FROM SAGINI TO MATIANG’I: WHY ABAGUSII SHOULDN’T REPEAT THE 1967 MISTAKE
The resignation of Joseph Murumbi as Vice President of the republic of Kenya was untimely to Mzee Jomo Kenyatta in 1966. First because Kenyatta believed in Murumbi, second because he resigned while abroad citing health issues. Mzee Jomo then called two of his close allies from Gusii region; James Miyienda Nyamweya and Lawrence George Sagini Ndemo. The two polished politicians were tasked with one option; chosing among themselves who will replace Murumbi and be the second Vice President of Kenya.
Now, let me tell you something.
Lawrence Sagini was an year older than James Nyamweya but the latter considered himself learned than the former having studied in Britain and defended Africans led by Oginga Odinga in a historic court battle against the colonialists. Sagini considered himself senior to Nyamweya having become the first minister from Kisii and having traunced James Nyamweya in the 1961 elections alongside Thomas Mong’are (North Mugirango) and Zephaniah Anyieni (Machoge Bassi). The two couldn’t agree on who to present to Kenyatta; they went back to Kenyatta and told him they cant agree and it’s up to Kenyatta to chose amongst the two. Kenyatta instead told them he couldn’t chose; because if he did, he could offend the other. Instead, Kenyatta went for a green horn, a native teacher Daniel Arap Moi who could later stamp his authority on Kenya’s leadership. Since this occasion, Gusii politics has been interesting with such major blunders hindering our close stay to power but in other cases wise decisions making us to be close to the house of the hill.
Comparing Nyamweya and Sagini isn’t easy neither is it hard; Nyamweya was the first Leader to unite the thirteen clans of Nyaribari, something that’s being done by Professor Ongeri currently. Nyamweya urged Abagusii to stop uprooting tea and build Mwalimu Hotel & Mwalimu offices in Kisii town. He contested and won the Nyaribari seat before boundaries were drawn in 1963 and ruled for 16 years. Maybe his last political assignment was campaigning for Mwai Kibaki in the 1992 general elections after serving for various government positions till he met his death in 1995. Till his death, Nyamweya couldn’t forgive Musa Nyandusi for sidestepping him to become a chief; position that Nyandusi used to Marshall influence on the colonialists, on Kenyatta and on Abagusii. On the other hand, Sagini reprented Nyanza among the 8 vice Presidents when Mzee Kenyatta wanted to cut his then VP, Odinga’s powers. He was so close to Kenyatta that he sometimes shielded politicians from reaching him and was beaten pants down by the little known Zachary Theodore Onyonka (30 years by then) who is a peer to Chris Obure, David Kombo and Sospeter Arasa. Zachary Onyonka’s star rose immediately he became MP and immediately succeeded Tom Mboya’s Economic planning ministry, foreign affairs among others. Zachary Onyonka died during his tenure after 27 years in power in1996 and was succeeded by the UON Lecturer Jimmy Angwenyi and on the constituency boundaries review, his son, Hon Richard Momoima took over from where he stopped till currently.
Despite being jailed together in 1982 during the coup attempt, Jaramogi couldn’t contain his friend George Anyona who strived to stick to his party Kenya Social Congress and joined other activists who opposed the KANU regime like James Orengo Koigi Wamwere, Lawrence Sifuna, Abuya Abuya, Wafula Chisuma, Mwashengu Mwashofi and Onyango Midiko. In the 1992 general elections; James Nyamweya, the then DP Vice Chairman controlled majority of Gusii votes giving Mwai Kibaki, the majority of votes. But Daniel Moi won as Oginga Odinga came third but still got North Mugirango MP Henry Obwocha who was re-elected in 1997 from Gusii. Like father like son, James Nyamweya son George Nyamweya hang his boots in politics and has been Kibaki’s PNU bigwig and daughter Pauline Nyamweya being in an accomplished lawyer for long. Nyamweya’s great dalliance with Simeon Nyachae, Tom Mboya and Malawi’s first President Hastings Kamuzu Banda gave him fame as the latter slept in his Kisii home when he visited Kenya on Kenyatta’s permission.
