Building of many firsts that defines Kisumu

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The mention of Kisumu City Hall building evokes memories of the various historical phases the building has undergone since its construction in 1957.

Sandwiched between the Kenya Commercial Bank and Kisumu High Court, the 62-year-old building overlooking the Kisumu Freedom Park boasts a rich history.

If the building could talk, many would get to understand that the history of Kisumu entails much more than being a railway terminus.

It is an office of many firsts, having housed the first African mayor, the first African woman mayor, and the first Asian mayor in Kenya.

The history of the building dates back to 1903, when the British government put into action the plan to build Kisumu township on its 12,000-acre parcel.

At the time, all the businesses in the town were managed by the township committee.

With time however, the residents started feeling that the town was generating a lot of money, which was not properly handled by the committee.

They also felt like the town had reached a point where it needed to be upgraded to a municipality. But the local colonial administration refused.

“In 1940, the government created a municipal board at the Tivoli Centre to run the businesses in Kisumu, amid objections from the Africans and Asians,” says Mr Michael Opodi Owuor, who has been working in the office since 1995.

Later, the colonial administration relocated the office to a larger building due to inadequate space at its original location.

Building of the Municipal Hall, now City Hall, began in 1956. It was opened in 1957 by Sir Evelyn Baring, the governor of Kenya.

The building housed the mayor’s office, the office of the city clerk, and councillors’ chambers.

It also housed various departments, including those of the environment, social services and gender, housing, planning, engineering, procurement and the inspectorate.

British commissioner Stanley Everett was made the first mayor of Kisumu, while former Councillor Mathew. P. Ondiek became the town’s first African mayor.

The city hall was now entrusted with the running of all local businesses. The mayor worked hand in hand with the city clerk and an assistant.

Mayor Ondiek died in 1965 during his fourth term in office and was succeeded by the first African Woman mayor, Grace Onyango.

She was in office for only a year before stepping down to vie for a parliamentary seat. It took another 39 years before another woman, Ms Prisca Auma, was elected to the office.

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Neema Mung'aro