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Veteran journalist Philip Ochieng dies aged 82

By Sara Okuoro | April 27th 2021
The late Philip Ochieng. [Courtesy]

Veteran editor and long-serving Nation columnist Philip Ochieng has died at the age of 82.

He died at Ombo Mission Hospital in Migori on Tuesday evening.

Ochieng’s daughter Lucie Adhiambo said her father succumbed to pneumonia and other complications associated with old age.

“It’s true he passed on an hour ago. He has been ailing from a series of illnesses including pneumonia,” a devastated and sobbing Lucie told The Standard on phone.

Ochieng was well known for his The Fifth Columnist and Language Clinic columns in Sunday Nation.

He previously served as an editor for Nation Media Group and was once a columnist for The Standard.

Ochieng was also an established author who published several books including I Accuse the Press: An Insider's View of the Media and Politics in Africa in 1992 and The Kenyatta Succession which he co-wrote with Joseph Karimi.

The Kenyatta Succession exposed a plot by some Gema politicians to prevent Moi from succeeding the senior Kenyatta.

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He was a stickler for grammar and intellectual rigour in journalism. Some of the journalists who worked under him said, “He’d have shot you for using ‘can be able’ in a sentence.”

“To many, Philip Ochieng is that proud atheist and relentless social critic with an unmatched grasp of the English language in the region. To others, though, he is undoubtedly a media giant and a journalist of great repute. Having served in various capacities in the media industry, Ochieng has earned both praise and condemnation from not just his readers but also his employers, colleagues and the powers that be,” Liz Gitonga-Wanjohi wrote of the legendary journalist in his biography - The Fifth Columnist.

The Fifth Columnist. [Courtesy]

Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga mourned him for his remarkable penmanship and linguistic dexterity saying, “Through the power of the pen, Philip spoke to the most powerful and moved the society into action.”

His former colleagues remembered him as an accomplished, legendary journalist and author.

Kenya Editors Guild President Churchill Otieno and Kenya Union of Journalists secretary-general Eric Oduor were among those who paid tribute to the departed journalist.

Standard Group Editor-in-Chief Ochieng Rapuro said Ochieng was an exceptional member of the fourth estate and that he was “sharp, witty and deep.”

Ugandan journalist Charles Onyango-Obbo said: “Just learnt from Philip Ochieng’s daughter that the great man, veteran journalist, author, wordsmith, and pan-Africanist died an hour ago. May his soul Rest in Peace.”

Former NMG editor David Aduda mourned Ochieng as a “sharp mind and a great editor.”

Ochieng is among the late Tom Mboya airlift beneficiaries to study in the US.

Kenyans also took to social media to give their condolences and share memories of the late Philip Ochieng.

Additional reporting by Anne Atieno and Caleb Kingwara

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