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  • Writer's pictureStephen Osieyo


Updated: Jan 15, 2021

Argwings Kodhek, Kenya's first practicing lawyer and later

cabinet minister was from Gem clan of Kenyan Luo Nation. Gem people have a strange demeanor. It's a strange banter that glides between bravado and sheer provocation. This is a light-hearted side of Argwings Kodhek who passed on in January, 1969.

Kaloleni Social Hall, Nairobi was the nerve centre of non-violent independence struggle. The ‘who is who’ of Kenya and East Africa used to hang out there. From Milton Obote of UG to Oscar Kambona and Malecela of TZ. Kaloleni used to be the meeting point of anybody who is anybody in Eastern Africa.

These young Africans offered all sorts of support because if you were a technocrat you had to mingle. So this one evening some members of the regular Luo lot came together to register an association under the societies act. It was not a political group but just a small welfare group.

Argwings Kodhek was still smarting and was holding a playground grudge. In the local weekend football games involving Gem, Yimbo, Alego, Ugenya, Kano, Kisumo, Homa Bay, Rusinga etc Gem had been eliminated and was not going to proceed to the semi-finals. This is something that pleased all the semifinalists who could do without Gem banter for a change.

So this evening the regulars who had been having banter at the expense of Argwings Kodhek approached him with registration forms for the society. This was for Argwings to just peruse and see if it was okay to register their upcountry location society. As their location was one the football winning semifinalists, Argwings saw a small window of opportunity to get even.

He handed back the forms with the words, "nitie gimoro achiel ma odong' ma nyaka ang' nu ulos! (There is one thing you must amend before you submit).

So they took the forms and went over them the whole of Thursday and spell checking in detail and then brought them back on Friday.

Again Argwings looked at the forms the whole evening. Then when he was just about to leave, he took the forms to them and told them, "Everything is now perfect but ....nitie gimoro achiel ma nyaka ang' nulos"

Then some of the guys who were taunting looser Gem team started pleading, "Yaye Wod Gem, ok inyiswa Gima rach? Nyaka wahombi" (tell us what's missing. Must we beg you)?”

He said its late and white wives operate with clocks he must go, in any case it's closing time. Then he left as everybody else was leaving.

The weekend was the day of semifinals on Saturday and finals on Sunday, so no business. Then on Tuesday these guys showed up with the forms. Argwings took the forms home with him. Then he brought them back on a Friday evening and handed them over.

He then added, "Very good. You have even re written them with very good handwriting!"

They answered, "Yes, we had to send them to Omoga in Ukwala to rewrite them professionally"

Argwings inquired, "Did he charge you the going rates?"

"No" they answered, "He gave us a good rate".

"Ugenya people are good business men but are too gentle. Any way best of luck.” Argwings said as he walked to his car at the Kaloleni parking lot.

Just for assurance one of them walked to the driver’s side and asked as Argwings was reversing, "Are the forms okay now?"

Argwings scoffed "iwinjo ga wach nadu! Ase wacho nu didi ni tie gima nyaka utum! (How many times do you want me to tell you that there is something you must do)? Then he drove off.

For the next 3 days the semifinalists locations got together to peruse the forms but they could not find a mistake.

The rest of Kaloleni hall regulars feeling peeved with Argwings decided to send the forms to an artisan in Mombasa -Takaungu to rewrite the forms at a fee.

At this point even Tom Mboya and Milton Obote got interested. But since Rusinga were not the winners, Tom Mboya was in no mood to plead for them with his friend since he was also smarting from the defeat.

Eventually after the forms were returned from Mombasa they took the 3 sets of forms for registration. Their safety valve or fall back was that whichever the colonial clerk accepted is the one they will use.

At the societies registration office the colonial clerk marveled at the mastery of handwriting displayed. He even asked if he could keep the extra copies to send back to England to be used in local schools that still had stereotype views of Africa as comic Tarzan land.

He then took the first copy to log in the register before he could process the registration. The Kaloleni lot chuckled in triumph.

Then the clerk asked them for the minutes of the meeting that resolved the registration. They did not have minutes of the meeting. So they were told to go and come back with a simple one page, one liner resolution of the minutes of the meeting that resolved the registration.

In the evening the humbled and humiliated lot went to Argwings and reported the rejection and if there is anymore setbacks they should expect. To which Argwings answered laughing his head off, "To ma nyaka nene achak nyisou ni nitie gima nyaka ang' nu los ni. Donge koro uneno!" (I have been telling you that there is something you must do before it's registered, now you have seen).

That is life with Gem people. The sheer naked arrogance is disarming!


(True story narrated to me by Ex Nairobi chief Owino Daudi)


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