We should be proud of our various ethnic identities

Three days ago, I was privileged to officiate at a memorial service for a colleague and friend. Prof John Oyaro Oucho is one of the better known authorities in matters of population studies and particularly in the area of migration.

He was a widely published individual and one who was not limited to the Kenyan academic arena but a well known scholar all over Africa and around the world.

Prof Oucho’s reputation was widely and effectively recognised by all those international organisations that have anything to do with issues affecting world populations and in particular the specific segment of migration.

Through his work, he attracted a lot of research grants for the Institute of Population Studies at the University of Nairobi.

He was not boastful about anything and, when you met him, he did not threaten you with any “better than thou” attitude.

John was a great colleague and a great friend of mine. On several occasions, he and I met at a place where we both enjoyed a little nyama choma and a drink.


During those moments over the last three years, John and I got to know each other quite well. He introduced me to his wife Margaret whom he met in the 1970s.

She had come from Uganda during the Idi Amin days and, when they met, they became an item.

I am celebrating the sendoff we held for John at our University Chapel because it came out as a real university event – as it should be.

Our vice-chancellor – who happens to be away – was well represented by one of his deputies.

The principal of the college where John belonged was in attendance. Many academic colleagues from all departments were there with us.


Our Protestant Chaplain and his Catholic counterpart, who both work under my office, were both there with me. It was indeed a university event which, in my view, was befitting of a hero like Prof John Oucho.

The fellow who pulled out an interesting one was the event MC. Being a good Kenyan, he brought out the idea of how proud all of us should be for having been born into the tribe into which we were born. In fact, he said that God did not make a mistake in that respect. Oh, how I agree with my brother Ochilo! Our ethnic differences are a creation of other people’s political survival.

My friend and colleague John was a believer in God and an active participant in establishing a better world. It was not important that he was Jaluo or that he was Anglican. He did the right thing.

 Writer is Dean of Students at the University of Nairobi; [email protected]

Our ethnic differences are a creation of other people’s political survival.

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