, NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 28 – Constitutional expert Professor Hastings Winston Opinya Okoth-Ogendo went to Addis Ababa last week on invitation from the United Nations to deliver a paper on Land Policy and evidently hoped to return home. But this was not to be.
He left the country on April 18, on assignment of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa but fell ill soon after delivering the paper at the Ethiopian Capital. His condition got worse on Thursday and he eventually died on Friday 24 April, while undergoing treatment at an Intensive Care Unit.
His body was flown back to Kenya on Tuesday with all flight expenses and mortuary transportation costs met by the UN, according to the Funeral Committee Chairman Sam Ogutha.
“The UN has met all the expenses from Addis Ababa to the Lee Funeral Home. We have now embarked on burial arrangements,” said Mr Ogutha of PPD Consultants Limited.
“We are awaiting the results of the post-mortem,” he added.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga who was among those who received the body said it is unfortunate that Prof Ogendo “died even before his work could be acknowledged in Kenya.”
Mr Odinga said: “Prof Ogendo has played a great role in constitution-making. It is unfortunate that he died before his work could be appreciated,” he told reporters at the Lee Funeral Home soon after viewing the late Prof Ogendo’s body.
The late Prof Ogendo is well remembered for his contribution to the country’s law review process as vice chairman of the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission (CKRC).
Mr Odinga described him as “the best legal expert in land law and constitution in the country” having helped write one for Kenya and other African countries.
“He has written land policies for many countries in Africa like Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia, in fact that is what he went to do in Addis Ababa where he handed in a new land policy for the Ethiopian government,” the PM said.
Medical Services Minister Prof Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o recalled his hey days with the late Professor, saying has been in constant touch with him even when he was in Ethiopia.
“We have had a lifetime relationship as friends and colleagues. In fact, about three weeks ago he called me and told me that there was a brother of his who had done lab technology that he wanted to get a job for. I still have an SMS from him to that effect,” he said.
Prof Ogendo’s wife Ruth was overcome by emotion and could not speak to journalists.
Two of his sons and a daughter were also present at the mortuary but were equally unable to speak. Another of his son and a daughter are out of the country but were expected for the funeral.
The late Prof Ogendo was born in 1944, and attended Maseno and Alliance High schools before proceeding to the University of East Africa in Dar-es Salaam.
He later went to the Oxford University for a Bachelors Degree in Civil Law before joining the University of Yale for a Doctorate of Science in Law between 1973 and 1978.
He has taught at the University of Nairobi, Boston University and New York University Law Schools.