TRIBUTE TO THE LATE BENSON OSUMBA, CHAIR MUUNGANO WA WANAVIJIJI
"Benson Erick Osumba dedicated his life to work for the community as an Enumerator, Leader, Mentor Mediator and an Advisor. He had the gift of singling out the potential of people, and gave them the space to do their thing for Muungano wa Wanavijiji and International assignments on behalf of Slum Dwellers International (SDI). He believed and encouraged the people who had kept the spirit and faith to serve settlements under siege, until they had no choice but to believe in themselves."
In handling his duties as the Chairperson of Muungano wa Wanavijiji, and the Kenyan SDI Alliance as a whole, Benson would diligently attend community and institutional meetings, the weekly Monday meeting. In appearance just a tedious reporting of the week’s progress of the federation and other official engagements with SDI, in reality it is an impeccable tool for accountability, transparency, and inclusive decision-making process. Such forums with Benson built exclusive platforms for debate, disagreement, acknowledgement of failures, and celebration of Muungano‘s breakthroughs in addressing the Urban Agenda.
In executing his work as the Leader of the Kenyan SDI Alliance, Benson was hands-off kind of a guy, though his value for work ethic was really admirable. He was gentle, calm and collected but with equal demeanor he was as firm and upright. Muungano’s objective was clear: advocacy for the poor. The strategy was simple — engages eviction proponents head-on based on the principle of law and justice, conduct enumerations, mapping and engage his people and stakeholders on the next course of action.
Benson took life in his stride and appreciated what life offered him. Alongside countless people from Muungano wa Wanavijiji, Civil Society, Global networks, community-based organizations, Benson traversed the country and the world, trying to conceptualize and support poor peoples' initiatives.
His calm nature was coupled by a jovial tone, many thought it was a weakness but indeed it was a gift that enabled him negotiate with the Kenyan Government on the needs of the poor to be enjoined in the planning participatory process, it was above all an opportunity to make connections and sign MOUs with various stakeholders thus sustaining a resilient urban poor people. It is this people-building that was the real and lasting investment.
The need to consult and bring all on board was indeed strength for the federation and the support NGOs, Muungano Support Trust and Akiba Mashinani to function as a unit. His master of the principles of Communication and Mobilisation kept the federation on the loop, from the expansive Coastal towns of Mombasa, to the Waters of Kisumu, to the ranges of Rift valley, to the cool waters of Nairobi and the Echelons of the globe, Benson’s leadership was felt.
The 2004-2011 eviction spree by the lords of impunity in Kenya, government and private interests alike, was addressed by the civil society, Muungano wa Wanavijiji spearheading grassroots initiatives, to force government to stop forced evictions and address the issue on a bottom up approach.
And now the National Eviction guidelines that help caution the poor from arbitrary eviction has been realized. Secure tenure for the urban is also being realized. The federation is devoted to conduct city profiles and mapping to support shack dwellers to advocate for land title in areas such as Kilifi( Mibuyu Saba), Thika (Kiandutu) just to name but a few.
Despite dejection in the face of the movement, Benson was always remained optimistic.
In reflecting on Benson’s life and work, Jockin Arputhum shared the following:
"I remember Benson sometime back when I came to Kenya, and he told me of how he has constituted a federation leadership structure. I was surprised to find that majority of the men had taken up leadership. That is when I beseeched him to incorporate more women in leadership, for this will help strengthen the Kenyan federation. This he did, and a number of women are now sitting on the National Executive Council.
I called Benson a number of times, to spend time with me in India; we planned on a number of issues regarding the federation and key community projects. We thank God for giving us Benson, though for a short time, he was able to do a lot for the Kenyan Federation and the SDI global network.
Benson has left behind a young family and I call upon the Kenyan Alliance to come together and set up a trust fund for his children that would help support his family. SDI will help support this initiative. I pray that we continue with the spirit and hope that Benson built over time.
We at SDI will honor Benson’s immense contribution and dedication by replicating his ideas and work throughout the slums in our global network.
