Remembering Wamalwa: Eloquent, Witty VP Who Loved Watching Cartoons

Michael Kijana Wamalwa.
  • The name Michael Kijana Wamalwa will always ring a bell in the minds of Kenyans as his memory lives on 18 years after his untimely death on August 23, 2003.

    Michel Wamalwa was born in 1944 and grew into an intelligent young man. A former head boy in school, Wamalwa won a scholarship to study abroad.

    He returned to the country with a law degree from Cambridge University and a degree from the London School of Economics.

    Michael Kijana Wamalwa.

    Wamalwa launched his political career soon after his return. He earned the name ‘Kijana’ after he attempted to vie for a parliamentary seat in 1974 at 30 years of age. 

    The community downplayed his quest for the parliamentary seat, terming him too young to become an MP.

    Kijana Wamalwa will always be remembered as a selfless leader who immensely contributed to the second liberation of the country.

    Wamalwa and other young leaders dubbed ‘Young Turks’ formed Forum For Democracy Restoration (FORD) and continued to push for constitutional reforms.

    The eloquent yet soft-spoken leader mobilized other members of the opposition to unite and kick out the Moi government.

    “The only way to free our country from tremendous poverty and total collapse of all institutions economic, civil, judicial and in every other way is for us to come together as wise people, work together, fight together to remove this government from power as soon as possible,” Kijana Wamalwa once stated.

    He also often challenged members of Kanu who advocated for constitutional reforms to ditch the political outfit.

    “You cannot beat Moi in his own kitchen. He knows where he puts the knives,” he cheekily told them, in one of the many witty statements and quotable quotes attributed to him.

    Despite his growing popularity then, a selfless Wamalwa stated that he would support the candidate who would be fielded as the Narc flag bearer.

    He was rewarded for his endless efforts to push for constitutional reforms when the new regime took over.

    Mwai Kibaki, then president-elect, appointed Wamalwa as his Vice-President (now Deputy President) in December 2002.

    However, his tenure as VP was short-lived as he passed on six months into his appointment. He passed on at the Royal Free Hospital in London after battling kidney disease.

    During an interview with a local TV station, his brother Eugene Wamalwa, now Cabinet Secretary for Devolution, stated that the senior Wamalwa was disappointed that his dream of a free Kenya had not been realised.

    He argued that the corruption that he and other leaders had fought so hard against in the previous regime had been carried onto the new regime, following the Goldenberg scandal.

    Notably, his family ordered for the “retrieval of his spirit” which they claimed was “wandering aimlessly as he had died on foreign soil”. His younger brother Eugene, together with a bunch of Luhya Elders, travelled all the way to London to “retrieve his wandering spirit” in a box.

    Kijana Wamalwa will always be remembered for his generosity. The late Wamalwa will also be remembered for his love for cartoons as he was a big fan of Tom and Jerry.

    Aside from politics, Wamalwa lived a life as he fancied good suits and sports cars. Could he be the glue that Abaluhya miss in their quest for elusive Luhya unity?

    NARC Leaders Charity Ngilu, Michael Kijana Wamalwa, Mwai Kibaki,Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka and George Saitoti Announce their Alliance at Uhuru Park in October 2002.