19 years later, Western Kenya Political Hero Masinde Muliro is still vivid
Written by Leonard Wamalwa
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14, August 1992 a dark cloud engulfed this country as the announcement of the death of freedom fighter, advocate of multiparty politics and founder of the pioneer political party that agitated for pluralism was made known to the citizens.
Henry Masinde Muliro a vocal politician who had become a darling of majority Kenyans in the wake of multi party politics in 1991 through the newly formed party of Forum for the Restoration of Democracy-FORD had left many people baffled and tongue tied through his untimely death.
After participating in the pre-colonial and post colonial politics of this country by bringing formidable changes at different levels in different governments that were, Muliro was seen to be at his best at the time of his demise as many people saw redemption and liberation through him.
Born in 1922 in Matili village, Wekoyela homestead (Lukoba) of Kimilili area in the now Bungoma county as Henry Pius Masinde Muliro, he was the only son of Mzee Muliro of Bakokho clan and Mama Makinia of Omurefu and brother to Nanjala Muliro.
He got his education at Matili and Misikhu primary schools, Yala College and Tororo college in Uganda where he qualified to join Makerere University but failed due to lack of fees.
Howeverpeople from his Bukusu community at that time showed solidarity under the chairmanship of Pascal nabwana who was then the chairman of African District Council in Kenya by contributing money to enable Masinde go for his studies in South Africa.
Each member of the Bukusu community donated one shilling towards Muliro’s education that saw him acquire two degrees in seven years including Bachelor of Science and Political Science from 1948 to 1955.
Besides acquiring the two degrees from South Africa, Muliro also married a Zulu woman from there who became his first wife.
On returning back to the country, Masinde Muliro taught at Maseno and Egerton Universities before joining politics in 1957 by being elected to parliament as Member for North Nyanza region after beating W.W Awori in the elections.
According to Mzee Charles Kisembe a nephew to Muliro, his uncle became the chairman of the parliamentary group that vetted the motions before they were presented before the house.
He fully participated in the formation of the Kenya African Democratic Union-KADU party and actively participated in the writing of the first constitution of this country famously known as the Lancaster House Constitution that was rejected in August 4 last year to pave way for the new laws that are now under the transition period.
Retired Inspector of Police Jotham Kusimba speaks to West FM at his Likuyani home over his life with the late Masinde Muliro.
80-year Kisembe told West FM that Muliro led the delegation of Members of Parliament that went to Lancaster in Britain twice to study and write the constitution while the first president of this country Mzee Jomo Kenyatta was in detention.
He added that Muliro championed for a first ever coalition government between KANU and KADU and also declined to take the post of the Prime Minister that he had advocated for leaving it to Noah katana Ngala who held it for six months.
At the same time the tireless politician fought for the release of Mzee Jomo Kenyatta from detention and later played a pivotal role to convince James Gichuru to step down for Kenyatta to enable him become member of parliament to qualify to become the first president of the free republic of Kenya.
In the same context Mzee William Khaemba Sikenga a long time legal advisor of Muliro revealed to West FM that Muliro was fully involved in the construction of Mzee Kenyatta’s house in Gatundu after he was released from detention, a house he claimed is still there to date.
No memoriam for the unsung hero
However, despite the pivotal roles played by the legendary politician from the Western region of the country comprising of Western province and North Rift alongside other celebrated leaders from other regions of this country nothing formidable has been left behind or put up in his memory.
His fellow departed heroes that he worked alongside to attain the first and second liberation for this country have been accorded the national heroic acknowledgement and are always celebrated annually under the watch of the governments that be.
A street in Kitale town believed to be named after Muliro by the municipality but has no name at the moment and residents are not aware of its existence.
The likes of Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, Oginga Odinga, Dedan Kimathi, Ronald Ngala, Tom Mboya and late VP Michael Wamalwa Kijana among others are well are given homage yet many of them did not attain the level of Muliro’s contribution to the being of this country.
19 years after his death there has been no meaningful celebrations to mark any of his anniversaries whether organized by family members, members of his Bukusu/Luhya community, government officers or political leaders from the region who sometime attain political mileage by identifying themselves with him.
Muliro’s close allies and associates who spoke to West FM prior to this day had diverse versions of describing him and showed their concern as to why nothing substantial has been put in place to have his name continue to linger in the history and map of this country especially the young generation.
‘Muliro’s name is fading away so fast and might soon be long forgotten if at all nothing is done to reinstate it,” commented an opinion leader in Kitale town.
Diverse confessions and opinions from Muliro allies and opinion leaders
In exclusive interviews with leaders, friends and close allies of the late Muliro, it was established that there are many factors leading to the fast fading of the Muliro legacy despite what he did for this country and people of Western region especially from his Luhya community.
Many ageing old men who worked with the politician express their concern how the country and the Luhya community got divided soon after his death and the situation worsening as time goes by.
Speaking to West FM in his home in Likuyani district of Kakamega county, Mzee Jotham Kusimba a retired Inspector of police recalled how Muliro united people regardless of their ethnic or political affiliations.
“What Muliro did is immeasurable and cannot be compared to any politician of this time because he had the interest of the people at heart unlike the current politicians who are self centered and greedy,” noted Kusimba who masterminded all the political movements of Muliro while he still served as a police officer.
Kusimba who has another home in Kipsaina Trans Nzoia recalls how he used to host Muliro and his people in his eight-acre forest in his farm to plan and get way forward on serious matters affecting the people of the region and the country at large.
He pointed out the divisions within leaders in the region and community as part of the reasons why Muliro is not celebrated in any manner citing the efforts done by leaders of the Luo and Kikuyu communities who ensure that the names of their heroes are remembered and celebrated to appreciate their contributions to the country.
The retired officer who now works in the Land Tribunal in Lugari district called upon professionals and other youthful people from the Luhya community to put in place modalities to initiate celebrations for their heroes and not rely on the current leaders.
Charles Kisembe the current chairman of the Bukusu Community Council and political colleague of Muliro described him as an exemplary leader of his own class and is yet to be replaced.
The 31 year old Kisembe revealed that despite Muliro’s contribution in the liberalization of this country, he was not given state burial and thus led to the downplaying that is going on and likely to have no meaningful history remembered about the devoted hero.
On his side Muliro’s legal advisor William Khaemba Sikenga 85 noted the generosity that was enhanced by Muliro which he claimed let to him dying poor as he concentrated on settling other people’s plight.
“Muliro fought for the removal of White settlers in Trans Nzoia, he brought multiparty politics, he championed for people from Western to get pieces of land in Trans Nzoia and brought independence in this country and there is no difference between him and the late founding president of this country Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.
Muliro’s former KANU Trans Nzoia branch organizing secretary Dismas Malaba described Muliro as an advocate for the people and can equated to none of the leaders at the moment.
However, some opinion leaders in the region have proposed for the formation of Western Kenya Heroes Day that shall have celebrations of all identified heroes celebrated in style and in shifts from Western province and North Rift so that some of them are not left out.
Institutions named after Muliro
So far two institutions, a primary school and secondary school have been named after the late Muliro in Trans Nzoia County.
Kitale municipal council officials claim that there is a street in the town named after the politician but is not labeled and residents are not aware of the street.
Other leaders in the region including Ford Kenya officials in the county have called for more institutions to be named in honor of Muliro to appreciate and uphold his heroic contributions.