Wafula Buke: Not only a Husband to his Wife but a Practical Marxist-Revolutionary

By Alexander Opicho

I read with unflagging pleasure the feature story published in the Nairobi law Monthly of June 2019 about Robert Wafula Buke. I salute the depth of research into facts, style and texture of sensational journalism that was captured by the editor in the story. I also salute Mr. Ojijo for timely and brave work of pen and ink that brought the story to out to the public. My remark is in tune with a new and provocative social philosophy that, it is more logical to celebrate a hero when he or she is still living other than celebrating a hero on the pyre as the tradition has been in Kenya and other parts of Africa. I too, want to share in this celebration of Wafula Buke’s contribution to democracy, human rights and a defence of the dignity of the Kenya’s poor against brutality of the powers that have been. I will celebrate Buke’s contribution to Kenya’s democracy by mentioning one or two things I know about him. And here I go.

First, let me clarify on the recurrent confusion that has been fogging around the identity of Wabula Buke. Most people and some Media houses have often confused Wafula Buke with Ken Wafula, Wafula Wabuke, Wafula Musamia and Wafula Wamunyinyi. This is the difference; Ken Wafula was the Eldoret based human rights crusader, NGO boss and media activist. He died a year ago. He was vocal on the reparation of the 2018 pev victims by the ICC.His early mysterious death was evidently connected to his human rights concern for the minority and the internally displaced people in Uasin Gishu; Wafula Wabuke was a member of parliament for Trans Nzoia, Kanu loyalist and political sycophant to Moi’s Dictatorial regime; Wafula Musamia is a trade unionist, operating within the traditional framework of bourgeoise trade unionism. Wafula Wamunyinyi is a member of parliament for Kanduyi and former ambassador to Somalia. But the man Wafula Buke, the man I am writing about is a Marxist revolutionary, a socialist realist, qualified guerrilla, Kenya’s second liberation politician and currently an active revolutionary politician and revolutionary strategist who recently tweeted in a light mood that ‘he is his wife’s husband.’

I did not meet Wafula Buke at the University, the way most of his friends met him. I met Wafula Buke in 1994 while he was involved in the active revolutionary activities in Bungoma, when he was a chief strategist for Ford Kenya’s Saul Busolo during the by election in webuye constituency. That was the time Moi had Nullified Muskari Kombo’s parliamentary position on the claims that Kombo had used voodoo to win the elections. This dictatorial decision by Moi had provoked some bit of progressive consciousness in Bungoma. The Webuye by election thus brought together exemplary revolutionary minds like Leonard Kunikina, Saul Busolo, Raila Odinga, Wafula Buke, Patrick Wangamati, Brigadier Augustine Odongo, Dr. Kituyi Mukhisa, and Dr. Namajanja. There were also some bourgeoisie minds that participated in the Webuye by-election, these were in the likes of Wamalwa Kijana, Muskari Kombo, George Kapten, Barasa Munyasia, Bifwoli Wakoli, Wafula Wamunyinyi and Wekesa Sambu, these bourgeoise minded politicians were only participating in the politics of that time with the focus on using politics to make their families become rich. Little did they know that Moi’s government was a gestapo kind of state that could not allow anyone to become rich. The best way to fight Moi’s system of political terror was only Buke’s way; revolutionary struggle of all sorts.

The social back-drop to this experience was that the gestapo culture in Moi’s dictatorship had destroyed sugar farming, coffee farming, milk farming and maize farming in Bungoma district. The had become people very poor and financially desperate. There was a lot of police brutality in Bungoma district. There were a lot of special branch police informers in Bungoma more than in Nairobi. Some special branch police officers were camouflaging as high school teachers of history teaching only one topic on Nandi resistance and animal agriculture. Moi armed his tribesmen in Mt Elgon into a militia that vandalized and terrorized homes of the Mainstream citizens of Bungoma. I mean, Bungoma district was the most brutalized district during Moi’s reign. Moi used strong-man approach to destroy economic institutions and administer gradual terror on the people of Bungoma with a conviction that he would make them to worship him, but in contrast, the oppression produced rebellion.

