Ambassador Ahenda: Dedicated diplomat who served with pride

Kenya Ambassador to Qatar Paddy Ahenda during the vetting process before the National Assembly Committee on Defence and Foreign Relations. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Kenya’s Ambassador to Qatar Patrick Paddy Cornel Ahenda was, in Nigerian Laureate Chinua Achebe’s words, “the chick that will grow into a cockerel that was spotted the very day it hatched”.

The author may as well have been referring to the envoy, who was a former Kasipul-Kabondo Member of Parliament (MP) in Homa Bay County, and was the 2013 and 2017 Orange Democratic Party (ODM) Nyanza presidential coordinator and campaigner.

Indeed, Mr Ahenda was a trail-blazer and change-maker in the 70 years he walked the earth as a student leader, marketing manager, entrepreneur, and chairman of various Parents’ Teachers Associations (PTAs), MP and eventually an envoy.

As a student at Ringa Primary, Muslim Secondary in Kisumu City, and St Mary’s High School in Yala, Siaya County, his leadership qualities emerged in the classroom, sports arena and debating club, where he excelled to the admiration of many of his schoolmates and teachers.

Mr Ahenda secured his first job at The Standard Bank Ltd before moving to S&O Company Ltd. and Jos Hansen & Co. Ltd. in Nairobi and Eldoret, where he rose within the ranks to managerial positions, thanks to his discipline and good work ethic.  

Mr Ahenda and love of his life, Mildred Akinyi, tied the knot in a colourful wedding ceremony a week after the August 1, 1982 abortive coup attempt. 

Mr Ahenda’s enthusiasm would at times get him into trouble as happened when he sealed “the deal of the century” with a foreign firm to import telex and fax machines into the country.  It was the first time such a deal had been closed locally.

News of the deal, which had not been sanctioned by the authorities, got to President Moi who then cancelled the transaction while the equipment was still in the high seas.

Addressing a national day event, President Moi said at the time: “My government will not allow the importation of machines that will allow local dissidents and their foreign masters to malign me and my government!”

And with that statement, Mr Ahenda’s dream of joining the millionaire’s club came to an end. But that did not dampen Mr Ahenda’s entrepreneurial spirit.

He later resigned from the firm and went into private business involving importation and disposal of office machines that included telex, and of all things, fax machines! This must have come after the president recanted his fear for the machines.

There was no turning back for the budding businessman-cum-leader. Mr Ahenda later teamed up with his wife, Mildred, and founded PadMill Secondary School in Nairobi.  

At institutions of learning attended by his children, Mr Ahenda found himself in leadership positions. He at different times was the PTA Chairman at St Mary’s High School Yala and the prestigious Makini School in Nairobi. While still doing business, the bug of politics bit him, drawing him to venture into the murky waters through involvement in the community activities of Kasipul-Kabondo Constituency.

He closely understudied the then area MP and his mentor, James Mbori. Mr Ahenda endeared himself to the electorate by officiating at harambees (funds-drives) for schools, churches and other development projects in the constituency.  

So effective was he that opponents resorted to calling him “Ja Asembo (outsider)” so as to ostracize him, but failed to drive a wedge between him and his supporters.  

He countered his challengers by soldiering on and used his fairly effective slogan, ‘Paddy medi-medi’ (just go on adding us good things).

One of his most successful ventures was a constituency women groups’ silkworm project for the export market which won him a lot of support, thanks to the empowerment of women that helped them improve their standards of living.

With that one move, he captured the youth, women and elders to support him. He bid his time until 1997 when he plunged into politics but lost in the controversial party primaries for the parliamentary election against Oloo Otula.  

He tried again in 2002 but lost to Peter Owidi. Luck struck on his third attempt following the death of Mr Owidi in 2005. He won the by-election on a Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) ticket, whose leader was Langata MP, Hon. Raila Odinga.

Mr Ahenda wore many hats; he was the National Democratic Party (NDP) Organising Secretary and was later appointed Orange Democratic Party (ODM’s) Nyanza Presidential Elections Coordinator and Campaigner for Odinga ahead of the 2013 and 2017 General Elections.

After marking time in the political cold, the former MP, who had by this time developed good and close relations with the ODM Leader was one of the beneficiaries of the famous 2018 handshake between Jubilee party’s Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM’s Raila Odinga. This led to Mr Ahenda’s appointment as Ambassador to the Gulf State.

His last visit to Kenya to be with his family was during Christmas in 2021 after a long break occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic. Little did he know it would be the last time he would be seeing them before his last trumpet call.

Mr Ahenda breathed his last on April 4, two months away from his 70th birthday, leaving behind a wife and four children - two sons and two daughters - and five grandchildren.

He will be buried on Easter Monday (April 18) at his Nyasore home.