Fare-thee-well, comrade Kajwang’


A giant has fallen out of our midst and gone silent. It is our fate to bear the pain of seeing Gerald Otieno Kajwang’ depart.

Kajwang’s thoughts and spirit opened doors to new and freer frontiers. He nurtured dreams that gave hope to the hopeless.

His powerful voice shook the powerful and the mighty.

The man we bury today was tied to me personally, with a cord that no one can break, in ways many may never understand. May he live forever!

You had to live my life with Kajwang’ to appreciate the ties that bound us. You had to be at the centre of the struggle to know why this sharp legal mind has had to die poor while peers and colleagues of lesser talent minted money to tease and taunt him.

You had to come of age in his time to understand that someone had to rebel for freedom to come.

It is often the fate of visionaries to be misunderstood. Kajwang’ was misunderstood.

Our paths first crossed in the 1980s.My harrowing tales of life in detention became his reason to join the Change Movement. Kajwang’ felt summoned by history to stand up for our nation when imprisonment, torture, assassination and murder swept the land.

He embraced that timeless call of Dr Martin Luther King Junior… “A time comes when silence is betrayal.”He heeded the call to seize the moment and give coherence to the dreams, wishes and frustrations of our people. He brought vigour, charm and energy to the Change Movement.

Pro bono, he took up the cases of youths thrown into police custody for crying freedom. His Law offices became the heart of our political planning. Kajwang’ became a friend, a brother, a keeper and a comrade.

Hand in hand, we walked through the shadows and valleys of death, tended to each other’s wounds and mourned each other’s sorrows. We stood by each other and helped each other fight. We watched as friends turned their backs on us.

But we swore to keep walking, straight into what we believed was the Promised Land.

We believed in the justness of our ideals and shared the certainty that we would triumph.

Kajwang’s friends became my friends and mine his. His parents became my parents and mine his.

We boiled with ideas about freeing our people and making our country great.

But we also shared precious moments of joy and laughter and together, enjoyed the taste of freedom when it arrived.

With Kajwang’, we made decisions that shaped our country: to resign as MP and seek fresh mandate in 1996, to have NDP present a presidential candidate in 1997, to take Goldenberg case to court.

Kajwang’ was intricately involved in the negotiations that led to cooperation, partnership and merger with Kanu.

He was party to our decision to pull out of Kanu. Kajwang’s passing therefore leaves a monumental emptiness in me and in all his friends.

He probably would have wanted us to look back on our struggles with pride, sing on and march with greater resolve and faith in what lies ahead.

Kajwang remains in the super league of foot-soldiers of our freedom and democracy. Rarely do we find candour, humour, fieriness and humility all rolled up in one character. He electrified the crowds with his witty and humorous presentation of weighty political matters at our public rallies.

In his death, the Orange Democratic Movement, the CORD fraternity and the Change Movement have lost one of their most fearless and eloquent public speakers. Kajwang’ never retreated from a battle that was not finished, never shied from responsibility and never shifted blame.

He was a worker who rose early to rise and retired late. He immersed himself fully into the job of Cabinet Minister for Immigration, initiating reforms against strong opposition from within that was determined to fail him.

No human being is perfect. Kajwang’ had his failings. Revisionists that our nation is blessed with will lurch on to these to rewrite history and make a failure out of this unsung hero. To many Kenyans though, Kajwang’ was a fortress of renewal, determination and resilience worth our emulation.

Fate has determined that Kajwang’ travels ahead of us. I want to believe that when our time comes, he will be there to meet us, and seek to know how we fared with the struggle and probably ask that we sing Bado Mapambano.

We have a pact with him to take the liberation flag right to the mountain top. Then we shall hand over the spear of the nation to our successors and with pride say, here, the weapon to safeguard a nation delivered by the heroes of our past.

When the roll is called up yonder of men who gave their all to our nation, Kajwang’s name shall be there.

So, go well, my brother.
Fare thee well, dear friend.
Have peace our comrade.

