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Friday, December 04, 2009

The great Luo political Kitendawili Part 1

Kitendawili is the Swahili word for puzzle. Indeed the most prominent Luo political personality currently, Prime Minister Raila Odinga loves to use these Swahili puzzles to get his points across at public rallies.

But political analysts are agonizing over what I will call the Luo puzzle.

Consider the following.

No other Kenyan community has gotten so close to the presidency and still come up short. In the run up to independence the two front runners to be the first president of Kenya were both Luos. Namely Tom Mboya and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. If it was another community the two would have sat together and sewn up the deal easily. Instead a vicious struggle between the two ensued that handed over the presidency to another community and Jomo Kenyatta. But all was not lost. Oginga Odinga was appointed the Vice President and Kenyatta was rapidly aging. All he had to do was to sit tight for a few years and he would have easily become president after all Daniel arap Moi did it after him. If there were any slip ups then the young flamboyant Mboya (who was already being hailed by the Western media as a President in waiting) would have taken over. Again the community blew it. Oginga ended up in political oblivion and Mboya died shortly after finishing Oginga politically. Then came 1982 and finally the community had one of it’s own at the helm of power, albeit for about 30 minutes. Some insist the coup of August 1st caused senior private Hezekiah Ochuka to be president of Kenya but for brief chaotic 30 minutes. It is worth noting that many (including this blogger) are convinced that such a junior officer of the air force would have been incapable of acting on his own and there were other bigger names behind him. There is of course the still unique case of one Master sergeant Samuel Doe of Liberia who carried out a successful coup in the 80s and ruled that troubled country for some years.

Then came the most astounding and astonishing event yet in the history of the Luo community and the presidency. In the 2007 presidential race, Raila Odinga won the presidency by a landslide (according to Kumekucha estimates). The elections were stolen and the worst that should have happened is that Mr Odinga would have remained out of government and waited for the next elections. Instead a power sharing arrangement (where the winner received bread crumbs in terms of power from the loser of those elections) was mooted to keep peace in the country. As you read this the writing is clearly on the wall for Raila’s political future and whatever the ODM diehards say, it will be easier for a hungry Tana crocodile to ignore the soft supple flesh of a child bathing at the shores and swim away than it will be for Mr Raila Odinga to ever live in State House as the president of Kenya.

What the hell is wrong?

I once heard this long shot theory of how the community has been cursed never to rise to the presidency. But that particular theory was blown sky high when the son of a Kenyan Luo, Barack Hussein Obama rose to the presidency of the most powerful nation on earth. Or was it? (I will discuss this very controversial point in more detail later on this weekend).

And so that is the big Luo political

I have had the privilege of getting to know the Luo very well. Ironically I was born in Kisumu (now Kisumu City) and over the years fate has kept me close to the community and that interesting city by some amazing twists including the fact that the best friend I ever had (the late G) was a Luo. And so I am in a unique position to talk about the community from a neutral point of view. Indeed from this point I will punctuate my prose with bold comments of what good old G would have said to some of the most controversial statements I will make here. Rest in peace my dear brother.

Chris, you are one melodramatic Kenyan. Now you want to elevate me to saintly status. Vanity my friend, you know my views on that, there is only one who can be worshiped. Secondly you have brains. The Luo will skin you alive for what you want to do here, we like to keep some truths unspoken.

I sat at this Luo entertainment spot in Kisumu and listened to the sad beat of popular Tony Nyadundo. The dance floor was packed with gyrating revelers many of them sweating profusely and with their eyes closed. It was as if they were hungrily drinking in the sadness. Enjoying it and all the tragedy and bad luck that has befallen this community. A friend recently said of the community “they always seem to have this great sadness hanging over them.”

I will be lying if I say I was not enjoy the Tony Nyadundo music and the sadness with them, although I was not on the dance floor yet. I was still seated reflecting on this humid city that has always appeared from the blue at very critical points of my life. My parents were traveling when they had to hurriedly stop over in Kisumu for me to be born. I met my wife of 20 years in Kisumu about 20 years later. Then when I was down and out and a hopeless alcoholic I met G (who called Kisumu his home town). And now at a critical point of Kenya’s political history, I am taking my readers back to this place. This place where I hope to pick the answers they wait for to help them solve the big Luo political puzzle.

But my thoughts are interrupted by a great looking young girl who passes my table and flashes a big smile at me whose meaning is obvious.

…To be continued later today.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4


Anonymous said...

Vintage Kumekucha.


Anonymous said...

What the heck are you driving at? Wewe si mungu kujua of a curse hanging on a whole community. Just for your information, if not for the poor and crude leadership we have had since wakoloni waende, there is something that makes the Luos tick which could have pushed this country and of course the continent beyond unimaginable limits. Aluta continua.

Shocked said...