Simeon Nyachae was the king of Gusii politics from 1990 to 2007. His resignation from Government in 1999 saw him gain popularity with his newly created party Ford People whose current Chairman is Albert Nyaundi. He marshalled all the 14 Gusii MP seats with Kipkalia Kones of KANU, Kennedy Kiliku of DP and Gitobu Imanyara of Ford Kenya who had decamped Jaramogi due to the latter’s dalliance with Kibaki and Ngilu. The then assistant Minister For health Sam Ongeri and minister for finance Chris Obure couldn’t survive the Ford People wave; they were all sent home during the 2002 general election.The NARC-LDP 2002 merger that saw Mwai Kibaki became president couldn’t be contained due to Raila Odinga presence; it resulted into a merger with another KANU-Ford People merger between Uhuru Kenyatta and Simeon Nyachae. The KANU-Ford People Merger joined the NARC-LDP Merger. This saw some senior politicians from Gusii get ministerial positions; Nyachae was made Minister for Energy while Henry Obwocha became Local Government Minister. Ongeri and Obure, the KANU bigwigs from Gusii never attended the post election merger.
Prof. Sam K. Ongeri Chris Obure Omingo Magara regrouped to oppose the 2005 Kibaki’s referendum. They succeeded but Ongeri, having learnt the strong Kibaki waves joined Nyachae before 2007 to support Kibaki’s by-election; the result was that Nyachae lost his MP position but Ongeri got elected as MP and was awarded a Ministerial position and even sat in 2007 Koffi Annan ‘s peace & mediation team. Raila’s handshake with Mwai Kibaki saw his allies from Gusii region get Ministerial seats; Obure was pointed the roads minister while Magara became an assistant minister. Former South Mugirango MP Omingo Magara rose in a very unpredictable situation after the untinely death of his brother Enock Nyankieya in 2001. The little known Omingo Magara was supported by Simeon Nyachae to defeat Reuben Oyondi despite the latter having government machineries support including the then President Moi and his 17 ministers including Chris Obure and Sam Ongeri. But Omingo Magara could later join ODM in the push for opposing the constitution in 2005 but was humiliated with the then Eldoret North MP Wiliam Ruto in 2007 as they attended Nyachae’s meeting in South Mugirango.
Samson Kegengo Ongeri’s tenure especially in the Local Government ministry saw him employ several locals from Gusii, a legacy that is hard for any government official to break though his tenure at Education Ministry tainted his star because of scandals that made former Prime Minister Raila Odinga sack him alongside Agriculture Minister William Ruto before President Kibaki reinstating him. James E.O. Ongwae ‘s tenure as Director of Civil Service Reform Programme, Permanent Secretary in the Office of the President & AgricultureMinistry, director of Personnel Management (DPM) and Secretary for the TSC in the government of Kenya saw him empower his community directly and indirectly. A common saying goes that of teachers are employed by Ongwae. Ongwae’s retirement from Public Service in 2005 paved way for politics in 2007 when he unsuccessful vied for Kitutu Chache seat and 2010 when he championed for the new constitution before he assumed Gubernatorial duties in 2013 till currently.
Comparing 1966 and 2020; the Abagusii’s focal point currently is Dkt Fred Matiang’i who is their sole spokesman and touted to be the next President; already, leaders from all political affiliations have started drumming up for his bid led by Kisii James Ongwae as they also support the handshake between Former Prime Minister RAILA ODINGA and President Uhuru Kenyatta that resulted into BBI. Matiang’i has been Gusii’s star and touted as Nyachae’s successor because his son Charles Nyachae couldn’t grip the heir role. Fred Matiang’i has been the face of reform in Kenya starting with ministries he has been; ICT, Education and Interior ministry. His highest elevation that made Kenyans see him as Uhuru’s heir was his elevation as coordination of national government projects and assignment of special local and international roles; a task that normally is given to the Deputy President. All in all; Gusii politics cant be written minus mentioning Bitange Ndemo, a long serving Permanent Secretary under Kibaki’s tenure, younger brother to Lawrence Sagini. It cant be complete without Senator Kebaso, Sam Nyamweya (a KANU activist) George Morara, Makone Ombese, Nyarangi Moturi, Atebe Marita Momanyi Bw’Otieno Mary Otara Hezron Manduku Hon Sen Janet Ong’era Hon Manson oyongo nyamweya Stephen Arika Douglas Ogari Mtetezi among others.