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Luo Council of Elders Chairman dies

Long serving chairman of the Luo Council of Elders (Ker) Willis Opiyo Otondi is dead.

The 98-year-old tribal chief, popularly known as Ker, passed died at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital in Kisumu where he was admitted.

The cause of his death could not be immediately established by the time going to press.

Otondi who is the ninth chairman at the Luo Council of Elders hails from Nyahera in Kisumu West Sub-County and has been at the helm of the traditional Luo leadership for over a decade.

He was on the forefront in rallying the Luo people to foster peaceful coexistence with other communities and at one time led the council of elders to trace their roots in South Sudan where they were hosted by President Salva Kiir during a tour that lasted eleven days.

During his reign, he championed for socioeconomic, cultural and political interests of the community besides reaching out to other elders and leaders across the country to foster national cohesion.

His reign as Ker was however characterized by protracted battles over the leadership for years with a rival faction led by Nyandiko Ongadi who hails from Homa Bay pushing to have the kingpin title.

Another controversy has been the ownership of Ofafa Memorial Hall where the Otondi-led council offices are domiciled.

Azimio leader Raila Odinga has eulogized Ker Otondi as a distinguished member of the society.

“Otondi was a pillar of unity in the community and a leader who served with decorum and dedication,” Raila said in an official statement.

Other regional leaders who sent their messages of condolences included Kisumu County Governor Prof. Anyang Nyong’o who described Ker Otondi as a peace ambassador and family patriarch.

Ker Otondi will be remembered for his political wisdom and rare negotiation skills that have helped the community to build bridges with other regions in the country,” he said.

He added that the late Otondi was insightful and a great defender of the Luo community’s political, cultural and economic interests.

Affirming this position, Kisumu County Speaker Elisha Oraro termed Ker Otondi as an intelligent, dependable elder and wise counselor whose role in uniting the nation shall be dearly missed.

“He was a custodian of the rich Luo culture and tirelessly championed for the utilization of culture in promoting peaceful coexistence within the community and the entire nation,” he said.

During the formation of the Luo Union in 1947, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga birthed the concept of Luo Ker with him becoming the first Ker. It was formed to unite all people of the Luo descent in East Africa.

In 1957, as per the Luo Council of Elders traditions, Odinga relinquished the position to venture into national politics paving the way for another tribal leader to be elected.

Mzee Odungi Randa, former aide to the late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, remembered Ker Otondi  as a peace-loving person who pioneered the famous handshake between the immediate former President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila in March 2018.

“He was the first chief of the Ojola area in Kisumu before Jomo Kenyatta’s administration and he promoted cultural visits to our Kikuyu and Kisii brothers to enhance coexistence,” Mzee Randa recalled.

As burial preparations kick off, Randa assured the community that the Luo Council of Elders constitution shall be followed to the letter in the election of Ker Otondi’s successor.

Other roles of the Luo Council of Elders include resolving cultural issues affecting the people, arbitrating on emerging disputes and offering blessings to individuals and politicians.

The Council also metes out disciplinary action against those who go against the Luo culture and customs.

By Rolex Omondi

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