National News

Echesa’s controversy-ridden life

If there is any denominator in the life of former Sports Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa, then it is controversy.

Throughout his political life, the former firebrand grassroots mobiliser and controversy have almost been synonymous. From ugly scenes to nasty verbal fights with politicians, to daring Opposition chief Raila Odinga for a sack, the former Standard 8 dropout’s one year stint as minister was controversy-ridden.

He was sacked by President Uhuru Kenyatta on March 1 last year. A year earlier, Echesa fired himself up to stardom by becoming the only minister in the Jubilee administration without any post-primary qualification, let alone a basic degree.

At 35, and with just elementary education, Echesa bypassed PhD holders to become the CS for Sports and Culture. But the self-made-power-man appeared to lose glitter as fast as he came.

Before his appointment to the Cabinet, little achievements were known of him except that he was a distinguished political mobiliser while serving as an ODM youth winger before he was lured into Jubilee by DP William Ruto.

His moment of fame manifested itself during his vetting by the National Assembly Committee on the Appointment when he admitted that he did not go past Standard 8. Actually, his sketchy academic credentials, or lack of it, were a subject of heated debate, with some suggesting he was not the right man for the job.

His latest arrest over a fake military tender for guns, ammunition and bullet-proof vests adds to the cocktail of unending gaffes.

In one of the nasty battles with Kakamega Senator Cleopas Malala, Echesa was accused of manufacturing some nude photos reportedly of the legislator and which were widely circulated online. The October 2018 action, forced Kenyatta International Convention Centre police station to summon him for questioning in a scenario that also roped in some journalists.

On June 29, 2018, Malala and Echesa’s supporters clashed in Matungu, Kakamega. Several people were injured and vehicles damaged.

In August the same year, Echesa was involved in a near-fistfight with Alego Usonga MP Samuel Atandi at Kisumu International Airport. The near-blows exchange was triggered by an argument between the two involving the CS’s verbal comments linking Raila to an alleged plot to sack him from the Cabinet.

Echesa’ stint in the Cabinet was at its low when he was rocked in turf wars with his then ICT counterpart Joe Mucheru over the Kenya Film Classification Board. Echesa was accused of ignoring a presidential directive that the agency fell under the ICT docket. He had gone ahead to appoint its board members.

In January 2019, Echesa got an embarrassment of his life when he was accused of using his position as a Cabinet secretary to import some Pakistan women with suspicious characters. The eight belly dancers, alongside one Indian dancer, were arrested at Balle Balle Club in Parklands, Nairobi, and deported on January 4, 2019, for violating terms of their temporary passes.

Echesa had claimed that the women were in the country legally through his assistance for an Indian cultural event. But the police claimed the eight women were suspected to have been victims of human trafficking.

On some occasions, Echesa, who appeared not to have read the political signs of the March 2018 handshake, publicly dared Raila to sack him from the Cabinet if he were the appointing authority.

“We have one government led by Uhuru and William Ruto and those are the only people I will pledge my priority to and not to you, Raila Odinga. I want to dare you, Raila, if you are the appointing authority, come and sack me,” Echesa fired at Raila in August 2018.

In December 2018, Uhuru publicly rebuked Echesa for the sorry state of the mausoleum of the late Opposition leader Jaramogi Oginga Odinga in Bondo, Siaya county.

The President made it clear that he was unhappy with the condition of the tomb whose maintenance falls under the Department of Culture in the Sports docket, then headed by Echesa. Raila, who also attended the event, had to intervene to save Echesa from the President’s wrath.

After his gaffe with Raila, he attacked Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula and accused him of having sold land belonging to Mumias farmers in Busia.

“One thousand acres of land belonging to Mumias farmers was sold for Sh40 million and the person who was involved in the sale was none other than NASA principal Wetang’ula,” he said.

An angry Wetang’ula retorted:Rashid, I have kids your age and I only debate with Uhuru and Ruto, not kids your age.”

Biography

Echesa was born in Shibale, Mumias, Kakamega county. He was brought up in a poor family of eight. His father burnt and sold charcoal to provide for the family, while his mother sold bananas to complement her husband’s efforts.

Echesa says he dropped out of school for lack of school fees, hence marking the end of his formal education. He later got a job as a casual labourer at Mumias Sugar company.

Echesa served as the ODM Youth League leader before switching allegiance to DP Ruto in the lead-up to the 2017 General Election. 

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