Home biography Powerful minister in kenya who died lonely and poor. Here is why

Powerful minister in kenya who died lonely and poor. Here is why


Former Rangwe MP Prof. Joseph Pius Ouma Muga who died in 2018 ( Photo Courtesy)

Professor Pius Ben Joseph Ouma Muga fits so well in my list of what I consider unpopular or rather unsung heroes amidst us, who despite their very determinedly impactful efforts, illustrious academic career and socio-economic contributions, we least think of them and seldom celebrate them.


Imagine emerging the top student nationally twice, in two separate national exams.. infact then it was regional, the entire East African region. What a feat!

Prof. Ouma Muga, what a manner of a man? impossibly intelligent! Razor-sharp intelligent!

Prof. Ouma Muga was born in Kochia village, Rangwe Subcounty, Homabay County.

The brilliance of Prof. Ouma Muga first caught the public attention when he sat for his Kenya African Secondary School Examination (KASE) at St. Mary’s Yala. He emerged the best student nation-wide

He joined Makerere University where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Geography. Afterwards, he did his Master of Science degree(MSc.) in Australia and Doctor of Philosophy (Phd) in Fluvial Geomorphology in a record time-frame.

Prof Ouma became a lecturer at Makerere in 1966. There, he held a post of Secretary-General and then Chairman of the University Academic Staff Association of Makerere.

Professor Ouma Muga did a lot of research. United Nations(U.N) selected a team of 7 world elite scientists in 1964 and from Africa, Muga was chosen to help Australia in reforming the dry country. Today Australia is a leading world rice exporter.

While we here in Kenya still consume tonnes of imported rice despite the fact that we have enough rains and good soils that can support rice farming in the country.

He is the one who introduced the terminology “GLOBAL WARMING” when he explained the long-term effect of Depletion of the Ozone Layer as a result of greenhouse gas emissions due to 1st world rapid industrialisation. ( this has however been disputed.)

Through him, UNISDR and UNEP have a working Frameworks eg Kyoto Protocol, COP/MOP, HFA1 & now Sendai Framework for DRR.

He wrote a book on Luo History and two others on Evolution of Environment Resource Base in East Africa and English Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Dholuo language.

He became Vice-Chancellor at Moi University and founded the School of Environment Studies at the same institution.

He later ventured into national politics and was elected MP for Rangwe in 1989 on KANU ticket. He was appointed Assistant Minister for Environment. He recaptured the same seat in 1992 on FORD Kenya ticket after the introduction of multi-party democracy. A fallout with Raila Odinga ended up his career. Life is a journey, enjoy it while you can.

In his heydays, he worked in the academy, as a don and later in government positions which he used to advance his passion.

The global warming speech he wrote for President Moi earned the Nyayo philosophy founder a 10-minute standing ovation at the Ozone Layer Conference in Rio de Janeiro in 1989. But ironically this speech sealed his fate in government as he was fired from cabinet and expelled from KANU.

Few Kenyan intellectuals have earned themselves the description of ‘impossibly intelligent,’ ‘towering academic,’ and ‘genius,’ among their peers.

At the global level, he was among the seven world elite scientists whom the United Nations engaged to engineer the Australian Revolution. As a refresher, Australia lies on the leeward side of the Blue Alps Mountain. This naturally destines it to be a pure desert.

The 1964 turnaround made Australia a bustling economic powerhouse. Terminologies like global warming explaining the long-term effect of the depletion of the Ozone Layer are ascribed to the man from Kochia, who severally posited that he had undergone the university of sorrows, faculty of weeping in the department of torture.

At a certain point, Prof. Ouma Muga got jailed for a while on suspicions of clandestine activities bordering on attempted coup on the nascent President Jomo Kenyatta regime.

Political reprisals would later dump this most outstanding scholar to the trenches in a manner that hopefully shall become clearer in the days ahead. In old age, he struggled for the basics of life, endured the pangs of chronic diseases and even had challenges with transport. However, he loved knowledge and impressed upon his friends and acquaintances to help young people acquire education.

Being an outstanding academician, even when in Parliament, Prof. Ouma would champion the advancement of marine science and economic exploitation of the sea through the creation of a university centred on oceanographic research on the Indian Ocean shoreline. He did bring intellectual rigour and enlightenment to parliamentary debates

In my keenest observation and revelation, the reason why Prof. Ouma Muga is a great but uncelebrated academician, a scholar of great renown the world over and an illustrious politician, is majorly because he used his academic wealth in his brains, his clear intelligent conscience and his politically acquired power to serve his country and the world. He didn’t see a public office of privileges and power as a cash cow for one to enrich himself as he renders his subjects poorer day by day.

It is worth noting that Prof. Ouma Muga never bent to corruption and sycophancy. There are occasions when he fearlessly disagreed with President Kenyatta, rattled the old Jomo, he disagreed with President Moi, with Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and so did with Raila Odinga.

He never spoke within the confines of sycophancy. He never used his positions to enrich himself.

He became an M.P and Assistant Cabinet Minister.

But instead of being proud of him as a patriotic citizen that had demonstrated an admirable integrity in public service leadership, competence and hands-on result oriented performance, Kenyans instead mocked him that he died poor yet he had very good opportunities to enrich himself. He was struggling even with hospital bills, with very few people coming to his aid.

Prof. Muga died a poor and lonely man at the ripe age of 82 years. It was a sad death for the man who had conquered the world as an academic of good standing.

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