17 June 2019

Kenya: Activist, Ex-Political Detainee Onyango Oloo Dies


Human rights activist, writer and former political detainee Onyango Oloo has died.

On Monday, the activist's sister Ms Ruth Oloo said he died in Nakuru on Sunday night.

The founder of Jukwaa political blog, who was tortured at Nyayo House torture chambers, had travelled to Nakuru to pick up 15 copies of Miguna Miguna's book, Treason, a gift he had been sent from Canada.

"Please hold our hands in this time of need and give OO (Onyango Oloo) a befitting send off. Thank you so much for your love and support. Unfortunately the Miguna books that brought him here were never to reach him. To any he might have rubbed the wrong way, we ask for forgiveness on his behalf," the sister wrote in an email sent to friends and activists.


Early this year, Oloo opened up about his HIV status and announced that he was retreating to his home village in Luanda Didi in Kakamega County to continue his activism as a rural-based HIV-positive activist.

Despite his prominence as an activist and former political detainee, Mr Oloo died a poor man with many civil society activists telling Nation that the country let one of its most passionate and dedicated human rights activists down.

"Onyango Oloo is no more. Very sad turn of events in the last two years for my brother. A true soldier of justice," activist Cyprian Nyamwamu wrote.

Dozens of human rights defenders took to WhatsApp groups, Accountability Demand Net and Kenya Liberation Struggle, where they eulogized him for his gallantry.

"We all did the little we could at different times. But yes, there is more that we could have done," Sunday Nation columnist Isaac Amuke said.

1982 COUP

Mr Oloo was among the first batch of students to be arrested following the 1982 coup attempt.

The others were Titus Adungosi (who later died in prison), Jeff Mwangi, Ongele Opala, Muga K'Olale , Wahinya Bore, Paddy Onyango, Joseph Hongo, Maurice Adongo Ogony, Onyango C. A., Oginga Ogego, Francis Kinyua, Thomas Mutuse and Johnstone Simiyu.

By the time of his arrest, Mr Oloo was a first year history student at the University of Nairobi. He was sentenced on November 1, 1982 to 15 years in prison, five for each count he was convicted of, namely: being in possession of subversive literature and two counts of subversion. The sentences ran concurrently.

"The most memorable of the student trials was that of a University of Nairobi freshman Onyango Oloo, who eventually defended himself in court, having rejected plea bargains for a short sentence from his attorney Richard Kwach on the principled bases that he was not guilty of any crime. Sixty-seven other students were held in remand prison from August 1982 until March 1983," the book Ethnicity and Democracy in Africa notes.

His fellow prisoners included Maina wa Kinyatti, Gitobu Imanyara, Karuga Wandai, David Murathe, Kimani Wanyoike and Tirop Kitur.

Amnesty International took up his case in 1986 after the organisation admitted him as a prisoner of conscience.


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