Friday, April 27, 2012
Friday, April 13, 2012
By Africa Research Institute Think Tank
April 12 2012
As Senegal celebrates its second democratic transfer of power, and Mali copes with the aftermath of a military coup which ended 20 years of democratic rule, Africa Research Institute’s latest briefing note places these seismic political events in a regional context. Diehards and democracy: Elites, inequality and institutions in African elections examines the essential traits of recent polls, and considers the implications for future democratic contests.
Multi-party elections are a salient feature of Africa’s fast evolving political landscape. In 1989, three African countries were electoral democracies. By 2011, that number had risen to 18. Twenty-three countries have elections scheduled for 2012. African elections have assumed their own character, producing diverse political outcomes and myriad unintended consequences.
Progressive democratic developments abound. Substantial external funding for elections has recast political competition. Since 1991, 31 ruling parties or heads of state have been voted from power. Institutions matter in ways they previously did not – attempts to extend presidential term limits in Nigeria, Zambia and Malawi were rebuffed by national assemblies. The management of elections has improved, albeit unevenly.
The African Union has consistently supported the democratic process and opposed illegitimate transfers of power. Since 2005, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has suspended and sanctioned all coup leaders who refused to hold elections. Open condemnation by African regional organisations of the March 2012 coup in Mali – and insistence on a return to constitutional order – would have been unthinkable in the 1990s.
While much progress has been made in consolidating democratic politics, many African elections involve the recycling of protagonists. Vote buying and fraud are common. The military retains significant influence in most African countries. While elections have been more peaceable mechanisms for contesting power than civil war, politically motivated violence occurred in 60% of African elections in 1990-2008.
Democratic reforms have coincided with rising inequality. No government in sub-Saharan Africa has yet created the conditions for sustainable and transformative agricultural or industrial development. Formal job creation has stagnated. Even in industrialised South Africa a quarter of the labour force – and more than half of 15-24 year olds – are unemployed. As living costs rise relentlessly, voters’ demands for economic opportunities will become increasingly voluble.
“Expectations about elections must be realistic, in Africa as elsewhere”, says Jonathan Bhalla, Research Manager at Africa Research Institute. “Elections are not a “silver bullet” for effecting immediate and positive political change. But they do play a crucial role in improving the accountability and transparency of governments, and further consolidation of electoral processes and institutions is imperative. The democratic genie will not be returned to the bottle in Africa. Autocratic regimes ignore this at their peril.”
Notes to editors:
Africa Research Institute is a non-partisan think-tank based in London. Our mission is to draw attention to ideas that have worked in Africa, and to identify new ideas where needed. Diehards and democracy: Elites, inequality and institutions in African elections can be downloaded from the Africa Research Institute website: http://bit.ly/HWIYGB
For all media enquiries, please contact Edward Paice on 07941 228294 or 020 7222 4006 or Jonathan Bhalla on 07892 697304 or 020 7222 4006
Fouzia Mohamed Ismail was one of the highly-qualified nurses and midwives who returned to Somaliland determined to rebuild their professions. In this timely account, published a decade after the referendum, Fouzia relates what has been done to train a new generation of nurses and midwifes, to improve standards of patient care, to develop relevant training programmes, and to foster regulation of the health sector in Somaliland.
It is widely believed that urbanisation is occurring faster in sub-Saharan Africa than anywhere else in the world, as migrants move from rural to urban settlements. This is a fallacy. While the populations of numerous urban areas are growing rapidly, the urbanisation levels of many countries are increasing slowly – if at all.
Sierra Leone is acclaimed as one of Africa’s most successful post-conflict states. But the country remains fragile. Every election since independence has been attended by violence. Support for political parties is polarised on ethnic and regional lines, and underwritten by patronage. Youth unemployment is endemic. Amid early preparations for the 2012 presidential, parliamentary and local council elections, these notes examine the causes of electoral strife, and suggest measures for mitigating future violence.http://bit.ly/IXFx8j
Copyright © 2012 Africa Research Institute, All rights reserved.
Thursday, April 12, 2012
By Wycliffe Pemba Onzere .
Mudavadi is not honest and should not drag Kenyans into his own political schemes designed to achieve his own selfish interests.
Mudavadi has been in ODM ever since he was appointed Deputy Party Leader with this clause enshrined in ODM constitution.It is not advisable to amend ODM constitution because of Mudavadi but it is more important to follow the laid down procedure to amend the constitution for the good of the whole party.
Our goal is therefore to strengthen our party as an institution on the basis of ideologies, policies and democratic principles so that it can have positive impact on lives of ordinary Kenyans .
The ODM decision to notify the registrar of political parties about the said ame
ndment is very much in order and in accordance with new constitution.
The Political Parties Act 2011 states that a party which wants to amend its constitution "...shall notify the Registrar of political parties its intention and the Registrar shall, within fourteen days after the receipt of the notification...(publish) in the Gazette. (2) The (party)...(1) shall publish such notification in at least two daily newspapers... (3) Upon the expiry of 30 days from the date of publication... (1), the party may, after taking into account any representations received from the public...effect the change or alteration in accordance with its constitution and rules.
Therefore,we are not interested in his press statements, we have a new constitution in place and Luhyas are a head of him.
We are saying No tribalism and also not ready to be auctioned like the Kamatusa and Gema.This is about us and our future. We cannot therefore eat press statements,let him respect our voting rights.
Which betrayal is he talking about? We Luhyas we are very democratic people and therefore Mudavadi should not rely on us."
