By Njoki Karuoya
Tomorrow afternoon (Wednesday), the late Mary Loiriiro Ngoyoni, widow to the late Titus Ngoyoni (former Laisamis MP and assistant minister for Regional Development) will be put to rest next to her husband’s grave in Kargi, Marsabit. I still can hardly believe she is gone, barely three years after her beloved died in the horrific plane crash in Marsabit that also took the lives of 13 other people including five MPs. The deceased were on a noble peace-making mission to the northern frontier.
With Mary’s death last week Thursday at Mater Hospital, five children between the ages of 22 and 11 became total orphans, lost in a world where modern challenges keep people so busy. I fear we may not have enough time to watch over them and ensure their lives continue just like their late parents would have wanted. But we have to make time, no matter what.
Support for husband
Narc-Kenya chairperson, Martha Karua, was among the first people to visit the Ngoyoni family home and condole with the children.
Mary was Narc Kenya’s chairperson for Laisamis constituency, the national deputy secretary of political affairs and a member of the women’s technical committee.
Consequently, Mary was a member of the party’s National Executive Council. Till her death, Mary held the Gichugu MP in high regard and considered her a political mentor.
Other dignitaries who expressed shock at Mary’s quick demise include Laisamis MP Joseph Lekuton, nominated MP Maison Leshoomo, former Samburu East MP Samuel Leshore, former Naivasha MP Jane Kihara and Dibow Hussein.
I was fortunate to know Mary. In the nine years we knew each other, Mary was a source of strength and inspiration to many, a woman who did not allow much to faze her even when family and political challenges seemed insurmountable. Everything she did was for the sake of her five children. She would have given her life for them. She was so looking forward to see her first-born daughter, Cecilia, graduate with honours from Catholic University.
When I first met Mary, she and her family lived in Isiolo. It is from here that her husband Titus launched a very successful campaign to contest the Laisamis seat. Many were surprised with the ease with which he won in his first foray into elective politics.
Goodbye my dear sister
What many people didn’t know was that during his campaign, Mary traversed the harsh and rough Marsabit terrain to drum up support for her husband from the women. She already knew many of them, thanks to the various interactions and activities she routinely engaged with them.
The campaign strategy for this power-couple was interesting. While Titus sought votes in one location, Mary went to another to do the same, effectively killing two birds with one stone. In a constituency as vast, harsh and sparsely populated as Laisamis, this was a brilliant tactic and victory was sweet.
Mary was, therefore, not really a rookie when she decided to contest her late husband’s seat following his horrific death on the hills of Marsabit. Having watched her husband literally give himself to his constituents to the extent that he died fighting for their rights, Mary believed it was only fair that she complete his mission and vision, which was to see the people of Laisamis rescued from the crushing clench of poverty into humane life.
Mary wanted to develop the constituency and its people by building more schools, boreholes, health centres and infrastructure. What pained her most, though, were the tribal and clan wars that often resulted in the massacre of women and children. She shed tears every time she received news of such deaths and her blood boiled when she learnt of planned attacks on her people.
Mary became the first woman in this northern frontier to take up elective politics. The deep cultural beliefs of the Rendille, Samburu and Turkana people, who largely constitute Laisamis, do not accept women as leaders. Mary knew she was up for an uphill task but, with the blessings of the Rendille clan elders, she took up the fight.
Although she lost the battle by about 800 votes, Mary made a lasting statement — that with a collective change of attitude, women too, can make it as leaders.
Goodbye my dear sister. You were taken from us too soon. We shall miss you forever. Rest in peace.