THE WONDERMENT OF BEING A CLEAN "LUO LOSER"
Updated: Sep 23
In the five elections where Sakwa man Raila has lost, it is self-evident that he has been edged out of routine win just for failing to be street wise. His last opponent President Ruto saw it at close quarters in 2007 when tricky opponents bundled them out. Ruto and Raila were on one side in that 2007 election. Worse was to follow when Ruto himself was solely blamed for election offences. And Ruto must have noticed how Raila sidemen and Luos in general are slow in matters political gamesmanship. But why have Luo tricksters abandoned Raila? Is it really Luo trait to be so bereft in street wise phase of political contest? Are there any community evidence of ability to be tricky at the electoral battles? Have all Luo battles been won only on the even playing field? Or are Luos just unwilling to play bad manners when the general Kenyan public is concerned so that they keep their bad behaviour at home? Too many questions.
Evidence of Luo trickery on the battle field.
I will begin from a far. A very unlikely evidence is found in the political story of President Barack Obama. Of course no Kenyan wants to believe that President Obama could come short on anything. The repackaging of his image as born of a Kenyan to separate him from the unsellable African Americans is dismissed by his ardent followers as a fact. True it is a fact. But like a Luo has his children ever stepped in Alego Kogelo? The fact is he is African American but was easy to sell as a Kenyan immigrant descendant. That is gamesmanship in my books.
Then there is the legend of one story in his political rise when some dozens of local Chicago opponents were disqualified the way Tom Mboya used to disqualify opponents in 1963 elections. But it is President Obama I am talking about. One of our own just being street wise but not breaking the law. And for some time a section of Chicago residents did not warm up to him for the way his lawyers had technically knocked out opponents.
President Milton Obote
Another non direct Kenyan Luo but one who learnt his trade from the Luo political class of Nairobi’s Kaloleni estate. Nairobi Kaloleni Estate is the stable of Tom Mboya himself, Argwings Kodhek etc. Dr Milton Obote has a story to tell in his rise from a nobody to being the president of Uganda. How he made the Baganda his ardent opponents abandon one of their own using sectarian politics of Catholics and protestants is not so clean. But I will quickly move to how he consolidated his position at the top and how he turned Uganda from a federation of Kingdoms into a modern republic in 10 minutes in one of the greatest constitutional high handedness ever seen in the world. And Uganda has never gone back to where Dr Obote picked them from.
One afternoon in 1966 during a standoff with President Kabaka of Uganda, the then Prime Minister Dr Obote talked parliament into passing a new constitution within 10 minutes without even having seen the constitution. When hawk eyed members of parliament asked to see the new constitution, the then Prime Minister Milton Obote remarked, “The printing machine broke down. It is just minor amendments of a sentence or two, you will find copies in your pigeon holes, don’t worry. ”
And those were his last words as prime minister, because the amendment in the constitution that the MPs voted unanimously was one sentence making the prime Minister the Executive president and unrobing the president Kabaka Mutesa of all, powers. A real democratic trickery much more efficient than stuffing ballot boxes, rigging computers, importing Venezuelans or bribing judges. And this high handedness stood and made Uganda a modern Republic with a modern constitution from jigsaw of Kingdoms up to date.
Limuru Conference Centre 1966
How about Kenyan Luos. I will mention only three. There is the infamous Kanu Limuru Conference designed by Tom Mboya and Jomo Kenyatta to jettison Vice President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga out of the government so that Tom Mboya could be in the direct line to succeed and ageing Jomo Kenyatta. Of all of Tom Mboya’ electoral trickery that were dished to KADU the federal Kenya preachers, apparently Mboya had saved the best for Jaramogi. As was retold by veteran Ondiek Chilo himself Mboya had used a trick infamously fashioned by Papa Doc of Haiti. Papa Doc to prove himself popular would hold a loyalty demonstration to show the US that he was still very popular. But he would come four hours late, having served waiting Haitians with alcohol in hot tropical sun. By the time Papa Doc took the stage he was addressing a drunk audience cheering anything he said or did not say.
And so did Tom Mboya in Limuru in 1966. By the words of senator Ondiek Chilo, there was no sober person in Limuru except Tom Mboya, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and one or two of his sidekicks. The delegates in Limuru had no idea what they had done to Jaramogi. Omolo Agar, a senator even carried a junior “winner” of the new vice presidency over Jaramogi but could not explain in the cold of morning when now he was just dumbfounded (dhoge omoko neno-a-nena) when told of what he had just done. That was smooth operating teetotaller Tom Mboya at his finest.
