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Footsteps

Ken Wafula (1973 - 2018)

Volume 15, Issue 1  | 
Published 12/07/2018
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Ken Wafula first came to be known to many pro-democracy leaders in 1997 at the NCEC Ufungamano Assembly when he introduced himself as the Executive Director of the Masinde Muliro Foundation. Some, including the Muliro family,  accused Ken of milking visibility out of the larger than life name of the then late Masinde Muliro. At that time, most Luhyia politicians from Bungoma, including Dr Mukhisa Kituyi and the Late George Kapten, held Masinde Muliro’s name as a political treasure. Nevertheless, Ken Wafula became a strong voice for democratization and the defense of human rights and NCEC relied on his skills and networks in establishing the citizens’ convention assemblies across the North Rift and Western Kenya from 1999 to 2009.

He was a go-getting political activist in FORD-Kenya and twice sought that Party’s ticket to run in Trans Nzoia without success. Party honchos generally feared his rise would unsettle their stranglehold over the party knowing that Ken was a principled politician and a man who always spoke his mind in championing transparency and accountability. In a long sms he wrote to Cyprian Nyamwamu in 2011, Ken declared that he was going to take over the leadership of FORD Kenya from Musikari Kombo; and make it a national party as Muliro had intended - for democratic and just governance in Kenya. This is an agenda he pursued up until 2016 when he again rallied his allies in the FORD Kenya base of Bungoma and Trans Nzoia to wrestle the leadership of the Party from Senator Moses Wetangula, again without success.

Following the 20007/8 post-election violence, Ken did extensive work in the area of collaborating with the Human Rights organizations in Kenya and abroad to record interviews as part of evidence-gathering to document the extent of the gross human rights violations that had been perpetrated. This put his Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (CHRD) at cross hairs with prominent politicians led by ODM’s William Ruto who had been indicted as a planner and financier of the gross human rights violations that led to the documented murder of more than 1,300 Kenyans and the displacement of more than 650,000 others into camps and squalor. The Kalenjin politicians were embittered that a Luyhia human rights activist based in Eldoret, a predominantly Kalenjin town, was working with foreigners and national institutions to in their words, ‘fabricate charges and coach fake witnesses in order to frame and implicate William Ruto as the key plotter of the politically inspired ethnic cleansing’.

So already by 2011, Ken was a much maligned man in the Upper Rift Valley province. He came under immensely threatening intimidation including threats to his life and his family’s safety. He, and sometimes even his family, had to go into hiding. On many occasions he was trailed, cars being parked right outside his office and at his residence in Eldoret. In all this, Ken remained defiant and stood his ground in the demand for justice for the victims and accountability against those who had plotted, financed and ordered the perpetration of the international crimes related to the post-election violence.

Things changed significantly after the 2013 elections when Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto were sworn into office as President and Deputy thereby effectively taking control of the state machinery. The ICC cases against both Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto started to crumble with the death and disappearance of witnesses. Many witnesses recanted their statements and Uhuru’s case was dismissed in December 2014. This turn of events started to create doubts about the ICC’s rigour in putting the cases together and the North Rift remained anxious about the cases against William Ruto and radio journalist Joshua Sang.

The continued intimidation against Ken Wafula led to his public change of stance. He called a press conference and absolved William Ruto and Joshua Sang of any wrong-doing, and stated that the cases had been fabricated by the ICC using coached witnesses. This abrupt betrayal angered his erstwhile allies in the human rights and good governance community in Kenya and beyond. He did confide to close allies that he needed to do this in order to save his life after the egregious cold blooded murder of ICC witness Meshack Yebei in early 2015.

In the end, Ken was human like all of us. He had his flaws but always committed his initiative to service and heroic activism for democracy and human rights. Between 2015 and his death in January 2018, Ken generally withdrew from the frontline of human rights advocacy. Realizing that he was now much misunderstood and battling with issues of lack of basic income to sustain his work and family’s needs, he retreated to re-launch his work at a later date. He will be remembered as a courageous and ever-concerned citizen of our great nation. On his epitaph we shall write thus: Ken was a leader always standing up for those who the system silenced. Rest in power Comrade!

Cyprian Nyamwamu and Otsieno Namwaya

Last modified on Thursday, 12 July 2018 09:58

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