Moi’s Minister Who Won Elections While in Prison

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    Former Foreign Affairs Minister Dr. Zachary Onyonka addresses the media in Helsinki, Finland in 1987
    File
  • In 1983, former Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr Zachary Onyonka, became the first Kenyan to win a seat while in detention. This was one of the rare feats he set in his political career.

    While campaigning for re-election as the area Member of Parliament for Kitutu West, the late Onyonka was arrested over the death of a rival supporter at the Kisumu - Migori junction. 

    The agitated man, Ouru Ndege, was reported to have been shot by Onyonka’s bodyguards after he reportedly confronted the aspirant with a knife. 

    This was after the late minister arrived at the venue hours after his opponent, John Bosco, had addressed his supporters in the area. 

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    An undated photo of the late Foreign Affairs Minister, Zachary Onyonka
    File

    Reports alleged that the residents were incited to revolt against the then area MP. 

    Onyonka was forced to scamper for safety after chaos ensued. A matatu driver identified as Joseph Nyambariga rescued the late government official and drove him to a chief’s camp at Suneka. 

    Police officers, later on, picked the MP and his entourage from the camp and held them at a police station in Kodiaga where they recorded statements over the incidents. 

    The late Minister was charged with murder and was detained at Kodiaga Prison for nearly six months. As politicians campaigned for the 1983 elections, Onyonka rallied his fans from inside prison and was re-elected. 

    He was released after the prosecution lacked sufficient evidence against him. One year later, the late Mzee Daniel Moi appointed him as the Foreign Affairs Minister. 

    Onyonka was one of the beneficiaries of the late Tom Mboya’s 1960’s student airlift program. He was sponsored to undertake a Bachelor of Arts course in the US. 

    While studying abroad, he extended his studies at Syracuse University where he graduated with a Masters degree and later on a PhD from the Rockefeller Foundation. 

    After returning to Kenya, Onyonka served in the Moi administration at the Foreign Affairs, Economic Planning, Information and Broadcasting, Health, Research, Science and Technology dockets. 

    He also became one of the longest-serving in Kenya. Onyonka was also an entrepreneur who ran a bakery firm and a school in Kisii. 

    The former minister passed away in 1996 while undergoing treatment in London, UK. 

    His son, Kitutu Chache South MP, Richard Onyonka, followed in his footsteps after he was elected into Parliament in 2007. The young Onyonka also won the subsequent 2013 and 2017 elections.

    Undated image of the Late retired President Daniel Moi
    Undated image of the Late retired President Daniel Moi
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