Fare Thee Well Prof. Washington Henry Asembo Olima

11 mins read

Professor Olima is a widely experienced land economist, researcher, consultant, and spatial planner with wide experience in issues relating to land policy, land taxation, urban land tenure, land management and administration, property valuation and appraisals, urban basic service provision, monitoring and evaluation of projects, training and human needs assessment, housing and urban economic studies, urban land use planning, and integrated strategic urban development planning.

He previously served as the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Planning, Administration and Finance), Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology, in Bondo, Kenya.

I first met Prof. Olima at Kakamega High School where we were a bunch of students trying to get to the University of Nairobi.

We were just teenage boys from our villages in a boarding high school. We had a good time figuring out how we have to make it to campus and achieve something. The other guy there with us from our area was George Abungu now a world-recognized archeologist.

We used to have fights at Kakamega and later at the University of Nairobi. In Kakamega, I was studying economics and literature in English and the two guys asked me what I was going to study at the University.

I told them if I got three A’s I would want to study law. Then my teacher at the High school took me to look at what lawyers do. When I went to the law office and there were so many papers all over the place I told the career teacher I was not going for law.

Then we go to college and I join the faculty of commerce accounting option.

Asembo Olima goes to the Land Economics department. George Abungu goes for Archeology. They ask me why I am doing accountancy while I was the best speaker in Kakamega and was supposed to go for a law degree. I told them I was going to study how to count money which is way better than studying how not to go to prison.

I asked Olima what Land economics is all about. I told him I own land and he told me I need the economy ideas to make something out of it. Then Abungu digging up dead bodies and things for Archeology, I told him it is nuts.

We told him to leave the dead people over there in the hills where he was digging like in Migwena, his home area, and in Mombasa. Now he goes to every university in the world teaching them about archeology.

Photo by George Abungu
George Abungu
Dr. George Abungu is an archaeologist from Kenya, and former director of the National Museum of Kenya. He is part of the international network of scientists and museum experts supporting the Humboldt Forum. As Chairman of the International Standing Committee on the Traffic of Illicit Antiquities, he has been responsible for the return of stolen artifacts to Kenya and the curtailing of the illegal antiquities trade.

We had a few guys studying medicine and they succeeded and I will not mention them to protect their work with patients in Kenya. That was our group that went to the university in the early 1980s and we had great hopes for the country and back home as well.

For the guys in medical school Mart Ogonya was really something.

He graduates and goes to Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) as an intern and he refuses to wear the white uniform. They take him back to medical school for one more year and we tell him to wear the damn uniform which he did and graduated to become a great doctor at Mombasa’s biggest hospital where I used to go when I was working at Mombasa Polytechnic.

Then I met PLO at Usenge High School where I was taken as a teacher after coming from prison in 1983 and he was studying law at the university. I talk to Piny Loch Otieno and he was nervous because I was from prison but he was a very nice guy and he came from the Usenge area which was his birthplace. I told him okay, with him now we have a lawyer too from our home area so we were fine with all the doctors and the teachers and me the prisoner.

Later on, I met PLO when he was the chairperson of the BOMAS constitution conference in Nairobi in 2003. He was really great there and he gave me every piece of information as the debates raged on. We almost got the right constitution there but Mwai Kibaki and his gang took the final document we made at BOMAS to a meeting in Naivasha, and tore it all up leading to the 2005 failed katiba referendum led by Kibaki. That was later resolved in 2010.

In education, the kids from our area just decided they are making it to the universities, medical training institutes, and everything else. Nobody can stop them now and we are so proud of them.

They are nurses, teachers, business people, and all that. The amazing and most motivating thing is that this young Kenyan population has no fears of being the best in their work in the world. They have proved that and we are urging all our youth to fight for their futures and that means being good in school and at home.

One thing about Prof. Washington Asembo Olima is what he did to me when he was a Deputy VC at Jaramogi University in Bondo. When he heard I was home, he asked me to come to the campus. It is one of the events I will never forget because I went to the campus with my family and he welcomed us graciously at his office.

Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology

Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology (JOOUST) is located in Bondo in Kenya. It is named for independence leader and Kenya’s first Vice-President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga.

Me and my family had to ride there with motorbikes. Just simple bikes and they were so happy to go there and they opened the gates for us.

Prof. Olima was just there telling the kids they have to work hard in school and the kids were running all over his office as if they were the professors. It was a great time for them.

Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology Panoramio Photo of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science
Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology Kenya Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University closed indefinitely after
Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology Ureport JARAMOGI OGINGA ODINGA UNIVERSITY TO UNVEIL THREE CAMPUSES

My son who wants to climb those mountains, and has never forgotten that day. I have just told him that his good buddy Prof. Olima passed away. The first thing he asked me was to make sure that it was not bogus information. We settled that. I knew it upset him a lot but I just left it there because that was his friend and he had to deal with the loss.

One advantage I had over my home compatriots at Kakamega High School was that I was the captain of the Kakamega Hockey team and took them to the National Finals in Mombasa in my last year at the place. Everyone knows about the Green Commandos from Kakamega which has produced some of the best football players in Kenya.

But when our Kakamega Hockey Team was in Mombasa, they were cheering and calling us Kach Mega from the sidelines then we were told those were the Nairobi Girls High School Team and they wanted us to win and they couldn’t pronounce Kakamega.

So to my home compatriots, we lost a big one of us but we will rebuild around his ideas. Always.

Thanks, Prof. Rest In Peace.

There is a lot of work we have to do as a country and as a people.

This is one of those projects we need to make work and so I am going to go back to my Bondo friends from way back in High School and the new generation there who are marvelous people in every area.

SEE: The Bondo Rural Strategic Devt Agency

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

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