PORTFOLIO MINISTER PARTY
President Mwai Kibaki PNU
Immigration Otieno Kajwang ODM
Prime Minister Raila Odinga ODM
Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka PNU
DPM Uhuru Kenyatta PNU
DPM Musalia Mudavadi ODM
Attorney General Githu Muigai PNU
Ministry of Finance Njeru Githae PNU
Internal Security George Saitoti PNU
National Defence Mohamed Yusuf Haji PNU
Special Programmes Esther Murugi PNU
Culture& Heritage William Ole Ntimama ODM
Agriculture Sally Kosgei ODM
Co-op Dev and Mrkt Joseph Nyagah ODM
Public Service Dalmas Otieno ODM
East African Community Musa Sirma ODM
Education Mutula Kilonzo PNU
Higher Education, Margaret Kamar ODM
Ministry of Energy Kiraitu Murungi PNU
Environment Chirau Mwakwere PNU
Industrialization Amason Kingi ODM
Foreign Affairs Sam Ongeri PNU
Youth and Sports Paul Otuoma ODM
Public Health Beth Mugo PNU
Medical Services Peter Anyang Nyong'o ODM
Information and Comm. Samuel Poghisio PNU
Justice, Cohesion Eugene Wamalwa PNU
Labour and Human John Kiyonga Munyes PNU
Ministry of Lands James Orengo ODM
Ministry of Roads Franklin Bett ODM
Public Works Chris Obure ODM
Livestock Development Mohamed Abdi Kuti PNU
Fisheries Development Amason Kingi Jeffa ODM
Planning Wycliffe Oparanya ODM
Regional Development Fred Gumo ODM
Gender and Children Naomi Namsi Shabaan PNU
Ministry of Tourism Danson Mwazo ODM
Trade and Industry Moses Wetangula PNU
Ministry of Transport Amos Kimunya PNU
Water and Irrigation Charity Ngilu ODM
Ministry of Housing Soita Shitanda PNU
Forestry and Wildlife Noah Wekesa PNU
Nairobi Metro Jamleck Kamau PNU
Ministry Northern Elmi Mohammed ODM
TOTAL ODM MINISTRES 22
TOTAL PNU MINISTRIES 22
All Africa News
BY GREGORY GONDWE, 11 APRIL 2012
Civil society demonstrations on July 20, 2011, in Blantyre. (Photo Courtesy Travis Lupick)
Lilongwe — Joyce Banda, has become Southern Africa's first, and Africa's second female president following the death of President Bingu wa Mutharika on April 5, 2012.
A vote of confidence saw the former Deputy President taking over the reigns in Malawi over Easter. The first female African president is Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia.
It is not surprising that the passionate gender activist who became the country's second citizen in 2009, after serving in different cabinet portfolios, is now President. Her appointment brings Malawi one step closer to the ideal of gender parity in decision-making in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Declaration on Gender and Development. The Protocol has 28 targets to be achieved by 2015, also the target date for the Millennium Development Goals.
Before her active political career, the President founded the Joyce Banda Foundation, as well as the National Association of Business Women (NABW) and Young Women Leaders Network.
International awards won by Banda include the 1997 Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger together with President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique from a New York-based non-governmental organization, the Hunger Project. Nine years later in 2006, she received an International Award for the Health and Dignity of Women for her dedication to the rights of the women of Malawi by the United States for United Nations Population Fund. Forbes Magazine listed her in 2011 as the third most powerful woman in Africa.
Banda's political career has not been an easy one. She found herself at loggerheads with the late Mutharika who booted her out of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and declared that no woman will ever rule Malawi.
Malawians expected Banda to go flat out on a revenge mission. In her inaugural speech at the swearing in ceremony, she said that there is no room for revenge.
Many Malawians believe that she will use her position to uplift the lives of women who are still marginalised. Section 13 of the Malawi Constitution requires that the state "achieve and promote gender equality by, among other things, passing policies and legislation to ensure full participation of women in all spheres of life of Malawian society on the basis of equality with men."
Based on the Malawi Demographic and Household Survey of 2000, 30 out of 100 married women had unmet need for family planning services. Just last year Parliament shifted marriage age for girls from 15 to 16 years of age. After public outcry, the former president never signed the bill into law and it still remains at 15.
Young girls get married to older men, creating a huge power imbalance between husband and wife. This is also recipe for health hazards such as early pregnancies.
President Banda has to make progressive decisions on reproductive health. As things stand, it is apparent that early marriages are an obstacle to the progressive development of women and full attainment of gender equality.
Banda became a member of the Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health, which is a group of sixteen sitting and former heads of state, high-level policymakers and other leaders committed to advancing reproductive health for lasting development and prosperity.
These leaders mobilise the political will and financial resources necessary to achieve universal access to reproductive health by 2015 which is a key target of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.
Malawian women, who constitute 52% of the population, do not have access to land and the Constitution does not guarantee this productive resource. Although Malawi's economy is agri-dependent and women comprise the largest labour force, they have no say on matters of land ownership. She has to ensure that she spearheads the repealing of laws around access to women to reduce poverty in Malawi.
Banda's unexpected rise to power gives new hope to African women. She should spread her influence outside Malawi where women are also trying to take influential positions, regionally as well as internationally. For instance, she can put her weight behind Nigeria's Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who is vying to become he World Bank's next President.
With Malawi hosting the African Union summit in July this year, she can influence the election of former South Africa Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as new African Union chief after the first polls ended in deadlock.
Already some men are predicting that they will be sidelined. I say: "congratulations President Banda! Malawian women are looking up to you to ensure that current gender disparities are addressed through development."
Gregory Gondwe is a freelance journalist based in Malawi. This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service, bringing you fresh views on everyday news.
By Jerry Okungu
April 10, 2012
If you went to the University of Nairobi in the late 1960s and’ 70s, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Commerce , specialized in Marketing and died soon after, you would be shocked out of your depths if you resurrected today and attended one of the marketers’ functions.
The dead marketer would find marketing lingo has substantially changed. First, nobody would talk about commerce anymore as a degree. Most new graduates now talk about Business Management rather than commerce.
The four Ps as we used to parrot then are hardly heard of in marketing meetings these days. There is a thin line between Marketing, Sales, Advertising and Public Relations these days. Marketing strategies as we knew them in the 90s have become marketing solutions. The good old newspaper, radio and TV have become old fashioned old school for the modern marketer. In today’s marketplace, the BM or MBA graduate would rather talk about the new media or social media. The laptop, ipad or android handsets and their ever changing applications have replaced traditional media.
But even before this new phenomenon took root in Africa in the early 1990s, there were early bubbles in the USA about the new media and new thinking in marketing circles.
I remember way back in those days while in American Management schools, scholars of Business Management were already talking about Marketing Communications as the converging point for Marketing and Communications related disciplines. They were convinced that studying all these disciplines under one umbrella made more sense in one’s life.
Yet as early as 1993, most of us in this part of the world had never used a computer let alone seen a mobile phone. In fact I remember going through a computer crash programme in Nairobi because I was warned that my professors in the USA would not mark my assignments if I didn’t type them!
As early as 1993, there was a potent prophecy in the marketplace in the USA that the newspaper as we knew it would die in three years’ time. It would be replaced by an electronic newspaper, the size of a writing slate we used in primary schools to learn how to read and calculate simple arithmetical problems.
Electronic newspaper indeed came but 20 years down the line, it has never killed the street vendor’s business even though it has substantially dented his business.
What the technology has done is to eliminate the problems of transporting hard copies across the globe. Today, all newspapers, TV and radio contents are at our fingertips on our desks and in our bedrooms. However, this revolution has never changed the mindsets of traditional media houses like the Daily Nation, Newsweek, Time and the Tribune. They still find it necessary to transport their hard copies across borders.
