Obwocha’s 18-year secret that gave him freedom

Henry Obwocha
Henry Obwocha. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Every accountant is trained in keeping records as safely as prescribed in the rules and ethics of the profession. However when that person is Henry Obwocha, the zeal extends to include keeping personal secrets.

American novelist Orson Scott Card once said, keeping secrets is the beginning of freedom. And so for 18 years, the former Cabinet minister successfully kept it only within his closest circle that he had undergone a kidney transplant. It was not until his demise that Kenyans — including those he closely interacted with as Member of Parliament (MP), minister and lately, a public servant — got the wind of a procedure that was done at the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH).

At the prime age of 69, the former West Mugirango MP -described as a charismatic leader- wore a brave face as he went about public duty as chairperson of the Privatisation Commission, a slot he has occupied since April 2015.

He exits the scene without accomplishing the sale of a single sugar firm, a feat he swore to achieve by end of this month.

“If these (sugar firms) are run properly, then the country will go somewhere. An eye on management would do the work,” he once said at an interview on revamping the sugar sector.


In November last year, Mr Obwocha announced that the commission targets to have concluded the sale of the five sugar mills by August 2018.

Perhaps as a premonition of his untimely death, Kisumu County — which like other sugar-hosting counties had opposed the sale all along — finally agreed to let go of Miwani.

Mr Obwocha died after collapsing at his home in Nairobi on Friday night. Close relatives and associates have described him as a family man who never missed occasions, a warm person who lent a helping hand to strangers and a disciplined public servant.

During the Kibaki regime, Mr Obwocha, regarded a ‘five- star performing minister’ at one point, held the Energy and National Planning dockets.

At the time, he would be up by 4 am to be at the office by 5 am to discharge his duties as an entrusted public servant.

Prior to serving as minister, he had represented the people of West Mugirango in Parliament for three consecutive terms from 1992 to 2007.

In Gusii politics Mr Obwocha was ranked the most outspoken MP just after George Moseti Anyona who died in 2003.

The two are among the youthful Kenyan leaders who helped fight the Moi regime for the second liberation of the country.

He was Jaramogi Oginga Odinga’s top right-hand man and worked closely with fellow young turks of the time including Raila odinga, James Orengo, Gitobu Imanyara, Paul Muite, Kiraitu Murungi, Anyang’ Nyong’o, and Dr Mukhisa Kituyi.

Mr Obwocha was first elected as a Ford Kenya MP, retained the seat in 1997 in the same party before switching to Ford People for his third term election in 2002.

“He was a resilient leader who worked hard to better the lives of those around him,” said Borabu MP Ben Momanyi in his condolence message to the family.

After losing the elections in 2007, it was almost given that he would be found with friends enjoying a mug of porridge at Nairobi’s Kahawa restaurant on Kaunda Street.

Aside from his political career, Mr Obwocha made major contributions in the country’s road map to economic liberation.

He was a graduate of the University of Nairobi where he studied Commerce for his Bachelor's degree before proceeding to Oxford University in the United Kingdom for a Masters in economics and management.

His profile on the Privatisation Commission website says he was a founder member of the KCA University and is hailed as part of the team behind Kenya's Vision 2030.


Aside from these, he was a fellow of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya and a member of the Institute of Certified Public Secretaries of Kenya. Away from public life, he was also practicing auditor at Obwocha and Associates Co.

President Uhuru Kenyatta in a Tweet described Mr Obwocha as a committed public servant who will be greatly missed.

"He was a distinguished long serving public servant, lawmaker and accountant whose service to the nation will be greatly missed," he said.

Bungoma Senator Moses Wetangula also mourned the former MP: “He distinguished himself as a Ford Kenya MP in the seventh Parliament."