Luo Council of Elders faction vows to hold parallel election of new chairman

Ker Nyandiko Ongadi

Members of the Luo Council of Elders led by Ker Nyandiko Ongadi during a meeting at the Alaw Rachuonyo Social Hall in Kendu Bay town on June 11, 2023. 

Photo credit: George Odiwuor | Nation Media Group

A rival group of elders is planning a parallel meeting to counter ongoing preparations by elders allied to Azimio leader Raila Odinga to elect the new chairman of the Luo Council of Elders next Saturday.

The election of the new chairman, known as Ker, will take place in Homa Bay County at a meeting to be attended by Mr Odinga and several governors from Nyanza region.

According to Homa Bay Governor Gladys Wanga, the unveiling of the new Ker will be the culmination of activities marking the Luo Socio cultural event, dubbed 'Piny Luo', scheduled for 29 June to 1 July.

The splinter group of elders allied to Mr Nyandiko Ongadi said they would go ahead with their plans to unveil their chairman.

The elders, who have publicly declared their support for President William Ruto and the Kenya Kwanza administration, said they would go to court to challenge the election of a new chairman to replace Opiyo Otondi, who died on February 17.

Mr Samuel Ogira, a Luo elder from Karachuonyo, said the Council of Elders was a body that should bring the community together.

He explained: "The chairman does not earn a salary. It is just a body that is supposed to lead the community in a particular direction."

 Mr Ongadi, who has opposed the planned election by elders who have identified Mr Odinga as their patron, said he was the bona fide Ker and was in possession of the group's registration documents.

Even as the controversy over the election plan erupted, a 13-member panel was selected to name the next chairman of the Luo Council of Elders.

The elders said Mr Odinga would be given the opportunity to make his proposal, but he would not be allowed to dictate to the elders who would be the Ker.

The acting secretary of the Council of Elders, Mr Barack Tunya, said the task of electing the new chairman would be left to a committee drawn from the council of elders.

"Mr Odinga is our patron, but the task of selecting a new chairman belongs solely to the elders of the council," said Mzee Tunya.

According to Mr Tunya, seven members had expressed interest in the job.

The seven are Mzee Owino Nyadi (council executive director), Mr Odungi Randa, a long-time aide to Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Mr Adera Osawa (secretary general), Mr Owino Ombuor (outgoing Migori treasurer), Mr Adiambo Lomo, Mr James Ayagab and Mr John Omolo.

"We have eight candidates but only seven have submitted their applications. All interested candidates should submit their written expressions of interest by next Thursday, 29 June," said Mzee Tunya.

Mr Tunya has also revealed that there are a number of qualifications for one to be elected as a new Ker, including having reached the age of 65.

Other qualifications include being a Luo by birth, having a well-established and respected home and having proven leadership skills.

"We can only judge leadership skills if you have been part of the council," said Mzee Tunya, adding that all applications must be in writing.

Mzee Tunya also revealed that a key factor to consider in electing the new chairman is the regional balance of Nyanza.

While the previous chairman was from Central Nyanza, there is a likelihood that the next candidate will come from South Nyanza, which is made up of Homa Bay and Migori counties.

"On the due date, the selected panel is expected to go through each application to confirm if they meet the leadership standards, the post of Ker is not meant for campaigning or electioneering, the panel will review the expertise of the candidates and agree on the next leader," Mr Tunya said.

On Thursday, Governor Wanga announced that the next Luo council chairman will be unveiled on 1 July.