Why Moi rejected efforts to separate Suba from the Luo


Former Kanu point-man and Raila Odinga confidant Herbert Ojwang cited former President Daniel arap Moi’s rejection of a campaign to have the Suba recognised as a separate group from the Luo as evidence of his campaign to discourage tribal divisions.

“I remember him dismissing spirited efforts by former Cabinet Minister Peter Nyakiamo to portray the Suba as a distinct tribe with a language to boot. The minister addressed the crowd in Kisuba but got a passive response during a function attended by the late president at Magunga,” said Mr Ojwang.He continued:

“An amused President Moi was later to facetiously remark to Nyakiamo ‘mbona watu wanakuangalia tu ukiongea Kisuba, hali unasema wao si wajaluo?‘ (Why are people just staring as you speak Kisuba yet you claim that they are not Luos?).”Ojwang, who is a businessman in Nairobi, said Moi rejected Nyakiamo’s request for a Suba identity divorced from the Luo.

“Singependa kugawanya Wakenya kwa misingi ya ukabila. Wasuba ni Jaluo (I would not like to divide Kenyans along tribal lines. Subas are Luos),” said Moi after the function.He said Nyakiamo soldiered on and managed to have the erstwhile defunct Kisuba get a slot in the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) vernacular service.

But it was later dropped for lack of an audience in the targeted areas of the larger South Nyanza where Dholuo was predominant.Ojwang said he was ‘so close’ to Raila in the dying days of Kanu that he was among the people sent to “secure State House after Kibaki’s chaotic swearing-in at Uhuru Park.”

“With me were Jimmy Wanjigi, George Muhoho, Njoki Ndung’u, Eddy Njoroge and Franklin Bett.”

Uhuru Park

He claimed that a group including William Ruto and Julius Sunkuli were following the proceedings at Uhuru Park from the State Comptroller’s office, but they left through ‘Gate C’ on seeing them.

“Sally (Kosgei) arrived with Moi and the new President Mwai Kibaki from Uhuru Park after the swearing-in ceremony.”Ojwang said that Moi had a knack for sidelining hardliners around him if he thought they were blocking his long-term plans. He cited an incident at Mid West Hotel (that is today part of Kabianga University) where Moi often slept when in Kericho.

“He asked Nicholas Biwott, Kipng’eno arap Ng’eny, Hosea Kiplagat, Jonathan Ng’eno and others he perceived uncomfortable with the Luo cause to leave his suite so that he could listen to a delegation from South Nyanza led by Lazarus Amayo (now Kenya’s Ambassador to the United Nations).

“Others in our team were Owigo Olang, then MP for Ndhiwa, the late Agola Owuor, husband to Lady Justice Effie Owuor, the late Akech Chieng’ and Otieno Ogingo. State House Comptroller Franklin Bett, who had a soft spot for the Luo, had secured an appointment for us. Our mission was to have Rachuonyo District hived off from Homa Bay District, a request Moi granted on condition that the people of Rachuonyo would build a district headquarters.

“Ojwang said Moi preferred appointing Luo leaders from South Nyanza (Migori and Homa Bay) as opposed to Central Nyanza (Kisumu and Siaya) due to their ‘accommodating nature’.

“We owe it to Lazarus who as our chairman advised us against confrontation with the government in power. South Nyanza people in top Government positions included powerful permanent secretary in the president’s office Hezekiah Oyugi, Cabinet ministers Peter Nyakiamo and John Okwanyo, and Kenya Ports Authority Managing Director Philip Okundi, among others.He said they had to learn how to kill two birds with one stone; on the one hand respecting Jaramogi and Raila, and on the other hand not antagonising Moi and the Kanu Government.


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