Freedom fighter who shaped Kenya's destiny
By - Apr 24th 2023
Achieng Ramogi Oneko was a politician and freedom fighter regarded as a national hero. He was born and brought up in Uyoma sub-location in Bondo Constituency and attended Maseno Mission School.
He was among six of the influential leaders in Kenya’s struggle for freedom. They include: Jomo Kenyatta, Paul Ngei, Kungu Karumba, Bildad Kagia and Fred Kubai.
While at Maseno School, Oneko was always top of his class. Other than academic performance, he also had other talents including athletics, speaking, and leadership, and was a prefect during his time in school.
It was at Maseno School where Oneko began to learn about the liberation struggles from Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, who was one of his school masters then.
After completing school, Oneko helped establish The Luo Thrift and Trading Corporation (LUTATCO) in 1945 with an aim of empowering Africans by giving them employment opportunities. For him, this was a way to reduce the overdependence of Kenyans on the colonialists for handouts.
The corporation helped create a supermarket in Maseno (Maseno stores), real estate properties, and several posho mills in marketplaces around Nyanza.
In 1947, Oneko co-founded the Ramogi Press, which later birthed the popular anti-colonial publication Ramogi, a Luo newspaper founded and edited by Oneko himself.
In 1952, the colonialists declared a State of Emergency after intensified attacks by the Mau Mau. This saw the arrests of several editors and writers after their publications were declared “seditious, irresponsible, and violently subversive” He, alongside five others was tried over their connections with the Mau Mau. They were accused of helping the Mau Mau and forcing Kenyans to take an oath to make rebel against the white men.
Oneko alongside Kenyatta, Kagia, Karumba, Kubai, and Ngei was arraigned at a court in Kapenguria and sentenced to seven years in prison with hard labour.
He was released in 1961 and when Kenya attained independence in 1963, he remained in the political landscape. Jomo Kenyatta appointed him as the first minister for Information, Tourism, and Broadcasting.
As a freedom fighter, Oneko differentiated himself as a focused and fearless person.
Oneko succumbed to a heart attack in 2007, aged 87. He left behind a widow (Loice Anyango, who died two years later) and 11 children, four daughters, and seven sons.