With barely 10 months until the August 2022 General Election, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party in Bungoma is revisiting an old ‘prophecy’ that the leadership of the Luhya nation will first come from the lake.
That has been read to mean ODM leader Raila Odinga.
The prophecy, made by Dini Ya Msambwa sect leader Prophet Elijah Masinde wa Nameme, said that political power for the Luhya community, and in particular the Bukusu sub-tribe, will come through Lake Victoria.
Masinde made the prophecy when Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Masinde Muliro and Michael Wamalwa Kijana were fighting for the ‘second liberation’.
Keen to exploit the prophecy and hoping it is fulfilled in 2022, ODM leaders in Bungoma have started rebuilding a mausoleum in honour of the prophet.
Led by branch chairman Ali Balala Machani, the officials said that Mr Odinga had postponed a planned visit to the mausoleum until the graveyard is refurbished.
Mr Balala, also MCA for Maraka ward in Webuye East constituency, said that Masinde's prophecy was about to come true and a Luhya person would be President after Mr Odinga, who he said was best placed to win in 2022.
"A prophecy can take even 100 years but it will finally come to pass and that's why we are appealing to our people in Luhya land to support Raila in next year's polls to become the fifth President of this country and draw the prophecy by Masinde nearer,” he said.
Mr Masinde, who regarded himself as a prophet, founded his fundamentalist sect in 1942 as a direct challenge to the authorities.
He urged his followers to destroy their identity cards and not pay taxes.
He spent much of his life in prison as a result of his activities.
Masinde, said to have been born around 1910-1912 in Kimilili, Bungoma, started out as a footballer, who captained a team in Kimilili.
In 1944, he led localised defiance campaigns against the colonial authorities, and was imprisoned many times for his activism.
At one time, he was kept at Mathare Mental Hospital and in Lamu.
Different stories have been told about him.
He is said to have once kicked a ball to the sky during a football match in Kakamega and the ball never came back to the ground.
When he was released from the Kapenguria prison, he revived Musambwa (Luhya word for the spirit of a people), and gained huge followings in Western Kenya, Pokot, Turkana, Baringo and even Uganda.
Upon Kenya’s independence, Masinde’s troubles with the authorities did not stop.
He was detained by the government of Jomo Kenyatta for almost 15 years.
He had been accused of fomenting religious hatred.
He was released by the government of Daniel arap Moi in 1978.
But soon after, the Moi government also arrested him following his clash with traffic police officers in Webuye and Kitale.
Masinde remained defiant and always questioned Kenya’s post-independence government, especially on the issue of land distribution and citizens’ rights.
He died in 1987 aged 75.
Before Masinde died, he pointed out to his elder son the spot where he wanted to be buried. He wanted a huge sycamore tree uprooted to make way for his grave.
The family, however, decided to bury him elsewhere. But they were thwarted when the spot they had chosen turned out to be a hidden grave.
They took this as a bad omen and proceeded to bury him at the site of the sycamore tree.
During a visit to his home, Mr Balala, the second-term Maraka MCA, appealed to President Uhuru Kenyatta to consider helping the freedom fighter's family, which he said was languishing in abject poverty.
"The late prophet had contributed a lot towards the freedom of this country, so his family deserves to be recognised and compensated like others across the country," he said.
Masinde, he said, was given the name Elijah by the community because of his ability to prophecy and foresee like the biblical Elijah.
"He was a radical man who was a talented footballer before taking the cause of an anti-colonial fighter and a prophet," he said.
"It would be a very wise and noble thing, just like freedom fighters in other parts of the country have been recognised and their families assisted, for our government to also honour this great man and uplift his family."
He said that many people celebrate Masinde but his family has been forgotten and abandoned.
Mr Balala said Mr Odinga had in the past helped two sons of Masinde to get jobs in the local government.
Mr Balala said that lights will be installed at the mausoleum, the grave and gates refurbished and painted, and the grass cut ahead of Mr Odinga’s visit.
ODM nominated MCA Hilda Sianga said that the Luhya should not ignore Masinde's prophetic messages.
“The prophets of the past had very special messages that they would receive directly from God, and Elijah himself said that for the Western region's national leadership to pass, it will first come from the lake. Who are we to ignore that?” she said.
Unless the Luhya recognise that prophecy, she said, they will never become leaders of the country.
Three of six surviving widows of Masinde, led by Gladys Nakhumicha Masinde, said that they were wallowing in abject poverty and appealed to President Kenyatta to come to their aid.
"We are facing a myriad of challenges in our lives and if you look at us, you will pity us, because we do not look like the widows of a hero who fought for the independence of this country,” she said.
She said the widows and their families had been neglected.
"At some point while he was in a prison in Kapenguria, Elijah saved the life of President Uhuru's father Mzee Jomo Kenyatta by giving him a timely prophecy on an assassination attempt that made Kenyatta move aside, and a bullet missed him by a whisker and we want Uhuru to remember that,” she said.
She said that they live in dilapidated houses and even putting food on the table is a big challenge for them.
“We thank Raila for being in the frontline to keep Masinde’s legacy alive by refurbishing his grave, and we also believe he will remember our plight," she said.
"We are just appealing for compensation because our late husband had contributed a lot towards the freedom of our country, but we have been left languishing in poverty.”
Masinde's eldest son, Richard Wafula Masinde, hailed Mr Odinga for his contribution in the refurbishing of his father's mausoleum.
He recalled his father’s prophecy about leadership coming from the great waters of Lake Victoria and urged residents to believe and adhere to it.
This comes even as Mr Odinga tries to make inroads in the vote-rich Western region as his influence in the area has waned somewhat.
The region has supported Mr Odinga’s bid for State House in three consecutive elections - in 2007, 2013 and 2017.
The ODM leader was backed by Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula, until the two fell out in 2018 when the Bungoma senator was ousted as minority leader in the Senate and was replaced by Siaya Senator James Orengo after 2017 polls.
Mr Odinga has been banking on governors Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega), Wycliffe Wangamati (Bungoma), Sospeter Ojamoong (Busia), and Wilber Ottichilo (Vihiga) and ODM secretary-general Edwin Sifuna to campaign for him in the region ahead of the 2022 polls.