President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday led the country in mourning former Assistant Minister and Kibwezi MP Richard Kalembe Ndile, who died at the Nairobi Hospital on Saturday night.
The late MP’s brother Sam Ndile told People Dailythat Kalembe had been in and out of hospital suffering from several complications.
“He has been in and out of hospital but last Wednesday, he was taken to Nairobi Hospital, where he died last evening. He had multiple complications including kidney failure,” said Ndile.
Uhuru described the deceased as a witty, determined and practical politician whose rise in life was as a result of hard work.
“It is unfortunate that death has taken from us Hon Kalembe Ndile in his prime. He was a lively politician, who loved and worked with everyone and always held the interests of the country at heart,” Uhuru said.
The Head of State further said that in the number of times he had engaged with the deceased, he had noted that he was an excellent defender of human rights.
“With the death of Mheshimiwa Kalembe, our country has lost an astute fighter for human rights. We all remember how passionately he fought for the plight of squatters in the country,” he said.
Former President Mwai Kibaki said he was saddened by the news of the passing of the politician, who was very industrious.
He said the deceased, who was an assistant minister during his reign, was a humorous and mirthful individual.
“With his signature wise cracks and anectodes, Kalembe easily endeared himself to any crowd he addressed.
Kenya has lost an enthusiastic politician whose style invariably caught the eye of both friend and foe whichever side of the political divide he found himself in,” Kibaki said.
Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Junior and Labour CAS Musyoka Kalla, who were among the first politicians to arrive at Lee Funeral home, said the Kamba community has lost a great leader.
He said that Ndile had already become a staunch Wiper Party supporter adding that he played a vital role in the recent Machakos senatorial seat and Kitise and Kithuki wards by-elections.
Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu said: “In Kalembe Ndile, we have lost a true hustler of our time.
A man who exemplified true selflessness. A story of nothing to something. We pray that Kalembe’s family find strength and fortitude in God during this difficult time. May his soul rest in eternal peace. Go well Kalembe”.
Machakos Governor Dr Alfred Mutua said: “I am deeply sad to learn of the passing of one of Kenya’s top political orators, Hon Kalembe Ndile “Mtoto wa Squatter”.
Ndile was a brave voice of the people. A self-made leader, he was a darling to audiences and to us all. A huge loss to our region. Kenya has lost a hero”.
Kalembe was born in 1964 in Kilembe hospital in Uganda hence his parents called him Richard Kilembe.
His father Ndile Nguluku was initially working as a plant operator in Kabale now Kasese city of western Uganda with an Italian owned company that was constructing the Uganda-Rwanda highway.
After retiring from the construction company, Nguluku became a chief in Kasese, where he invited and allocated land to more 80 families from Mwanyani village in Makueni county, his ancestral home.
The family stayed in Uganda until 1980 when they relocated to Kenya following unending political instability in the country.
Kilembe, then aged 16 years joined Standard 7 for his basic education examination at Kaunguni primary school.
According to his younger brother Sam Ndile, the former Kibwezi lawmaker, who was called Kilembe, was renamed Kalembe by the local community after the family settled on a two-acre piece of land at Mbui Nzau village of Kibwezi West constituency in Makueni county.
The sixth born in a family of seven, Kalembe who did not proceed to secondary school ventured in charcoal burning business among other hustles in the area.
He later on secured an office messenger’s job with Bayusuf Brothers Transporters Lt, where he met the love of his life, Magdalene Kamene with whom they tied the knot and were blessed with 10 children, six girls and four boys.
It is lack of land and frequent humiliation of locals by the Moi’s government that earned him a name as he stood up against land injustices.
During this time, locals had invaded the then Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) land as well as part of Kyulu game reserve since they were landless.
The firebrand politician would during this time partner with current Makueni governor Kivutha Kibwana and the late Nicodemus Mutuku whom they formed Makueni Paralegal Network (MPN) which advocated for human rights through capacity building.
While Kibwana utilised his professional experience as a constitutional lawyer, Kalembe and Mutuku were the grassroot mobilisers.
Between 1997-2,000, the civil rights group had trained over 35 groups through Danish embassy.
The group has currently spread roots throughout the continent and trades in the name of Mobilisation for Communities in Africa. During this time, Kalembe was also a commissioner for Eene Land Commission, which was formed to fight for land rights in not only Makueni but also the entire Ukambani region.
His push for land rights activism earned him a name and he was elected as a councilor for Nguumo ward on Social Democratic Party (SDP) ticket in 1997.
He served as Chairman for the defunct Makueni County Council between 1997-2000.
In 2002, Kalembe and Kibwana shot to political limelight when they were elected as MP’s representing Kibwezi and Makueni constituencies respectively while Mutuku was elected as a councilor in Makueni municipality. Kalembe floored the late Onesmus Mboko in a hotly contested race under Narc ticket.
A shrewd politician, who was a darling of the media because of his accessibility and charm, would later be appointed as an assistant minster for Wildlife and Tourism in the then President Kibaki’s government.
During campaigns ahead of 2002 General Election, Kalembe promised the electorate that he would fight for their land rights as well as end of human-wildlife conflicts.
He humorously said that he will ensure elephants are shared across all constituencies in Kenya so that they will not remain as a sole problem to Kibwezi people.
Kalembe was loved and hated in equal measure but the people of Kibwezi at Mbuinzau named a settlement scheme he fought for ‘Kalembe Raha’, which he secured for them through his good working relationship with President Kibaki.
In 2007 general elections, Kalembe lost his seat to Prof Philip Kaloki and retreated to private business.
Ahead of 2013 general elections, Kalembe together with the late Makueni senator Mutula Kilonzo and former Machakos senator Johnstone Muthama closed a deal with Opposition chief Raila Odinga that saw Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka team-up under Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (Cord). During this time, Kalembe had formed TIP TIP party that was also a coalition partner. TIP TIP won one MP seat and several civic seats.
He unsuccessfully vied for Kibwezi West seat losing to current MP Patrick Mweu Musimba, an Independent candidate.
He successfully contested the election and a Machakos High Court nullified it but lost again to Musimba in a by-election.
He later lost ties with Raila citing his high handedness. Back in the political cold, enrolled for a business management course at Machakos University College.
Fast forward in 2017, Kalembe folded his TIP TIP party and joined Jubilee coalition that floored National Super alliance (Nasa) in the presidential election.
During this time round, Kalembe shifted his political base from Kibwezi to Mavoko constituency in Machakos where he lost to Patrick Makau of Wiper party. He vied on a Jubilee Party ticket.
But Kalembe died a bitter man with Deputy President William Ruto, whom he accused of luring him to the coalition deal.
He is on record blaming cartels in DP’s office for conning him finances which coalition parties were supposed to bag.
Kalembe had also expressed interest in Machakos Senate seat, whose by-election was orchestrated by the death of Boniface Kabaka.
Following a post coalition agreement between Jubilee and Wiper party, Kalembe jumped ship in 2020 and became a member of the Wiper party. He closely worked with Kalonzo until his demise.
Until his demise, Kalembe had interests in construction, real estate, lands and hotel industries. He was also eyeing for Mavoko constituency seat.