By Eliud Owalo
I first met the late Senator Otieno Kajwang sometime in the year 1991 through his younger brother Hon. T.J. Kajwang. Both of us were then students at the University while the senior Kajwang was a practicing lawyer and part of a team of youthful activists of the Forum for Restoration of Democracy (FORD) that was agitating for multiparty politics.
For some of us who knew, interacted and worked with the late Gerald Otieno Kajwang, his sudden death has indeed caused us great anguish and irreplaceable loss. In the ODM Party, where Kajwang was a senior member, his demise has been felt with sorrow and sadness all over the Country especially among party members whom he endeared himself to through his witty political rejoinders as well as his unique expertise in mobilizing and rallying party members through the â€˜Bado mapambanoâ€™ clarion song.
There is no doubt in my mind that Mr. Kajwang was more than a loyal member of ODM Party per excellence, he was also an asset to the party as its ideologue, trouble shooter, rubble â€“ rouser, orator, legal advisor, apparatchik and think tank. Many party members will remember him for years to come for his skills in mobilizing them at major political rallies and similar events through the clarion song â€˜bado mapambanoâ€™. He was undoubtedly steadfast in party politics and firmly stood with the party and its leadership at times of political crisis.
The late Kajwang started off in politics right from the time he was a student at the University of Nairobi. He was among a group of young politicians â€“ dabbed the Young Turks â€“ who fought hard for change in the Country during the second liberation, thereby putting him in the frontline for the struggle for reforms in Kenya through the formation of FORD, and later FORD KENYA, NDP,LDP,NARC and ODM.
During his stint in all these political parties at different times, he displayed unwavering loyalty to his party and its leadership, and espoused consistency and principled approach to the ideals of democracy.
He was an excellent team player in all these efforts. Indeed, he never fell victim of defection baits which characterized Kenyan party politics at the material time and caused the downfall of many unprincipled and unsteady politicians.
The late Kajwang will be particularly remembered for his courage to challenge the government on critical issues of public interest within and outside Parliament whenever circumstances demanded. His contributions to the debates in the two Houses of Parliament, that is, the National Assembly and the Senate will be greatly missed.
On a personal note, I must say that I interacted and worked closely with the late Kajwang during my tenure as Honourable Raila Odingaâ€™s chief campaign manager in the 2013 Presidential Election Campaigns. During that period, I had the rare opportunity of interacting and discussing critical public issues with all cadres of ODM Party and the CORD Coalition members.
But among those who inspired me most with their dedication and commitment to ODM Party and its leadership was the late Otieno Kajwang. To him ODM was the best ship to political power and he truly understood the significance of being loyal to oneâ€™s political party of choice including its ideology and leadership. He debunked the myth of party rebels!Â
He will no doubt provide a model case for study in political party loyalty and discipline, and could be a source of reference to upcoming politicians who often rebel against their own political parties on the basis of personal interests and gains. Such politicians fail to understand that unless one is elected to a public office as an independent candidate, he or she is expected to toe the policies of his/her party otherwise, his /her loyalty to the party would be in doubt.
Last but not least, I hasten to say here that I had a thirty minute telephone conversation with the late Kajwang at about 1.00 p. m on the day preceding the night of his death and we agreed on a follow up meeting at 11.00 a.m the following day. Little did I know that this would not be possible, how I wish I pursued that dayâ€™s conversation with him to a logical conclusion.
As I join his family, the people of Homa Bay County and Kenyans at large in mourning him. I have no doubt that he has left behind a huge gap to be filled. And in this regard, I do hope that in the subsequent by-election,the people of Homa Bay County will honour him by electing a person loyal to his ODM Party and its leadership to fill the gap he has left.
Rest in Peace.
Eliud Owalo headed the 2013 presidential campaigns of CORD Leader Raila Odinga.