The Unsung hero of Western Kenya - Masinde Muliro.
Written by John Kabaka
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It’s on such a day in the year 1992 month of August that a son man and a great man of the people passed on. His name is Masinde Muliro.
A son that would have brought the first country leadership in the Western region, It is the day that somber mood engulfed the entire Western region, because as we speak, Luhyas would have been gone in the history for having and making the next president of this nation after promotion to glory of the founding father of this land.
Masinde was truly and indeed a Kenyan politician, one of the central figures in the shaping of the political landscape in Kenya.
A renowned freedom fighter, he campaigned for the restoration of multi-party democracy in Kenya in his later years.
He was a ruthless negotiator and a proponent of peaceful but focused politics. He had a reputation for integrity rivaled only by Ronald Ngala.
Considered by some as one of the best leaders that never became president, it has been speculated that had he not died, he may have beaten Daniel arap Moi for the presidency in 1992.
Henry Pius Masinde Muliro was born in Matili, Kimilili in Bungoma County, to Muliro Kisingilie and his wife Makinia.
His parents died when he was young, and he was brought up by an older stepbrother, Aibu Naburuku.
After elementary and high school studies in Kenya and Uganda, he joined the University of Cape Town in South Africa in 1949.
He enrolled for a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, History and Political Philosophy, and graduated in 1953 with degrees in Arts and Education.
In 1954 he returned home with a South African wife, and taught for a while at a government school. In 1957, he quit his job to join politics.
In 1948, Muliro had joined the Kenya African Union (KAU), a body formed to champion the interests of Africans in colonial Kenya.
When he quit teaching in 1957, he contested the Nyanza North Legislative Council seat which was then held by W.W.W. Awori (Elder brother of the former Kenyan vice president Moody Awori).
Muliro won the election. Among his fellow legislators were Daniel arap Moi representing the Rift valley, Tom Mboya representing Nairobi area, Bernard Mate representing Central Province, Ronald Ngala representing Coast Province, James Nzau Muimi representing Eastern Province, Lawrence Oguda representing Nyanza South, and Oginga Odingarepresenting Nyanza Central.
In 1958 Muliro formed the Kenya National Party with the support of 9 Legco members. He later on dissolved his party to join the Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU).
He was subsequently appointed minister of commerce just before Kenya gained independence in 1963.
Muliro worked in various positions in later governments, but was frequently on the wrong side of President Jomo Kenyatta.
After Kenyatta's death, Muliro went back to Parliament after winning a petition in court. He served as the Kitale East Constituency until 1988, when the constituency was split.
He won the newly created Cherangany Constituency parliamentary seat in 1988, but held the position only for two years. At the 1990 by-elections, the Cherangany seat was won byKipruto Arap Kirwa .
In 1989, Muliro teamed up with Kenneth Matiba, Charles Rubia, Martin Shikuku, Phillip Gachoka and Oginga Odinga to form FORD (Forum for restoration of democracy), a pressure-group agitating for a return to pluralist politics.
After violent clashes pitting FORD supporters against police and government supporters, the KANU government accepted multi-partysm in 1991. FORD became a party with Muliro as its vice chairman.
Disagreements soon cropped up with two main rivals Oginga Odinga and Kenneth Matiba each wanting to run for presidency and not wanting to listen to reason.
It was shortly after this that Muliro left for London for a fundraising mission for the newly formed Ford political party.
It was to be an ill-fated trip: on his return, upon his arrival at the Nairobi airport on the morning of August 14, 1992 he collapsed and died.
The controversy of his death was heightened by the absence of an official post mortem. Muliro was buried on his farm in the Kitale area of Kenya.
The party, then split into two factions after Muliro died due to a disagreement on who was to run for the presidency against President Moi.
Kenneth Matiba and Martin Shikuku claiming that they are the real owners of Ford splitting to form Ford Asili and Odinga and others forming Ford Kenya.
Had Masinde Muliro not died, the original FORD would have remained united and possibly would have removed president Moi in 1992.
Muliro’s Bungoma home very unique in Luhya’s political leaders
Bungoma County is unique as the home of the Luhyas’ modern political kings.
It is also the bedrock of Ford Kenya, where the fight for control has become a perennial phenomenon.
But before then, the Nabongo Mumia of the Wanga kingdom from neighbouring Kakamega County reigned supreme.
Things changed at Independence when democracy was introduced and political power was acquired through elections.
With their large numbers, the Bukusu, the majority group in Bungoma and neighbouring Trans Nzoia, easily emerged the political kings.
They provided the base around which the other communities organised. It is not, therefore, surprising that individuals like Masinde Muliro and former Vice President Michael Wamalwa were able to significantly influence politics not just in western Kenya but nationally as well.
Wamalwa’s brother and political inheritor in Saboti, Eugene, and Sirisia MP Moses Wetang’ula, who became Ford Kenya leader last week, are following this trend in their battle for supremacy in the county.
Masinde Muliro, who teamed up with independence fighters elsewhere in the country, became the first de facto Luhya leader for the better part of the 20th century.
From Busia to Kakamega, Bungoma to Kitale, Mr Muliro was recognised as the Luhya leader, even when he fell out with the Kenyatta regime.
The split came when he voted against the Government in its determination to ‘note’ and not ‘adopt’ a 1975 report on the murder of former Nyandarua North MP Josiah Mwangi ‘JM’ Kariuki.
Mr Muliro remained a hero in his community until his death in 1991, in spite of the fact that Kenyatta promptly sacked him from the Cabinet.