Tom Mboya and Makanyengo
Unfortunately, another case I want to cite has Tom Mboya, that gallant son of ours in the thick of it. After trade unionist Phillip Ochola Makanyengo came back from first detention, he wanted to kick-start his trade union career from Kericho. By then Rift Valley towns were all Luo bases. Name any. They agreed with Mboya that this will be in order. So he left Nairobi on Saturday by night train to connect to Kericho from Lumbwa for the elections on Sunday. When he arrived in Kericho, he found out the elections had been held the previous day on Saturday. On whose orders? On the very Tom Mboya orders. Yes, the Tom Mboya who saw him off on Saturday had called for immediate holding of elections and results sent to him by the train that passes Lumbwa (Kipkelion) by Saturday midnight. So when Makanyengo alighted at Kipkelion, the elections results were on the way to Tom Mboya by the train going towards the opposite direction. As a well-trained trade unionist, Ochola Makanyengo did not complain. And he did not appeal. He did not ask Tom Mboya his village mate and best friend. He knew it’s the democratic gamesmanship. You either up your game or step aside.
Siaya Civic elections
Is it only at the top where gamesmanship possesses the Luo man? In a civic election in Siaya in late 1980’s a certain clever and streetwise incumbent was facing a very popular and folklore opponent in a civic contest, the equivalent of MCA post contest. I will not name names because they are still alive. The popular local was straying into politics for the first time to challenge the incumbent. As the time for handing in nomination papers to returning officers neared, the clever incumbent gave instructions to the traditional "hired" ohangla team with provocative dancers with lewd lyrics to direct performance away from the venue. Ohangla as an outdoor dance music requires wide field like perimeter to fully enjoy the music. And the hugely popular opponent drowned in this up-tempo pre-arranged praises, was lured and easily followed and joined by the dancing troupe in dancing with gusto. By the time dancing routine made it back to the returning officer Siaya district hall, time was up and his time was also up. The street wise incumbent with the ability to mix dirty political games was shooed in unopposed.
Then there was the gerrymandering in Gem location of Siaya District. A certain Member of parliament had a perennial thorn in the back side from a small sub location mainly made up of the cantankerous Ugenya Kager sub clan of Ugenya. The sitting legislator directed a government project of a radio station to be built in the area habited by these frontier Ugenya Kager men. Problem solved by gerrymandering. Or was it?
The Gem location salamander will curve out these useless frontier voters and scamper them away. Unbeknown to this legislator, the very government department had another Ugenyan surveyor married to a lady to the all-powerful Nyager Oloro women. The surveyor of the earmarked projected area furtively submitted a different map for the radio station project to be away from these Ugenya Kager lot at Nyamninia near Yala. The surveyor quickly sought a transfer to Rift Valley province where he retired into private practice. Political gamesmanship laid to rest and the Ugenya Kager stayed peacefully in their Gem locality.
Siaya Kanu Chairmanship
And the gamesmanship did not exclude women. In the 1980s still, the all-powerful KANU party chairmanship was destined to pass to a woman. The conservative Luos could not fathom how a woman who had been fast tracked by a senior politician of the ruling class could surpass all men who were there to be the chair of KANU Siaya branch. I cannot name names because some are now my relatives but an extremist civic powerhouse publicly dared the party to seat a woman in a man’s chair with words that I cannot print here. In a party disciplinary meeting to punish the civic leader with extremist views and install a new woman party chairperson for Siaya, the convenor of the district party branch and cabinet minister by then feigned diarrhoea (diarrhoea my ass!). The sly convenor and cabinet minister then excused himself to relieve himself at the the pad-lockable pit latrine/toilet. And he never returned to start the meeting because “someone” padlocked him in the toilet for hours with him inside. Only until after everybody had left the failed meeting, did the "arranged someone” come to un-padlock the toilet. No quorum. No meeting. No suspension. No chairperson. No diarrhoea.
Political gamesmanship and so much for the false myth that Luos can only play clean in democratic elections.
Did we possess political gamesmanship? I will go only up to the early exodus in about 1400AD.
Alego political gamesmanship
Legendry Alego ancestor whose name all Alego people in whatever mix bear was a grandson of Imbo. After the death of his father he crossed in to present day Alego and drove out the Kombe tribesmen in a do or die battle. He is best remembered for his assimilation policy that welcomed all Luo new emigrants and any peoples willing to live peacefully. He made Alego the Mecca of all Luo peoples so that even those who came via other routes like Matar son of Sakwa son of Kabaka III made a point of coming to Alego first before resettling elsewhere.