The main problem in Kenya’s politics of that time was vicious lack of self-confidence among the political leaders and administrators in Moi’s government. This is how it began, in 1978, Jomo Kenyatta went weak due to senility while in the office as the President of Kenya. He never wanted to accept the fact that he was extremely old, he never accepted to relinquish the office to younger successor. In August 1978, Jomo Kenyatta died of heart failure in company of his Kikuyu cronies, the selfish cronies stayed for days without informing Moi the then vice president of the death of the President. Later on, Moi become the President out of a blurred miracle without going through competitive electoral process. This is the precedent that made Moi’s government never to be self-confident. Then Moi resorted to the use of tribal ideology, police brutality, mudslinging, infiltration of fear, propaganda, electoral frauds, infallible life presidency, detention without trial, deliberate impoverishment of the masses, distortion of education, favouritism, oppression of the media and other gestapo tactics in order to entrench his grip on power. It was in this realm of political uncertainty that Robert Ouko was Killed, Masinde Muliro died mysterious while in the company of Nicholas Biwot the Moi strong man, Stephen Adongosi died in detention, Father John Kaiser was murdered in cold blood then thrown on the side of the road and many others like Wafula Buke, Miguna Miguna, Raila Odinga, Maina Wa Kinyatti, Koigi wa Mwere, John Kiriamiti, Kenneth Matiba and Andrew Ngumba were detained without trial. Those that were forced into exile were Mwandawiro Makanga, Kabando wa Kabando , Mukhisa Kituyi, Saul Busoslo and Anyang Nyog’o. There are some who disappeared and never to be heard of up to now Like the one Johnstone Kilobi who was by then a student of Political science at the University of Nairobi. Any one memorizing Moi’s leadership in Kenya will not be mistaken to think that Moi’s psychological failure of fear and irrational panicking is attributed to the collective psychology of his native Kalenjin culture. The Kalenjin people easily fail to communicate only to break into irrational fear in public. This is why it is logical to be aware that a Kalenjin man and woman is only good when being ruled, but he or she is an ineffable disaster when in power.

Thus, the Webuye by-election was one of the outlets of the Gestapo pressure administered on the people of Kenya by Moi’s government. As usual we used to meet at the Bungoma home of Mr. Saul Busolo our main candidate, to discuss on the way forward. I was a campaign committee member in charge of intelligence among the youths. This is when I came closer to Wafula Buke, because he was in charge of youths’ movement for change in Webuye. By then he had just finished his five years at Kamiti Maximum prison. He was intelligent in his eye contact and always silent. He could only talk when requested to talk. He never displayed his intellect when mixing with common people. He always put on old torn clothes. He had a tall and slender physique, he had bushy hair and un-attractive hirsute. He was generous with his money and cigarettes. By that time, he was operating Mzalendo transporters, his personal business through which he had two box body commuter vehicles.

The Webuye by election came to an end. Saul Busolo won against Moi’s candidate. But my relationship with Wafula Buke went on with a focus on reading. I borrowed the copy of Christ the Man by Berber Thiering from Buke. I gave him Churchill’s Gathering Storm, but Buke declined to touch on it, he only shrank back his whole body by whining a whimper that, ‘this is a bourgeoise book.’ Then later on Buke organized for me to get a dozen of African Red Family Magazines which I presume was a pulication of communist international. He also gave me Amilcar Cabral’s Unity and Struggle, Mao’s selected works, Nkurumah’s consciencism and the Communist Manifesto. I savoured the literature. Then one day Buke told me to meet him in the afternoon at the veranda of Bungoma Posta office building. He told me to come with any young person that was not fat, instead I went alone. I got Buke there waiting for me. We talked about some literature by Leonid Brezhnev for a while then he excused himself and disappeared. He left me there waiting. He never came back.

