hallmark over the last 30 or so years she has worked in teh newsroom. Born to Maragoli parents from Western province, Catherine's services to the media were recognised on December 12 last year when she was awarded Order of Grand Warrior of Kenya during Jamhuri Day celebrations. Kasavuli's recognition for her media services is rare and is in sharp contrast with the draconian media law now signed by president Kibaki into law. Read all about this amazing talented lady from Luhyaland below.

kasavuli with Topi Lyambila, Editor of Kenya London News
Media warriors: Catherine Kasavuli with the editor of Kenya London News, Topi Lyambila in Nairobi. Catherine is multi talented and multi lingual.

Catherine Kasavuli: Not just another pretty face

Her amazing story: Unfounded rumours of a love tussle between Moi and Kanda Bongoman

catherine kasavuli
Multi-linguist: Catherine speaks fluent Luhya, Swahili, Kisii, Luo, Kikuyu, French and English.

By Topi Lymbila, London Jan 6 2009
The announcement that Catherine Kiza Kasavuli was among those on the Annual Jamhuri Day 2008 Presidential Honours list may have caught many by surprise, but not to some of us who felt it had been long overdue.

Kasav as I and a team of close friends have always called her is one in MILLION. A self made celebrity with her easy charm and electrifying smile that lights up any room or place she finds herself in, I find it quite a privilege to have known her.

The last time I was in Kenya in 2007, Catherine had just moved to Royal Media as Corporate Affairs Director and prime-time News Anchor.  In the short time we were together we chatted and strolled down memory lane when we were both at Kenya Television Network (KTN), recalling the weekend parties at our places, when we would sit back and indulge as our kids played out in the garden, not to mention the hilarious; clubbing, outings we had with the KTN lot. 

My dalliance with Kasav goes way back to our Kenya Broadcasting Corporation days; she and Rosemary Musumba, I do credit for my entry into the broadcast media.  The two ladies literary pulled me into a studio to help out with some male voice translation. Once they listened to the output, they insisted my voice was of broadcast quality, the rest is history.

That history saw us both rated among the best broadcasters on the Continent Africa, winning the Director’s Merit Award in 1987.  Kasav was named best TV presenter  while I was accorded the best TV Sports Commentator after our exploits in the 1987 All Africa Games held in Nairobi Kenya.

catherine and colleagues
Catherine wih left: Herman Igambi (Director of News, Royal Media-Citizen TV) and right facing the camera is Mohammed Juma Njuguna (Editor Swahii News - Citizen Radio). All three are household veteran journalists. Herman and Catherine previously worked together at KBC and KTN.

We have both lived through an era of top class broadcast media, both at KBC and KTN.  I am reminded of some evenings, when we had a full line-up of Luhya presenters and producers during the KBC prime-time news.  Catherine was the Main News Anchor, I was the Sports Anchor, Winnie Mutuli was the Weather presenter, Eddah Adede was the Continuity announcer, Herman Igambi came up as the News Editor and soon after the programme District focus followed presented by Joe Oyando, directed by Jerry Wesonga while Eualalia Namai came up as the Executive Director with Simon Anabwani Head of TV.  How Luhya can you get?

It raised eyebrows all the way to parliament but after inquiries were made, it was quashed on the basis that the KBC was a professional body employing professionals and not a tribal unit; if anything they were seeing the crème de la crème.  The truth of the matter is that the Luhya community at the time and maybe still today is predominant in the artistic fields and communication was the outlet.

Rumours about Catherine and Moi

Catherine is an unassuming lady who will spare a minute for everyone regardless. Her vibrant personality has earned her many friends in professional, public and social circles.  But likewise, this sort of attraction seldom goes without the negatives.  For many, Catherine was a source of envy, especially among the girls, some of whom were part of an elaborate scheme to tarnish her good image. Even some of the men who saw no chance of getting closer to her at times made up some not so nice stories about her.

Through all these Catherine has diligently kept a clean sheet, never one to be drawn into controversy or vindictiveness.  On more occasions than I can count, I have been called upon to defend the girl over unsubstantiated rumours involving a prominent Kenyan politician of high stature.  In fact I have always seen myself as the best placed person to know best in that regard, as the stories came out at the same time we were having my wedding preparations.  My then fiancée Mariam, came to me one day with the news and I told her to ask Kasav at the pre-wedding meeting that evening.

Catherine found the suggestion so outrageous and hilarious that she laughed herself to tears and then in what has always been my conviction that she was telling the truth quipped; “How I am so waiting for that phone-call. Daamn! We would all be financially sorted, then we wouldn’t need to raise funds for this wedding!” she added amid more laughter from everyone on the table.

