Raila Odinga’s ‘Jowi! Jowi!’ chant during Moi burial explained


Raila Odinga's 'Jowi! Jowi!' chant during Moi burial explained
Raila Odinga speaks during the State burial of Daniel Moi in Kabarak on February 12, 2020.

In Summary

  •  Mr. Odinga, while concluding his near 10-minute speech, requested for his fly whisk and said he would be sending off Moi like “a true African.”

Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Wednesday cracked up mourners during the State burial of late president Daniel Moi in Kabarak when he broke into song in his vernacular Luo language.

Mr. Odinga, while concluding his near 10-minute speech, requested for his fly whisk and said he would be sending off Moi like “a true African.”

He then chanted “Yawa, par uru lowo, lowo wang’e tek. Yawa, par uru lowo, lowo wang’e tek. Eeee, wuoyi, gimichamo e mari, gimodong’ to kik igen. Eeee, wuoyi, gimichamo e mari, gimodong’ to kik igen. Jowi! Jowi! Jowi! Jowi! Jowi!”

Which loosely translates to: “Please, remember the soil, the soil is stubborn. Only consider what you have eaten or what you have, forget about whatever remains or that which you don’t have.”

‘Jowi’ is a term used among the Luo community to mourn the passing on of a fierce warrior or a respected member of society.

The chant, coincidentally, was the same one Mr. Odinga’s late father – Jaramogi Oginga Odinga – broke into when sending off the country’s founding president, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, following his death in 1978.

Mr. Odinga also recalled the first time, while still a toddler, he met Moi who came to visit his father – Jaramogi – at their home in Bondo.

According to the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party boss, Moi and Jaramogi were – during that period – among only 8 elected Africans to the LegCo.

He then compared that first meeting to the two final separate instances he saw Moi within the past three years.

“I visited him twice here on two occasions; the first one on April 12, 2018, I came with George Khaniri and Abdulswamad Sharrif Nassir. And he told me ‘I’m sorry, you lost your son Fidel.’ We sat and talked a lot, and later on we ate meat with him,” recalled Mr. Odinga.

“He also told me that when he came to the wedding of my other son, Junior, he promised him a cow and he had not yet come for them. He said ‘tell him to come for the cow, it is still here.’ So Junior will come for the cow.”

“The second time I came was May 5 last year. I came with my brother Dr. Oburu. He narrated a lot to me, including something he did with Jaramogi that he said only (Siaya Senator James) Orengo knows about.”

The AU High Representative for Infrastructure also read a paragraph from the late Jaramogi’s book in which he described Moi as “a giraffe with a long neck that saw from afar.”

“Moi could predict what was going to happen in the future and warn them so that they became careful as they were confronting the imperialists,” he narrated.

He further dismissed talk about the three perceived political dynasties in Kenya saying Moi, Kenyatta, and Jaramogi all worked hard from poverty to reach where they did.

“He (Moi) came from poverty, just like Mzee Kenyatta also came from poverty, Jaramogi also came from poverty. So nobody can therefore talk about dynasty,” he said.

“We had a history with him of love-hate. Eventually we met here. He sent Reuben Chesire to go and look for me, and we came with Job Omino, and we had a very long discussion here until we said we forgive each other, and we shook hands. That was the first handshake that I did.”

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Story By Ian Omondi
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