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Renowned Kenyan scholar Washington Jalang'o Okumu is dead

By Joe Ombuor | November 7th 2016
Prof Washington Jalang’o Okumu

Prof Washington Jalang'o Okumu, the man credited with saving South Africa's independence elections from collapse, is dead.

The Harvard educated professor of economics led a quiet life at his home in Nyang'oma East village, Bondo sub-county, Siaya County.

According to Ms Josephine Atieno Owiti, his personal nurse for the past six years, Mr Okumu passed on at around 4.20am last Tuesday.

Okumu was battling diabetes, hypertension and arthritis.

His wife, Rispa Achieng' Okumu, died on January 25, 2011.

Since the death of his wife, Okumu hardly left his bed.

He will be remembered for the crucial role he played in brokering a peace between Nelson Mandela and Zulu leader Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi in 1994, paving way for South Africa's independence elections when everything pointed to an impasse and bloodshed.

So close was Okumu and Nelson Mandela that he was the second person the family called upon the icon's death in December 2013.

"His wife Graca called me with the words 'your friend has left us," he told this writer during an interview in July, 2014.

Okumu once served as President Jomo Kenyatta's private secretary before winning a Commonwealth scholarship to study economics at University of Cambridge.

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