Burial rites spark wrangles over Luo Council of Elders leadership

The late Willis Otondi. He claimed he was the bonafide chairperson of the Luo Council of Elders before his death. [File, Standard] 

A fresh leadership row is brewing in the Luo Council of Elders after a faction that claims the legitimacy of the council’s chairperson’s position claimed the late Willis Otondi will not be buried according to the rites that come with the title of a chairman.

At his death, Otondi claimed he was the bonafide chairman and “ker” of the council and led a group of elders who were backing his claim to the throne.

On Saturday, a faction led by Nyandiko Ongadi who is also laying claim to the throne dismissed claims that Otondi was the chairman of the council and insisted that he will be buried just like any other elder.

The faction and its executive leadership claimed the bonified chairman of the council is Ongadi.

While addressing journalists at Ofafa memorial hall in Kisumu, Ongadi who claims he is the official Ker of the Luo community and the Luo Council of Elders said he is officially registered and recognised by the government of Kenya and also internationally.

“I am not dead, as I have heard people saying. I even have the papers if there is a need to produce evidence on who is Ker between me and the deceased. There is no way Otondi can be buried as a Ker as he was not one. We have no vacancy for the chairman,” said Nyandiko.

He, however, noted that they are meeting to plan the burial of elder Otondi and support him in whatever way they can.

Nyandiko said Otondi was just an ordinary member of the council of elders but not the chairman.

He said elders must only speak in one voice and in unity without any opposition as they prepare to bury one of their elders.

“We only have one chairman. You can clearly see that members of this executive are from all Nyanza counties, a clear indication that this meeting to plan the burial of elder Otondi is being chaired by Ker. We must make it clear that we only have one chairman, so let us focus on the burial,” he noted.

Nyandiko claimed that the late Otondi was only a deputy to the late Ker Riaga Ogallo but was reduced to serve as an elder in the Luo council after the death of Ogallo.

He accused, Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Alliance leader Raila Odinga of playing politics with the council leadership.