Seje son of Alego after succeeding his father stuck to his policy. It is Seje who welcomed most of the Luo arrival. He made Alego the reception centre. He is therefore remembered kindly for giving the descendent of Podho II a ‘mecca’. With his brother in law Denge (Kadenge) manning the reception centre and swearing in the new arrivals to Alego loyalty if they are non Luos, he made adaptation easy and provided ready-made security. But this assimilation and allegiance was just a diplomatic way of saying they were rigged to be Alego clan. That is why Alego is a constellation of many sub clans loosely connected.
What was in it for this political conman ship by Seje and Denge? Consolidation of an empire. And Alego grew from strength to strength in a massive well populated empire spilling even across the lake. Suffice to say that because of this political fortitude Alego clan has been the most undisturbed clan in Luo Nyanza. Their territory is forever safe making Alego ladies (nyar gi owete) the most headstrong of Luo clan women- Buyer be aware
Gem political gamesmanship.
And just because of sheer numbers or some other resource conflict Alego clan warriors started engaging Gem clans into excursion raids in their new distanced settlements. And one prominent Odima of Alego clan engaged a friendship with another Ong’ala of Sakwa clan to create a pariah of Gem people in order to later raid Gem clan in some joint operations.
And one day Odima of Alego sent a foot emissary to Ong’ala of Sakwa. The Alego emissary on the way to Sakwa strayed into a Gem clan friendly village. And the host asked, “What is your business with Sakwa”.
And the emissary who had been well fed with legendry mbare brew, spilled all the beans in the ears of Gem people believing this to be Sakwa people. And the village men summoned Rading’ Omolo the leader of Gem people to come and hear for himself the plot thickening against them.
And Rading’ Omolo leader of Gem Clan impersonating Ong’ala of Sakwa clan gave him the message, “Tell my friend Odima to wait until the day we start burning down Gem houses”.
And after more mbare binge drinking the emissary was escorted on his way back to Odima in Alego territory. Promptly Rading’ Omolo and his Gem subjects hastily arranged to flee the marked settlements. And Rading’ Omolo led his people through Siwandhe to Majiwa, Hululo.
And from political gamesmanship the Luo riddle of imadho mbare kong rombe? was coined to describe a person who is mesmerised.
Kisumo clan Gamesmanship At one phase of the inter clan battles Kisumo after frog marching Gem warriors, Kisumo warriors were joined by Kajulu warriors but in time Kajulu warriors reneged and moved to settle alone. And Kisumo settled in Tieng're and Usoma. And this is where Oraro was felled. This now became the lands of legendry and unforgettable warrior Okore Chieng' wuod Ogonda, Otiende Lwoch wuod Akoko.
Kisumo warriors then turned focus to the few Nyag’ori Kalenjins there and engaged them in guerrilla and war of stealth to drive them away from the area now known as Korando. And this new fighting style was very unconventional but effective in keeping away the Kalenjins with their long shooting arrows. And Kisumu warriors planned an offensive to capture Nyahera. And then Korando sub clan evicted Nyang'ori from the lands hence known as Lwanda. And then Kisumo warriors opened offensive at the cold Chulaimbo. And up until in their present settlements, Kisumo warred with Nyang'ori, Maragoli, Seme, Kajulu and Gem (3 offensives).
And Kisumo clan became a haven of peace where other clans were received when running away from harm’s way. And it is in this haven of peace that Kisumo received a beaten Kajulu clan in their ill-advised war with fortified Kano warriors combined with Sidho men and their horrific witchcraft that made opposing warriors belly balloon to death.
But Kisumo warriors massively pillaged Kajulu beaten clan leaving them with nothing and using that wealth to fortify their clan and discourage Kajulu from trying any retaliation.
And when Kajulu leader tried to engage a military medicine man, Kisumo leaders used Ombetre (espionage) network to waylay the mercenary, intoxicated him with alcohol and convinced him to change sides and work against Kajulu instead. Very similar to conventional electoral politics
And based on renewed strength buoyed by wealth extorted from Kajulu clan in flight and Ombetre (espionage) network in every influential neighbour’s home, Kisumo clan lived in peace and was able to receive other peoples running away from harm’s way.
The Kawamundhe sub- clan from Kano clan, Kanyamedha sub clan from Nyakach clan, the Kanyakwar from Alego clan, Katuk sub clan from Nyakach- Agoro clan are all beneficiary of this political naughtiness.
I could probably detail political naughtiness in every clan and bore you to death. In every sub clan and every village, there are tracts of political bad manners. It is all part of politics and more so democracy. So it is not fair to believe that it is beneath Luos. Why latter day Luos have shied away from even defensive play of protecting votes from being miscounted, or of sending our very best in the front line of Bomas of Kenya will be told to my grandchildren. In the famous JF Kennedy win, the mafia was instrumental. In uprooting Mussolini from Italy, the southern offensive was led by Mafia organised crime. Criminals have aided politics since time memorial.
