My first encounter with Ambassador Denis Daudi Afande was in the 1980s in the heyday of Undugu Society of Kenya—the brainchild of maverick guitar-playing Catholic priest Arnold Grol. I was visiting Undugu offices across the road from City Stadium for a story I was writing when I was introduced to ‘Balozi’—then Kenya’s ambassador to the United States of America.
The ambassador’s effusive warmth and inability to suppress his smile caught me. There was a radiance about Balozi that must have pulled street boys to him. At that time, he was Undugu’s board chairperson.
Balozi breathed his last on Sunday, June 6, at Avenue Hospital in Kisumu, where he was undergoing intensive care following a senseless boda boda accident the previous month right outside his home on the Kisumu-Busia highway, testimony to boda boda recklessness.
Retired Nairobi Baptist Church Pastor John Gichinga remembers Ambassador Afande for his simplicity, humility and integrity. “He didn’t care at all that you called him, ‘Denis’ or ‘Ambassador’. He was very comfortable living in Magiwa, Golf Course, despite having served in such prestigious stations as our embassy in DC,” he told Nation.
Import duty-free cars
He was “above all rebuke as we traversed this country… staying in hotels and guest houses as members of the Standing Committee on Human Rights,” the pastor adds. “While some were asking that we be allowed to import duty-free cars, he was one of those who strongly opposed the idea, despite his driving his faithful no longer young Volvo.
He had no qualms travelling back and forth to Matayos [his rural home] on public transport despite his status. Kenya would be so far ahead if we had more men and women of integrity like Denis Afande serving in high offices.”
Pastor Gichinga’s colleague and legal officer in the Standing Committee, Catherine Mumma, affirms the cleric’s image of the former envoy, who also served Kenya in the United Kingdom and the United Nations Mission in Geneva, among other stations. “He knew all the staff by name. He would stop to greet every staff member to find out how they were doing—the guard, the tea girl, the clerk, the colleague’s driver…” She gives a peek at Balozi’s work ethic: “He was punctual for all the meetings he attended.”
After the committee’s inaugural meeting, Balozi advised the chairperson, Prof Onesmus Mutungi, who has since died, and his team “to stick to the implementation of their mandate and to use the opportunity to advise the government on the importance of human rights,” Ms Mumma recalls. She remembers the former envoy standing by her when she felt threatened by a top State House official because she had recommended his being investigated for abuse of office.
Afande has been mourned by President Kenyatta as “a pioneer public servant and diplomat”, who “helped position Kenya on the global map as a steadfast Republic”. He served on various boards, including the Capital Markets Authority, Kenya Power, Kenya Airways, and Standard Chartered Bank.
The alumnus of Mang’u High School and the University of Nairobi, died at 84. He will be buried on Saturday at his Matayos home. He is survived by his widow, Julita, and children Caroline, Edwin, Konrad, Belinda and Stephen. May his spirit of service inspire an integrity-starved Kenya.