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Ng'ana'a Thiong'o, Kenyan social activist and legal adviser for the people, sadly passed away on 7 February 2010. ‘It is not easy to write a tribute for a true comrade, a revolutionary, an environmentalist, a peoples’ advocate, a principled politician, a global citizen, an intellectual and creative thinker like Ng’ang’a Thiong’o’, writes Stephen Musau.

It is not easy to write a tribute for a true comrade, a revolutionary, an environmentalist, a peoples’ advocate, a principled politician, a global citizen, an intellectual and creative thinker like Ng’ang’a Thiong’o. The Release Political Prisoners Social Movement (RPP) education to the cause for a better, well managed and administered Kenya, Africa and the world, where all can be happy and feel accommodated and accepted.


Thiong’o, a former political prisoner who was also a victim of the torturous Nyayo House, believed – and we lost him still holding the same beliefs – that another Kenya was and still is truly possible. Even while in pain on his death bed, he continued to ask: Why are Kenyans dying of treatable diseases after 46 years of independence? Why are the poor always the ones being laid own in the corridors of the hospitals? Why are those who were speaking of change in the 1990s not concerned with the basics of life like access to affordable health care, education, water, food, shelter and clothing?

Thiong’o was very clear in his mind that the system Kenya has held since independence will always serve to impoverish; it will impoverish even those who think and keep on thinking that they are rich. He held the strong view that Kenya and Kenyans will always prosper if we manage public affairs in the same way that we view humanity and the people.

Ng’ang’a combined very conservative disciplines with activism and advocacy; a very rare blend indeed. He could be seen partaking in street activism wearing a tie, chatting and singing with the commoners. Many asked ‘who is this so smartly dressed, yet chanting hard anti-government slogans?’ He must be very different then.


When things got tough and he saw there was no other way out, he could quickly rally support and organise meetings. The RPP Social Movement recalls the 2005-2007 debacles when Thiong’o offered and steered the organisation as Chairperson away from almost total closure to stability. This was due to his exemplary leadership and strength of conviction that we had done it before and we can always do it better.

Thiong’o was a leader for all, especially those who needed empowerment. He was always concerned with what RPP and other activists were doing about the squatters, the small scale business people and informal traders, the evictees, the IDPs (internally displaced persons), the arrested and confined, the persons with disabilities, the albinos, the indigenous communities, the marginalised, the poor, the dropouts, the jobless, disempowered women, the heroes and heroines of our country. He never forgot the history of the struggle for independence and those who died for it.

All activists and human rights defenders will always remember him and the courageous socialist speech, which he made during the burial of the celebrated true liberator, Honourable Bildad Kaggia at Maragwa. He asked why those who had ignored and defied Kaggia’s wisdom throughout his life were there? He called everyone by their names to the surprise of all, but to celebration of those who have stood by the people’s discourse.


Thiong’o continued to teach the RPP fraternity and all activists and defenders of people’s rights that tribalism and ethnicity had no space in Kenya and that those who believed this would always be doomed to failure and would cause turmoil for the country.

He held deep conviction that it was because of tribalism and ethnicity that massive corruption and mismanagement of public affairs was rife in Kenya: Impunity escalated, mediocrity ruled us, ignorance and illiteracy was thriving, lack of access to services like education and health had increased among many other vices. Thiong’o’s predicaments have always been real to the Kenya we see today. He believed in transformative change that we should all yearn for.

He always held that we should teach our children the values and principles rotted in humanity, nationhood, neighbourliness, culture and mother tongues and learning of one another’s languages to deal with tribalism and ethnic bigotry.

A great loss!

The RPP Social Movement has really lost a Kenyan leader, a human rights defender and an activist, a people’s advocate, a green environmentalist, a principled politician, a teacher on societal transformation, a global citizen and an open minded person always willing to engage in any aspect of people’s lives.

May you rest in peace Comrade, with the spirits of true Kenyan, Africa and world liberators!

Ni yale yale mambo ya ukoloni; ukoloni mkongwe, ukoloni mambole… tuyakatae!

Aluta continua…


* Ng’ango was a member of Kenya’s high court, a legal policy and advocacy advisor for various Kenyan movements and organisations. He worked with indigenous communities helping to regain local control over their traditional lands, culture and ecological governance systems through the legal recognition of customary lore. He was also chair of Release Political Prisoners (RPP) pressure group, a human rights organization formed in December 1991 to champion the rights of political prisoners. RPP documents, publicizes and engages in advocacy on the issues and rights of political prisoners.
* Stephen Musau is a member of RRP.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.