Kenyans bid farewell: Leadership lessons from Laboso, Okoth

Monday, August 5th, 2019 19:22 |
Angeline Ajwang, mother of late Kibra MP Ken Okoth, during the memorial service at the Starehe Boys Centre in Nairobi last week. Photo/TABITHA MBATIA

Last week Kenyans bid farewell to two leaders who have left an indelible mark on the political landscape.

The deaths of Bomet Governor Joyce Laboso and Kibra MP Ken Okoth due to cancer provided useful lessons on good governance and integrity, traits the two possessed, but which seem to be in short supply among their colleagues. 

Besides being one of the first three women governors, the others being Charity Ngilu (Kitui) and Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga), Laboso had an enviable track-record, right from when she left academia to take over the mantle in Parliament left by her sister Lorna who perished in a plane crash.  

In Parliament, she distinguished herself as an astute legislator, a lively debater and an impartial deputy Speaker. She won respect of fellow legislators across the political divide.

However, it was the down-to-earth manner in which she discharged her duties that made Laboso stand out in the crowd of maddening, rapacious and ostentatious politicians Kenyans have become used to.

That she so selflessly served the people, as she stoically battled a debilitating disease for nearly three decades, is a remarkable feat and a testimony of faith to her calling. 

In humility, leadership capability and devotion to service to the people, Okoth shares the podium with Laboso. 

His death stunned his constituents. It was no surprise that he was so widely appreciated well beyond his Kibra constituency.


His slogan Tumetenda.Tutazidi (We have performed. We shall continue) reverberated across the constituency where he could freely walk in Makina, Laini Saba, Lindi, Sarang’ombe and other wards of Kibra, mingling with residents of the sprawling slum as he inquired about their needs. 

Okoth picked as the centrepiece of his development platform the issue that touches the heart of every parent – education,  besides addressing Kibra’s other monumental problems.

Today, thanks to his commitment, thousands of schoolchildren have education bursaries, new schools have been built, old ones rehabilitated, and many schools have buses. Even when he was abroad on treatment, Okoth remained in touch with his constituents. 

When he returned home, he embarked on an education-related event, asking his constituents whether their children were still receiving bursaries. Days later he passed on.

Not even the controversy surrounding his final funeral rites can erase Okoth’s towering stature in Kibra. It will be extremely difficult to fit in his big shoes, just like in Laboso’s.

Let the sad demise of these two illustrious leaders provide a lesson to the category of leaders who like taking Kenyans back to the selfish, tired rhetoric and politics of deceit.

As a tribute to Laboso and Okoth, politicians should spare us the theatrics and emulate them by word and deed. [email protected]

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