Take time and read the information from the link below.
Raila Odinga situation is similar to that of President Habyarimana of Rwanda just before PauL Kagame brought down his plane with a missile.
Raila may just be trying to stay alive, if that is not too late already!
It is unbelievable watching ODM destroying itself in less than one year after the majority of Kenyans gave the the votes and majority in Parliament!
Paul Kagame and Yoweri Kaguta Museveni are the darling of the west in East Africa. May be they will add another one, Mwai Kibaki or a younger person endosed by him!

Anonymous said...

Chris, please please please remember this is a family read blog!Plus it is the weekend! if that girl smiling at you was not smiling because of simple African Courtesy how Kenyans like to show their teeth please please do not continue that story!

Meanwhile i am happy you are promoting Local African Music in your posts including Kenyan.let us celebrate our rich heritage. Not only is Tony Nyandundo one of the greats, we also have Suzanne Owiyo, Achieng Abura, Dolar Kabry, Adhiambo Deux Vultures etc What a rich colourful musical history this great country is blessed with. Don't forget to talk more about Princess July, Daudi Kabaka, The one man guitar Mugithi etc.

We are proud to be Kenyan

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Great post! Looking forward to reading part two.

Anonymous said...

ukiongeza upuzi, tutakutafuta tukuchome. Kwani wewe ni nani? ukiwa na wivu au chuki haujalazimishwa kuimwaga hapa eti ni laana kwa ukoo mzima wa Wajaluo. Mwenyewe na wengi wengine hatuamini mambo ya laana, bahati, uchawi au urogi.

Anonymous said...


The problem with the Luo politics is not in a curse or in their genes; the problem is cultural. They are showy, bossy, bombarstic, impatient, and the broadcast their intentions from the rooftops. As Moi used to say, they have no secrets.

Their bossiness doesn't allow them to have more than one alternative leaders in their community. That is why Mboya and Odinga finished each other. The same battles happened between Raila and Orengo and Anyang'. In short, in Luo politics, there is only room for one kingpin. So, if that kingpin falls out favour with the nation's political class, the whole community is estranged from the center and their psyche is devastated.

Their impatience is legendary. Starting with Odinga as VP and Raila in 2003, they are always in hurry to assert themselves. They do not know that even if you help your friend marry a woman, that doesn't entitle you to any conjugal rights. They don't take time to bond with their bosses and cultivate trust the way Moi cultivated trust with Kenyatta.

Then there is this big open mouths of theirs which made Raila promise the Merus tears if he came to power. It is the same thing that made him recently refer to Moi's "matapiko" and Kalenjin leaders as "chura" and "takataka." Even if you know that someone anatapika or ni takataka, do you say it loudly?

Anonymous said...

If someone is a chura, anatapika, or is a takataka you let him know pronto or else he might contaminate you.

Honesty is and should always be the best way.

Anonymous said...

Why are Luos described in the "Lonely planet guide to Kenya", as political people? Lonely planet is a tourist guide for visitors visiting the country.

No other tribe in Kenya is described as so.

Black Oak said...

"A leader leads by example not by force."
Sun Tzu

Anonymous said...

Luo as community always end up defeating its own success .Out of its intellect it’s portraying its dogmatic ujinga and bossiness

Anonymous said...


Please don't compare Obama with Kenyan Luo. Genetically, he is a half-Luo and culturally, he is not a Luo at all. He is from a culture where you do not beat your chest to win over your opponents; you do not use hate speech as a campaign tool against others. Above all, Obama's culture taught him to reason with and persuade other to follow you.
When people compare Raila with Obama simply because the have Luo genes, they forget that Chimps share 98% genes with humans and yet they are as different as day and night.

Black Oak said...

Remember Raila demolishing houses alleged to be constructed along by-passes in 2003 till he even received anonymous threats. Was it fair?

ME said...

I think that ngilu's idea of uniting ODM is the best.

Kim said...

Chris sasa what is this now

KinyuaOhiambo said...

This is a wonderful post but as usual the content does not matter as long as you are not in the tribe you are an enemy. So you can kiss Luo ass all day still tutakuchoma tu. Anyway Raila's best hope is that Uhuru has no friends in Mt. Kenya.
We can also hope Ruto will be locked up in The Hague by 2012.

Anonymous said...

Ethnicity is the scourge of Kenya's political culture. It is disheartening that enlightened Kenyans also subscribe to the notion that presidencies belong to communities. They glorify the idea that it is not individual Kenyans assuming office but rather, it is the ethnic communities they belong to. I wonder why we cannot insert the provision in our constitution that assigns these communities such constitutional positions that comes as perks with the tribe ascending high office. With the open acknowledgement of ethnic presidencies as a reality, there will, this way, be a greater chance of defining roles, repsonsibilities, a system of community accountability. Sadly, however, the intellegentsia in Kenya is guilty of promoting the perpetuation of ethnicity in our political culture, with patronage, nepotism and impunity as its key resources. If the mass media find it newsworthy to cover events that offer negative public education on the one hand, and lament the dire effects of negative ethnicity on the other, how likely are we to remove the scourge from our political culture.

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