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JEAN-MARIE SERONEY

Jean-Marie Seroney will forever remain one of Kenya's greatest champions for democracy for having had the courage to criticize both the Kenyatta and Moi governments at a time when such criticism was almost tantamount to suicide. A few years after Kenya's independence in 1963, the country was firmly united under President Jomo Kenyatta and supported him euphorically, often opting to ignore his government's shortcomings. While some say the lack of major political dissent during Kenyatta's Presidency was as a result of the desire by Kenyans to ensure peace and tranquility during the initial years of statehood, many others will tell you it was simply out of fear of reprisals from the very powerful Kenyatta.

Kenyatta was not only considered a father figure by most Kenyans, but a liberator too. Needless to say, the political capital he reaped from this was unsurmountable making him extremely powerful. That politicians like Seroney even mastered up enough courage to stand up against Kenyatta's government is something that still baffles many Kenyans. The other Kenyan politicians enjoying almost similar post-humous celebrity for their defiance include the late Josiah Mwangi Kariuki, popularly known as JM, The late Bishop Alexander Kipsang' Muge, and the late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. JM died under mysterious circumstances in what many Kenyans still suspect was an assasination for his opposition to President Kenyatta's administration.

Its important to note here that Jean-Marie Seroney hailed from the Nandi community in Kenya, which historically has been a bedrock of brave, principled and fiercely independent leaders. Their lineage goes way back to none other than the legendary Koitalel arap Samoei, the Nandi leader who put up a spirited fight against the British colonialists when they first arrived in the East African region towards the end of the 19th century. Other notable Nandi leaders known to exhibit similar attributes include the late Bishop Alexander Kipsang' Muge, Kipruto arap Kirwa, John Sambu, William Ruto, just to mention but a few. The Nandis are a subset of the much larger Kalenjin community which includes other groups like the Keiyo and Tugen among others. Eventhough President Moi also hails from the Kalenjin community(a Tugen), his Nandi brothers have not been the least bit hesitant to bring to his attention issues they feel his administration has failed to address.

Jean-Marie Seroney was born in 1925 at Kapsabet, Kenya. He attended the Government African School at Kapsabet from 1938-1940, after which he proceeded to the prestigious Alliance High School. He stayed at Alliance from 1941-1944 and then enrolled at the Makerere University College in Kampala, Uganda in 1945. He left Makerere in 1946 and in 1947 proceeded to Allahabad University in India to pursue a Degree in Law. After four years at Allahabad University, he went to London in 1952 where he enrolled at Inner Temple College. He stayed at Inner Temple fro 1952-1955 and was called to the Bar. On his return to Kenya in 1956, Seroney joined the Registrar-General's office as a Legal Assistant.

It was not until 1961 that Seroney ventured into politics proper when he was elected to the Legislative Council(LEGCO). In 1963 he was elected Member of Parliament for Nandi North Constituency on a KADU ticket. Seroney got in trouble in 1969 when he published the controversial "Nandi Declaration", a document which challenged the the Kenyatta administration's sale of Nandi land to non-Kalenjin settlers. He was charged with sedition, convicted and fined. In 1975, he got in trouble again when as Deputy Speaker of Parliament, he is said to have made remarks very critical of the ruling party KANU. This led to his detention the same year. He was released from detention in 1978 and in 1980, with President Moi in power, he was appointed Chairman of the National Development Bank of Kenya. He held this position until he died in December 1982.

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