Kibra MP Kenneth Okoth died last week at the age of 41 after battling colorectal cancer. The former MP of Kibra constituency was admitted in Nairobi hospital last Thursday, where he remained under life support following multiple organ failure. He leaves a political legacy behind, a wife Monica Okoth, and other family members who still mourn the demise of the visionary leader.
Honourable MP Ken Okoth hails from humble beginnings, having been born in Kibra, in 1978. He was raised by a single mother Anjeline Ajwang’ after his father abandoned him and his five siblings, leaving them in a life of utter poverty.
Perhaps it was at this point where the seed of philanthropy was planted; because no sooner had he completed his primary education than he got sponsored by Save the Children Fund who savaged both his secondary education and his teenage life.
The four-year full scholarship meant that he didn’t have to worry about his secondary education. Moreover, with a score of 613 out of 700 marks on his KCPE – which secured his admission to Starehe Boys Centre – it was clear that his life was taking a new turn.
At Starehe, Kenneth Okoth came to learn of a three-meal diet different from home, where starving was the norm. Therefore, instead of going home for the holidays he opted to leverage his spare time, by working and studying. He began by volunteering at Nation newspapers where he was tasked with selling newspapers. Simultaneously, he studied German at Goethe Institute, where he served as a night’s watchman.
He attributes his courage to Dr Griffin, who as a mentor and teacher at Starehe boys Centre affirmed that education made anyone independent, regardless of their origins.
His love for Starehe Boys Centre is clearly illustrated by the fact that he took his wife Monica to the school, on her second day in Kenya. Monica says that “Ken loved this school so much. What he was able to get at the school was incredible exposure.”
Check out this interview with Starehe Boys alumni Isaac Awinyo
The epitome of his character would later draw from his hero and former Langata MP Raila Odinga, who inspired his confidence and passion to pursue his political aspirations. A speech the leader gave during his visit to the school, led Okoth to the realization that nothing was impossible. In remembrance of the departed hero Raila Odinga says Okoth who was like his son will be missed by many across social classes.
Okoth graduated from Georgetown University with a degree in International Studies. He also held a degree in German and European studies from St. Lawrence University, USA.
Before venturing into politics, Mr Kenneth Okoth founded the Children of Kibra Foundation, which empowers orphans and the underprivileged to access education. In 2014, he won the Sol Feinstone Award at St Lawrence University in New York, recognising him for his personal efforts in uplifting the oppressed.
He was also an SDG ambassador advocating for the inclusion of all and human rights in cities.
Life and Servant leadership
Praised as a man of great dignity and integrity, residents of Kibra uphold the outstanding legislator for his commitment to education, his passion for the youth and his unbiased nature when awarding opportunities.
Rooting from his childhood, he recounts his fear of joining criminal gangs or ending up as a marijuana user if he hadn’t received help during his formative years. In 2018 he pushed for legalizing marijuana, stating that, it was high time Kenya, dealt with the question of the drug as any other legalised drugs.
He ran one of the biggest slums in East Africa, Kibra, by prioritising on education across the constituency. Among his many achievements includes; building schools, donating sanitary for the girls at Kibera high school, providing desks, improving on sanitation (by breaking ground for new toilets), and launching the renown Kibera Primary School bus.
Kenneth Okoth will be remembered for being a development leader and a pioneer who championed for education. His hashtag was #Elimukwanza.
Love & marriage
According to a report by Nairobi News, Former MP Kenneth Okoth met Wife Monica Okoth at the University of Austria. In the Austrian University Okoth was the only African student. He was also a student leader and the voice of the school.
Monica Okoth who came to Kenya in 2014, describes husband Ken Okoth as her best friend and an incredible person who travelled and lived with her in many parts of the world. It has been 21 years since the couple knew each other, she says.
Monica thanks all Kenyans and every other person who supported his husband before and after his death.
Cause of death
Ken Okoth was diagnosed with stage 4 Colon cancer in 2017, and since then he had been battling the disease without giving up.
“It was just so sad to watch him suffer, but nothing was impossible for Ken. He just never ever gave up.” Monica says.
Even in his death, Mr Okoth still highlighted the need to prioritise health care and cancer treatment in Kenya. Ken Okoth passed away on the afternoon of 26th July 2019 at Nairobi Hospital.
Kenya mourns the life of the leader who inspired many across different platforms.
A very SAD day…Ken Okoth was a GREAT man..A FIGHTER…A great LEADER…We were just about to LAUNCH the "Jeff Koinange LIBRARY " at Mbagathi Girls in Kibra…In HONOR of Ken, I will rename it "KEN OKOTH LIBRARY"…Rest in Peace Bro..Till we MEET
— Jeff Koinange, MBS (@KoinangeJeff) July 26, 2019
The cremation of Kenneth Okoth remains halted following the emergence of an alleged second wife. Anne Thumbi, a nominated ward representative in Nairobi who claims to have been Okoth’s second wife, came out in court earlier and demanded that she should be included in the late’s burial plans.
Meanwhile, Ken Okoth’s burial remains a disputed subject which awaits a final decision following a difference between family views and the deceased last wishes. Monica Okoth, states that Okoth’s wish was to be cremated, and therefore, her and Okoth’s younger brother are pushing for cremation. However, according to Luo traditions and customs, cremation remains inconceivable. On the other hand, mother Angeline Ajwang and Okoth’s older brother want Kenneth to be laid to rest at home in Kasewe, Kabondo Kasipul. This is also refuted by the Okoth’s paternal relatives who claim that according to Luo customs, the late should be laid near his father’s grave.
As this tug of war rages on, Ms Thumbi also wants her five-year-old son to be acknowledged as the late MP’s biological son before he can be laid to rest. From a report made by the Daily Nation magistrate Grace Mmasi has agreed to have the burial temporarily halted, until the case is determined. This case continues on August 9.