Untold histories of Kenyan heroes

When someone mentions the word ‘Tinga’ in relation to politics, many relate it to ODM leader Raila Odinga.

While Raila got the name ‘Tinga’ in the 1990s when his National Democratic Party used a tractor as its symbol, another man had used the same symbol in 1979.

In the 1979 General Election, Peter Lukoye vied for the Lumumba ward civic election with a tractor (Tinga) as his election symbol. Kenya was a de-facto single-party republic under Kanu.

All candidates competed under Kanu, whose symbol was a jogoo (cockerel), meaning all candidates had to conjure their own symbol.

Lukoye did not prevail but his conviction saw him try his hand again in 1983 in Embakasi ward, where he had founded the Sinai Children’s Home.

Many may not recognise the name Peter Lukoye unless you mention Mzee Tamaa, a fictional character in the long-running Kenyan drama Vioja Mahakamani.

Like many of his peers, Mzee Tamaa’s story beyond Vioja Mahakamani remains untold as the Star discovered over the weekend during an event in Jericho, where he spent most of his years.

Many Kenyan heroes have sketchily documented footprints that do not detail their many exploits and their mark in the country’s history.

Residents of Jericho, the home of Mzee Tamaa and other Kenyan greats, are seeking to change this by not only honouring them but documenting what they did.

This is how the Jericho Hall of Fame induction event was organised by a resident’s community-based organisation called ‘Wasee wa Zamo’ (People from the Old Days).

During the event, 11 individuals — seven of them now deceased, including Lukoye — were inducted into the Jericho Hall of Fame.

ICT CS Joe Mucheru joins in a dance with a member of a children's dance group at the Jericho Social Hall.
ICT CS Joe Mucheru joins in a dance with a member of a children’s dance group at the Jericho Social Hall. Image: HANDOUT

We want to change the negative image of Jericho by narrating and documenting our rich history of major achievements by residents of Mtaa for posterity

Wasee wa Zamo chairman Patrick Rugo


Speaking at the event, ICT CS Joe Mucheru commended the organisers, saying Kenyans need to celebrate those who have helped build various sectors.

“I am very happy that we can see stories like this. I didn’t know that all those people were from here. This is how we change the fabric of our community,” Mucheru said.

He added that the government is working hard to also see how to improve the arts sector to empower the youth.

Wasee wa Zamo chairman Patrick Rugo said they are seeking to positively influence their neighbourhood to change the negative image Jericho and its environs have.

“We want to do this by narrating and documenting our rich history of major achievements by residents of Mtaa for posterity,” Rugo said during the event.

He added that the recognition and celebration of trailblazers is key to proving that present challenges are not a barrier to achieving success and making a valuable contribution to the society.

“We hope the lessons we learn from our trailblazers will be a constant reminder that we owe more than just self-achievements. That honest, selfless service and contribution to our Mtaa community and the larger society, nationally and even internationally, should be our norm,” Rugo said.

The 11 inductees were in sports, theatre and arts, music, education and health, and were from a list of more than 30 nominees.

Lukoye was the only inductee in the theatre and arts category.

In the sports category, those inducted were Leonard Otieno, popularly known as Otti Father, Robert ‘Napunyi’ Wangila and Festo Kisia.

“Otti Father single-handedly managed numerous soccer tournaments at Owanjo Soo (later Camp Toyoyo before it was renamed Otti Father Stadium in 2018), and in the process popularised Jericho as a great football hub not only in Nairobi but in the country at large,” a citation on his exploits read.

He was among the pioneers of the first semi-professional side, Volcano FC, under the tutelage of the late Harambee Stars coach Gerry Saurer.

Otti Fatha was also among the founders of Eastlanders, a club that featured only the top players in the country at the time.

Another person that Jericho residents credit for the growth of football in the neighbourhood is a teacher by the name Festo Kisia.

In 1976, a visit to Kenya by global football icon Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pele, and the football clinic that Pele presided over, changed Kisia’s perspective of how football is to be managed and executed.

This saw the birth of a football team in Jericho with formal structures of command and an unwritten constitution. Kisia the convenor was named chair, while Richard Sawanda and Evans Kasasi were secretary and treasurer respectively.

Kisia enlisted with AFC Leopards while at Kenyatta University before going into teaching. He currently teaches maths and geography at Hillcrest.

Many Kenyans know Robert ‘Napunyi’ Wangila for earning Kenya its first and only ever Olympic boxing gold medal.

Most would, however, stop at that, not knowing that he grew up in Jericho and was a truck driver for the East Africa Breweries, who recruited him as one of their sportsmen.

Unfortunately, ‘Roba’ as he was known in the Jericho neighbourhood, did not manage to explore his boxing prowess to the maximum after dying in 1994 from injuries sustained during a fight at the age of 28.

Wangila was one of the youngest members of the Kenya boxing team in the mid-1980s and by 1986, he was already considered the best welterweight boxer in Kenya at age 21.

Little has been written about Wangila, who many referred to as Napunyi, a name he inherited from another famous Kenyan boxer, Modesty Napunyi, who was his cousin.

Most of what has been written has been about the fight for his body for burial in a case that pitted great legal minds such as Willy Mutunga, Charles Nyachae, Nancy Baraza and John Khaminwa.