Many will question my accuracy, when I say that Kasav can be a comedienne, and enjoys a good laugh.   During the partying days she would have all of us in stitches with her imitation of a market woman be it a Kikuyu or a Luo (Oh! Another thing is that Kasav is multi-linguist - she can, apart from English, French, Swahili and her mother-tongue Kimaragoli, speak Kikuyu, Kikamba, Ekegusii and Dholuo fluently.)

Catherine can dramatise at a drop of a hat.  She can mimic any accent she puts her mind on whether Western, Eastern or African. She is funny.  And if she wanted to she would be a master class entertainer.

But having said all that. She is a lady to boot etiquette et all. A fantastic mother and most probably the best wife she never was!

Truth about Catherine and Kanda Bongoman

I was also in the picture during the Kanda Bongoman saga.  I was part of the promotional team for the musical tour and had arranged for the New Stanley VIP Show tickets for the KTN team including Kasavuli and Kathleen Openda.  This was the show that was actually cancelled and Mr. Bongoman escorted to the airport that same evening.  We later established that it was a totally different lady involved. Later speaking to Fred Obachi Machoka also involved in the Kanda-tour, he confirmed that Mr. Bongoman had never met Kasavuli at the time of deportation.

Catherine Kasavuli deserves the recognition she has received from the Head of State and I am proud to have been associated with her. Kasav, am coming down soon I hope we shall have some time to catch up with that coffee date! Her ancestral home is in Tigoi, Vihiga District.

Kenya may not be a nation of haters, but they sure have a good number of gossipers.

Catherine has also told her story in one of East Africa’s top lifestyle magazines ‘True Love’ Issue No 39 (December 2007/January 2008)

Heeee efwe Abaluhya khuli Tsingwe!

Topi lyambila is a Documentary film maker based in London, currently editor of an online newspaper www.kenyalondonnews.co.uk .  He has known Ms Catherine Kasavuli as a personal friend and professional colleague for the past 24 years. Topi can be contacted by email at either editor@kenyalondonnews.co.uk or at topison@gmail.com

Ronald Elly Wanda

elly wanda

Ronald Elly Wanda is an East African writer and political scientist living and working in London.  Originally from Kabras in Western Kenya, his work which recurrently features in British, American and African press focuses mainly on political and socio-cultural issues concerning Africans including the diaspora. In addition to his cyclic television appearances as a commentator on African Affairs, he has also been Africa Editor for BEN television in London, focusing on the ‘Great Lakes Region’.

His associates are keen to emphasise that his tireless gusto on the need for Africa to unite and the need to speak for the voiceless mwanainchi (African) emanates from his well known pan-africanist grandfather, the celebrated professor Dani Nabudere. He was schooled at Stanmore, Southgate and later Middlesex where he earned degrees in Political and Development Studies. He is currently president of the Pan African Society also based in the UK and writes a regular column for the Eastern African Magazine.

GSM: +44(0)7957771247
TEL: +44( 0)207 485 3824
Email: ronald2wanda@yahoo.co.uk
United Kingdom.

The rising star of Moses Mutuli

By Shad Bulimo, May 2 2008
What is the link between Hope in Arkansas, US and Lunza in Butere, Kenya? Not much one might think, but in the sleepy village of Lunza in Marama a star is rising to bring hope to his people. Just like Bill Clinton went on become the President of the Unites States after studying as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, Moses Murengu Mutuli is one exceptional Luhya that seems to carry the weight of destiny on his young shoulders.  

It is a job that seems well cut for him. Not only does he belong to the exclusive Ivy-league type Rhodes scholars of high achievers, Moses is in the final stages of qualifying as an actuarial scientist, a field that some say ranks higher than even nuclear physics. What actually is actuarial science, I ask? “Actuaries are experts in assessing long-term financial risks for companies and their skills have traditionally been used in the fields of insurance and pensions, but are increasingly moving also in the field of banking, “ says the unassuming Oxford graduate.

His long road to Oxford began at Eastleigh Secondary School in Nairobi where somehow, he developed a penchant for things mathematical. But it was at the University of Nairobi that his mathematical and analytical skills came to bloom. Besides scoring the highest marks to achieve a First Class Degree (BSc) in 2001, he was declared the Best Overall Student in the entire university for excelling in both academics and extra curricular activities. For that he was garlanded with the prestigious Gold Award.

To those who have more shall be added, so goes the biblical truism. And for Mutuli, the awards to recognise his talents avalanched to the point of embarrassment. This humble fellow who grew up in the tough Huruma Estate of Nairobi found himself in unfamiliar territory. Suddenly he was the toast of several recognitions. He won the Unilever Scholar of the Year award for being the best overall student in the Faculty of Science; the Gandhi Smarak Nidhi Trustee Fund award for the best student in the Faculty of Science and the Kenya-Re award for being the best student in Actuarial Mathematics (Dept. of Statistics).

