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Singing songs of redemption might just help erase mental slavery in Nyanza

By Peter Kimani | January 16th 2015

I hear some folks are miffed over the comments made by Oburu Oginga, who said unflattering things about a certain woman who was once his kin, but now is not.

But let’s not even go there. Oburu has reached an age when men can get away with everything.

Rather, I’m interested in what politician James Orengo is supposed to have done, even without uttering a word, to instigate the anarchy that characterised Fidel Odinga’s final farewell last weekend.

Orengo, no doubt, is a clever chap. During the burial of Fidel’s grandfather, Jaramogi, he recited Shakespeare in his dirge that was not taken kindly, particularly by Kanu hawks who thought Orengo was speaking about them without appearing to do so.

There is the possibility that somethings were lost in translation since almost everything was delivered in Dholuo last weekend – I’m yet to imagine how things could have gone if such proceedings, transmitted on national TV, are exclusively rendered in other languages in other counties – but I don’t think it’s a fair thing to blame Orengo for misbehaving crowds, as some politicians are.

But what has fully captured my attention is one Rosemary Odinga, the singing sensation whose rendition of Bob Marley’s Redemption Song, was the most moving tribute from any of Fidel’s siblings.

From artistic point of view, it was also the most revealing: Fidel, named after the Cuban revolutionary, Fidel Castro, had lived up to his heritage, for he had a revolutionary streak that we rarely hear of.

Bob Marley, Rosemary revealed, was Fidel’s favourite singer, and reggae was what truly held his heart, hence Rosemary’s song.

Standing at five feet ten, Rosemary said she is the shortest among her siblings. But she is still definitely a towering presence and I was about to recommend she would have made a credible heir to Fidel’s political kingdom, but I checked myself just in time because Fidel hadn’t created any for himself.

He was, after all, the son of a prominent politician and so was expected to inherit a political kingdom.

Fidel did not die a political death, unless of course you ask Wiperman Kalonzo Musyoka, but he was granted a political burial. And so there was a legitimate expectation that his legacy should be expressed in political terms.


And so his sister sang: Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery...

The attempt to make political gain from the death of a young man is a form of mental slavery.

When Rosemary was done singing, she spoke earnestly and clearly: people cannot dialogue if they are shouting, a point that was heckled by the assembled youths who appeared to follow a well-oiled choreography never failing to recognise where their voice was needed.

Days later, a chorus of apologies would follow: some politicians had realised they hadn’t heard from other politicians properly because their rowdy supporters were hectoring; yet others reckoned they had failed to acknowledge some good gestures from others.

Which is why the mental slavery that Rosemary sang about speaks to the heart of the matter. There is work to be done to restore Fidel’s revolutionary vision of freedom of choice, an attribute that is so rare in the land of his father; even those picked to pay his last respects probably precluded those that he related with most of his life.

Ironically, those picked to speak at the funeral spoke disparagingly about other communities, yet seeking to assert their ethnicity through language.

Redemption is urgently needed, so Rosemary should keep singing.


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