Be assured that we will strive to bring unity to our divided land, peace to our tormented country, equity to our unequal Kenya and dignity to our dehumanized citizens.


7 Replies to “Fare-thee-well, comrade Kajwang’”

  1. Mourning Otieno Kajwang’
    November 28, 2014
    The days pass, each year giving birth to its successor. What has passed becomes the past as time erodes the memory of what was living experience.
    In their recalling, old joys expand into enlarged pleasure.
    Old wounds fade away into forgotten scars or linger on as a quiet pain without a minder.
    Those who gave generously of their talents to lighten our moments of darkness, do not want the embarrassment of the enthusiasm of our gratitude.
    Those who brought us intolerable pain and took away our days of light insist that nothing should be recalled, lest we impose on them the pain of guilt and on ourselves the pain of our memories.

    And so what was slides away as though it never was.

    The natives, the home-guards and the Europeans, the pass laws and the concentration camps, the surplus people huddled together in the cold and desolate savanna – all has passed, as though it never was.
    The haunting tragedy of human beasts of burden, who worked on the soil merely as factors of production, with fewer rights than the machines by their side – that too has passed as though it never was.
    The early morning knock of the police, the solitary confinement, the torture and death in the police cells – all has passed as though it never was.
    The stories that were told, which transformed patriots into mindless, blood-thirsty terrorists at the service of ungodly foreign powers, and the long days and nights in prison all lingers on – only as a nightmarish image of what might have been.
    The tales of the patriots at Chuka, Hola and Garissa camps who were subjected to most drastic beatings to death, solitary confinement, starvation, castration, whipping, roasting alive, rape, sodomy, and forceful insertion of objects into orifices – they too become part of an imagined tragedy that never was.
    One after the other, the stars that brightened the firmament of a generation have been extinguished:
    Susan Ciong’ombe Ngondi
    Kung’u Karumba
    Dedan Kimathi
    Samoei Arap Koitalel
    Me Katilili Wa Menza
    Hussein Onyango Obama
    Waruhiu Itote
    Bildad Kaggia
    Argwings Kodhek
    J.M. Kariuki
    Jaramogi Oginga Odinga
    Ramogi Achieng Oneko
    Paul Ngei
    Gor Mahia K’Ogalo
    Jomo Kenyatta
    Tom Mboya
    Esau Khamati Oriedo
    Masinde Muliro
    Martin Shikuku
    Now, Otieno Kajwang’

    Time has swallowed up our heroes and heroines.
    Not anywhere in free Kenya stand a statue and a monument which speak to us and all future time to say – once uon a time, our country was blessed to have as its citizens these who, though dead, are brought to life by every day’s dawn that portends fulfilment for all the people of our motherland.
    They too slide into the past as though they never were.

    Otieno Kajwang’ lies in front of us in his small house of wood, cold and still and without a voice.

    When he passed on, yet another great African heart ceased to beat.
    While he lived, he refused to allow that his people should be defined in any way other than the way they freely chose for themselves.
    He elected to oppose those who sought sectarian and personal benefit, by setting one against the other, the peoples of many tribes that time had, in a tragic sequence, brought together as one family.
    He gave those who were downtrodden and despised pride in themselves as glorious human beings, by instilling in them the knowledge that because they were oppressed, they held the gift of freedom in their hands.
    In time, those whom Otieno Kajwang’ opposed sought to corrupt and destroy his soul by presenting him, in life and in death, with the cruel cursedness of hatred at times expressed in the social media, the terror of the perfectly absolute power of tribalists, who had been mandated by those who governed, to do such bitter business as the righteous would quake to look on.
    Yet he stood firm, a hated guest of the oppressor host, with nothing to protect his sanity and his integrity except his will never to turn traitor, never to betray his comrades, his movement, his people, his cause.