Despite his rising stardom, Mutuli never forgets he was once a Womble.  The last born in a family of eight, his father, Zedekiah Mutuli died when he was just 11 in 1988 leaving the burden of fending for the family to his mother, Dinah who worked as a clerk in Nairobi’s industrial area. “There are days when we used to go hungry or feed on ugali and sukuma wiki for the whole month as my mother struggled to feed all eight of us on her meagre wages, “ he says.

God has been kind to us and things are beginning to brighten up for our family, he says. His eldest brother, Patrick Mutuli is now a successful lawyer in Nairobi and is married to Rosemary Anyango. Other siblings include: Nicholas Mutuli, Rebecca Alice (passed on in 2002), Sylvester Mutuli (married to Evelyn), Gladys Kenyatta (married to Ernest Kenyatta), Boniface Mutuli (married to Grace) and Frederick Mutuli.

Looking ahead, Mutuli says his immediate challenge is to help demystify the actuarial science in Kenya by setting up Society of Actuaries of Kenya to enlighten the public on the role and importance of actuaries. He says he takes great comfort in the fact that the government has already approved the setting up of a regulatory authority to regularize and harmonise this vital sector of the economy and to comply with accepted international standards.

“I would like to work in Kenya at some point and play a role in advancing the cause of actuaries,” says the keen footballer, whose heroes include goal keeping legends, Bruce Grobbelaar of Liverpool FC and Peter Schmeichel of Manchester United..  

Mutuli who now works at Deloitte and Touche in London as a Consultant in the Actuarial and Insurance Solutions department, says his working in Kenya is not only necessary but mandatory under the terms of his Rhodes scholarship. Mutuli is also active in community affairs. He is the chairman of Abeingo Youth Committtee where he has organized Youth Bonding and Sporting sessions.

There are only about six qualified actuaries in Kenya of which the leading one is James Olubayi, the chairman of Alexander Forbes Kenya, a subsidiary of Alexander Forbes South Africa. Mr Olubayi, also from Luhyaland was among Kenyan pioneers in this field having graduated from City University, London in early 1990s. Mutuli pays tribute to Olubayi for acting as a role model for him.

Truly and verily, many were called but few were chosen. Like biblical Moses, Moses Murenga Mutuli is one to watch. The burden of the community and the nation weighs him down but with faith and support, Moses promises to leave no stone unturned to achieve his dreams and deliver his people to the Promised Land.


Moses Mutuli: The rising star of the Luhya people
Moses graduates from Oxford. With him are his mother Dinah (middle) and a friend

All casual but with eyes fixed on the ball. Moses Mutuli is an inspiration to millions of young people

Nation journalist wins global award

By Adelaide Changole, March 28 2008
A Nation digital journalist, David Wesonga, is this year’s winner of the coveted Adeste Gold medal, a world prize that recognises young unsung heroes.


David Wesonga is congratulated by NMG Internet editor, Churchill Otieno on being announced the global overall winner of Adeste Award through teleconference by a panel of experts in Canada on Thursday 27th March 2008. Photo/ANTHONY KAMAU

Mr Wesonga, also a poet, was announced the 2008 winner of the prize during a teleconference between Nairobi and Canada. 
The Adeste medal is awarded annually to unsung heroes below age 40 for achievements in humanity, social justice, technology, arts and medicine.
“He was picked out of thousands of nominees. The nominees were evaluated by an international board constituted by the Yes Foundation,” the foundation’s head Ms Jo Lee Ann Mansell, a Canadian philanthropist, said during the teleconference.
“This is a sign that the youth of Kenya have talent and we have to discover it,” Kenya’s High Commissioner to Canada and ambassador to Cuba Prof Judith Bahemuka said during the call.
The Adeste medal will be presented to Mr Wesonga at the launch of his Youth Hall of Fame Foundation in September.
The Adeste medal takes it’s credo from the Nobel prizes.
Wesonga’s nomination was submitted by James Mwaniki, a Kenyan journalist currently working in southern Sudan, and he becomes the first Kenyan to win the award
He was categorised on the basis of the use of arts and the written word to advance a case for street children.
Wesonga said he was humbled, and honoured to be picked among his peers for the award, which he dedicated to the streets, what he calls his home.
"It is an achievement, not just for me, as I take it, but for the people  who have propelled me to these heights, the people that have believed in me to give me the motivation to go on,’ he said.
Wesonga said he believed the award comes at a time when Kenya needs it most, just having come from the brink of disaster following the disputed General Election.
"Kenyan’s lost lives in a manner that was not worth the events that precipitated it, I believe this award comes to unify the country, for the people who perished in the chaos, and for those who worked tirelessly to normalise the situation," he said.

