Prof Tumbo Oeri: Don and political analyst fades away

A relative of university lecturer Oeri Tumbo wails after learning of his death at Nyakoe Kisii County on March 7, 2018. [Photo by Sammy Omingo/Standard]
Alloys Gekonge Tumbo-Oeri, who died yesterday aged 70, was known as a teacher, politician and analyst.

The professor of biochemistry and former principal of the University of Nairobi’s Chiromo campus, died of cardiac arrest, his family said yesterday.

Prof Tumbo (pictured) served as principal of the Biological and Physical Sciences College between 1997 and 2002. 

His former students include Deputy President William Ruto and MPs Naomi Shaban (Taveta), Eseli Simiyu (Kimilili) and Robert Pukose (Endebes) as well as former Kakamega senator Boni Khalwale.

“He was a good teacher. He was helpful and always gave his time to ensure that you understood a particular subject. He always encouraged me to further my studies. The country has lost an intellectual,” said Dr Shaban.

At the time of his death, Tumbo was a consultant with several universities, State departments and county governments. He was also a political analyst for the KTN News TV channel.

Better country

“He was an encyclopedia on Kenyan matters. He had a vision for a better country and in academia, he was very knowledgeable and above all, the best dad,” George Oeri Tumbo said of his father, who celebrated his 70th birthday last October.

Tumbo was among several academicians who joined Youth for Kanu '92 to campaign for the Kanu party's re-election.

He was the younger brother of the late Foreign Affairs minister Zachary Onyonka, who was the father of current Kitutu Chache South MP Richard Onyonka.

“To me, Prof Tumbo was a trailblazer who took academics very seriously. He always hoped the Kisii community could use education to ensure development. He was always open-minded. He was my political mentor who guided me on what to do in the constituency. I will miss him dearly,” Mr Onyonka said.

Tumbo attended Cardinal Otunga High School for his O' levels before going to Strathmore School for A' levels.

He then went to the University of Nairobi where he studied biochemistry before joining Rockefeller University in New York for a master's degree with a bias in immunology. He went to Australia’s New South Wales University for his PhD.

When he returned, Tumbo lectured at UoN for about 10 years before he was appointed deputy vice chancellor of Egerton University to head the Kisii campus.

In 1996, he unsuccessfully vied for the then Kitutu Chache constituency seat in a by-election.

Kisii Governor James Ongwae described Tumbo as a reputable scholar.

“Barely two weeks ago, he was invited as a facilitator for a joint induction workshop for the Kisii County Executive and Assembly in Mombasa. The country has lost an icon,” he said.

Residents of Mosocho village in Kisii united to mourn the last surviving son of the Oeri family. His sister, Julia Nyakundi, described him as sharp.

“He had a plan for everything and no problem was too big for him,” she said.

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