    1. Otieno Kajwang’ lies in front of us in his small house of wood, cold and still and without a voice.

      While he lived, those who sought to destroy his soul failed.
      Far away from the small brutal spaces of the social media, he strode across Kenya like a gentle colossus.
      He went his ways speaking quietly of hope, of human dignity, of the cruel errors of small-minded tribalists, of the magnanimity of those who were treated as savages and unworthy by those who claimed to be civilised and supreme, of the inevitability of ethnic rapprochement in Kenya and Africa.
      He worked quietly to persuade us to understand the cruel errors of the small-minded people, teaching us to assert our own humanity by respecting the right of all our people to life, liberty and happiness.
      He showed us by example that we needed no high sounding titles to discharge our obligation faithfully to serve the people of Kenya.
      Even as some sought to present him as a object of ridicule and failure, those of us who knew who he was and what he was worth to the people of Kenya, determined that we, like him, would continue to be informed by our knowledge and our consciences, rather than the voices of those who sought to play various and insensitive games.

      Otieno Kajwang’ lies in front of us in his small house of wood, cold and still and without a voice.

      While he lived, his humility, his self-effacing ways, his constant humour, his loyalty to principle, his avoidance of the self-serving theatrical flourish, his refusal to be defeated, the certainty his very being carried of the inevitability of the realisation of our hopes, brought light and joy to all our nights of despair.
      The gods themselves would lose their patience with us if we permitted that time should persuade us that this jewel on our crown has lost its sparkle, merely because the soil we tread will have taken into its bosom the small wooden house that Otieno Kajwang’ now occupies.
      Whatever the direction we turn our ears – towards the Indian Ocean and Mt Kilimanjaro, towards Lake Turkana, in the direction of Lake Victoria and Mt Elgon – the same message reaches us – Otieno Kajwang’s work is not yet done!
      The voices that come at us from the great expanses of our beautiful land tell us that we must assert that what was, was.
      The lived experiences of the times that have passed are to us and to future generations our national consciousness!
      The heroes and heroines, whom Otieno Kajwang’ has joined, like him, live among us, combatants still for the liberation of all our people.
      The cause for which they fought and sacrificed has not run its course.
      Africa’s children continue to cry out as they have done for centuries – how long!

      Otieno Kajwang’ rests in front of us in his small house of wood, cold and still and without a voice.

      And yet we can hear him as he says:
      Do not allow the shadows to deceive you nor the long road you have to travel, to discourage you!
      Refuse that selfishness should take possession of your hearts and minds and deprive you of what is most precious to us – the lived gift of ujamaa/ubuntu!
      Listen carefully to the strident voice of your adversaries and continue to strive as you have done over countless years, to remain loyal to what is good and just!
      Above all, as you call for God’s benediction in the interests of Africa’s people, act together to free the peoples of our Continent from oppression, from war, from poverty, from greed, ethnicity/tribalism, from lies, deceit, humiliation and contempt!

      Otieno Kajwang’ rests in his small house of wood.

      The Orange Democratic party and its allies; the masses of our people and our government; the world community represented here; and, other distinguished mourners who have travelled from their counties, join Otieno’s family, in the short journey to the final place of rest for a patriot who was to all of us variously, a husband, a father, a son, a brother, a friend, a colleague, a comrade and a leader.
      All of us say, together, thank you for being what you have been.
      We say thank you, tunakushukuru, for the way you have enriched all our lives.
      We appeal to you that you bear with us that we might not have understood as well as we should have, how much what you thought and said and did gave meaning and direction to our own lives.

      Times has passed and the years, bringing us to the dawn of the African Century.
      It was right that you should have stayed with us until we reached this historic moment and then, ever so abruptly, declared that your race was run.

      Tell those whom you join that, whatever the problems, still we progress.

      Aluta Continua!
      Bado Mapambano!
      Rest in Peace!

      (Adapted from The Statement at the Funeral of Albert Nzo, Johannesburg, 22 January 2000.)

  2. The lawyer who opened up VOK late branded KBC to give fair airtime to other politicians .GOK.the laywe who forced the KANU government not to postpone elections in 1992 .The lawyer who was in Court against the government actions which was the reason the government used LSK to strip him off the membership

  3. RIP Hon Kajwang ..Even though your folks brought a rally to send you off.. simplifying you were a real politician.. RIP gentleman

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