Curtain calls for the year that was

Saturday January 2 1999

By MBURU MWANGI

and EVANS SASAKAH

Although it was a year in which, as usual, Kenyans who made invaluable contribution to the country in various fields died, the sports fraternity received the heaviest blow.

At least 10 active or retired sportsmen from different disciplines died.

Most of them were in soccer and included a former Harambee Stars midfielder Charles Otieno and a former defender of the same national team David Akoi

Both Otieno, whose club was Gor Mahia and Akoi, who played for AFC Leopards died in Jan

Another well-known former soccer player who died in the year was Paul Oduwo alias Cobra. Cobra, who was an international defender and the Gor Mahia captain died in February.

The following month, Mumias Sugar FC was robbed of Dennis Ida while in April veteran referee Willis Opunga died.

Other soccer players who died were John Arieno "Papa" an AFC defender who had also previously turned up for Kenacto and Maziwa. He too died in April.

John Oracha Wandago, a veteran Black Mamba player died in May

Other sports people who died were Munover Mukaram Karimbhai, a Karate expert, rally navigator Ibrahim Choge, former Nation sportswriter and KAAA Nyanza branch official Henry Ooro Aluoch. Karimbhai died in April, Choge in June and Aluoch in July. Choge's death in questionable circumstances on the road is a subject of inquiry.

Then there was pioneer rally driver Vic Preston Senior whose body was found with gunshot wound which he is suspected to have inflicted on himself at his home. He died in October.

It was in the same month that the Kenyan President of the Africa Hockey Federation, Hardial Singh, died. T'Challa Raposo, a star hooker for the Kenya rugby team in the 1980's died in Maputo, Mozambique in April.

In politics, the country lost several active and retired leaders starting with the MP for Kieni, Mr Munene Kairu (DP) who died in a Nairobi hospital in April.

Another sitting MP who died was Prof Paul Sumbi (SDP) of Makueni. He died in September and is yet to be replaced in Parliament.

A former Cabinet Minister, Prof Jonathan Ng'eno, died in Nairobi in June. The former MP for Buret until the last General Election, Prof Ng'eno had held various dockets in the Cabinet, the latest being Public Works. He was also a former Speaker of the National Assembly.

In March, another former MP, Mr Samuel Totoi (Moyale) died. He was also the Kanu organising secretary of Marsabit branch.

Two other former Cabinet Minister died in the year. They were Mr Samuel Onyango Ayodo died at the age of 68 in August and Dr Mukasa Mango who died in October. Mango was at one time a minister for Health and MP for Busia East.

In May, Councillor Sitati Maboni, then Kitale mayor died. It was the same month in which the first Mathira MP Anderson Wamuthenya died. Mr Wamuthenya who was also an assistant minister for Home Affairs died at the age of 87. He was an MP between 1963 to 1969 died at the age of 87.

In the civil service, Kenya lost Mr Joseph Ruto, the managing director of the Kenya Pipeline Company in January and a former deputy managing director of Kenya Railways, Mr Patrick Mwangola. Mr Mwangola, who died in February, was one time the chairman of the defunct Nairobi City Commission.

In March, a career diplomat, Mr Gabriel Owino Lando, lately the First Secretary at the Kenyan Embassy in Windhoek, Namibia, died.

In the same month, Mr John Ngeno, then Kiambu DC and a brother to Prof Ng'eno also died. Mr Ng'eno died in his official residence in Kiambu.

Then there was the chief executive of the Agricultural Society in Kenya, Mr Walter Edwin Adero and Mr Justice Canisius Ongundi, 47, then the Bungoma resident judge. Both died in March.

Other civil servants who died were Mrs Joyce Wanjiku Kanina, a prominent educationalist and Col (rtd) Dr Cunningham Kamau Mwathi.

Mrs Kanina, the wife Mr HJ. Kanina, a former director of Education, was formerly in charge of Primary Education Programmes at the Kenya Institute of Education while Col Mwathi was a retired surgeon with the Kenya Army. They both died in April.

In the same month too, the leader of the Ruiru-based Prisons Staff Choir, which is especially popular on national days, Wilson Majale, died.

In June, a former ambassador to the Hague, Japan and Nigeria, Mr Kefa Onyoni, 63, died. Mr Onyoni had also served in many countries through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs until his retirement in 1991.

June also robbed Kenya of Mr Peter Wakarugi, a former head of Information Training at the Kenya Institute of Mass Communication. He served in various districts as an information officer and was later appointed the Press Attache at Kenya's High Commission in India until 1990

In September, top Permanent Secretary Alexander Sawe of the Office of the President and who was also the Director of Public Management died in a fire in his house.

In the same month, Dr Walter Kilele, then managing director of the Agricultural Development Corporation died in a road accident.

Another diplomat, Mr Fannuel Makanga, who was the Commercial Attache at Kenya's High Commission in Zambia, also died in September.

