Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Okiya Okoiti Omtata - Playwright Playing it Right for Civil Rights

The above stills are from a video clip that captured Okoiti Omtata when he chained himself to rails at the Kenya Police Headquarters in January 2008 while protesting against civilian killings by security agents. After making a few spirited pronouncements for justice in the wake of the then spiraling events of violence, he was unchained by a contingent of policemen who later charged him with “attempted suicide” besides the usual “causing a disturbance”. So, while confronting the police head-on is widely viewed in these parts as courting trouble, the police themselves actually see civilian protest right outside their headquarters as “attempted suicide”!

Is Okoiti Omtata a suicidal man? Yes, if you are inclined to view challenges in the murderous bent of our disingenuous police force. That the force found it necessary to dispatch a whole contingent of armed policemen to ‘crash’ a single man, and in the full glare of media cameras is indicator enough of absolute lack of innovativeness at Vigilance house. Faced with the creative prowess of one Okoiti Omtata, the collective genius of the top cops collapsed and they resorted to the traditional path of exhibiting raw power. And it did not scare the man of courage one bit. It did not scare him before and he seems to be built for the long haul. Okoiti is not afraid to exercise his right to expression and no amount of intimidation has thus far deterred him. This must surely irk the pretenders to almightiness who continue to warm their backsides at Vigilance House.

In August 2007, the last days of the 9th parliament, Okoiti was among a group of activists who spent several days in police custody for taking part in a demonstration against the MPs plan to award themselves a Ksh 6million send off package at the dissolution of the house. A seemingly fed up Judge ordered their release on the technicality of having been held for over 24 hours before being presented in court.

In March 2008, Okoiti was amongst members of the National Civil Societies Congress who stormed an ECK conference at a Mombasa hotel to protest against the commissions handling of last year’s general election. The stunned Chairman Kivuitu offered no jokes this time but stayed put in his seat as the hotel’s management mobilized their security guards for a fun day as they jostled and pushed with the activists.

Last week, the cops enthusiastically landed on him and his colleagues again when they took to a procession calling for resignation of Minister Kimunya. And again, they ended up with body injuries, got locked up and were later released on cash bail and are awaiting court cases.

Okoiti was born in Busia district, Kenya in 1964. He studied his ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels at St. Peter’s Amukura from where he met the requirements for university entrance. He, however, turned down an admission offer to study for a Commerce degree at the University of Nairobi and opted instead to join St Augustine’s Seminary in Mabanga to pursue priesthood. He left the Seminary with a Diploma in Philosophy and after a brief teaching stint in Busia, joined the Kenya Polytechnic to study automotive engineering. And what is Okoiti’s favorite subject? Not CRE actually, but Mathematics. Oh yes, of which he is said to enjoy calculus immensely.

Besides solving equations for x and y, or maybe because of doing so, Okoiti is also talented with creative writing skills that have seen him pen a number of plays. These include Luanda Magere, Voice of the People, Damn Patriotism, Taken for Granted, Chains of Junkdom and Cosmetic. Luanda Magere in particular enjoyed a long run in 1991 to nationwide acclaim. He has also written a novel, A Brood of Vipers, and is said to be working on compilations of various cultural practices in western Kenya.

Meanwhile, armed with a rosary and the occasional large chain-works, Okoiti will not shy away from telling off the politicians, quislings and their hirelings right to their face. He continues to keep vigil for that which is in the interest of public good. A thespian, activist and a man of courage.

1 comment:

Taabu said...

Okoiti is proof that in a nation singularly driven by greed some people still keep it sane with their heads held high. He has a belief and apppears ready to die for teh same. While at it his biggest strength lies in using his head and led by the basic tenets-keepingit sinply and doable.

No wonder he runs around cops with no arms. Give it to teh chap he has no space for air in between his ears-it is packed. If only we would have such handful Kenyans? That would be a reincarnation and an Obama wave would be ours to live. Lakini wapi? Most would see his O name and dismiss him as a another typical whinning Luo whom is not. We remain the poorer for mediocrity and living below par.