Ex-minister Henry Obwocha’s 18 years with single kidney

Former Minister Henry Obwocha. Opposition leader Raila Odinga describes him as a dedicated public servant of high integrity. [File, Standard]
Former Cabinet Minister Henry Obwocha, who died on Saturday, lived with one kidney for 18 years.

Obwocha underwent a kidney transplant in 1999 and managed his condition well that very few people knew about it.

And unlike most prominent persons, the former West Mugirango MP chose to have the procedure done locally at the Kenyatta National Hospital.  

Obwocha got a new lease of life after a relative donated her kidney, paving way for the procedure, which was carried out at KNH's private wing.

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And for 18 years, the ex-minister who served as West Mugirango MP for 15 years, never went public about his condition.

The 69-year-old politician never showed any signs of weakness and even continued working until last week, when he attended a seminar in Mombasa as the chairperson of Privatisation Commission.

The ever jovial politician, according to family members, was on a strict diet, which was largely vegetarian and avoided sugar.    

“He was able to take care of his health; his was a strict diet of brown ugali and vegetables. He loved brown porridge, ripe bananas and tea without sugar. He did not take meat ,” said his daughter, Charlene Kang’ina Onyancha.

Charlene remembered her father as a man who juggled family and public responsibilities with taking care of his medical condition, with ease. He did this without ever complaining, but with a huge smile plastered on his face always.

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“He has managed the condition for the past 18 years. My dad used to wake up early in the morning and other than the diet and medicine, he walked a lot,” added Charlene.

The accountant by profession and Kisii High School alumni, loved athletics in his heydays and even travelled with team Kenya to the 1972 Olympics in Japan.

“He was a jovial person who sat with friends to advise them. He was a family man who never missed any occasion. He helped even strangers. I will forever appreciate the things he did, he was a pillar and taught us how to relate with people. He loved his family,” said the third born in a family of four.

The minister was known to wake up as early as 4am, and by 5am he was in his office; from the time he served as Planning Minister. Even after losing elections in 2007, Obwocha used to mingle with his friends and loved Nairobi’s Kahawa restaurant along Kaunda Street for his brown uji.

He was first elected as a Ford Kenya MP in 1992, retained the seat in 1997 in the same party before switching to Ford People for his third term election in 2002.

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Yesterday, Borabu MP Ben Momanyi described the  politician as a resilient leader who worked hard to better the lives of those around him. Momanyi visited the family on Saturday.

He was until his death the Privatisation Commission chair. [File, Standard]
Resilient leader

Former Football Kenya Federation President Sam Nyamweya said Obwocha was a steadfast, resilient leader whose firm belief in the principles of good governance was admired by many.

He never shied away from expressing himself and was always a defender of his beliefs even if it meant standing against a crowd, he added.

“Obwocha was one of the shining lights from the larger Gusii region during the clamour for multi-partyism and was always on the right side of history in the fight to have the new Constitution. I remember vividly when he once told former President Daniel Moi that he was in the opposition to stay, a speech that demonstrated how brave and principled he was,” said Nyamweya.

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According to his profile at Privatisation Commission, Obwocha is the founder member of KCA University (formerly Kenya College of Accountancy). It adds that he was a member of the National Economic and Social Council, which drafted Kenya's Vision 2030.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga described him as a dedicated public servant of high integrity.

“I have learnt of the passing of Hon Henry Obwocha. My very sincere and heartfelt condolences go out to his family, the people of Mugirango whom he served with dedication as MP and the Abagusii community in general,” the NASA leader posted on Twitter.

President Uhuru Kenyatta eulogised Obwocha as a distinguished long-serving public servant, lawmaker and accountant whose service to the nation would be greatly missed.

“May God the Almighty grant his family, friends and indeed all Kenyans the grace to bear the loss of our beloved brother,” said President Kenyatta.

Deputy President William Ruto remembered the former MP as a "brilliant economist" who played an important role in drafting Vision 2030.

"As a member of the National Economic and Social Council and a brilliant economist, he played an important role in drafting Vision 2030 that informs our aim to transform Kenya into an industrialised, middle-income economy with high quality of life for its citizens,” said Ruto.

Nyamira Governor John Nyagarama said Obwocha was as a personal friend and great leader who served the people of West Mugirango and the entire country with devotion and commitment.

"As we mourn the loss of a noble and extraordinary leader, we pay tribute to his legacy and as well honour his achievements in life. May God rest his soul in eternal peace," said Nyagarama.

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