By Oscar Obonyo
|Mzee Wanyonyi Manguliech|
Some might excuse political leaders from western Kenya who gathered recently at the funeral of Mzee Wanyonyi Manguliech in Bungoma County, for their highly charged pronouncements. However, those in the know associate the MPs’ frenzy to the dead man’s kumusambwa, or spirit.
Manguliech was not just your ordinary village elder, but also a cultural and spiritual leader of the Bukusu community – the largest Luhya sub-tribe. Little wonder during his funeral a fortnight ago, tongues wagged freely – some dangerously – in his honour.
Most significantly, the emotional harangue led to the now famous so-called “Manguliech Declaration”. Vowing to join forces ahead of next year’s General Election, presidential hopefuls, Trade minister Moses Wetangula and Justice and Constitutional Affairs colleague Eugene Wamalwa agreed to collapse their Ford-Kenya and New Ford-Kenya parties into one.
Lone ranger politics
Other speakers, including Lugari MP Cyrus Jirongo and Nominated MP Musikari Kombo, launched a fresh bid for Luhya unity ahead of the polls, with subsequent speakers seeking to isolate another presidential hopeful from the region, Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi, for playing “lone-ranger politics”.
Others present included Forestry Minister Dr Noah Wekesa, Assistant Lands Minister Wakoli Bifwoli and Kimilili MP Dr Eseli Simiyu. Owing to a separate engagement on the same day, Mudavadi opted to visit Manguliech’s family on the eve of the burial.
According to the “Manguliech Declaration”, Cabinet ministers Wekesa and Fred Gumo as well as Bifwoli, will spearhead the Luhya unity course with the view to identify a single flag bearer from the community. Asked about the timing and venue of hammering out the political pact, Bifwoli says the plot was always on the cards and the funeral of Manguliech only provided the opportunity to seal it.
“Considering that Mzee Manguliech has served as our cultural leader and advisor on political affairs, there was no better opportunity and honour to bestow the old man other than make such a commitment on his final day,” says the minister.
According to the Bumula MP, the late cultural leader was an advocate for unity among the Luhya, famed for their mulembe (peace) attribute. He longed for a united leadership, and Bifwoli accordingly says the “Manguliech Declaration” is a fitting tribute to the old man’s wishes.
Besides his political duty, University of Nairobi Literature lecturer, Wabende Kimingichi, says Manguliech had a more solemn and delicate duty as a spiritual and cultural leader.
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