Shikwati gets top global honours

By Kenneth Kwama, March 25 2008
At the beginning of this month, Mr James Shikwati got an unexpected call from the World Economic Forum (WEF). It was out of the blue. But that is how the founder of Inter Region Economic Network (IREN), an economic think tank, found out he was amongst the most influential young leaders in the world.

"Sometimes you work but you don’t know that other people are noticing. I was surprised, but also felt honoured to be mentioned amongst young global leaders," says Shikwati.

Shikwati was recognised for initiating, developing and driving innovative solutions on important global issues. Shikwati and Mr Mugo Kibati, CEO East African Cables are the only Kenyans in the list that also includes President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo. They joined 243 other leading executives, public figures and intellectuals chosen from around the world.

He has been facilitating forums for universities, farmers, policy makers and think tanks to inculcate entrepreneurship, market economics dynamics and awareness on topical issues to inform policy and attract investment.

Although well intentioned, Shikwati who partly crusades against giving of aid to Africa as a way to encourage self-sufficiency and eliminate poverty, has at times drawn ire from a cross section of the populace critical of his unorthodox approach.


Go-getter: If Africa is rich with minerals, oil and arable lands, why are we poor? Photo by Martin Mukangu

"Africans are poor, but the continent is not. If the continent is rich with minerals, oil and arable lands, then why are we poor?" asks Shikwati.

It means poverty is superficial and is a result of dependency on donor aid. I believe Africa has the potential, resources and human capital to attain self-sufficiency.

As a crusader of the unorthodox, Shikwati has had his share of great moments, including when his organisation was named amongst the leading 5080 think tanks worldwide for doing exceptional work bridging the gap between knowledge and policy.

He has also had his share of miserable ones, including when a member of the audience he was addressing in Basel, Switzerland in September 2006, demanded to know whether his prescription "wouldn’t take Africa to a steady economic slip off."

Stumbling blocks, according to Shikwati is something that successful crusaders sometimes have to go through. Although it still remains to be seen where his no aid to Africa will reach, the indefatigable man with a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Nairobi, has recorded so much successes in other fronts and in the course annihilated the difficult memories of an initial struggle to found IREN.

But who is Shikwati? And what makes him think an educationist like him does have the answers to Africa’s oldest, toughest and messiest economic problems?

Some of his contemporaries at the Kikuyu Campus say he was argumentative and bright, though not keen on student politics. But it was never enough to be the best. He had to push everything a little too far because he wanted to win the game and break the rules at the same time to show he was smarter than the guy who wrote the rules.

"The Government is not supposed to create jobs, but to make it easy for entrepreneurs to do that, expand and be able to employ people in large numbers," says Shikwati.

Despite such belieFS, Shikwati’s social skills can still be rated as average. He may forget to shake your hand when you meet him. His voice has one setting: calm and diplomatic and he has a habit of rocking back and forth his office chair while explaining what he considers critical.

Interviewing Shikwati is interesting, not because he’s a good talker, but because he has an uncanny ability to drive home his points. He doesn’t talk to you around and doesn’t spin. He always goes straight to the point.

The young Global Leader honours is bestowed each year by the WEF to recognise and acknowledge top young leaders worldwide for their professional accomplishments, commitment to society and potential to contribute to shaping the future of the world.

The 2008 awardees included big names from the business world, governments, academia, media and society.

"The WEF is a true multi-stakeholder community of global decision-makers. We need the Young Global Leaders to be a voice for the future in the global thought process and as a catalyst for initiatives in the global public interest," said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum.

Drawn from a pool of almost 5000 candidates, the Young Global Leaders 2008 were chosen by a committee of 31 eminent international media leaders, including Thomas Glocer, CEO, Reuters, Arthur Sulzberger, Chairman and Publisher, the New York Times, and Robert Thomson, Publisher of the Dow Jones and Company and The wall

Street Journal.

Other individuals chosen for the title included Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Co-founders of Google, Crown prince Haakon of Norway, Malvinder M Singh, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Ranbaxy Laboratories, India; Hiroshi Nakada, Mayor of Yokohama, in Japan.

"It is our belief that this community of committed individuals can actually change the status quo. They are not only a preview of what effective, collaborative leadership in the 21st Century might look like, they are actually putting it into practice today," said Mr David Aikman, Senior Director and Head of the Forum of Young Global Leaders.

It is our privilege to work with such inspirational leaders and to bring them together in a global network that builds their insights and skills even further, providing them with a global platform to tackle the key challenges of our generation."

Source: Standard