At my university undergraduate studies, I never read B. Com or any of those subjects that would come in handy in my later life. In fact I never thought highly of those friends who studied commerce or any of those practical subjects that hardly dealt with the abstracts of the human mind. Creative writing was my first love. I was married to Literature and performing arts because at that time in my life, I was a believer in unraveling the mysteries of Shakespearean poetry or Chinua Achebe’s folklore. You gave me Ngugi’s the River Between, a Grain of Wheat, Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, No Longer At Ease or Grace Ogot’s Land Without Thunder or Island of Tears and I was home and dry.
If you put me in the company of Okot P’ Bitek, Elimu Njau, Chris Wanjala, John Ruganda, David Rubadiri, Wole Soyinka or VS Naipul I would never complain. I knew I would be at the fountain of eternal knowledge. I knew they would take me through the trails of James Baldwin, Martin Luther King, Eldridge Cleaver, Angela Davis, Malcolm X, Arthur Miller, Ola Rotimi, Frederick Douglas, Bernard Shaw and George Orwell among other great writers of my youth.
The man I credit with interesting me in the world of Marketing was the late Prof. Frank Obuoja, a Nigerian who taught me Oral Media and Marketing fundamentals at a post graduate programme in Communications for National Development. When I finished the programme, my view of Marketing and Business Studies had drastically changed even though my calling still lay in teaching and broadcasting. And had it not been for my classmate called Thuo Thiong’o a.k.a. Big Foot who literally dragged me from a chance corner meeting on Kimathi Street into a board room of a Finance company, I would never have joined the world of marketing. Two days later, I had this big title of Marketing Manager without knowing what managing marketing was all about.
The funny thing about this first marketing job was that in spite of my protest being given the job I had no clue about, the directors of the company had confidence in me and assured me that I would excel in the job. What was so funny was that I had never developed any Marketing Strategic Plan in my life. I would learn everything on the job. My only qualification for the job was that I had already started becoming a national figure, thanks to my talk show programmes then on VOK.
I remember walking to the nearest bookshop the day Big Foot informed me that I would meet the directors of the company for a formal interview. I bought a book called Marketing Made Simple and read the whole of it over the weekend. However, on that weekend, my friend JD Chege, himself a B.Com graduate from the same university who had taken to acting, chose to visit me that Sunday afternoon in my Spring Valley apartment. On seeing me with Marketing Made Simple, JD burst out laughing at what I was doing with a book on Marketing. When I told him about my impending interview for a marketing position, he couldn’t believe me. He failed to understand why I would think of mastering what had taken him three years to learn at the university under some of the best academics of the time.
Yet on reflection, I realized years later that I had been practicing some basics of marketing before even someone called me a marketer. It started with my professor of Drama, John Ruganda tasking me with designing a programme for every play we would stage at the university. In this task, it was my responsibility as assistant producer to design the programme that was at least eight to sixteen pages. The content would comprise a synopsis of the play, the profile of actors and actresses and the show dates. Sometimes I would interview the show director and lead characters to be part of the programme content. It is this programme that I would use to source sponsorship from the corporate world such as East African Publishing House, British Airways, Ford Foundation and any other local entrepreneur that was keen on promoting cultural activities in Kenya.
When I started anchoring TV and Radio shows, I realized that it was my responsibility to scout for good guests on my programmes as well as looking for sponsors. In so doing, the image my shows had created had a lot to do with getting guests and sponsors. In fact through that show, I got a UNESCO scholarship to study Communications. Somebody of substance had watched me on air and seen my potential as a communications professional.
Years later after I was either in my third or fourth job as a marketer, the marketing fraternity had become an elite club that competed favourably with the Law Society of Kenya, the Advertisers fraternity and any other professional body that had the laid down codes of conduct for its members.
At the annual marketers’ dinners, dress code was standard procedure. Marketers would not turn up in any informal attire; least of all the same attire they had been sweating in the whole day.
Dinners at the Carnivore were memorable with company CEOs like Albert Ekirapa, Wilfred Kiboro, Peter Chadwick Roger Steadman, the late Hannington Awori, Chris Kirubi, Barat Thakrah and other corporate chiefs whiling the night away. It was mandatory on those nights to be accompanied by a spouse or better still the spouse to be. There were no bull or cow dancers on the floor.
That old school marketer is gone forever. The new generation has no dress code and no order. Somehow, the girls still do better. They still dress for the evening unlike their male counterparts that find it normal to turn up in cheap branded t-shirts at such functions.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
By Jerry Okungu
April 10, 2012
When Presidents Daniel Arap Moi, Benjamin Mkapa and Yoweri Museveni finally committed their signatures to a new East African Community charter in 2000 at a colourful ceremony in Arusha, Tanzania, East Africans became a very hopeful lot. They remembered with nostalgia the common services they used to share when they were one community before independence and a few years after. More importantly they longed for the days when they would use one currency known as the East African shilling to travel across borders without any worry. In those days the borders were open 24/7 and there were no border police, customs or immigration officials to demand travel documents from East Africans.
At the Arusha signing ceremony, our leaders committed themselves to full economic and political integration by 2015. They would realize the Customs Union in 2005, the Common Market in 2010, Monetary Union in 2012 and the complete political union in 2015
Sometime in 2004 when Moi had retired and Ben Mkapa was about to leave the scene, there was a summit meeting in Nairobi that resolved to fast track the political integration. The thinking at that time was that the more the process dragged on, the more it would be difficult to move forward as fatigue and loss of enthusiasm would set in. For this reason, the summit set up a task force that was chaired by Kenya’s then Attorney General to go round the region, collect views from opinion leaders, businessmen and professionals on the best way to fast-track the political integration. I was one of those professionals who was consulted.
Wako’s committee produced its report that was discussed by the summit that resulted in creating the post of Deputy Secretary General in charge of political integration. The office became operational in 2005.
The same year that the office of political integration was created, the EAC realized its first objective- the Customs Union.
However, despite again attaining a second pillar – that is the Common Market protocols being signed, East Africans today are still far from integrating just as they were in 2000. Why do I say this?
Since the commencement of the Customs Union that was supposed to ease trade among the member states, there is nothing to show that anything has changed one bit. I may have not travelled to all border points between member states but if my observations at the Namanga border post are anything to go by then we have not moved one bit. Traffic congestion at the border and mundane border officials are still asking the same useless questions they asked two decades ago.
Kenyans crossing the border into Tanzania are still regarded as foreigners to be suspected. The Tanzanian authorities still relish in apprehending Kenyan businessmen for all manner of excuses and deporting them if necessary, never mind that borders were supposed to be opened and free movement of people, goods and services should have been effected on July 1 2010.
As we ready ourselves for the common currency this coming July, East Africans are becoming more and more apprehensive if indeed the long awaited East African currency will be a reality. With some member states violating signed protocols with wanton impunity, how will they cede their most guarded sovereignty by foregoing their local currencies? Will there be concurrence on what images to appear on the regional currency?
