Kenya: Simba Arati Provoked Me, Osoro Says on Kisii Funeral Fistfight

3 February 2021

South Mugirango Member of Parliament Silvanus Osoro was until Monday among the lesser known legislators in the 350-member Kenyan National Assembly.

Then he shot into the national limelight after getting involved in a fiery altercation with Dagoretti North MP Simba Arati while attending the burial of the Kisii County Deputy Governor Joash Maangi's father, Abel Gongera.

Videos and images of the floored legislator were beamed across the country and splashed on social media platforms for the better part of Monday, making Mr Osoro now one of the instantly recognisable sitting MPs.

"Arati provoked me," said Mr Osoro Wednesday, when reached for comment about the ugly Monday confrontation.

Physical fight

Deputy President William Ruto and ODM Party leader Raila Odinga, who were attending the funeral, watched in silence as the two MPs engaged in a verbal, and then physical fight while a charged crowd chanted political slogans in the background.

Mr Osoro, 32, is a first time MP elected on a Kenya National Congress (KNC) party ticket while Mr Arati is serving his second term on an ODM ticket.

In his address to the mourners, Mr Arati appeared to work up the already agitated crowd when he referred to un-named people in the deputy president's entourage whose sources of income were questionable.

The Dagoretti legislator also demanded, without substantiating, that DP Ruto must apologise for the alleged atrocities visited on their people (Abagusii) in the Rift Valley during the 2007 post-election violence.

Osoro storms podium

Then all hell broke loose after Mr Osoro first jeered Mr Arati, before storming the podium and throwing fists at his fellow MP.

Wednesday, he claimed to have been provoked by Mr Arati's reference to the 2007 post-poll chaos.

"I have been a victim of post-election violence. One of my motorbikes which I operated in Molo in 2007 was burnt by goons while the other was stolen. It was then that I fled the place and hiked a lift to Nairobi where I started selling groundnuts and later became a newspaper vendor," claimed Mr Osoro on Tuesday as he sought to explain his attack on Mr Arati.

The MP said he felt 'provoked' over the 'insensitive' manner in which the Nairobi-based lawmaker was publicly re-opening the post-election wounds.

The Nation could not, however, independently verify his claims of being a victim of the election skirmishes that saw over 1,000 people killed in the country.

"Our people died a painful death in the post-election violence, you must come here and apologise publicly," demanded Mr Arati.

Elders speak out

The Abagusii Council of Elders Wednesday issued a stern warning to politicians who stoke violence.

The council spelled out 'burial guidelines' in Gusii to avoid a repeat of the chaotic funeral at Tendere stadium in Bomachoge Chache Constituency.

The elders convened an emergency meeting at their county offices in Kisii town and announced measures they believe will curb chaos in funerals.

No political talk

Council chairman James Matundura in a statement said political discussions would be barred in burial ceremonies.

They did not, however, outline how they would tame unruly politicians, given that politicking is a common occurrence in funerals across the country.

"We will consult further with church elders and other stakeholders on what steps to take for those who will defy these orders," said Mr Matundura as he threatened unspecified action.

He said hiring of youths to cause chaos in burials, heckling of speakers and political campaigns in funerals should stop.

"Our people should find other forums where they talk about community development. The dead must be respected," said Mr Matundura.

Gusii youth leaders also condemned the Monday chaos.

"The behaviour displayed by some of our young leaders was uncouth, uncultured and reckless. Kenya as a country has made a lot of strides towards achieving constitutional and democratic freedom. The freedom of speech and expression must be respected and adhered to as enshrined in our Constitution even if you agree with it or not," said Mr Dennis Orioki, a youth leader.

"The current crop of youth leadership must inspire hope and behave beyond reproach. The stereotype of goon leadership and deceit must come to an end," they added.

Advocate of the High Court

Mr Osoro, who was recently admitted to the bar as an advocate of the High Court, is an orphan and claims to have been a street boy at one time during his teenage years.

He says he grew up in various homes belonging to his relatives and attended different schools as his hosts changed.

"I was introduced to politics by former Budalangi MP Ababu Namwamba, former Molo MP Jacob Macharia and former Vihiga governor Moses Akaranga," he recalled Wednesday.

The lawmaker first attempted entry into Parliament by contesting the Embakasi South seat in Nairobi in 2013 but lost. He then returned to his rural constituency of South Mugirango, where he tried his luck on a KNC ticket and won in the 2017 General Election.

The support he received from his party leader and former South Mugirango MP Manson Nyamweya boosted his campaigns.

Flip-flopping

The politician appears to flip-flop on his political choices.

In 2018, Mr Osoro denied courting the ruling Jubilee party, saying he was firmly in Nasa. KNC is a member party of the Nasa coalition.

In the same year, he worked closely with Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i and always attended his functions, especially those held in his South Mugirango backyard.

He, on several occasions, told DP Ruto publicly to consider having Dr Matiang'i as his deputy come 2022.

"You have the blessings of the Abagusii community if only you work with Dr Matiang'i," he said in one of the functions attended by the Interior CS whom he was fronting for the presidency.

But two years later, he has turned into Dr Matiang'i's biggest critic, and uses every opportunity he gets to address a gathering to dress down the CS.

The MP was recently required by his party, KNC, to show cause why he should not face disciplinary action for openly courting the Jubilee faction allied to DP Ruto.

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