Century-old colonial chief’s office damaged in Post-Election Violence crying for renovation

A colonial chief’s office that was damaged in 2007/8 Post Election Violence.[Photo: Nyakwar Odawo]
A colonial chief’s office that was damaged in 2007/8 Post Election Violence.[Photo: Nyakwar Odawo]

The 2017 General Election is a heart-beat away and the current holders of elective political seats have already begun doing a warm up in readiness for the onset of a marathon campaigns to capture or retain their seats. Politicians may have forgotten all about what transpired, but memories on the aftermath of the 2007 post-election violence which extended into 2008 are still fresh in the mind of Kenyans especially those whose loved ones lost their lives and property during the political madness.

The major question being asked by the victims of the violence across the country is whether justice will be served or not.

The mayhem of the violence led to destruction of both public and private property with abandon one of the historical buildings that has withstood the test of time was not spared. The century old chief’s camp in Siaya County suffered the brutality that was exhibited on human beings and building alike.

Eight years after the post-election violence, the colonial chief’s office in Siaya County which was constructed in 1911 still crying for renovation.

Usonga Location Chief Augustine Omuya, who is the eleventh chief since independence says lack of an office has forced him to carry out his duties under a tree shade.

Challenges

“Lack of an office has compelled me to defy all odds and perform my duties under a mango tree as the only available option,” observes Omuya.

At the close of business, all his office furniture which comprises a table and a chair are kept at a leaking house that used to serve as the chief’s residence.

“The damaged chief’s office was self-contained. It had a reception desk, a cell, a waiting room as well as a boardroom,” recalls Omuya. He adds: “The destruction of the office has left me and our clients in a very awkward situation.”

Recalling the campaign period of 2007 which had been dubbed a ‘two-horse race’ between Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga, Omuya says: “I can clearly recall that an aspirant who was vying for Alego/Usonga parliamentary seat under the Party of National Unity (PNU) ticket visited my office for a courtesy call. The aspirant’s arrival drew the attention of unruly opposition supporters who were eager to know what the PNU candidate was actually up to and what our discussion was all about.

“I bid my visitor goodbye and since it was about 5pm we closed the office as usual and went home. Unknown to us, the irate opposition supporters later put their heads together and resolved to teach us a lesson.

“That night opposition supporters who had been made to believe that the Kibaki who was defending his seat was using the provincial administration to recapture the top seat through rigging, doused the building with petrol and set it ablaze reducing everything to ashes.

“After torching the building, one of the opposition supporters who I suspected knew me and had my mobile phone number called me through an anonymous number and boasted to me that the building I have been using to host the enemies of the opposition is no more.

Threat

“They vowed to teach me another ‘dangerous’ lesson I will never forget if I continued hosting aspirants who were from the opposite side of the party said to be most popular in the region.”

The rowdy youth who burnt down the building never thought about its value and the fact that it could even be a historical tourist attraction for the county and country at large.

Out of ignorance as to the significance of the building, Siaya County lost what could have been reserved as a national heritage. It’s important that Siaya County Government and the National Museums of Kenya join hand to restore the Century old building for its special significance. It’s a monument that should be restored to its former glory and for the mere fact of its historical significance.

The National Museums of Kenya is charged with the responsibility of collecting, preserving, studying, documenting and presenting Kenya’s past and present cultural and natural heritage. This century old colonial chief’s office that is now crying for repairs is one such past that needs to be preserved and documented. It could even serve as a study site for students and pupils’ educational trips.

The chief’s office, while working directly under the Office of the President cannot afford to take sides.

Omuya notes: “As civil servants under the national government, we deserve to have decent offices constructed for us considering the role we play on behalf of the government at the grassroots level. This will give us the morale to work even harder hence improving service delivery to the public.”

According to Omuya, leaders across the country should bury their political differences and work together for the betterment of the nation irrespective of their affiliation.

“We are also appealing to Siaya County government to look at us positively and allocate some funds from its budget to facilitate the construction of our offices because we provide our services to everybody in Siaya irrespective of which party they voted for,” concludes chief Omuya.

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