The other day South Sudan and Sudan applied for membership of the Community. Whereas Sudan was disqualified on a technicality, South Sudan got the nod from the five member states. And with a new conflict looming between South and North Sudan, will the EAC be sucked into the conflict? If indeed the South North Sudan conflict goes on as Kenya joins the AMISOM to fight Al Shabaabs in Mogadishu, will all these costly ventures interfere with the EAC integration time table?
However, the biggest threat to our regional integration is our fear and suspicion of one another. Since 1977, the elite in our region have never embraced one another. The 1977 breakup of the EAC gave birth to a fierce nationalism that to this day has never left us.
Whenever we have a meeting of national representatives, we spend a lot of time and energy trying to score points defending our turf on none issues at the expense of major issues facing the community. For example; can anyone explain to me why since the Customs Union protocols were ratified in 2004, we still find it difficult to implement it eight years later?
Can someone tell East Africans why since July 2010 when the Common Market protocols became effective, we still arrest nationals of member states for being in our territory illegally?
Why is Tanzania still insisting on work permits for Kenyans working in companies that are cross-listed in Tanzania? Why can’t we be honest and say we are not interested in regional integration and opt for good neighbourliness and become good trading partners without cracking our heads on issues that we may never realize in our lifetime?
Perhaps Beatrice Kiraso the EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of Political Integration knows something we do not know.
By Jerry Okungu
April 10, 2012
If there was one thing that Jakoyo Midiwo achieved last Saturday with his pronouncement about the possible murder of Raila Odinga, he brought the entire nation to a standstill. The entire nation was stunned. Mourners too that had gathered at Dr. AL Gondi’s funeral looked bewildered. In fact their faces told it all.
They were not sure whether to mourn Gondi or absorb the new threat to Raila Odinga’s life. Either way; whatever it is that made Jakoyo drop this bombshell at the funeral; it surely produced the desired results. He hit the entire nation with what would have been compared to a 15 kilogram bomb hurled at the crowd by an Al Shabbab suicide bomber.
If indeed there is fire underneath the smoke that Jakoyo unleashed at Leah Gondi’s funeral, the police must wear their masks and dig deep under the smoke to put out the fire because if they don’t, that fire, lit by careless arsonists may consume us all including the arsonists.
To analyze this story, let us start with the messenger of this bad news. Jakoyo Midiwo is no ordinary man. He is not insane, deranged nor does he court any signs of mental disorder. He is not some chang’aa drinking villager or some mad man at the marketplace prone to gatecrashing at village funerals and making outrageous statements in front of mourners. He is a respected member of parliament for Gem Constituency, a Chief Whip in Kenya’s parliament and a first cousin to Prime Minister Raila Odinga. In a nutshell, he is too responsible to utter carelessly matters as grave as the assassination of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Kenya.
During his speech at the funeral, Jakoyo mentioned two crucial things: One, he chose to go public at that funeral because had he tried to confide in the intended target, he would have been dismissed casually. However, he conceded that he had discussed the matter with a cabinet minister and a permanent secretary known to be close the Prime Minister.
He also said he was ready to swear by the bible and stand by his story. He was confirming that he had credible evidence to prove those allegations.
With those two compelling statements, Midiwo threw the ball in the Police Commissioner’s court. The Commissioner must investigate the authenticity of the allegations and if found credible, charge the planners together with the assassins with attempted murder in a court of law. However, should the claims be proved false, Jakoyo and his informers must equally face the law.
A possible assassination of a prominent political figure like Raila Odinga must shock and get all Kenyans who still harbor the theory of a united country really worried and depressed. Even if it is a rumour, it will trigger memories of Kenya’s dark past in the last 49 years beginning with Pio Gama Pinto’s assassination at his doorsteps in 1965.
It will remind us of the demise of Argwings Kodhek on Kodhek Road in Hurlingham in what appeared like a road accident in January 1969,Tom Mboya’s assassination in broad daylight on Saturday July 5 1969 on Government Road in Nairobi just six months following Kodhek’s demise, the brutal murder of JM Kariuki whose mutilated body was discovered in Ngong Hills on March 5 1975 and another brutal murder of then foreign minister Robert Ouko in Got Alila near his Koru home in early 1990.
If we look at these killings, each one of them had a political theory attached to it; something that folklore has never forgotten even if historians may never have documented them.
Pio Gama Pinto died because he was believed to be Jaramogi Oginga Odinga’s foremost strategist and socialist ideologue. His elimination was believed to rob Jaramogi of a valuable ally in the post-independence struggle within the ruling party KANU. When Pinto was gunned down at his home just two years after independence, cracks had started to emerge in KANU between the socialists and capitalists. Jaramogi and Pinto preferred the former while Kenyatta and Mboya favoured the latter.
Four years later, Mboya had to die in the same manner Pinto did despite the fact that he had led the onslaught against Jaramogi before and after leaving KANU to form KPU.
It is instructive to note that Mboya, the only remaining prominent Luo in the Kenyatta cabinet was gunned down just six months before the 1969 elections which had been postponed from May 1968 to December 1969 for no apparent reason. He died because he was the most credible challenger to Kenyatta were the elections to be held in a fair, transparent and democratic manner. Planners of his death feared that should Kenyatta pass away suddenly, Tom Mboya would be unstoppable considering his unparalleled political campaign skills and popularity among Kenyans.
The murder of JM Kariuki debunked the myth that Kenyatta’s regime was merely targeting non- Kikuyus. JM’s death brought the reality home that the regime Kenyatta led had taken a life of its own. This new class of Kenyans did not differentiate between their own and others as long as one interfered with their new found wealth and power.
Kariuki had to die due to two things; he had become too popular with all Kenyans- being the only Kikuyu MP who travelled to Rusinga Island to bury Tom Mboya. More importantly he had become too vocal about the gap between the rich and the poor- often referring to Kenya as a nation of 11 millionaires against 11 million beggars. If Kariuki had challenged Kenyatta in the 1974 general elections, he would have won the elections by a landslide. He therefore had to die.
Perhaps the most perplexing murder was that of John Robert Ouko who at the time of his death was Kenya’s foremost foreign minister. He died just weeks after defending Kenya’s human rights records at Stockholm and Oslo in what many Kenyan exiles in the Scandinavia thought were blatant untruths about the true picture of the regime in Nairobi.
After his murder in Got Alila near his Koru home, theories abound about his closeness with Western powers that thought he would make a better president. It is these rumours that persisted so many years after his death.
Again, just like Pinto, Mboya and JM Kariuki before him, Kenyans believed state operatives had a hand in his inhumane murder.