Other local and global SDI affiliates and friends who paid tribute to our departed leader are;
It is with deep sorrow that we wish to inform you the passing away of
Benson Osumba, the National chairman of Muungano wa Wanavijiji. Benson left us this morning after a short illness bravely borne.
As we celebrate his life today, we would like to acknowledge the role he has played in placing the urban poor agenda at the center of
development in Kenya. He courageously responded to settlements faced with forced evictions with a resolve to end this kind of injustice in
Kenya and other countries.
The struggle continues and his vision for a safe city for all,
especially the poor, lives on!!
Irene Karanja-Muungano Support Trust, Kenya
I am so saddened by your news, but thank you for sharing it.
May Benson rest in peace and his life's dedication to the urban poor be an inspiration to us all.
Benson was a uniting figure to all. He leaves at a time when Muungano and civil society need more to forge the agenda for inclusive development.
God rest him in peace
Peter Ngau, University of Nairobi
I join the rest to condole with Benson's family and friends. Indeed he has left a lot of unfinished endeavours to be completed by the rest of us.
May He rest in peace!
Stephen Gichohi- Forum Syd
I have lost a friend a brother and s great mentor, apart from teaching me how to work with the community he tought me life skills. He gave me opportunity and exposed me to the world. He fought selflessly for all, he spend all of his valuable time sacrificing to the poor in kind and cash. He was a mediator in all crisis and an icon of unity in every conflict. He was a keen listener and non-judgmental even though circumstances warranted the same. This afternoon am laying u at the mortuary in the cold cupboard believing that u might wake up and even great us again. Truely am not in terms with your death. No Ben you are still alive.
Erickson Sunday, Federation Leader, Kenya
It’s really hard to take it.my condolence to the family, Muungano, Must, AMT,SDI and friends. We will see you again Ben.it has been a struggle for the voiceless and poor to access the basic needs for all those years. It’s the reason why our generation is enjoying some of the fruits. Rest in peace.
Iscah Jemutai, MuST Field Officer, Kenya
My thoughts and prayers of strength to the whole SDI family, Muungano Federation and Benson's family in particular. May his soul rest in peace as his loving memory and spirit continue to guide our activism.
Paula Assubiji, Cape Town
When I led a project to donate foodstuffs and clothes in Mukuru slums, he helped me organize the process and even sat to my right on the day of the event as Gitau sat to my left. Rest in Peace Osumba, you helped me put together a noble cause. Rest In Peace brother.
Boni Manyala, Communication Consultant, Kenya
I will remember Benson for his charisma and forethought.
Chilungamo Hunga, Malawi
I am so heartbroken to hear of Benson's passing. He was such a nice guy who had a smile for everyone he met. We will miss the Professor every day.
Louise Cobbett, Bethesda
Rest in perfect peace Chairman. May the good Lord grant you a perfect rest in his bosom. My deepest condolences to the family and the Kenyan Federation at large.
Mensah Owusu, People’s Dialogue, Ghana
May his soul rest in peace.we loved chairman but God loved you more.praying for peace and strength for all Muungano Federation members during this times of mourning.
Edwin Simiyu, MuST, Kenya
What sad news...it is with heavy heart that we in Ghana received the news that Benson Eric Osumba is gone to his maker. We pray that Benson will have peaceful rest.Ben will be remembered throughout the SDI afiliates especially Ghana. Chairman, rest in peace. Our heartfelt condolence to SDI,MuST,Akiba Mashinani, Kenya federation west/east Africa hub and SDI board. Chairman, you will forever be remembered....
Kojo Anane, Ghana
My Sincere condolencs to the family of our Muungano Wa Wanavijiji, Kenyan Alliance. Slum Shack / Slum Dwellers International Kenyan chapter-National Chairman.Osumba Benson Erick..He was a strong leader with a desire to change the lives of Slum dwellers...this info greats me with shock...RIP Chair
Benard Nyadida, Muungano Youth Federation, Kenya