Masinde Muliro: The Hero Western Kenya Gave to the World

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A courtesy file photo of the late Masinde Muliro.

BY MARTIN BABU

The coming week will see the 26th anniversary held at the University of Masinde Muliro on Monday celebrate the tremendous life of one of the enigmatic politician that Western Kenya has ever produced.

Arguably the founding father of politics, democracy and education in Western Kenya, Masinde Miliro’ journey was marred with challenges and risks yet he stood strong like a huge pillar and overcame everything except his mysterious death on the staircase of a plane.

Henry Pius Masinde Muliro born in 1922 Matili, Kimilili in Bungoma County of Western Kenya was one of the key Kenyan political figures that shaped the political landscape in Kenya.

Masinde, a renowned anti-colonial activist with a rich educational background campaigned for the restoration of multi-party democracy in Kenya in his later years.

He was an astute leader, ruthless negotiator and a proponent of peaceful but focused politics. He had a reputation for integrity rivaled only by his peers Ronald Ngala and Tom Mboya. Despite being an orphan in his young age, Muliro was brought up by an older stepbrother called Aibu Naburuku.

After his 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 a degree in Arts and Education.

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In 1954 he returned home with a South African wife and taught for a while at a government school before quitting in 1957 to pursue politics. His strong foundation in education provided him with immense opportunities to showcase his leadership prowess and the Political journey that shaped him into a hero.

POLITICAL JOURNEY

Muliro’s political pursuit set off in 1957 when he contested the Nyanza North Legislative Council seat (current western Kenya) which was then held by W.W.W. Awori (Elder brother of the former Kenyan vice president Moody Awori).

Muliro won the election and joined the likes of 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 Odinga representing Nyanza Central.

In 1958 Muliro formed the Kenya National Party with the support of 9 other Legco members. He later on dissolved his party to join the Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU).

APPOINTED MINISTER

While in LEGCO, he was appointed as minister of commerce just before Kenya gained independence in 1963. After Independence, Masinde couldn’t agree with President Jomo Kenyatta on many occasions based on his stand on various aspects of democracy and leadership.

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After Mzee 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 up and contested the newly created Cherangany Constituency parliamentary seat in 1988 but lost to John Rotich who held the position only for two years.

MULTI-PARTY DEMOCRACY

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. The party would later experience internal wrangles between Oginga Odinga and Kenneth Matiba. At this period, Muliro left for London for a fundraising mission for the newly formed Ford political party.

THE SHOCKING DEATH

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.

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His death was s big blow to the country and many termed it as an assassination by the government to kill the rising opposition. Muliro was buried on his farm in the Kitale area of Kenya.

Masinde Muliro was an enigma that championed for peace, democracy and education amongst our people. It’s for this that he is named after Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology the biggest institution in Western Kenya.

As elite figures converge at Masinde Muliro and his home in Cherang’any this Monday, will the political leaders of Western Kenya follow in the footsteps of this gallant soldier and continue his legacy?

Masinde was a destined president in 1992 who was only stopped by his controversial death, who then will Luhyas look upto to take up the mantle and occupy the house on the hill? Well, we still wait!

Masinde Muliro remains the true founding father of Western Kenya to whom most aspects of democracy are pegged on, a true hero in our hearts and institutions.

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Simiyu Wakajuaness

Blogger Simiyu Wakajuaness is a scriptwriter, actor and stage director with ardent passion in the media and public relations in this digital world. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook on the icons below...

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