Back to Midiwo’s allegations; who is bound to benefit from Raila Odinga’s death? Obviously what comes to mind are his foremost political opponents whether he dies a natural death or gets eliminated through an assassin’s bullet.
Just like Mboya and JM Kariuki before him, he is currently the man to beat at the next elections if opinion polls are anything to go by. Secondly, the mere fact that almost all political heavy weights , the so called G7 have ganged up to stop his presidency is proof enough that he is the single most popular politician today. Therefore any misfortune or hand of God getting him out of the way will be a relief to his opponents despite the fact that they will shed a few crocodile tears soon after his death.
Sam Ongeri is not running for president. He is therefore not a direct beneficiary of Raila’s death. If indeed he has anything to do with this heinious plan, it can only be on behalf of someone else? Does he have a motive, an axe to grind with the Prime Minister? I have no clue!
Monday, April 9, 2012
By MICHAEL HOLMAN
April 7 2012 at 19:21
There is bad news for those aggrieved European diplomats whose complaints about being
denied access to President Kibaki made headlines last weekend.
Goaded by the diplomats grumbles, angered by the arrogance that lay just below the surface,
and astonished by the apparent ignorance of the shift in international relations with Africa,
State House let rip: The world has changed, and so have our priorities , the diplomats were in effect told. The countries you represent are rapidly declining in importance. So stop trying to jump the queue.
The President s diary is full. Period.
It was a two-fingered diplomatic snub that doubtless sent the ambassadors into a flurry of
activity, composing dispatches trying to play down such a frank dismissal. Yet the message at
the heart of the State House response could not be ignored. The Kenyan worm has turned
For years the Kenya Government did the bidding of the bwanas in Britain and bosses in
Whether boycotting the 1980 Moscow Olympics or being soft on apartheid, whether making
deals that turned Mombasa into a US navy facility, or allowing north-east Kenya to become a
vast training ground for British troops, State House could be counted on to meekly roll over
and comply with West desires.
Those days have gone. And in making it clear that Europe no longer counts in the way it once
did, I suspect that State House is reflecting a widely held view.
Ever since Kenya became independent, a steady stream of emissaries from Europe has beaten
a path to the State House door, confident that it will open in automatic welcome.
I say emissaries , but only for lack of a collective noun to describe this gaggle of political
has-beens and want-to-bes, junior ministers and smooth opportunists, and assorted influencepeddlers and sales people, all still shaped by the colonial past, all with one assumption in common: that a meeting with the native in charge was no more than their rightful due.
That access has ended and they are the casualties of a new dispensation. Whatever the failures
and shortcomings of President Kibaki, he has identified the international political reality that
followed in the wake of the economic changes taking place throughout the continent.
From Johannesburg to Juba, from Lagos to Lusaka, something dramatic is afoot. Fuelled by
new oil finds, funded by cheap loans from China, and by returning capital from the diaspora,
Africa s landscape is being transformed. But it is more than new shopping malls and office blocks, paved roads and new ports, skyscrapers and airport terminals.
Governance is improving
Governance is improving. The military stay in the barracks or are shunned when they
venture out and human rights are higher on the agenda. And arguably most important of all for a region that seemed to have lost confidence, there is a surge of creativity: novelists and artists, film-makers and musicians, all are part of the African dawn.
The new Africa is looking for new friends. And this involves finding new partners, forging
new relationships, seeking fresh starts. I don t just mean deals with China, or India, Russia or
Brazil. The courtship embraces Turkey and Singapore, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia and Japan.
The consequences of this have yet to dawn on the indignant European ambassadors in
Nairobi, for they are stuck in the past, trapped in old habits. And the old ties that used to bind are withering on the vine. Business leaders who once made their career in Africa now regard Lagos or Luanda as hardship posts, to be endured not enjoyed.
Academics who once spent their professional lives researching the continent and working in
its universities now struggle to find funds for African studies.
Fewer journalists are now on the continent, and rewritten news agency accounts have taken
the place of dispatches from the front line, while former colonial civil servants have taken
their knowledge to the grave.
And diplomats who once saw Africa as a posting that would benefit their ambitions and
further their careers, have long seen the region as out of the mainstream of world affairs.
This is not to suggest that there was a golden era of western engagement.
The more one learns about the colonial period the greater the scepticism about its benefits; but at least there was reasonably informed knowledge about the continent, its risks and its opportunities.
But as Africa entered the economic and political crisis that reached its nadir in the 1980s, the
Western business community effectively began to withdraw. The region was in effect left in
the hands of the IMF and the World Bank, who all too often administered medicine that was
too strong for a weak patient.
Africa s recovery from this grim period amounts to the most exciting change since the end of
colonial rule, with implications for Europe that could hardly be more profound.
Some 50 years ago, the late Harold MacMillan, the British prime minister, warned white
South African parliamentarians sitting in Cape Town that apartheid South Africa would
sooner or later feel the impact of a wind of change that was blowing through the continent.
Today, Europe s leaders are missing the chance to initiate debate about the significance of
events which, in their own way, are part of a different but equally powerful wind of change,
felt from Cape to Cairo.Alas, this all seems to be lost on Europe s diplomats in Nairobi. They stand on their dignity,behind the times and out of touch, and missing opportunities instead of leading the way.
President Kibaki has issued far more than a snub. It is a wake-up call to the West. Africa is
on the move. Will Europe respond or will it be left behind?
Michael Holman, Financial Times Africa editor from 1984 to 2002, contributed this column
while travelling in East Africa. He is the author of an acclaimed trilogy of novels set in
Kibera satirising diplomats, aid workers and foreign journalists. The latest in the series,
Dizzy Worms, is now out on paperback
Saturday, April 7, 2012
By Netia Shuindu
With reference to your article above, I would like to seek your opinion on a scenario that is rarely if ever mentioned, namely that Kenya should go the way of the former Yugoslavia.
It might seem simplistic but one of the assumptions that ethnic chauvinists seem to have is that Kenya as a state will always be there. Yet none of them seem to have contemplated an end-game that almost happened should the 2008 PEV have spiraled out of control.
It seems we as Kenyans have acquired a taste for ethnicity on both personal and political levels and this reminds me of the historical Israelites who at one point also had acquired a taste for idols.
As part of God's judgment, they were invaded, pillaged and forced into exile where the hardship and shame of being slaves made them lose the taste for idols and upto today, Israelites have never ever been prone to idolatry.
Kenyans practice negative ethnicity because they assume that Kenya will always be there. I subscribe to a personal belief that a taste of the former Yugoslavia model of national breakdown would offer the best hope of a rebirth devoid of ethnic chauvinism.
It might seem simplistic but yet again after 49 years of independence, Kenya is proving a bad return for Kenyans esp the poor who are living from day to day, grateful if they have something to eat and a place to sleep.
