The Siaya Village That Has Produced Best Legal Brains, From Judge Ouko to PLO Lumumba

/Photos Courtesy

West Yimbo in Usenge, Siaya County. Rings a bell? Maybe not.


Well, it is not a tourist attraction but an administrative unit tucked in Bondo. So why exactly is it a news story? The village boasts some of the most distinguished legal minds in the Country.

There may not be official statistics on the number of current and deceased lawyers in the area, but a rough count seems to lend credence to the claim.

The nomination of Court of Appeal Judge William Ouko as Supreme Court judge has thrust the little-known Yimbo Westward in Siaya county into the limelight as the home of legal brains in Kenya.

The area boasts of judges and legal minds starting with Justice Ouko, who hails from the Goye clan, Court of Appeal Judge Hannah Okwengu from Honge Beach, and retired judge Andrew Hayanga, who hails from Misori.

Dr. Dan Bondi, a former Director of Legal Affairs at the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat, attributes the development to good schools in the area and dedicated teachers.

“We went to Usenge Primary School together with Justice Ouko even though I was ahead of him. I later taught him at the UoN together with Chief Justice nominee Martha Koome in 1983,” recalls Dr. Bondi.

Renowned legal scholar and Pan Africanist Prof. PLO Lumumba; retired justices Andrew Hayanga and Francis Okomo and the late Martin Otieno Opiacha, a distinguished legal brain and one of the lawyers who defended soldiers implicated in the 1982 attempted coup.

Opiacha, is known to have gone against odds to be the Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula, former Imenti Central MP Gitobu Imanyara, and Mr. Odinga’s lawyer in the 2013 presidential election petition, Mr. George Oraro, represented the accused soldiers.

“Mr Opiacha and I were the first people from Usenge area to study law, having studied in the same primary school, Usenge. What William told me is that I inspired him and PLO to study law and we might have contributed in their journey to where they were,” said Dr Bondi.

Usenge is also the home of Prophet David Owuor, Prof Adams Oloo, a political scientist, lecturer at the University of Nairobi and vice chairman of the Building Bridges Initiative Task Force and the late scholar, Prof William Ochieng.

Almost all these prominent people went to Usenge Primary School.

Justice Ouko was born in Siaya County in 1961 and went to Usenge Primary School.

He graduated with a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Nairobi in 1986. The judge joined the Judiciary as District Magistrate II in 1987 and later served as a Deputy registrar, senior Deputy registrar, and principal deputy registrar between 1990 and 1997.

For the next five years up to 2002, he served as Chief Court Administrator and Registrar of the High Court between 2002 and 2004.

From 2004 to 2012, the celebrated judge served in Malindi, Meru, and Nakuru High Courts before he was elevated to the Court of Appeal.

He later graduated with a Master of Arts in criminology and criminal justice from Egerton University in 2016.

In 2018, he was appointed the president of the Court of Appeal until two days ago when he was nominated to the position of the judge of the Supreme Court

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