The legend of Jaramogi’s mystical left hand

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Kenya’s first Vice President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga attained a near-mythical status in Kenyan politics while alive, especially among his native Luo community. It is true that Jaramogi’s left hand was shorter than the right one.

Did it have and was it the source of his extraordinary powers to condemn people to political oblivion?

In 1966 at a heated campaign rally in Pap Onditi, Yusto Nyamolo Okal was running against Jaramogi’s KPU candidate Ondiek Chilo. At the rally, a fracas ensued between Okal’s supporters and Jaramogi’s youth wing led by Ndolo Ayah – an ardent Jaramogi supporter from Nyakach. He could not stand Tom Mboya whom Jaramogi had fundamental personal differences at that time.

It is at the Pap-Onditi rally that Jaramogi’s mystical powers came to light.

When the two opposing crowds became so hostile Jaramogi rose from his chair and pointed at Nyamolo Okal with his left hand and told him in Dholuo, “Nyamolo Okal in ema iketho bucha kamae, wanane ka nine od bura?” (Nyamolo Okal, you are the one who is messing up my rally, we shall see whether you will see Parliament).

After the confrontation, the rally aborted, and people dispersed cursing the ‘spoilers.’ Nyamolo became a marked man in Jaramogi’s political terrain.

Read: The day Jaramogi clashed with Emperor Haile Selassie

Nyamolo was the first Kenyan to head Kakamega High School after graduating from Makerere University. He was pro-Kenyatta and acquired the Equatorial Printing Press located in Nairobi’s Industrial Area.

It was the first African-owned commercial printing facility and was rewarded by the government by being single-sourced to supply books and stationery to the then Kenya School Equipment Scheme.

True to Jaramogi’s word, Nyamolo never saw the gates of Parliament because he unsuccessfully contested the Nyakach constituency seat in 1966, 1969, and 1974. 

After the assassination of Tom Mboya in 1969, things started going south for Nyamolo Okal.

His business empire collapsed and he eventually died a poor desolate soul. According to the legend, Jaramogi’s curse from his left hand had come to pass.

One day in the mid-1980s at the height of state persecution when Jaramogi was in a good mood, James Orengo alias Jimmy (as he referred to Orengo) asked him whether it was true his left hand had magical powers and if he pointed at anyone with it, they would remain cursed.

Jaramogi laughed sarcastically and replied, ‘’Mano ji ema wacho ok an” (It is hearsay and not from me).’’

‘Ka en adieri, kare Moi machandowani ok isieme gilwetino chieng’moro owere kodwa.’ (If it is true about (Jaramogi’s hand), why then don’t you use it on Moi, who is giving us trouble, so that he can leave us alone?).

Jaramogi ended that discussion by stating, ‘Piny nonene nyasaye ema ong’eyo’. The world (in reference to Moi) will deal with him…it is God who knows.).”

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