A deputy Commissioner of Police, Mr Habel Dzombo and an assistant commissioner of police, Mr Alfred Imojaro Ipara died in October. Mr Dzombo, who was approaching his retirement age was the director of operations at Police Headquarters.

The country also lost some of its most refined artists both in drama and music.

Among these was Sammy Kimani Muya, a television comedian popularly known as Masanduku arap Simiti. Masanduku, who died in August, will be remembered for his hilarious acting in the Vioja Mahakamani programme.

The other is David Njuguna Kiarie, a pioneer street actor known as Nyengese who died in December. Nyengese died at Kenyatta National Hospital from injuries sustained in a road accident near Utalii Hotel on Thika road on the eve of his scheduled appearance at the much-publicised and successful Sunbeat Reggae day where special performers included South African's Lucky Dube

Among the musician were veteran benga maestro George Ojijo, 54, and veteran Ochieng (OK) Kabaselleh.

Ojijo died April and among his songs is the 1965 hit "Siku Gani Nitarudi Nyumbani Karachuonyo.

Kabaselleh, also known as Hajullas Mohammed Khalil, was known mostly for the hit, Zainabu and his Aids awareness campaign. The former Army officer died at in Nairobi.

In the same year, the country lost Tom Mpeti ole Surum, a young Maasai man who rose from the grass to grace and came to be known as a cultural ambassador for his ability to communicate and teach about the Maasai culture in the United States. Surum, who was in his early 30s died in a road accident on the Narok-Mai Mahiu Road in September.

The Media too was left grieving with the deaths of at least four journalists and two broadcasters

Among them were Maurice Awiti, a sports writer with the East African Standard and Stephen Sunguti, an Eldoret-based Nation photographer who was found dead with deep panga wounds. Both died in January

In the same month, veteran broadcaster with the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, Zainabu Musa died. Musa had joined the then Voice of Kenya in 1968 and retired in 1986.

Musa Stephen, another KBC broadcaster also died in the same month. He was popular for his programme "Ndimi za Wahenga."

In September, the Nation again lost another journalist, Maina Mwaniki, who was based in Mombasa. Mwaniki, who had worked for the Nation for nearly 10 years died after a brief illness. He was an expert at the Kenya Ports Authority activities.

The Standard was again dealt another blow with the deaths of reporter Bernard Liru and former Advertising Manager Rodney Ngaywa Adagala. Liru died in a suspect car accident in Kaimosi in November while Adagala died in July.

The trade union movement also mourned with the departure of Mr Ali Mohammed, the secretary general of the Union of Posts and Telecommunication Employees in November. Another trade unionist who died in the same year was Mr Paul Abuto Omanga, the secretary general of the Kenya Union of Sugarcane Plantation Workers. He died in September.

Others who made a mark and whose services will be missed are Archbishop Benjamin Kahihia of the Afican Independent Pentecostal Church and the Mr Pavan Sharma, the founder of the Kenya-Hindu Mission.

Archbishop Kahihia died in March aged 80 while Mr Sharma, a human rights activists, and who published The Hindu newsletter, died in September.

The other religious leader who died was "Pope" Timothy Ahitila leader of the Legio Maria. He died in June.

Another was Mr Meshack Ndisi, a former board member and chairman of Public Relations and Fund Raising Committee of the AMREF. He was also a member of the Family Planning Association of Kenya's senior management committee He died in October.

Another was a director of the Nairobi Stock Exchange and founder of Francis Thuo and Partners company, Mr T.S. Chana who died in March.

A senior lecturer and former head of Applied Nutrition Programme (ANP) at the University of Nairobi, Dr Gabriel Kipng'eno Maritim also died in October.

Another lecturer, Mr Edward Onyango of Moi University died in March.

Internationally, among the deaths that grabbed world headlines were those of Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha and the perceived winner of the annulled 1993 Presidential Elections in the country Chief Mashood Abiola

Coming about one month apart, Sani Abacha death in June was met by Nigerians and the world with jubilation while that of Chief Abiola in July was met with grieve and disbelief.

Abacha's death after a heart attack was seen as the beginning of the country's departure with iron-fisted military rule but the death of Chief Abiola in prison in July was seen as a big blow to pro- democracy forces. Abacha was about to be released from his nearly-five-year detention by the new ruler.

In the same year, died Comoros Islands President Mohammed Taki in November. She had taken over power in 1996 after a General Election.

In January, Mr Walter Diemer, the inventor of the bubble chewing gun also died. He was 93 and had invented the gum at 23

British soccer star Justin Fashamu died in May and so did great musician Frank Sinatra. Sinatra, an Academy Award winning film star, died at age 82.

Multi-millionaire Rowland "Tiny" Roland, the brains behind the Lonrho conglomerate died in July.