George Kebaso @Morarak
Posthumous tributes, 50 years on, described the late Clement Michael George Argwings Kodhek as witty, humorous, hilarious, and a true African patriot. He was also remembered as having been full of life and banter in and outside Parliament and court.
Significantly, yesterday’s celebration of the late former Foreign Affairs minister, a known conciliator, tried before his sudden demise through a road accident to build bridges, a mission the scions of the country’s founding fathers Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga are now embarked on.
The two had fallen out politically and ideological and the resulting divisions have haunted the country’s political landscape for five decades with tragic consequences.
But after last year’s fiercely fought poll, the scions of the Jomo and Jaramogi; President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga reconciled and pledged to unite the country after the famous March 9 Handshake that birthed the Building Bridges Initiative(BBI).
And for CMG, as he was fondly known, the newfound political peace and harmony brought by the Handshake, is the best tribute for a man who fought for all regardless of their ethnic backgrounds.
Raila, attended the memorial at the Holy Family Basilica. The ceremony brought together lawyers, business leaders and politicians, young and old.
The first African lawyer of Kenyan descent, Kodhek, then Member of Parliament for Gem, represented many political detainees who stood against the colonial government, leaders said.
Kodhek perished in a mysterious road accident on January 20, 1969, the year described as the worst in Kenya’s political history.
“It’s the year Thomas Joseph Mboya was assassinated in Nairobi. It’s the same period Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and Achieng’ Oneko were detained,” the leaders said.
Kodhek was popularly known as the Mau Mau lawyer. “At the height of the Mau Mau struggle, CMG was the only one who stepped forward to defend the freedom fighters for free because they did not have money,” Raila observed.
He said Kodhek left a mark in the history of Kenya by defying colonial laws. He also worked hard and paid for his tuition to become a lawyer.
“He came to Parliament in 1961 after political leaders, led by Jaramogi, realised they did not have a lawyer in the house. His entry into Parliament spiced up debate with a lot of wit, and they are memorable even today for those who came across him.
He was a true African nationalist, proud of his patriotism and even told off the Queen. He was somebody who truly believed in humanity,” said Raila.
The ceremony rekindled concerns over unresolved road accidents that claimed the lives of outspoken political and religious leaders.
“He was close to my husband. They were great friends. He integrated me to the Kenyan society. We knew him as a just man, loving and ready to sacrifice for justice,” Ruth Wasawo, the wife of the late University of Nairobi researcher, Simon Wasawo said.
Gem MP, Elisha Odhiambo said Kodhek’s legacy should not be forgotten. “He is one of those who fought for the freedoms we are enjoying today. So the question is; for those alive, what are we going to be celebrated for?” he posed.
KANU Secretary General, Nick Salat on behalf of the party that sponsored CMG to Parliament, expressed concern that the current political class dwelt on post-independence politics and forgot what shaped this country happened in pre-independent Kenya.
“It seems people in Kenya talk about nationalism in post-independence Kenya, but we need to talk about Kodhek’s national ambitions. He wanted a just country for every Kenyan. It is the country we want with the impending law review; a country that is accommodating to everyone,” he said.
Salat urged Raila not to retreat in the planned referendum. Rarieda MP Otiende Amolo termed the late Kodhek as a gallant man who defied colonial laws. “We pray that 50 years later what he and others aspired for would come to fruition as we look forward to a new country that is coming soon,” he added.
Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o said Kodhek’s death was shrouded in mystery and called on the British government to allow Kenyan lawyers into her intelligence archives to ascertain the truth behind mysterious road accidents.
Kodhek, an accomplished lawyer, was one of Kanu’s legal minds at the Lancaster Conference. In 1966, he joined the Cabinet as Minister of Natural Resources and in 1967 was named Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. It was during that period that he parted ways with his Irish wife and married Joan Omondo.