The gross injustices and inequities in our increasingly fragmented society point to the need for a rebirth of the Kenyan nation. Our society is now more fragmented than at anytime before and the worst perpetrators are those who would know better from politicians to the educated elite.
Kenya needs to die in order for it to live again. Only by having a taste of no-Kenya would there be any hope of building a new Kenya.
By Jerry Okungu
April 4, 2012
Fresh drums of war can today be heard from Juba and Khartoum across the Nile through Lokichogio all the way to neighboring East African capitals. Just the other day, top South Sudan officials were in Nairobi pleading with Kenyan authorities to intervene and avert the imminent humanitarian crisis.
As they consulted with top Kenyan officials, there were reports of Khartoum bombs dropping in selected regions of South Sudan even as Omar El Bashir kept on denying the new provocations. And with these air raids, refugees from the South started flocking at Kenyan border points for the next round of displacement and life of misery in refugee camps along the Kenyan and Ugandan borders.
The gravity of the situation forced Sudan’s fugitive president, Omar El Bashir to cancel his peace talks with President Salva Kiir that was to take place in Juba. Now the same talks have to be held in Addis Ababa, considered a neutral ground for the two warring parties.
At the heart of this hostility is the dispute over oil fields based in South Sudan that for years boosted the rest of Sudan’s economy. Now that the GOSS government has switched off oil taps and discontinued transporting its oil through the North, the Khartoum regime is in a rage.
This belligerent behavior of the Northern Sudan should not surprise any right thinking person in our region. This is the regime that used modern weaponry to bomb helpless villagers in South Sudan for over two decades. It is the same regime that sponsored Joseph Kony’s murderous militias for years to destabilize both Northern Uganda and perpetuate the war in South Sudan. As if that was not enough, the same regime opened another front for the massacre of its citizens in the Darfur province, at times using the Jangaweed militias as its proxies.
Because of the extermination of Darfurians on account of their skin colour, the same President Omar El Bashir is now facing criminal charges at the international Criminal Court in The Hague.
And he is not facing common criminal charges; he is accused of the worst crimes any individual can ever be charged with on earth- that of genocide and crimes against humanity.
We in East Africa have every reason to be weary of the Khartoum regime’s antics under Omar El Bashir. Being a war monger and an international fugitive, Bashir will have no problems causing havoc and destabilizing the region. Like Joseph Kony, his fellow fugitive and the once comrade in arms in causing chaos and misery in Northern Uganda and South Sudan, Bashir will just be too happy to have a chaotic situation in both Sudans such that handing him over to The Hague will prove difficult.
This brings me back to the role of the AU in all this mess. Had the AU seen sense and stopped shielding Bashir from the ICC prosecutions we would today not be entertaining a common criminal as Sudan’s president. Had there been a good regime change before Garang died, I don’t think the South would have clamored for separation. In fact John Garang had fought for a just, free, democratic and united Sudan. The more reason he agreed to be sworn in as Sudan’s first Vice President upon signing the Peace Accord in Nairobi in the last decade.
The East African states must do all they can to stop Khartoum from intimidating and molesting South Sudan. The southerners made their choice to divorce from an unfair regime that had exploited and suppressed them for more than a century on account of their colour and religion. Now that they have established their independent state recognized by the AU, UN and the rest of the world; it is only fair that they are allowed to determine their destiny without being harassed for their God given natural resource- oil.
If you have visited South Sudan in the last few years as I have done on several ocassions, you will notice that the young state is still far from developed. The few structures that were left by the British at independence have been bombed to Stone Age era by two decades of war with Khartoum. In fact as I write this column, Juba the capital city still enjoys the dubious title of being the largest grass thatched city in the world. In other words, entertaining another war with the North will only make things worse for the already sorry GOSS state.
If East Africa in keen on averting another humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa, if the EAC, IGAD and the International Conference of Great Lakes Region are to be taken seriously; this is the time to say enough is enough to crimes against humanity and stop Bashir from re-escalating the Sudanese humanitarian tragedy into the region.
If need be, peace loving countries in the region should apply economic and political sanctions against Khartoum so that Bashir realizes he cannot be condoned forever. Our heads of state must bite the bullet and deal with a rogue elephant in the house.
By Jerry Okungu
The GEMA community leaders have met to endorse Uhuru Kenyatta as Kenya’s next president. This is quite in order. There is nothing wrong with another Kikuyu president following in President
In quick succession, the KAMATUSA community leaders have also met in Eldoret and endorsed William Ruto as Kenya’s next president. Again there is nothing intrinsically wrong with that. Never mind that a Kalenjin like Ruto ruled this country for 24 good years with dire consequences for the social and economic wellbeing of this nation.
What needs to be said here and now is that Kenya is a state that is far from being homogeneous. It has 42 major ethnic communities that have never understood why state power should alternate between two tribes.
If indeed the GEMA and KAMATUSA tribal outfits have nominated their presidential candidates, does the constitution provide for tribal candidates some of who have no political party at the moment? Why can’t the KAMATUSA and GEMA stop pretending and register as political parties?
Since independence we have never liked one another that much. Our beef has always revolved around the sharing of national resources, which at best has been skewed to largely benefit the elite of ruling communities.
It is these ethnic biases that led to the fallout in Kanu just two years after independence. Whereas Jaramogi, Bildad Kaggia and Achieng Oneko among others detested land grabbing, the other wing led by Jomo Kenyatta saw nothing wrong with amassing tracks of land at the expense of the landless freedom fighters.
When 15 years later, Moi assumed the presidency, he did nothing to correct the mistakes of his predecessor.
Instead, he followed in the footsteps of the Mzee. What Kenyans did not know was that he would better what Jomo did over and over again.
Moi started with outlawing tribal affiliations. In the process he banned Luo East Africa, GEMA, Akamba Union, Abaluhya United and any other ethnic welfare association he could come across.
At the time Moi was cracking on ethnic associations, he camouflaged it with patriotism and nationalism. He claimed to be doing it for a united Kenya. In a way he was trying to copy what Nyerere had done for Tanzania for two decades. His point of departure with Nyerere was his desire was the Kalenjins domination of the political landscape. When he was through with us, Nyayo torture chambers had flourished. A few unfortunate ones like Robert Ouko were dead. Suddenly there were more Nyayo professors all over the country singing his praises.
When Moi finally left, the economy was on its knees. Every piece of public land had been grabbed by Nyayo boys. Even protected forests were not spared. Had Wangare Maathai had not stood firm, Karura Forest and Uhuru Park in Nairobi would have been grabbed.
Two things stand out in the regimes of Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel arap Moi and that of Mwai Kibaki.
