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Kenyans pay tribute to first Education Minister Otiende

People from all walks of life on Wednesday paid tribute to Kenya’s first Education Minister Joseph Otiende, who on Wednesday aged 100.

Mr Otiende passed on at 4.30am at Avenue Hospital Kisumu, according to his son and family spokesperson Maleya Chanzu.

Mr Otiende was the first Education Minister under founding President Jomo Kenyatta from 1963 to 1969. He also served as minister for Agriculture, Culture, Health and Housing.

He was also the first MP for Vihiga during this period, and retired from active politics after losing the seat.

Mr Chanzu said the veteran politician succumbed to high blood pressure and diabetes, leaving a bill of Sh1.7 million after a two-month hospitalisation.

On Wednesday, two Cord co-principals sent messages of condolence to the family.

“Mr Raila Odinga remembers the former minister for setting up health and education infrastructures in Kenya and bringing these services closer to the people through his innovative campaigns and advocacies,” read a statement from Mr Dennis Odunga, who is Mr Odinga’s communications officer.

The former prime minister and other leaders, including ANC head Musalia Mudavadi, Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula and former Speaker Kenneth Marende, visited Mr Otiende in hospital before he died.

‘SELFLESS POLITICIAN’

On Wednesday, Mr Wetang’ula described Mr Otiende as “a devoted pioneer educator, selfless politician, stickler administrator and fearless freedom fighter”.

“I have personally known Mzee as a crucial pillar, adviser and mind opener not only to the Luhya nation as patron of the Luhya Elders Forum, but also as a person always at the forefront of the fight for selfless leadership,” said Mr Wetang’ula.

“I will miss the many visits I made to his home for wise counsel. He truly had a clear mind on historical milestones in our region and country,” he said.

While at Maseno School in his younger years, Mr Otiende was classmates with Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. Later, he was among the first breed of Kenyans to retire from politics while barely in their 50s.

Mr Otiende was last seen in public last April at a political rally in Kakamega where Mr Wetang’ula launched his presidential bid. He was injured during fracas that ensued after a teargas canister was thrown at the podium.

Burial preparations are underway at his Kegoye home, two kilometres from Mbale, Vihiga.

Reported by Derick Luvega, Brian Moseti, Rushdie Oudia and Judy Mito.

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