July 26th 2017

World / Africa & Diaspora

Okumu will be remembered for statecract, peace negotiation

The Bondo based Prof. Okumu single-handedly negotiated peace between Nelson Mandela and the then Zulu leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi, allowing South Africa's independence elections that brought the African National Congress (ANC) to power.

By Soilan Kenanaskenana@kenyafreepress.comTuesday, 08 Nov 2016 20:57 EAT

The death of 81-year-old Washington Okumu Jalang’o, the Kenyan international relations expert who negotiated peace between two black South African leaders factions in the run-up to that country's independence in 1994, has left a vacuum in African diplomacy. The Bondo based Prof. Okumu single-handedly negotiated peace between Nelson Mandela and the then Zulu leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi, allowing South Africa's independence elections that brought the African National Congress (ANC) to power.

After Mandela was released from detention in 1990, the ANC and Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) were engaged in protracted conflict over who was fomenting violence. Prof. Okumu was working for the United Nations during that time. The violence led to an Englishman Michael Schluter suggesting that the professor should broker peace between the two party leaders, that is Mandela (ANC) and Chief Buthelezi (IFP).

Prof. Okumu immersed himself in the negotiations, helping avert a looming bloodbath and in his own word, "Rwanda’s genocide would have been a picnic in comparison to South Africa.” The peace negotiators that were with him, Dr Henry Kissinger, a former US Secretary of State and top-notch diplomat who taught him at Harvard and a former British Prime Minister had given up and flown back to their countries. It took him 5 days to hold peace talks in Johannesburg.

He also trained the first crop of Permanent Secretaries, among them Kenneth Matiba, Job Onyango Omino and Duncan Ndegwa, the first African Governor of the Central Bank of Kenya. Professor and Mandela were close friends from King’s College where he studied economics but when he returned back home, he saw Jaramogi Oginga and Tom Mboya refuse to take over the government when Jomo Kenyatta was on detention.

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