Mr Elijah Wasike Mwangale, then MP for Bungoma East who chaired the JM committee that wrote the unfavourable report, was another leader from the county.
Although he did not acquire the status of Mr Muliro, his tenure as a Luhya leader was overshadowed by rivalry and bickering with another powerful politician, Moses Mudavadi from Vihiga.
The void left by Mr Muliro was filled by Mr Wamalwa, another son of Bungoma although he represented a constituency in Trans Nzoia, just like Mr Muliro.
Mr Wamalwa rose to prominence as a Luhya leader when he took over Ford Kenya after founder Jaramogi Oginga Odinga died in 1994.
At the time, he was seen as the one politician with the potential to pose a threat to President Moi’s grip on power.
Masinde Muliro University.
Masinde Muliro University of science and technology was named by parliament to honour the late legend Masinde Muliro whom the parliament when naming the university said was the man who had done alot to this nation but no one seemed to know the great thing he had done to the Nation.
Masinde Muliro University students heading to the university library an instituion named after the late Masinde Muliro.
Masinde Muliro University students heading to the university library an instituion named after the late Masinde Muliro.
“In naming the university the parliament named Muliro as a hero whose good deed would have and some were just buried in forgettable hole and to get away from that the university was to honour him and act as a remembering factor that indeed he was a hero,” said Professor Egara Kabaji, Director of Public Communications and Publishing Academic qualifications.
“Masinde Muliro was an international hero I can say nad what the parliament did was so wise that it named the university after him,” said Prof. Kabaji.
Professor kabaji goes on that indeed Masinde Muliro was a leader of the nation at large and not for a particular area.
The legend influenced most the creation of the university because he was founder of the now only Science and Technology University in the nation.
The University was founded through Harambee spirit on 5th January, 1972, as Western College of Arts and Applied Sciences (WECO) under the stewardship of the former fiery MP, Masinde Muliro.
As chairman of the project executive committee, Muliro worked with Prof. Reuben J. Olembo (then Head, Department of Botany University of Nairobi) as secretary.
The first batch of 24 students who were drawn from all parts of the country, joined on March 24, 1977, and enrolled for certificate and diploma in courses, which included mechanical and motor vehicle, electrical, electronic, agriculture, water, building, architecture, accounting, finance just to name but a few.
In December 2002, WECO became WUCST (Western University College of Science and Technology) after being elevated to a Constituent College of Moi University.
Early 2007, President Kibaki elevated WUCST to a full university by assenting to a Bill which also changed the name to MMUST.
“As I put Muliro was a leader of his kind second compared to non, the sitting of the university at Kakamega and not at Sangalo means nothing because anything anywhere in the whole nation can be named after Masinde Muliro because he was a leader of this nation and not of a particular group of individuals, area or tribe he was a country man,” said Professor Kabaji.
Professor Egara Kabaji, Director of Public Communications and Publishing Academic qualifications.
“Masinde Muliro was not a village leader, he was not the name that can be found anywhere because he was indeed a legend of this nation,” added Professor Kabaji.
The university holds some of the tapes of the legend in its Public Communications and Publishing Academic qualifications department.
The tapes entail Masinde Muliro’s engagement on various debates in the parliament, his campaigns and the opening of the various institutions and other functions in the region.
“When you preview the tapes, no one has to tell you who he was, you will always see it by yourself, he was a no nonsense man when it came to serious matter but a good and intelligent leader a legend of the people of this nation,” said Professor Kabaji.
The Muliro garden.
Situated in the epic enter of Kakamega town and was named after the prolific politician Masinde Muliro.
The garden was started in early 1930’s.
This was after the British headquarters were moved from Mumias to Kakamega due to hostile climate conditions in Mumias.
It was set up as a public utility for public use regardless of the race which one came from. Muiliro garden by then acted as a football pitch and hosted other sports like cricket, hockey, volleyball and many more.
Some of the legendary football players in Kenyan soccer were nurtured and discovered their talent here, this were people like Elijah Lidonde,Shem Shimoto, Omar Wembe and many others.
It served as a major meeting point in the area for all activities in the region where various people came together for various things. It’s here that the very tough matches entailing teams from Nyanza and western were played.
The garden was well used for other many activities and important to the community such as installing the chiefs during the colonial era.
In 1953 it was named the Queen Elizabeth Coronation ground. This was when Elizabeth was coronated officially as the Queen of England and as celebrations were underway in England, people from the region and Kenya at large are said to have held their celebrations here as well.
Later the name changed from Queen Elizabeth Coronation ground to the Garden of good hope. This is because it was believed that any activity that started at the garden, it automatically turned up to be a success.
It’s here that the multi party system in Kenya was announced the first time and indeed it came to pass. It’s as well believed that the onetime common wealth secretary general, John McKinnon from Newzealnad announced his will to contest for the position here when he represented the Queen in a big ceremony hosted by retired president Moi.
And it indeed happened in 1965 when he was announced the secretary general of the Commonwealth.
All presidents of the republic of Kenya have passed and announced their ambitions in the garden and won the elections.
Not to forget the former chief executive officer of Safaricom Michael Joseph launched safaricom Western Kenya in the garden and how successful is the company.
During the post independence the year 1965 all foreign names had to part way with the garden and it was named after the legend and nationalist Henry Masinde Pius Muliro.
Since then, the garden stands tall with the name Muliro Garden. It acts as a studying ground to many where many people including even the Masinde Muliro university student’s come to study.
The nature corner at the garden has helped many to study botany and nature study.
It’s a hero that this nation and the region in particular ever had, but have we done enough to honour him? This is the question that Professor Kabaji left me with.