THE TRUTH ABOUT FAITH VIVIAN OTIENO IN THE LATE KAJWANG’S LIFE
That the fallen Homa Bay Senator Otieno Kajwang’ was a towering pillar that defied political differences was clear in perhaps the most colourful tribute from a political adversary, retired President Mwai Kibaki.
“The late Kajwang’, be it in Cabinet or public rallies, expressed his views with notable flair and exuberance. Indeed, one did not need to necessarily agree with him every time, but few, if any, would fail to notice, let alone ignore, his trademark charm and charisma,” Kibaki mourned.
Kibaki knew what he was talking about. Before he became president, a political squabble, now long forgotten, arose pitting his camp with that allied to Raila Odinga.
A TV debate was arranged in which Kibaki was expected to slug it out with Otieno Kajwang’.
It was a scary prospect. Kibaki then was a ruthless adversary in debate with almost unmatched knowledge on matters government, public policy and finance.
His reputation for depth and intellectual eruditeness could not be ignored. And yet the much younger and less experienced Kajwang’ more than held his own, returning volley after volley, and exhibiting a fluidity of thought and intellectual heft that would later rank him among Kenya’s finest political debaters.
But Kajwang’ probably didn’t notice one thing that would haunt him years on. Kibaki, an old fox, selected one single line of argument and stubbornly stuck to it like a dog with a bone.
This stubborn wall is what Kajwang’ would encounter in the difficult days following the disputed 2008 poll when he was selected to negotiate a power-sharing deal between Raila’s ODM and Kibaki’s PNU.
After the clouds had cleared and a coalition government announced with Kajwang’ as immigration minister, ‘Mapambano’ told a TV crew in his usual jocular manner that he had been hiding with his wife in the bedroom when the news came.
“Kwanza nimefurahi sana. Tulikuwa kwa bedroom with my wife. Tulikuwa tunangalia TV kwa bedroom kwa sababu tulikuwa tunahide. Pengine tutapata ama hatutapata. Lakini tulifurahi sana sisi ndio tulisomwa hapo juu. Then tukasahau kila kitu. We danced a bit,” said Kajwang.
While this statement provided comic relief to a nation whose nerves were frayed by tension and fear, it answers one question that has puzzled Kenyans since his death: Was Faith Ouma, the woman who was initially barred from viewing his body at Lee Funeral home, his wife or a mpango wa Kando?
It was not surprising therefore that at a fundraiser for the bereaved family at Kenyatta International Convention Centre’s Amphitheatre, former premier Raila Odinga urged those present to contribute sufficiently to cater for all Kajwang’s children, including those from ‘mpango wa kando.’ “Tuchange pesa mingi, ya kusaidia watoto wote, hata wa mpango ya kando,” he said, making a dig at those who have been dismissing Faith as a mistress.
After interviewing people who knew the late senator intimately, The Nairobian can now exclusively reveal that the wife who was ‘hiding’ with Kajwang’ in the bedroom in 2008, when news of his ministerial appointment was announced, was not his Rose, but Faith Vivian Ouma.
According to sources, Kajwang’ traditionally married Faith in 1993 in a ceremony called nyombo (dowry), after paying 12 cows and Sh60,000, when his first wife Rose left for the UK.
It is said that Cord leader Raila Odinga was among those who accompanied Kajwang’ to pay dowry.
Faith Vivian Otieno was undoubtedly the force behind the success of Kajwang’ in politics. According to close family sources, for the entire period between 1991 to mid 1993, Kajwang’s law practice wasn’t making money and it is Faith who paid all the bills.
She also provided the late senator with money for his political activities. “Kajwang’ confided in me several times. His first wife had left him because he was broke, and he was amazed that Faith, his second wife, could stay with him for so long, even though he wasn’t providing for the family,” says our source.
It is revealed that before Kajwang’ got into Parliament in 1998, Faith used to travel frequently to Kampala, where she bought bales of vitenge, handbags and shoes for sale in Nairobi. That’s how Kajwang’s family made ends meet.
By 1995, Kajwang’s practice had stabilised, and he also started chipping in to boost the family’s budget and catering for household bills,” says a close confidante of the late senator. “I have seen Faith stick with Kajwang’ through thick and thin, and it is a shame that she has now been pushed to the periphery as other people profess their love for the deceased,” the source added.
City businessman Oywa Ngori, who has been friends with Kajwang’ for nearly two decades, confirmed that Faith is indeed the late Kajwang’s wife. “Rose only came back to Kenya from the UK when Kajwang was appointed to the Cabinet,” said Oywa.
He says he first met Kajwang’ when the then struggling lawyer moved into the neighbouring house in Komarock Phase II. “He didn’t even wait for me to say hello. The same evening, he knocked on my door to introduce himself and requested that I pass by and meet his family,” explains Oywa.
The two hit it off immediately.
“That evening, we went for a drink at a local bar. He wasn’t someone in whose company you could keep quiet.
He was a very funny guy and even in the pub, several people joined our table and it seemed like we had been friends for years,” he reveals. Oywa adds that Kajwang’ invited him to his house on a Saturday morning where he met Faith, whom he describes as an “amazing, beautiful and a morally upright woman who took her marriage seriously and never played games.”
“She warmly welcomed me and I could see two little children (Ronnie Odinga, now 19, and Christie Otieno, now 18),” Oywa recalls.
Oywa says Kajwang, even when tipsy, would always say Faith was his rock. He recalled a time when Kajwang’ confided in him that his law firm was struggling and that it was Faith who was paying rent, school fee and catering for all household expenses.
And picking the cue, Nairobi Senator Mike Sonko contributed Sh1million, while Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero contributed Sh200,000 and promised to employ Kajwang’s eldest son in the Nairobi City County government.
Meanwhile, Faith told The Standard on Saturday that she has been married to Kajwang’ for 19 years. “We have two children, Christie, who just completed high school, and Ronnie Odinga Otieno, 19, who is in Kabarak University,” she said. “Let it be known that I am not his girlfriend, but his legal wife. In fact, when she (Rose Kajwang’) was in the UK, I was the one living with Kajwang.”
Amidst the drama that ensued at the Lee Funeral Home, when Faith was denied access, Rose, who had been inside all along, emerged accompanied by Siaya Senator James Orengo and boarded a waiting car. She did not speak to reporters.
Faith received the same cold treatment during the requiem mass. She did not get a chance to eulogise Kajwang’, neither was she allowed to introduce herself.
Sidebar: He never forgot old friends
City businessman Oywa Ongori says that when he met Kajwang, he was running a small hotel at Kenya Railways where Kajwang would pop in for lunch.
“Within a year, Kajwang, Dalmas Otieno’s cousin John Aoko and I became great friends. We would paint the town red because one of us always had money,” says Oywa.
The friendship also was pegged on the fact that by that time, Kajwang’s Peugeot was grounded, so he would always hike a lift in Oywa’s Datsun pickup to and from town.
“Since we were neighbours, and shared the same car every day, we synchronised our schedule so that we would go home together,” he recalls.
He says Kajwang’ was a generous soul who always shared whatever he had.
“Even when he became a minister, he still had time for me and would always pick my calls. We interacted less because of his busy schedule, but he always had time for me,” he recalls.