, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 19 – Senators and Members of the National Assembly put aside their differences to pay tribute to Homa Bay Senator Otieno Kajwang who passed away on Tuesday night after suffering a cardiac arrest at a Nairobi hospital.
Both Chambers displayed a rare show of unity when they suspended business to allow lawmakers celebrate the life of the jovial and often humorous politician popular known by his ‘Bado Mapambano’ (the struggle continues) tune at political rallies.
In his communication to the House, National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi eulogised Kajwang, 55, as a dedicated servant of the people, a gallant politician; a brave and selfless leader.
The Speaker said; “To say he was a dedicated man would be an understatement. I have known Senator Kajwang since our days at the UoN, my stint in the Judiciary and here in Parliament where he was and still remained as astute lawmaker. He will be sorely missed.”
Before his election as a Senator in March 2013, Kajwang had served as the MP for Mbita Constituency for two consecutive terms between 2002 -2012.
Deputy Minority Leader Jakoyo Midiwo led legislators from across the political divide in mourning a man who drew admiration in equal measure as foes.
Midiwo described the fallen Senator as a great and prolific debater who delivered his incisive contributions with a sense of humour that drove the point home convincingly.
Dalmas Otieno (Rongo), John Mbadi (Suba) and Millie Odhiambo (Mbita) referred to Kajwang’ as a gallant fighter who never shied away from confronting his challenges head-on and never wavered in his political turbulence and took firm stands.
“Many times he would respect me in a unique way. Given the age and experience he had the ability to analyze issues and was helpful in many ways whenever I was attacked. So privately he would tell to you the truth but would bring the drama in public, to achieve specific purposes,” said Otieno.
Lagdera MP Mohamed Shidiye and Mombasa County Woman Representative Mishi Juma were among those who said Kenya had lost a key advocate of devolution and human rights.
Senate Majority Leader Kithure Kindiki who was among the first legislators to go to Mater Hospital where the Senator passed away kicked off the tributes in the Senate by recounting a conversation with Kajwang’ Tuesday evening when he was extraordinarily happy.
“Despite our different political affiliation, Kajwang’ had a way of making things easy… he is one of the few politicians who has learnt the art of not taking politics in the heart,” Kindiki said.
On his part, Leader of Minority Moses Wetangula mourned a friend and colleague.
Siaya Senator James Orengo lamented over the fact that Kenyans only celebrated one’s life in death citing a conversation between him and the late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga where he disclosed to him that when the founding father Jomo Kenyatta passed away, he mourned him because he died a friend, but this could not have been seen when he was alive because his (Kenyatta’s) friends built a wall around him.
“I think so many times we built walls between ourselves and therefore Kenya cannot move ahead and this death if there is one thing we can learn shown by the leaders who turned up at Mater yesterday is that when we unite on a matter that concerns the nation we don’t have any divisions,” Orengo said.
Meru Senator Kiraitu Murungi who chairs the Senate Committee on Agriculture where Kajwang was a member, grieved his passing saying he has left a huge gap in terms of guidance’s and contribution.
“We fought very serious battles. I can even disclose that Kajwang’ told me he would only die for Raila Odinga because he knew that without him he would not be Senator. He taught me a few Dholuo words as we were relating as in-laws,” said Murungi.
Senator Wilfred Machage lauded the late Kajwang’ for fighting for the rights of Kenyans urging the public not to allow divisive politics break the cord that binds the country.
“He was known out there as ‘mapambano’ (the struggler), and not on violence but on matters of addressing the public, Once done with his speech on the podium considering the dramatic way he expressed himself, you would still relate and be friends. He had punch, when he spoke, he was captivating, not only to the media, but to the public especially in gatherings,” Machage said.
West Pokot Senator John Lonyangapuo conveyed the message of his residents saying they were mourning a man who fought for the oppressed. Kajwang’ in his last address to Parliament passionately expressed his dislike for the deployment of the army in Kapedo following the killing of 21 administration police officers.
“My phone is full of messages from the people of Baringo County and West Pokot, and they have actually told me to tell the people of Nyanza that the time the Senator will be laid to rest, you will see a magnitude of people coming from West Pokot coming to stand and grieve with them and I will be the ring leader.”
Various other legislators condoled with the family pledging their support.
At the same time, the Senate Rules and Business Committee constituted a funeral committee comprising Deputy Speaker Kembi Gitura – chairman (Murang’a), Kindiki (Tharaka Nithi), Wetangula (Bungoma), Beth Mugo (Nominated), Murungi (Meru), Orengo(Siaya), Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet), Johnson Muthama (Machakos) and Agnes Zani (Nominated) who will be joined by six members of the National Assembly.