Although Jomo Kenyatta was elected on a popular vote by all Kenyans especially by Nyanza, Central, Eastern and parts of the Rift Valley, he never lived to deliver on the promise of a better life for all Kenyans. In fact he never even delivered for the majority of his Kikuyu community. The poor and landless Kikuyus remained so as he and his cronies amassed tracks and tracks in the Coast, Central and Rift Valley provinces.
Kenyatta also encouraged negative ethnicity. Jomo surrounded himself with the GEMA elite and ruled this country like an imperial emperor. He caused the constitution to be amended several times to suite his unchallenged imperial power.
For all his 12 years in office, Kenyatta could only be found at State House in Nairobi, Nakuru State House and Mombasa.
All that time, he was surrounded an ethnic cabal that made it impossible for outsiders to see him. Even Moi his Vice President had a hard time surviving his job for those 12 years.
When Moi took over in August 1978, he did exactly what Kenyatta did, replacing Kikuyus with Kalenjins in major political appointments. Twenty four years later, Kikuyus had been marginalized just like the Luos..
When Mwai Kibaki assumed office in 2002, many Kenyans were weary of another Kikuyu but at that point, getting Moi out of power was an uphill task. After all, Moi’s anointed successor was also another Kikuyu. So Kenyans banked their hopes on Kibaki that was perceived as the gentleman of politics. Due to his exposure, Kenyans including Luos voted him to a man and woman. Kalenjins opposed him. We could breathe change in the air. And his inauguration speech did not disappoint.
Ten years later, negative ethnicity has tripled. In fact, compared to Moi and Kenyatta, Kibaki has done pretty badly in this department.
However, the one area where Kibaki has excelled has been giving Kenyans their freedom back and respecting human rights. Since he took power, no Kenyan has been jailed or detained for expressing his or her opinion. The economy has flourished. Infrastructure has been expanded. We have adopted modern technology in our communications system. Our children now learn for free in primary schools.
Unfortunately, all these gains will go down the drain if his regime allows ethnic warlords to balkanize country along ethnic lines. The KAMATUSA and GEMA are no longer tribal welfare associations. They have ventured into politics and anointed their flag bearers in the same way political parties do.
If this trend is allowed to take root, other communities will take the cue and do the same. If they do, chances of having 42 presidential candidates on the ballot paper are very high. Is this the legacy Kibaki will want to be remembered for?
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
The pollsters released surveys April 4, 2012 that showed the majority of Kenyans prefer a December General Election.
By DAVE OPIYO
April 4 2012
The majority of Kenyans prefer a December General Election, two opinion polls released Wednesday show. The polls conducted separately by Ipsos Synovate and Infotrak Harris, place those wish to have the polls conducted in December 2012 at 72 percent and 64 percent respectively.
In the Synovate study that was conducted between March 23 and 30 this year, only five percent of the 2,024 respondents said they wanted the polls to be held in August this year.
However, in both polls, 12 percent of the respondents were in agreement that the General Election should be held in March next year as was determined by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
Ipsos Synovate’s managing director Maggie Ireri said preference for a December 2012 poll is high across various parts of the country with Nyanza having the highest – at 80 percent. It is closely followed by Western (74), Nairobi (73), Rift Valley (73), Coast (69), Central (64) as well as North Eastern (59).
“The main reason given by those in favour of the December poll as the election date is that this is a less busy period of the year thus people are available to vote,” said Mrs Ireri.
“In the past, schools have been used as polling stations and it is not surprising that 28 percent of Kenyans would like the date to be during the school holidays so that learning is not interrupted."
Ms Ireri said those who prefer the March 2013 date argue that it will allow them adequate time for preparations of the elections while others felt that it was in line with the court ruling.
In the Infotrak Harris Poll, 16 percent of the 2,400 respondents want the polls to be held in August this year.
Angela Ambitho, the company’s CEO said 74 percent of those who preferred the elections to be held in August stressed on the need to adhere and respect the Constitution, while another ten percent said they wanted to "avoid violence during the holiday season".
“Those who support a March 2013 election said the IEBC was not ready and needed time to prepare boundaries, while others – three percent – said the court had decided the date," said Ms Ambitho.
She said of those who prefer a December poll, 51 percent of them said it was a long holiday and many Kenyans were therefore free to vote, 44 percent of them said Kenyans were used to voting in December while another two percent said there was need to give the IEBC time to adequately prepare for the elections.
Submitted by mydunda
Kibaki is clinging to power just like Moi did. I wish someone could run on the Kenya tribe ticket and we shall see if the GEMA or whatever other tribal organizations would survive.
Posted April 04, 2012 05:14 PM
Submitted by chukni1
@rotuba_safi, good question, why should we really care, what are the positive or negative impact on our lives if election are held on either dates??. The only persons to care are the contenders, Kenyans don't be drawn to their dirty wars, hand them the contempt they deserve.
Posted April 04, 2012 05:00 PM
Submitted by Ekiba123
rotuba_safi Very good question. This debate has become so stale and boring.....Can we hear something new?
Posted April 04, 2012 04:58 PM
Submitted by nyagahpro
be it after or before december but we want a free and fair election
Posted April 04, 2012 03:17 PM
Submitted by ace112
Which Government RESPECTS THE WISHES of it's Citizens?? Let's hope, NO PRAY is more like it, THAT the ALMIGHTY will BLESS our leaders with an epiphany so they can DO THE RIGHT THING!
Posted April 04, 2012 03:15 PM
Submitted by Wagrolia
The elections could be held in December only if -: 1) Raila drops his interests in Presidential post. 2) The ICC sets Uhuru Free. (remember -- who owns Kenya)
Posted April 04, 2012 03:14 PM
Submitted by progressor
Just like the PM said, but HE does not want that. Buying time to see if a loophole will materialise for Hague pals to get let off the hook.
Posted April 04, 2012 03:14 PM
Submitted by rotuba_safi
What pecentage of Kenyans do not care when the elections are held?
Posted April 04, 2012 03:13 PM
Submitted by edwardmoreu
i agree with the opinion poll conducted that most kenyans preffer december elections.
Posted April 04, 2012 02:46 PM
Submitted by seccessionist
December 2012 is the preferred date. At some stage even the IEBC and the Cabinet preferred the December 2012 elections. One wonders why there was a change of heart. Absolute power is sweet absolutely.
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Published: April 3, 2012
LONDON — BSkyB, the British satellite broadcaster partly owned by the Murdoch family, said on Tuesday that James Murdoch had resigned as chairman to shield the company from the phone hacking scandal engulfing his family’s British newspaper outpost.
BSkyB said Nicholas Ferguson, currently deputy chairman, succeeds Mr. Murdoch as chairman. Mr. Murdoch continues to be a non-executive director of the company.
