Once revered by the Luo community, Ofafa Memorial Hall in Kisumu town is now virtually a shell of its former self.
But the building, barely two kilometres from Kisumu town, along the Kisumu-Kakamega Highway, holds rich history of the Luo community.
It was built in 1961 in memory of politician Ambrose Ofafa, who was shot and critically injured during an alleged highway robbery in Nairobi, succumbing two days later in 1953.
Ofafa was born in 1913 at Alego Kalkada in Siaya County.
He was the national treasurer of the Kenya African Union, the precursor to the Kenya African National Union.
Some claim that the assailants were highway robbers, others claim that he was felled by colonial government agents who were trying to bait the Kikuyu against the Luo community during the Mau Mau war.
Others in the colonial government tried to blame the Mau Mau movement for the attack that took the life of one of the most charismatic politicians in Kenya’s colonial history.
“After his death, members of the Luo community decided to honour him for his sterling work by putting up and naming the new building in his honour,” says Luo council of elders’ chairman Ker Willis Otondi.
Mr Otondi says the building was constructed for the remembrance of Ofafa and restoration, observation and promotion of Luo culture.
“Respected dignitaries and Luo elders who had passed on were taken there for overnight prayers and people came together to celebrate their lives,” Mr Otondi says.
This was the community’s way of appreciating their work in promoting the Luo way of life. Some of the notable elders whose bodies were taken to the hall are Edward Alwenge, Paul Mboya and Adala Otuko.
During such occasions, the members of the community would line up to pay their last respects.
Mzee James Ayaga, the chairman of the Ofafa Memorial Hall trustees, and the treasurer, Mzee Odungi Randa, say the Luo community made donations towards the construction of the building.
“Members of the Luo Union East Africa working in cities and towns all over East Africa contributed funds, which helped in the construction of the Ambrose Ofafa Memorial Hall,” says Mzee Ayaga.
Mzee Randa says Kenya’s first vice President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga pioneered the contributions towards the establishment of the facility.
“It is a place where the Luo community bonded together and any declaration made there was final,” says Mzee Randa.
The complex consists of many other rooms offering various services to members of the community and other patrons.
At the moment, the building which sits on a large parcel of land has its cream-coloured wall fading, a sign of neglect. The building has potholes and a section of it currently serves as a bar.
The compound has a church and spiralling car-wash sites. The youth have little knowledge of the relevance of the facility.
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