My Tribute To A Fallen Hero – Salim Talib By Dennis Kodhe
In 1997, prior to the General elections, three prominent Asian businessmen, members of EACA (Easter Action Club of Africa), visited my office in Chester House with a request to hold a press conference at the press centre which was located in the first floor of the building. At that time, I was working for a leading Japanese media house – Kyodo News Services – as a correspondent in charge of Africa. At the same time, I was the Assistant Secretary of the Foreign Correspondents association of East Africa (FCAEA).
The three, Salim Talib, Amin Gwaderi and Swaran Sodi, were furious and agitated by the racist sentiments being expressed by leading politicians like the late Kenneth Matiba and Hon. Raila Odinga who had made a statement in Kisumu that Asians should be expelled from Kenya because they were controlling the country’s economy. Salim Talib and his colleagues wanted to respond to these hostile statements and to stress that Asians were citizens equally like all other Kenyans; and therefore should not be discriminated against as a community.
I managed to organise the press conference for the team the following day and it was attended by a good number of local and international reporters. But that was not the end of the matter for them. They further requested me to facilitate a face-to-face meeting with Hon. Raila Odinga which materialised a week later at the Casino premises in Parklands. Hon. Raila accepted my invitation and when we all met, distanced himself from the hostile sentiments and disassociated himself from such racial utterances. He explained that it was the Hon. Matiba actually who had made them.
Hon. Raila assured the EACA members of his total support and even suggested to them that they support me to stand for parliament in the Westlands Constituency at that time.
My relationship and friendship with Salim Talib and EACA continued from then on until his passing on 5 August 2021. We became close family friends and engaged in various development and philanthropic activities, largely to help the less fortunate children. He became a godfather to the orphaned children at Saidia Furaha Children’s home at Kitengela where he used to donate food; and sponsor excursion trips for them to the Nairobi National Park, the National Museum and other places of interest. Later he invited the Lions Club to visit the children’s home and they, under the presidency of Dr Devani, donated a borehole for the institution.
In 1999, Salim Talib and myself formed the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in order to start a movement or pressure group to militate against the oppressive regime of the then President, Daniel Arap Moi. Actually, the idea to form this outfit was hatched in Beijing, China, by a group of journalists whom I had led for an exchange program with members of the All-China Journalists Association (ACJA). It was supported by the government of the People’s Republic of China.
Salim Talib was very instrumental in the development of this Party and even used his personal money to support its activities as the Chairman. We organised discussions and trainings at the K-Club in Parklands, Mayfair Hotel and Holiday Inn
in order to mobilise people to join the Party and to prepare it for the 2007 elections (not the 2002 Elections).
Salim and I met several foreign Members of Parliament among them Richard Allan, former Liberal Democratic Member of Parliament for Sheffield in the UK, as well as others associated with liberal democracy. Salim as a leader of the LDP also participated in various capacity building activities organised by the Friedrich Nauman Foundation (FNF) in Kenya and in Tanzania.
FNF is a German based organisation affiliated to liberal democracy principles. It was founded by a former leading philosopher and president of Germany, Friedrich Naumann who supported the principles of liberal democracy. As a member of Liberal International – an umbrella body for liberal parties and networks across the world; FNF has been involved in building capacities and strengthening liberal organisations and political parties to support democracy, respect for the rule of law, good governance and other liberal values in developed and developing countries.
In September 2002, I convinced Salim and other leaders in the party that we join hands with the rebels in the KANU government who were opposing the endorsement of Uhuru Kenyatta as Moi’s successor. Salim was opposed to this idea as he felt that those were the very politicians that LDP was planning to root out. Anyway, he agreed because of his respect for me and we went ahead to enter into a coalition with the then Rainbow group from KANU to form LDP-Rainbow. It must be said that this process was full of intimidation and threats.
For example, just reaching out to Hon. Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka to share our idea with him took over one week. At that time, we thought that because of his experience and age, Kalonzo was the most suitable person to succeed Moi. Kalonzo finally agreed to meet us in his suite in the Grand Regency Hotel. However, when we got to the suite we had to wait for more than two hours to see him because his Personal Assistant, seeing me with Salim a Muhindi, had concluded that we were there to see Hon. Kalonzo to get a contract or some business favours. This attitude infuriated Salim so much that he nearly walked out without meeting Mheshimiwa.
We had a purpose for meeting him so we became very impatient after waiting for two hours and stormed into Kalonzo’s private room. At that time Kalonzo was the Minister for information and Tourism.
Another very negative experience was when Salim was threatened by a leading political figure in Kenyan politics currently, and in the Rainbow group then, that he would be cut into several pieces if he insisted on doing things correctly. I had to persuade Salim to cool down because he had sprung up to hit him (name withheld). That is when we started realising that the people whom we planned to invite to join the LDP were just hungry political thugs with no dignity or respect for others.
On 14 October 2002, Salim and I were at Uhuru Park to welcome the Rainbow group on board. We were included in the program as speakers. That was the forum and the day Raila Odinga declared KIBAKI TOSHA. Before that we had spent sleepless nights at Serena Hotel negotiating with them.
The intrigues continued after Kibaki won the elections in 2002 under the NARC coalition. Misunderstandings and disagreements immediately rocked the ruling coalition splitting President Kibaki and his group – Kiraitu Murungi, Chris Murungaru, the late George Saitoti, Mwiraria etc on one side and the LDP-Rainbow group on the other led by Hon. Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka and others.
In December 2003, I was approached by Hon. Chirau Ali Mwakwere, Minister of Foreign Affairs, that I should privately travel to Mombasa to meet President Kibaki as the leader of LDP. I insisted that I could not do that alone without Salim and other leaders of the Party.