After the Cuban led boardroom fights peace was brokered that South Africa vacate Namibia so that free elections can be held in Namibia where Sam Nujoma was on the verge of winning. However, the United Nations knew that South Africa with rogue Angolan freedom fighter Jonas Savimbi marauding the country side was capable of playing games so that a South African stooge is elected president of Namibia.
And the UN with its belief in the strength of democracy decided to call election observers from nowhere else but Kenya. Say what you want about President Moi and election theft. President Moi in his wisdom sent 20 District Commissioners who had been involved in the worst notorious case of election corruption rigging to Namibia. I refuse to accept that the UN just like President Moi did not believe in the maxim “set a thief to catch a thief”. Legend has it and that legend may be true that when South Africa read the list of the notorious 20 District commissioners, they just gave up on any monkey business.
Elections agents and Tallying of votes. In the five presidential elections the absence of Luo agents and tallying clerks has been conspicuous. That in the whole Luo community we do not have even one trickster yet they were abundant during President Moi regime baffles me. Instead in the last elections at Bomas we had juveniles playing with gadgets as agents. Have we become that bad? I don’t agree. I think we have never taken Kenyan presidential elections seriously or we just dont want to be party to that blame game. And this can be evidenced with the amount of dancing and leisure talk that goes on at voter drives.
The question is more like why have we forsaken Raila? It is not that we cannot do it. We can do it and better. But when for the last 4 elections one third of the country wins over two thirds then it looks bad. Like our opponents say. If gamesmanship or shithousery is part of the political game, then join it. But that is not what the community wants. Nobody wants a stinking presidency. Once it starts stinking you can never control for how long it will stink
Being streetwise to protect presidential votes is one thing. On the other hand stealing elections is a completely new ball game. Consider for a moment the reputation that would precede the community if we stole the elections to seat a president. Its a reputation that money cannot buy off. The magic that pulls the whole nation would cease to exist. The romance of a Luo leader will just evaporate globally. The Eritrean taxi driver in Los Angeles will not have the same grin. The Somali at Forex Bureau in south London will just develop a little less welcome. I know because I have seen other ethnic Kenyans flinch when Barbeque conversations slip to say assassinations of President Kennedy, Thomas Sankara or any other person from any part of the world. They shift uncomfortably in their chairs and you worry if they are gonna squeak. I will give you an example. Around the year 2001, some professional football players from Leicester football club were charged with mob raping of women while in holiday in Spain. When the tabloids revealed that they were Kenyan girls that were allegedly raped, within one hour Kenyans had called the the football club and tipped the club that those must be prostitutes from a certain part of the country. Indeed within 48 hours undercover newspapers had exposed the girls for who they were- professional prostitutes from central province plying their business in Germany. Then a few years later the great Robin Van Persie of Arsenal was in a similar problem of sexual assault charges against a Kenyan woman while on retreat in Holland. Within hours word had been sent around and charges were dropped after 21 days. It got so bad that when Christiano Ronaldo of Manchester United got in a similar problem, the London metropolitan police quashed charges once it was found out that it was a Kenyan woman pressing charges. The same routine applied to Newcastle United football players allegedly accused of "chicken stuffing" (mob rapping) a Kenyan woman in a London hotel. That is the sort of reputation that precedes Kenyan women caught in such cases in Europe.
My point is that if Luo nation dipped their hands in stolen elections would the good name follow them? Would 70% of Kenyan topology always trust a Luo leadership with electoral directions, trade unions, teaching jobs, professional expertise etc. Would East Africans in general see Luos as sticklers to perfection even at the risk of personal persecution? The truth is that most of the non-Luo sympathisers would evaporate or simply run for cover. Muslim coastal Kenya and North Eastern Kenya would not find a hadith in the Koran to support a thieving Luos and their maali haram. The novelty of the straitlaced Luo would just dry up in Eastern region and large swathes of Rift Valley. But mostly how much money would buy back that reputation once lost. Everything has been thrown at the community by envious detractors of the Luo community. Every foul scandal but not murderous, liars, thieves and untrustworthy has been slung at us, but it just cannot stick on Luos. And the mud slingers know it and have given up in desperation.
We Luos are in a position of wonderment. A position of awed admiration. A position of awed respect. So is there any Luo out there who wants to trade off our wonderment for a 5 year stolen presidency for Raila or anybody else? I didn't think so.