“I am aware that my role as chairman could become a lightning rod for BSkyB and I believe that my resignation will help to ensure that there is no false conflation with events at a separate organization,” Mr. Murdoch wrote in a letter to the BSkyB board which was made public by the company.
The Murdoch family has a roughly 40 per cent stake in BSkyB that it had hoped to expand in order to strengthen its hold on the British satellite television business. Along with its news division, Sky also operates lucrative sports, movie and general entertainment channels.
But as the hacking scandal within its British newspaper holdings gripped the nation last July, the family announced that it was withdrawing a $12 billion bid to buy complete control of the broadcaster — a major setback to its corporate planning and European ambitions.
Almost immediately, analysts began speculating about Mr. Murdoch’s tenure as chairman.
The news came only weeks after Mr. Murdoch resigned as head of his family’s scandal-ridden newspaper properties in Britain.
At the time, he said he would concentrate on his family’s lucrative television properties. He also said he would work from the New York headquarters of News Corporation, the global media conglomerate run by his father, Rupert Murdoch, who is chairman and chief executive of the company.
James Murdoch, 39, is Deputy Chief Operating Officer of News Corp., according to its Web site.
His resignation as executive chairman of News International, the British newspaper subsidiary of News Corp., came at a moment of intensifying scrutiny of the Murdoch tabloids at the center of the British hacking scandal, The Sun and the now-defunct News of the World.
The papers’ reporters, editors and corporate executives, including Mr. Murdoch, have been at the center of overlapping investigations by the police, Parliament and a judicial inquiry into a pattern of widespread phone hacking and payoffs to police and other public officials.
Britain’s regulator for the communications industry, Ofcom, said last month it was stepping up its investigation into whether James Murdoch was a “fit and proper” person to be part of the BSkyB board given the ongoing probe into hacking allegations at News International.
On Tuesday, Mr. Ferguson, his successor as chairman of BSkyB, said he thanked James Murdoch “for the outstanding contribution he has made” and said that “the board’s support for James and belief in his integrity remain strong. We understand his decision to step aside at this time."
Mr. Murdoch has been shedding titles since the scandal heated up.
Last month, in a continuing effort to distance himself from News Corporation’s British newspaper unit, Mr. Murdoch stepped down from the board of Times Newspapers Holdings. That entity was created to safeguard the editorial independence of The Times of London and The Sunday Times after the media conglomerate bought the British newspapers in 1981, according to public filings with the British government.
In March, the auction house Sotheby’s said in a filing with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission that James Murdoch would not return to his board position. Earlier this year he gave up his position on the board of the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline.
Monday, April 2, 2012
April 2, 2012
If you know someone like I have known Mary Onyango, your mind gets clogged when you want to talk about her. Words literally get stuck in your mouth. You experience rare mental block
I first met Mary way back in Kisumu over three decades ago at Kisumu Girls High School. I was then a young graduate teacher newly posted to the town I had grown in. Mary was teaching in the same school as a fresh Form Six graduate waiting to join the University of Nairobi later in the year.
What struck me about Ted was her love for life, maturity and her hearty laughter. She was always a party girl who made sure every moment was a celebration.
A few years later, I was again to meet Ted at the University of Nairobi when she had graduated in economics. Despite her chosen discipline, she somehow relished in the performing Arts. In fact it was impossible to imagine that Ted and the late Stella Awinja Muka were not literature students. At that time, it was not easy to find any actress more prolific on stage than Ted and Stella.
I got to work very closely with Ted on stage when I directed her in the Miaha play in 1981. The play was written by novelist Grace Ogot and Asaneth Odaga.
Since the play was in Luo, it was almost impossible to get lead characters that had the command of the Luo language.
I was lucky to have Ted Onyango as the lead character in Miaha. The other thriller on stage was Dr. Penina Ochola- Nyar Kwang'a then of AMREF who acted the role of Mother in Law.
Support actors included Stella Awinja Muka, Val Mosley from the USA, Njeri Luseno from the University of Nairobi and Achieng’ Nyong’o among other actors from the university campus.
When Ted got the script, her mastery and interpretation of Luo idioms and proverbs was superb.
Under the guidance of the late Prof. John Ruganda of Uganda and David Rubadiri of Malawi, Mary’s humility to take criticism from non Luo speakers was humbling.
As the lead actress, she galvanized the rest of the non-Luo speaking cast around the storyline; at times interpreting proverbs and idioms with a lot of ease.
With Prof. Bethuel Ogot at our side to explain the deeper meaning of the story and the authors available to help the actors get the hidden meanings of multiple phrases, Ted took it upon herself to get the entire cast to eternalize the play.
When finally the doors were open at University Theatre for the premier show, we were shocked to have as our guests the renowned American Actress, Cicely Tyson accompanied by the then Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr. Robert Ouko and several American Marines in the audience.
On that night, the cast acted their hearts out led by Mary Onyango. By that time she had accepted her stage name; Nyawir Nyar Opollo- Nyawir the daughter of Opollo.
When it was all over, Cicely Tyson insisted on going back stage to shake the hands of Nyawir Nyar Opollo because in her words, she had never seen such a powerful actress in her life right in the middle of Africa acting in the language she never knew yet she understood the whole story without an interpreter.
This play became a national sensation drawing capacity crowds in Nairobi, Kisumu and Nyanza regions. It was one full month of packed crowds yet Mary the lead character never complained of fatigue.
Later, I was to again reconnect with Mary during the constitution debate in 2010 when she was already a Commissioner with the NCIC. Being active in analyzing the events leading up to the referendum, we were constantly in touch on phone or attending numerous meetings together.
At that time she had been ailing for close to ten years yet in our meetings in Nairobi, Mombasa and other towns, Ted’s uncontrolled laughter and love for life was all intact.
From then on whenever we met we would always laugh about Miaha and she would insist that I call her Nyawir Nyar Opollo. It is the name I called her to her last moments.
I remember her telling me about her condition back in 2010 before I knew I had cancer; that she would live her life until she dropped dead; that her condition would not force her to slow down.
In 2011 when it was my turn to suffer a cancer attack, Mary was one of the first people to tell me not to worry. She assured me that cancer was manageable and that she had lived with it for a decade.
Three weeks before she passed on, she called me after visiting another friend, David Nalo at Nairobi Hospital. When she came out she called me and had a long laugh about what David Nalo had told her about my last visit to him. At that time, she asked me that we should be calling each other more often and talking just to laugh because we had come a long way.
When finally the curtains closed on Ted last Saturday, I was stunned just like all other Kenyans whose lives shed had touched.
Rest in peace Nyawir Nyar Opollo! You fought the good fight and won many battles.
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