At that time Salim was away with his family in Tanzania. However, because of his commitment to peace and to try and bring positive change to this great country, he cut his holiday short and travelled from Dar-es-Salaam to Mombasa. Here again there were lots of intrigues aimed at pulling us over to the Kibaki side, to support his government and to help them deal with the LDP group. Goodies were offered. I was offered the managing directorship of the Kenya Ports Authority or an appointment as Ambassador to Japan or China as long as we agreed to kick out the LDP leaders from our party. Salim was offered a position in the National Social Security Fund as a director.
‘Buddy we got into this because of principles and to bring change, not to fill our stomachs or any selfishness. But anyway, it is up to you to decide.’ That is what Salim said to me.
We refused those offers and returned to Nairobi. That is what later led to the formation of the Institute for Democracy and Leadership in Africa (IDEA) with Salim Talib as Chairman and myself as the Secretary General. IDEA was formed as a think tank and capacity building institution to support political leadership development in the country by training politicians. ‘It was a school for training politicians’ as was reported in one of the local dailies at that time.
Salim Talib was a rare man with a unique heart. Salim respected everybody and treated people equally irrespective of colour, tribe or position. Salim had no room for discrimination. His Muthaiga home became our state house. All our meetings were conducted there. Mama Shehn, his wife, welcomed us all and was never tired or bored with our presence. Her children became part of our struggle. The issue of muhindi and mwafrica did not arise when it came to dealing with the family of Salim Talib and this made us proud because we built a strong team. Salim later introduced his great friends John Oketch and lawyer Aurelio Rebelo to me and urged them to join the struggle. In the many years I associated with Salim he never called me by my name, just ‘pal’ or ‘buddy’. Equally Salim never called his wife by name but ‘dal’ or ‘darling’.
As I pay my last respects and tribute to my late brother, friend, colleague and hero I cannot fail to recognise the role played by Mama Shehn in the struggle to bring change in this country; and in Salim’s life until the last moment, Shehn was truly his darling. She respected him, was there for him always and took care of him until the last minute when he passed away on 5 August 2021. Salim had several health challenges and got paralysed from a serious stroke.
Watching Salim being lowered in his grave at Kariokor Muslim cemetery on Saturday, 7 August 2021 reminded me of how precious and short life is. And more so what a dark or black year 2021 has been so far. Late last year I lost a close friend Charles Osoro Kotung; and a long-time friend and colleague at the Children’s Home,
Peter Karuri Migwi. This year in late April I lost my dear mother, Mama Eudiah Anyango Ochieng Kodhe, and now my close and dear, great friend Salim Talib.
May the Almighty Father rest the souls of Salim Talib, my dear mother, great colleague and friend in Eternal Peace.
By Mohez Karmali
Salim Aman Talib sadly passed away on 5 August 2021, having endured a long terminal medical condition. May he now rest in peace… A’meen.
I met Salim two and half decades ago when I got interested with some of the initiatives that Eastern Action Club for Africa (EACA) was undertaking, particularly looking at the ‘Asian Question’ that Kenneth Matiba and Martin Shikuku (politicians contesting the Moi regime and whipping up popular support) had recklessly latched on to; promoting a skewed and largely false narrative against the Asian Community and its role and contribution in Kenya. Salim was then the Honorary Secretary of EACA and a founder member of the Club.
Salim was very passionate and excited about Kenya’s journey to multipartyism and the well sought-after opportunities to make an inclusive society in our country. He was a Kenyan of high ideals and commitment. As a successful tech cooperate under Comprite Kenya Limited, Salim was a pioneer in his field and planned to include Kenyans from all walks of life, creed and racial backgrounds.
In later years and on Salim’s insistence, I served as Honorary Secretary of EACA, by then he had taken the Vice Chairmanship of the Club. I had very warm and supportive interactions with him. His foresight and unwavering commitment to bring ‘Equity and Equality to All’, EACA’s credo, was always in play in all that he aspired. On an outreach event at Sikh Union on 28May 1998, he emphatically informed his audience that ‘…it is easy for us to see that we, as a community, have slipped into a deep dream of a mistaken notion that all is well around us – and we say, well, in any case it does not concern us because after all we are only Asians! Yes we are Asians but more importantly we are Asian-Kenyans and everything that happens in Kenya must concern us. It must be more so of concern to us because, as Amin said, we can otherwise be marginalized and ignored by political movements – which, in turn, can have an adverse effect on our social and economic activities –politics, at the end of the day, boils down to economic activity and as such we cannot, anymore, afford to ignore these issues.’
Salim was deeply aware that Kenya had the human resource to lead and govern the country to the highest economic and social standards. Very early on, he had talked about setting up a special leaders’ academy to train and equip future leaders (politicians) in the country to serve with commitment, integrity and a deep sense of proper oversight that would lift the entire nation to unfathomable heights.
Just the way he had led a successful tech company, what mattered to him was to bring together talent from diverse peoples in Kenya, based on meritocracy and equity, which would make the Nation enterprise indomitable for all its inhabitants.
To me and many others who interacted with him, Salim leaves behind a legacy of humility, a people’s friend, and a Kenyan not only in heart but by deeds.
By Madhukant Haria(late)
I am sorry to hear about the passing on of Salim Talib. May he rest in peace.
I first met him when I joined Eastern Action Club for Africa (EACA), started by him, Swaran Sodi and Amin Gwadheri. They had published a very long article in the Daily Nation, recognizing and extolling the contributions of Asians to Kenya, their chosen motherland.
I will remember Salim as a strategist, and a politician with the best interests of Kenya at heart. He was very generous and threw open his house in Muthaiga for meetings of EACA. He was the founder of Comprite, a shares registrar.
(Ed: Madhukant Haria tragically passed away on 27 August 2021)