The permanent state that death exists and the nothingness it leaves is the reason grief is heavy.
It's difficult writing about Ken Okoth in past tense since he was among the few leaders who saw people for who they are. Okoth practised inclusion in working with youth and women – two demographics that are hardly seen for their salience.
He made it his prerogative to elevate young people and women. He didn't care for affiliations or personal gain as long as the work to be done was by those whom the work mattered the most. He saw opinionated women – those who don't seek likeability or acceptance. In short, Okoth saw feminist women. In turn, he acknowledged the violence that is patriarchy and became a dependable ally who didn't use his position to hijack the feminist work women were doing.
It's hard to find people who have big personalities but aren't consuming like Okoth. Most large personalities, especially men in political space are often domineering. He didn't domineer or harmfully consume space despite his large existence. He was just Okoth. I remember him reaching out and asking if he and I could discuss a political proposal during the bungled 2017 elections that left many deeply torn by the spiralling injustice.
He didn't want me agonising alone so his reaching out was a demonstration of camaraderie which later grew into conversations on the importance of new leadership. However much Kenya seemed to be defeating sanity out of us, he held on to some hope. Okoth never failed to encourage and challenge, making certain that conversations ended with lightness. He played a constant reminder role focusing on impact no matter how small.
The wholesomeness of people was most valuable to him. His ability to glide through the noise that is everyday Kenyan politics and cut through frustrations was incredible. Okoth insisted on embracing new voices and did all he could to get me involved in his work and those of others. Okoth fought for women to continue occupying space without permission. He made introductions, connections and created access.
I'm proud to be have been part of his Jaza shelf initiative for Mbagathi High School as he believed that girls must-have books in order to be claim their dreams. Okoth's love for the people of Kibra was profound and his vision was for their dignity. He laughed; at himself for serious and silly reasons, at others for their inability to see how much change was inevitable, at difficult conversations that people avoided and of course he laughed at me every time someone mispronounced my name and I tried to re-adjust my face to seem unbothered. He always said that the world is full of anger and tears it's laughter and joy that's hard to find so you better hold on to your laughter for as long as you can. It is especially difficult holding on to joy at this moment but I guess this another one of his challenges.
Mheshimiwa Okoth, I hope you're at peace and that you find light as you cross over because light is what you were and what you really deserve. Rest in utmost power.