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Francis Chahonyo, big-hearted KANU-era man who also courted controversy

By James Wanzala | Published Sun, July 1st 2018 at 00:00, Updated June 30th 2018 at 18:35 GMT +3
The late Francis Chahonyo was adversely mentioned in the multi-billion shilling Anglo- Leasing scandal. [Photo: Courtesy]

At the height of his power, many of his peers, both friends and enemies, expected Francis Chahonyo to join politics and end a career in public sector as many do - in Parliament for the ultimate phase of self-actualisation.

But the man from Hombala village in Chavakali did not.

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Many of his closest friends including Cyrus Jirongo and COTU Secretary General Francis Atwoli describe Chahonyo as a generous, hardworking and intelligent person.

“We will remember him for his commitment to his trade as a management expert who did not need to join politics as some always do when they get money,” Atwoli told The Sunday Standard.

Jirongo, his long-time friend, described Chahonyo as a big-hearted man who kept close contact with friends.

“We became very close when he moved to go and start Post Bank Credit Ltd. I was one of his customers and we worked together very well despite the problems we had. He was a professional, ethical and one who respected his work,” Jirongo says.

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The bank later folded.

“We were forced out because of my political wars,” recalls Jirongo. The two men nurtured a friendship that started in the 1980s and lasted through generations. Jirongo says he never knew anything that would upset the man from Hombala.

Chahonyo will also be remembered for not only spending generously to uplift Abaluhya Football Leopards Club (AFC) financial status but as being the last chairman to win the last Kenyan Premier League trophy in 1998, which unfortunately to date has remained elusive. He also served as the managing director at Kenya Sugar Authority as well as AFC Leopards chairman in 1998.

And on Monday June 25, the 72-year-old heeded the curtain call, made the final bow and exited the stage, leaving behind a legacy understood only by his family and close friends. 

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“He would give to anybody from the smallest person like a watchman to all and sundry. He paid school fees and secured job opportunities for many especially from our village and many will remember him for that,” his son Sidney said.

“He was my best friend. We were married for 46 but I knew him for 58 years. He spoke to presidents and was still able to relate to the common man. We will miss him dearly and he will forever be loved,” his widow Tabitha Chahonyo said.

But there was another side to him too.

While serving at Postal Corporation of Kenya as Postmaster General, Chahonyo was adversely mentioned in the multi-billion shilling Anglo-Leasing scandal.

In 2011, he was accused of three corruption charges in which Sh55 million of the sugar board’s money was deposited into collapsed Euro Bank in 2003 while he was at the helm. He was later acquitted of abuse of office by the Anti-Corruption court by Principal magistrate Lucy Nyambura after she ruled there were not enough grounds.

He will also be remembered for making the controversial decision of investing Sh361 million meant for cane development from the Sugar Fund account into a private sugar milling company, Busia Sugar Company.

He has left behind his wife Tabitha and eight children.

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The late Chahonyo will be buried on Saturday 7. There will be a fundraising at United Kenya Club on Tuesday at 6pm and a church requiem mass NPC Valley Road church at 10am on Wednesday.


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