George Wajackoyah: Former grave digger with hope of becoming president

Roots Party leader George Wajackoyah addresses parklands residents. [David Gichuru, Standard]

Professor George Wajackoyah, a former street child, grave digger in the United Kingdom, and now Presidential candidate in Kenya, is without a doubt the most eccentric of the four horses in the race for State House.

The 63-year-old candidate campaigned on a promise to make Kenya a major exporter of marijuana, snake venom, and hyena testicles. Many people, including the National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (Nacada), have questioned his plans’ viability.

“I’ve been to court several times because people think I’m crazy, I now have six pending cases...Lawyers working with the Church and my opponents recently filed a petition to compel the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission to take me for psych evaluation because of my ideas, but the judges dismissed the case,” Wajackoyah said in a recent interview with KTN News.

“...the cases are however being dismissed. The last was dismissed on July 29.”

Wajackoyah’s candidacy has set him apart from the other Presidential candidates. Polls, however, have ranked the Roots party candidate a distant third, with the most recent one, released on August 3, 2022, giving him only 2 per cent of the vote. 

He is trailing Azimio la Umoja coalition leader Raila Odinga (49 per cent), and Deputy President William Ruto of Kenya Kwanza (42 per cent).

Wajackoyah’s announcement that he intends to promote the legalisation and exportation of marijuana — an illegal substance in Kenya — in order to settle the country’s debt and reduce working days from Monday to Thursday has set tongues wagging. Nacada was the most recent organisation to oppose his stance. 

“Anyone caught using marijuana will be prosecuted. Our position is very simple; the anti-narcotic and psychotropic substances Act is still in effect in this country, and young people who are persuaded by politicians’ pronouncements into committing offences under that Act will face the law,” said Victor Okioma, the Nacada CEO.

Wajackoyah, on the other hand, believes his message was misconstrued from the start. The lawyer is now eager to clarify that he is not advocating for recreational marijuana use, but rather for its industrialisation and transformation into profitable products.

“When I spoke about marijuana, it was exaggerated. The Church did not read my manifesto to understand the type of commercialism I was advocating for. We need to ask ourselves why countries with a specific classification of marijuana, such as Canada, Israel, and the United States, have thriving economies,” he said.

He believes legalising the plant for pharmaceutical production under strict controls will help Kenya advance by leaps and bounds.

Prof Wajackoyah is dressed comfortably on the campaign trail and during media interviews in a tracksuit, T-shirt, and durag, in stark contrast to his competitors, who wear suits. This, he claims, proves that he is not a part of the ‘system’ that he accuses of corruption.

His selection of reggae music to accompany his message to crowds usually gathered to lend an ear has also had the effect of eliciting strong emotions.

Wajackoyah’s story is about a man who has experienced a Damascus moment. Prior to his signature durag, ragged jeans, and combat shirt—a true to-the-roots look—he wore crisply tailored suits, silk ties, and a veneer of sophistication.

During his 25-year career as a practicing lawyer in Kenya and the United States, the professor enjoyed the confines of well-lit, leather-seated, and air-conditioned offices. He is a founding partner of Luchiri & Co Advocates.

He had to flee Kenya at one point to avoid authorities’ persecution. His problems stemmed from his work as an inspector for the Kanu regime’s special branch intelligence unit. Wajackoyah was among those tasked with investigating the murder of Foreign Affairs Minister Robert Ouko in February 1990.

“When Ouko was murdered, there were many conflicting stories. Mr (James) Kanyotu, the then-director of intelligence, tasked me with determining who from the system might have been involved. We did what we had to do,” Wajackoyah has since said during interviews.

Things would quickly spiral out of control, and he would find himself with a bulls-eye on his back, forcing him to flee for safety.

While in the United Kingdom, he had the opportunity to study law at the University of Wolverhampton, from which he graduated in 1996. In 1998, he earned a master of law in development from the University of Warwick, and in 2006, he earned a master of laws (US law) from the University of Baltimore.

He has also taught law and economics, human rights, and comparative constitutional and international law at universities in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Kenya.
However, before becoming involved with government or law, Wajackoyah needed the help of the late Joseph Kamotho to complete his A levels.

The professor, who had fled his parents’ divorced home in Matungu in search of his mother, ended up as a street urchin in Nairobi. When then-Education Minister Joseph Kamotho learned of his situation, he helped pay his school fees at St. Peter’s Mumias Boys High School. 

His plan to combat corruption by hanging corrupt judges and magistrates if he wins the presidency has piqued the interest of a majority of Kenyans, who, while acknowledging the need to combat corruption, believe it is the wrong way to go about it.