54 Years Later, TJ Still Gives Me Headaches as a Kenyan

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Exactly 54 years ago on July 5, 1969, Jomo Kenyatta as Kenya’s president murdered Thomas Joseph Mboya by an assassination in broad daylight at Government Road in Nairobi, where TJ had gone to the Chaani’s Pharmacy in the area. It was outright terror murder with great consequences for our country to this day.

I was only 9 years old at the time and so I have no idea where I was when this crime was being committed. I must have been in Nursery School. Actually I think I was at Bondo Primary School. I went there very early because my mother was a Nursery School teacher and she loved to make cakes for the kids. I would be sitting there in the morning asking for a cake.

My mother told me if I want cake I have to come to the Nursery School and do math before I get a cake. It was a brutal condition but I said Okay to it. So I eat my cakes and do math and that meant I went to primary school very early in my age. My mother took me to Bondo Primary School and I was so mad that I could not have the cakes any more.

And there is Pamela Odede Mboya.

Pamela Odede is a great person from Uyoma, now Rarieda by name and constituency. Chianda High School where I was at the age 17 years is right in front of the Odede family home. Pamela’s father, Walter Odede, was a big political figure in Kenya’s independence struggles in the 1960’s.

Walter Fanuel Odede was an outstanding Kenyan political figure who led political movements against colonialists and was jailed for 8 years by the colonial government from 1954.

Then of course Pamela Odede Mboya came into the picture in life and politics.

Pamela Odede Mboya at her husband’s funeral in Rusinga Island.

Walter Odede and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga had their differences. Then Tom Mboya being married to Pamela Odede comes in. It did not matter to anybody in the local community of Uyoma where I spent a great bit of my teen years.

I had an aunt in the area, near a famous market in Uyoma. My family came to make sure I visited her from the High School. So I went there and she tells me there is good fish from the lake but before I eat the fish I have to go and catch fish at the lake. That was just a few miles from the Walter Odede and Pamela home. It was a very good experience.

The place is called Aram Market in Rarieda and it is great from the Lake to the open field market.

And then there was Nyakech Wuod Owila, just a few miles from Odede’s home. Ramogi Achieng Oneko was from Madiany also in Uyoma just a bit south from Chianda High School.

Not far from Achieng’ Oneko’s home in Madiany was the home of one of my greatest heroes of all time. His name is Harris Okong’o Arara. We were together at Chianda High and he was our greatest footballer. I was the field hockey captain and when we had problems with Sawagongo High, he would come in to play hockey.

But here is to what I remember most about Harris Okong’o Arara, when he talked to the Kenyan court before he was sentenced to five years in prison in 1988.

“The people of this nation are simply demanding their rights – right to a decent living, right to
education, right to proper medical care, right to housing. In short the right to be human beings.
If that is sedition so be it. These are the goals for which I have fought and for which I am prepared to die.” Harris Okong’o Arara addressing a Nairobi Court before being sentenced to a five
year jail term on charges of sedition,” – September 24, 1988.

Tom Mboya was just one of the most charismatic human beings and politician in our country ever. He also loved football.

By the time I became a human rights activist at Nairobi University in 1981 as the SG of the Students Organization of Nairobi University (SONU), the legacy and history of Tom Mboya had become very complicated.

Kenyatta killed him and the whole country knew that. But the KANU power hawks at that time under the Moi dictatorship were very keen to project TJ as someone who was an enemy to the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga forces in Kenya.

The political hawks forgot about the Kisumu Massacre of 1969 when Kenyans were killed by Kenyatta for protesting against the Tom Mboya murder, in a rally where Jaramogi with fellow national hero Lawrence Sagini confronted President Kenyatta face to face before Kenyatta opened fire on everybody.

The truth Kenyans know is that Tom Mboya was killed because he had a very good chance of being the next president of Kenya after Jomo Kenyatta. Those are some of the stubborn facts about TJ.

Adongo Ogony is a Kenyan Human Rights Activist and  Writer who lives in Toronto, Canada

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