Death makes the living see things they didn’t see before. It also makes them look closely at the life that was and how the opportunity to see its preciousness was missed at the time.
At Good Shepherd Church, Nairobi, yesterday, parents of the late nominated Senator Victor Prengei listened to the sermon and perhaps reflected on the life of the son they love now lying in the coffin, right in front of them.
There was no social distance between the elderly couple, this was definitely not the time for such rules.
No words were shared between them just eyes fixed forward, watching the straight-faced photo of their son on top of a brown casket with wreaths of yellow and white roses. “You will have peace and joy again,” declared Reverend Wesley Rotich.
It was perhaps an ambitious statement from the reverend just 10 days after a fatal road accident in Nakuru snatched a son from the Barsaloi family and the Ogiek community.
That 37-year-old Prengei, born in Mariashoni, Molo sub-county was the first member of the Ogiek community to make it to the National Assembly, was no mean feat.
“He loved education from a young age,” says Prengei’s uncle David Barsaloi.
In 2008, Prengei would graduate with a degree in Economics from Maseno University before a master’s degree nine years later.
This according to his uncle was his drive; to ensure his historically marginalised community will have more children enrol in school and reach the peak of education.
In an event that presented different sides of the late senator, his colleagues would give accounts of how the little-known senator had a big impact on their lives.
Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr recounted how on more than one occasion, Prengei’s calm and collected persona would be shed off once he saw the plight of the residents Kibwezi whose houses were demolished and land compulsorily acquired by the government to pave way for construction of the Kibwezi-Kitui road.
“Prengei was almost moved to tears, he fought for people of Kibwezi that day and as we speak, they are being compensated,” said Mutual Jnr.
But it’s Prengei’s best friend, Kajiado Senator Philip Mpaayie who would paint the real face of the “quiet” senator.
When disciplinary action proceedings began against six senators, including Prengei and Millicent Omanga for missing a Jubilee Senate Parliamentary Group meeting at State House and assertions of allegiance with Deputy President William Ruto, Prengei froze and his first thought was Mpaayie.
“He had been summoned by Irungu Kang’ata to Pangani (the location of the Jubilee headquarters) and was surprised to be ambushed by reporters at the scene, he was not a man of many words so he called me to ask what he would do,” said the Kajiado senator.
Mpaayie’s advice was simple, that he should let the other senators led by Omanga, do the talking.
“He didn’t speak a lot but was a man of conviction in things he believed in,” remembered Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot remembering how Prengei remained unshaken even when he faced expulsion from the party.
“He was a brother, and we did many things together. The Speaker would always have to tell us to consult in low tones because we were always talking,” said Mpaayie.
Even though the loss of Prengei echo’s far past his family and Senate, it was ironic how death would bring together politicians across the political divide to speak in one accord. At the funeral service, there was no Tangatanga, Kieleweke, ODM or Jubilee, it was just people grieving the loss of a loved one.
In service flooded with humorous and painful tributes of a young man who pushed for the rights of the marginalised, Prengei’s memory remains as that of a silent warrior – a man who rose from a community locked in the government intentional obliviousness and one who fought for the rights of the marginalised communities.
Prengei will be buried on Saturday, August 28 at his home in Mariashon.
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