Two weeks later, Moi was travelling to Uganda by road. He had a stop-over at Bungoma town to address the people that had gathered at the home compound of one Mr. Wapanga’na. Wapanga’na was a Kanu loyalist and strong man of Moi and also a nominated councillor to Bungoma County council. Wapanga’na also had chain of cow-meat shops in Bungoma town, he had a plethora of wives and many sons only not to count daughters. Moi arrived in a convoy at Wapanga’na’s home at lunch time, the riff raff had already gathered to receive Moi in the usual style of crying the kanu slogan; Jogoo! Jogoo! Jogoo! Then Moi addressed the gathering, after which Moi gave Wapanga’na the hand-out of Kenya shillings one hundred thousand under the full glare of the impoverished riff-raff swallowing their dirty saliva. Moi praised Wapanga’na for being a patriotic elder and citizen, then said good-bye to him, after which Moi embarked on his journey to Uganda. Fifteen minutes later Wapanga’na was shot twice in the head and died on the spot. He was shot by unknown person.

Let me comment about the culture of Moi’s strong men politics in Bungoma, which started by destroying all the institutions that supported commercial peasant farming in Bungoama.This made people to be very poor. Then Moi established Elijah Mwangale, Mama Ardhi of Nyanza Wholesalers, Burudi Nabwera, Joash Wamangoli and Nathaniel Munoko as his strong men in Bungoma. Mama Ardhi was the strongest of all. She was a widow, strong and beautiful middle-aged lady in Business. She went with the heart of Moi to an extent that mama Ardhi could recommend the sucking or transfer of a district commissioner and Moi would implement the suggestion. Mama Ardhi was a given a government tender to operate a mega municipal sewerage system in Bungoma and also to be paying the salaries to all the primary school teachers in Bungoma district. At the end of every month you could see an eyesore of crestfallen teachers miserably flocking to the shop of Nyanza Whole-salers to pick the old dog-eared bank notes of their salary. Wapanga’na was also one of the strong men gathering momentum towards the stature of Mama Ardhi. Logically Wapanga’na would have done more than Mama Ardhi in this business of sycophancy to Moi because he was a local of Bungoma district, but Mama Ardhi was not. We only blame bad-luck that Wapanga’na succumbed early to violent death.

Moi flew back from Kampala to Nairobi the following day. He never commented about assassination of Wapanga’na some months later, Moi announced that Uganda had sponsored February eighteenth resistance Army (FERA) guerrillas that were out to topple his government. He victimised Patrick Wangamati and Brigadier Augustine Odongo to be the leaders. Bungoma district was declared by the government to be the home of the FERA guerrillas. What followed was a prolonged season of mass arrests and detention of the young people. Patrick Wangamati ran to Uganda for safety. But Moi must have been just a mere alarmist about Brigadier Augustine Odongo. A brief history had it that, Brigadier Odongo had been imprisoned for nine months in Kodhiak for being found driving the farm tractor of Oginga Odinga while having the Selected works, a book by Mao Tse Tung, in his pocket. The time by which Moi was jittering about FERA in Bungoma Brigadier Augustine Odongo was in Congo, fighting along-side Che Que Vera and Laurreant Kabila in the Democratic Forces for Liberation of Congo Zaire, the forces that removed Mobutu from power. Thus, there was no material basis for claiming that Brigadier Augustine Odongo was in Bungoma leading FERA against Moi.

By this time when FERA was the story of the day, things were not very good for Wafula Buke. Especially after the Administration Police Camp in Sirisia was attacked and looted off some sten-guns by a group of unknown men. Wafula Buke remained on the run between Nairobi and Bungoma, he was regularly arrested and detained at police stations. I met Buke one time in Bungoma town then I offered him a hideout at my village cottage in Bokoli . He declined on the ground that he could not do any money-making activity at Bokoli and also, he was by then married in Bokoli village and thus it was shameful for him, so he could not hide in Bokoli. But I asked him why he was on the run, he told me that the police are thinking that maybe he is the one who shot Wapanga’na.

Alexander Opicho writes from, Lodwar, Kenya [email protected]