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Zacchaeus Okoth: The Archbishop Who Founded Uzima University, Pioneered Top Schools In Kisumu

Zacchaeus Okoth, born on 5th July 1942, is a retired Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kisumu who has significantly contributed to education in the Nyanza region. He developed the desire to become a priest at a young age after seeing how humble their parish priest was. This desire would falter when he joined high school and drew further from the church only to be re-ignited at a later in life.

Priesthood

He was ordained a priest on November 1969 and appointed bishop of Kisumu in February 1978. When Kisumu was made an archdiocese, he became the archbishop.

During his time in the Kisumu archdiocese, he contributed greatly towards education in the region, especially advocating for girl-child education.

He is said to have pioneered numerous schools, some of which were named after him. They include: Bishop Okoth Girls School, Bishop Okoth Ojolla Secondary School, Bishop Okoth Miranga, St Francis Rang’ala Girls, St. Mary’s Lwak Girls, and St Oda Aluor Girls.

His footprints in education extended to the founding of Uzima University, which is yet to receive a charter.

Role in National Politics

During the 6th October 2017 national prayer day held at the Village of Mary National Shrine in Subukia, Nakuru County, he campaigned for peace. At the time, among other things, he pleaded with Hon. Raila Odinga and Hon. Uhuru Kenyatta to peacefully resolve the electoral stalemate that had arisen after the disputed 2017 presidential elections.

He would then later be included in the Unity Advisory Task Force Team which handled the peace agenda of the 9th March 2018 handshake of former president Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM party leader Raila Odinga. The nine-point peace agenda included: security and fight against corruption, devolution and inclusivity.

In 2022, he was part of the team tasked with shortlisting potential candidates for the Azimio la Umoja running mate position. This showed a close relationship between him and Raila Odinga which according to reports dates back to the Moi era.

In Raila Odinga’s memoir dubbed An Enigma in Kenyan politics, he described how the reverend once helped him escape from the watchful eyes of the then administration who were hellbent on his capture. The archbishop dressed him as a Catholic priest and helped him escape to Uganda where he later found a way to secure asylum in Norway.

Corruption Allegations

In a piece run by The Standard 9 years ago, he was accused of corruption, arrogance and intimidation. In the article, one priest alleged that he was transfered twice and demoted for failing to give the archbishop money meant for parish projects.

They alleged that there was rampant transfer of priests due money related issues. He apparently expected a cut from money raised by priests, even during fundraisings. It was said that some documents signed by a number of priests, brothers and the Archbishop reveal a series of scams and cover up letters sent to the catholic headquarters in Rome.

It was said that the documents had details of money sent to the Kisumu Archdiocese for the purpose of funding some projects which were reportedly non existent.

The retired archbishop dismissed the allegations saying they were baseless and questionable in the way they were sourced. He also added that he had forgiven his accusers and those behind the scheme to tarnish his name.