Written by Nandemu Barasa
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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.
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.
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