Wasee wa Zamo CBO chairman Patrick Rugo makes his address at the Jericho Social Hall
Wasee wa Zamo CBO chairman Patrick Rugo makes his address at the Jericho Social Hall/Image: HANDOUT


The Jericho residents also inducted three musicians to the hall of fame: Mary Atieno, Fadhili Williams and Daudi Kabaka.

Many who listened to Voice of Kenya and later Kenya Broadcasting Corporation know the three musicians pretty well as they dominated the music scene for decades.

Their music is very popular today, especially among those who grew up in the 1970s and the 1980s.

Of the three, only Mary Atieno is still alive. She has overcome her visual impairment to continue making an impact in the gospel music industry.

In 1998, Atieno began her teaching career at Buru Buru Girls Secondary School, as an English language and English literature teacher. Despite the rigours of teaching, more pronounced for her as a visually impaired teacher, she was able to progress her gospel music career.

For a long period during her adulthood, she was a resident of Block AB19, House No. 6081, Jericho-Lumumba Estate. Her relatives are currently living at the residence.

If you asked young people today to name the musician who sang the most famous Swahili ballad ‘Malaika’, the name Fadhili Williams would escape many.

Covers of the song have been done by renowned musicians such as Miriam Makeba, Harry Belafonte, Pete Seeger, Boney M, Angelique Kidjo and the Mahotella Queens.

For Jericho residents, Fadhili is their proud son who was a resident of Block AA11, House No. 5343, Jericho-Lumumba Estate. His daughter and her family are currently living at the residence.

After school in 1957, Daudi Kabaka took up a job with a hotel and catering company but quit in 1959 to focus on music, and he got to work with the Equator Sound Studio.

He also became a salaried member of the Equator Sound Boys, teaming up with some of Africa’s greatest musicians of the time, like Gabriel Omolo, George Agade, David Amunga, Nashil Pichen, Peter Tsotsi, Charles and Frida Ssongo and Fadhili Williams.

For more than a generation, Daudi Kabaka’s hit Harambee Harambee, which largely reflects the aspirations of post-colonial Kenyans to rebuild their nation together, was played hourly as a signature tune on the radio at the end of news broadcasts by the Voice of Kenya (VoK).

The late 1980s and 1990s were semi-retirement years for Daudi Kabaka. He was moderately active on the Kenyan music scene, teaming up with other veteran greats of his generation like George Agade, John Nzenze and Fadhili William to perform in various hotels under the unmissable events themed Golden Oldies Nites.

For long periods of his life, Daudi Kabaka was a resident of Block Z10, House No. 5222, Jericho-Lumumba Estate.

Lawyer PLO Lumumba, a trustee of Wasee wa Zamo hands James Muriuki his induction award at the Jericho Social Hall on March 6, 2020.
Lawyer PLO Lumumba, a trustee of Wasee wa Zamo hands James Muriuki his induction award at the Jericho Social Hall on March 6, 2020./Image: HANDOUT

In the education sector, the Jericho residents inducted two individuals: Nifreda Webuye and James Muriuki.

Webuye died in November 1997 after a teaching career spanning more than 40 years, having taught at the primary school level.

Webuye, who lived in Jericho Block U20-4694, taught the likes of gospel musician Ruth Matete, who said that were it not for her, she would not have managed to go through learning.

Matete, who came to Nairobi at the age of eight years only talking Luhya, said landing in Webuye’s class changed everything for her.

She said for two years, Webuye helped her transition from speaking and learning in Luhya to English and Kiswahili.

“In their own creative ways, it’s not unusual for teachers to suddenly sing, dance or take part in ‘silly’ activities just to show that learning something new can be fun. Mrs Webuye went over and above! She was a mentor, a coach, a supporter and yes, even a friend,” another of her students said in her nomination.

Muriuki rose to the level of head teacher by age 27 at Shule Road, which was later renamed Rabai Road Primary School.

He lived in Jericho Lumumba AB31 6052 and brought up his children in the neighbourhood but later moved to the neighbouring Kimathi Estate.

“He lifted up education standards in local schools, such as Martin Luther Primary School, Shule/Rabai Road Primary school. He still serves as a board member of Ofafa Jericho Secondary School,” his citation read.

The health category also had two inductees: Beatrice Igoki Kaburu and Elijah Gitongah.

Igoki, who lived in Jericho Block AB12 house 5874, served as a Kenya-registered community nurse and an advocate and community champion dedicated to safe motherhood and childcare.

In her 31 years as a nurse, she served the Jericho Community at the Jericho Lumumba Health Centre and the Makadraka Health Centre, where she served to superintend the establishment of the Safe Motherhood and Child Care Unit.

Lawyer PLO Lumumba, a trustee of Wasee wa Zamo, hands Elijah Gitonga his induction award at the Jericho Social Hall
Lawyer PLO Lumumba, a trustee of Wasee wa Zamo, hands Elijah Gitonga his induction award at the Jericho Social Hall/Image: HANDOUT

“Mzee Elijah is a pioneer graduate of clinical medicine from Chogoria Nursing Schoo in 1973, and who pursued and obtained higher national diploma, specialising in paediatrics in 1978,” his citation read.

He worked with the Nairobi City Council Clinical Public Health Inspectorate, and residents say he greatly influenced and improved community wellness within the community.

Though he retired from the City Council in 1999 after two decades of service, he is actively involved in free health clinics organised by the CBO.

Speaking after receiving the honour, Mzee Elijah asked professionals in the community to continue serving within to uplift the lives of others.

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