Writes Leo Odera Omolo In Kisumu City

The Ofafa Memorial Hall, which is the nerves center of Luo cultural and at times political activities in Kisumu, is currently under armed policemen for unclear circumstances.

But inquiries by this writer has revealed that one of the warring groups claiming the leadership of the Luo Council of Elders had rented out the main hall to the Bata Shoe Company for a period of one month. The company made a down payment of Kshs 60,000.

Bata Shoe is using the Hall for its annual grand sales for its old and outmoded shoes, which are sold to the public at cheap prices and the sale is a countrywide exercise by the company.

Following the deal entered between the group of Luo Council of Elders led by Ker Opiyo Otondi, the other stakeholders had read a mischief and threatened to storm the Hall and eject the Bata Shoe Company by force.

This is what prompted Ker Opiyo Otondi to seek for police protection. Contacted by this writer, the chairman admitted that it was he who consulted the Kisumu West D.C. and requested for the police protection. And the D.C. in response posted a team of armed Administration Policemen to Ofafa to keep an eye on any group which might be tempted to disrupt the Bata She sales.

Further inquiries revealed that that there is a court injunction, which was obtained by the former Trustees of the defunct Luo Union East Africa which barred all the warring parties from accessing the Hall until the hearing and determination of a case which is pending before the courts regarding the Hall’s ownership.

The court injunction had also barred the previous Luo Council of Elders under its former chairman Ker Meshack Riaga Ogalo and their agents from accessing the Hall on the same condition, and the order is said to be still in force.

According to our source the D.C. visited the Hall last week and when reminded of the existing of court injunction barring all the warring factions from accessing the Hall is reported to have told one of the tenants operating at the Hall that he did not care whether there is court order or not, but his men were to protect the property.

Built in the 1950s, the Ofafa Memorial Hall was constructed with money raised from members of the defunct Luo Union East Africa who working in Cities and towns all over East African region and also at Home in rural locations located inside Luo-Nyanza.

The Hall was named after the slain ex-Nairobi City Councilor Ambrose Ofafa from Alego Ka-Kalkada in Siaya district. Ex Coun Ofafa was shot dead in 1953 near Burma Market after his motor vehicle had stalled on Donholm road as he headed home by the agents of the Mau Mau agent’s in Nairobi who felt he was a collaborator of the colonialists. He was among the highly educated African to be nominated to the City Council. A fellow civic leader the late Tom Mbotela was also shot dead by the Mau Mau secret agents.

The original purpose of the Ofafa Memorial Hall which is standing magnificently on the main Kisumu-Kakamega rod near Kibuye Market was be used for restoration of Luo cultural artifacts, meetings, education hand other activities.

It has been used in the past also as a Hall of fame where dignified Luo personalities, mainly political luminaries, professionals, academician and others have had their departed souls taken there to lie in state over night stay as signs of community’s appreciation and respect before such bodies are taken to their rural homes for burial.

In such exercise members of the public usually piled up for viewing the body f the dead personality and paying homage as their last respect.

However, there has been the subject of heated disagreement between the various groups of stakeholders ever since the banning of the tribal welfare organizations by the retired President Daniel Arap Moi in early 1980.

At one time while serving as the Patron of the Ramogi Institute of Advanced Science and technology {RIAT} the late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga unilaterally handed the management of the Ofafa Hall to the management of RIAT which turned it into its City Campus until some years later when the former patron of the defunct Luo Union East Africa moved to court and retrieved it from Riat.

The court ruled that Ofafa Mamorial Hall was an important institution belonging to the entire Luo community therefore Jaramogi Odinga as an individual had no right of deciding about the fate of this property or that power of handing over to Riat and ordered that the status quo be restored.

The reportedly existing court injunction also barred any faction of the disputed leadership of the Luo Council of Elders from receiving cash rent fro the tenants carrying out businesses there, and that all the rental money be deposited to the court for safe custody.

The Hall has been the subject of legal tussle before the courts for close to fifteen years with no group coming out clearly to claim its ownership. Members of the Odinga family are also being blamed for the Hall’s woes tribulations as it is being alleged that the family wants to have a grip over the properties of the defunct Luo Union East Africa using oblique techniques without the approval of the community.

Rumors making the rounds in Kisumu City and its environs have it that some people among them senior Luo politicians had a grand scheme and a plan to grab the Ofafa Hall and construct a five star hotel on the site,but the rumr culd not be confirmed immedtaley.

Luo Union {EA} had several other commercial buildings in Kisumu and Maseno towns The company also sed to own a 430 acres large scale Ramogi Farm near Miwani Sugar Mills where it used to grow sugar cane for sale to the Miwani factory. But some years back it was reported that part of the farm was sold to the former Emuhaya MP the late Weldon Muchilwa for undisclosed amount of money.

It remained unclear as to who had brokered the sales and whose bank account the amount realized from the sales, which was understood to have been n excess of Kshs 10 million was banked.

The company, however, had remained under the management of people closely connected to the Odingas serving as its directors. Most of its directors are hand-picked by the Odingas and their favorite agents. It has never posted any profits or sent our dividends to shareholders for years.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *