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Literary icon Grace Ogot passes on after an illness

By Joe Ombuor | March 19th 2015 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

NAIROBI: Literary icon and one of Kenya’s pioneer, post-independence female politicians Mrs Grace Akinyi Ogot is dead.

Mrs Ogot, who was Kenya’s first woman assistant minister, breathed her last at the Nairobi Hospital Wednesday morning.

She was elected MP for Gem in 1985 after a two-year stint as nominated Kanu MP to succeed the late Horace Ongili Owiti who had been assassinated, becoming the second elected woman MP in Kenya after Mrs Grace Onyango, also married in Gem.

The multiparty wave of 1992 swept her away when she lost to lawyer Dr Oki Ooko Ombaka of Ford-K.

“Nyar Asembo”, as she was popularly known, was born in the then Asembo location in what is today Rarieda Sub-County of Siaya County in 1930.

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She went to Ng’iya Girls’ High School where her father Joseph Nyanduga was a teacher and Butere Girls’ High School, after which she trained as a nurse and worked at various health institutions both locally and overseas.

Grace married celebrated historian Prof Bethuel Allan Ogot in 1959. The couple had four children.

But it was in the literary world where Ogot’s star shone brightest. Her anthology, The Promised Land, was published in 1966 and followed in the wake of a collection of short stories titled The Rain Came.

The Promised Land focused on the Luo migration to northern Tanganyika (now Tanzania) in search of fertile land and wealth in the in the 1930s.

Her novel, Land without Thunder, an insight into Luo culture in pre-colonial East Africa, was published in 1968.

Mrs Ogot’s other works published in both English and Kiswahili include The Other Woman (1976), The Island of Tears (1980), The Strange Bride published as Miaha in Dholuo (1983), Aloo kod Apui (1981) and Ber Wat (1981).


Mrs Ogot remained faithful to Kanu and former President Daniel arap Moi to the hilt and never changed her allegiance even as the late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga’s Ford–K overturned political fortunes in Luo Nyanza.

On the development front, Ogot will particularly be remembered for using her political influence and closeness to power at the  time to improve the infrastructure at St Mary’s School, Yala in the neighbourhood of her rural home in Gem.

In his message of condolence Wednesday, President Uhuru Kenyatta said Ogot was an extraordinary woman who demonstrated service to her country, through her immense talent and unwavering patriotism.

President Kenyatta said it was because of her commitment and loyalty to the nation that Ogot was appointed to serve the nation in various capacities.

He pointed out that Grace Ogot was an intelligent writer whose works possessed a rare grace and compassion.

The President assured the family of his support and prayers at this difficult mourning period.

Deputy President William Ruto said he had learnt of the death of Ogot with great sorrow.

Mr Ruto noted that Ogot was an outstanding politician, a prolific author, journalist and nurse who contributed immensely to the development of this country in a public life career spanning several decades.

The DP noted that due to her leadership qualities, Ogot in 1983 became one of only a handful of women to serve as a Member of Parliament and the only woman assistant minister in the Cabinet.

Ruto assured the bereaved family that he shared their grief at this difficult time of mourning and prayed to God to give them fortitude to bear the loss.

Amani Coalition leader Musalia Mudavadi said Ogot was a stalwart and pioneer leader in women’s liberation in Kenya.

“I served with Grace in Parliament and she carried herself grace, respect and dignity. She was an icon of humility,” the Amani leader said.

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