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Ofafa: Erasing memories of Kenya's liberation hero

By Amos Kareithi | July 16th 2021

Business premises at The Ofafa Memorial Hall in Kisumu.[Collins Oduor, Standard]

They have has lost their lustre. The mismatch extensions made of rusty corrugated iron sheets look like diseased limbs jutting out of the stone walls paint a picture of dereliction. This is Ofafa Jericho, which was once like the promised land to the upcoming Africans who were learning to be free after seven decades of servitude.

But this estate just as its namesake in Kisumu, Ofafa Memorial Hall, which was once the headquarters of Luo Union in Kisumu, is now a pale shadow of their past. The hall has survived many threats. 

There are plans to flatten the estate so as to pave way for multi-storied apartments to create more homes for Nairobi residents. The man they are named after, Ambrose Ofafa too was betrayed for political expediency by close friends at a time Kenya was at crossroads.

Ofafa, who was an influential leader of the Kenya African Union and was an insider in Mau Mau power struggles was gunned down in November 1953.

This Nairobi civic leader was one of the few African entrepreneurs who had a shop in Kaloleni and had introduced Jaramogi Oginga Odinga to Jomo Kenyatta and was ultimately used as a political weapon.

The civic leader died in mysterious circumstances. The colonial government accused Mau Mau, which had a record of killing chiefs or eliminating one of their own. To give credence to this, some intelligence reports showed that Ofafa just like Kenyatta was opposed to the militant tactics adopted by some elements in KAU which had been captured by radical elements who were now driving Mau Mau and administering the oath.

Some critics, however, pointed fingers at the government, accusing it of eliminating Ofafa so that it could create conflict between the Luo and Kikuyu communities.

The two communities almost went for each other’s throats because Ofafa was a key leader of the Luo Union.

The same reports indicated that Ofafa was spying for the government and reporting back about Mau Mau’s activities. After his death, edifices were constructed to immortalise his role in the country’s struggle for rebirth. But this history, with bringing down of the estate too is being wiped in favour modernity.

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