Firstly, I want to say a big thank you to all of you the friends of Benja for the incredible love you demonstrated to him. You all responded to our call for funds to pay for his medical bill. It is God’s will that has been done and we accept that. I am really proud of how we have come together as the rugby fraternity and as Kenyans
I will single out a few donors especially H.E. The President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Amolo Odinga who led the queue. I also must thank our CS, Amb. Amina Mohamed and PS Joe Okudo of the Ministry of Sports. They provided great support, guidance during Benja’s illness and hospitalization.
During the illness and even in death I have felt their support in prayer, advise and using their vast network to reach out. May they be blessed. We have also received messages from World Rugby President Sir Bill Beaumont, celebrated star players like Waisale Serevi of Fiji and Ben Ryan of the UK.
It has been very difficult to come to terms with Benjamin’s death. There have been a lot of well written tributes which speak to the person and character of the man. Benja was my teammate, a brother, a neighbor, a friend. We played in the backrow together. I was also an investor in his fish business that Ronald Bukusi spoke about. The KRU has published a digital tribute which you must all read. I have tried to reflect on Benja’s life in different prisms
- A Brother: Benja was a true brother of all who met him. He placed humanity first. The warmth, compassion, loyalty, empathy for people Including his opponents who may have taken heavy tackles and left bruised. He frequently shared everything he had with his mates
- A Star Rugby Player: Benja achieved the highest honours playing for both club and country in the 7s and 15s game. He made an impact in every team he played for winning numerous awards and trophies. Remaining magnanimous in victory is something most people lack but Benja was humble even when stomping opponents. He always put his body on the line for his teammates
- A Leader of Men: Benja led by example. I was one of his charges. He was blessed with beaming self-confidence, self-esteem and positive will do attitude in one. No excuses was his daily mantra and he lived by it – it is no surprise that he excelled when the Union had the least funding for his programs. He took responsibility for any shortcomings of his team while giving them immense freedom to express themselves. In turn, they were fiercely loyal and played for him. His communication was clear and unambiguous – “haiwezi” or “haimakeit”. You knew where you stood.
- Global superstar– his rugby talent and ethos enabled him play or coach at the major rugby cathedrals of the world. A recognizable figure in the World Series, he brought all the majors tumbling. He was the first man to probably believe that Kenya could beat any team – Fiji, New Zealand the works and instilled this in the players minds. We will never forget the 2009 victory against Fiji and the 2016 World Sevens Series Victory.
- Local Development – despite his global stardom, Benja was keen to take rugby to places it had never been. He pioneered the growth and development of rugby in Masaku, Meru, Kitui, Kisii, Nyeri – launching successful tournaments. He believed that rugby would become a national sport and all Kenyans would follow the game that meant the world to him
- The Entreprenuer: Sir Benja showed his entrepreneurial class in many ways. He ran a multiplicity of business interests with varying success. Always the man to chime in a new business idea and believe in it. He had an eye for business gaps even when many people didn’t have the vision for the same.
- Benja loved his family:His family supported his rugby journey and travelled with him to matches locally and internationally. He also loved his sons. In our playing days, we fondly called him Baba Bryo. He brought his sons to games and its no surprise they are top players today. He would always inquire about your children whenever you met. For him to be present at the birth of his good mate – Don Pendo – 1st born is a testament to the importance of family values. Family clearly meant a lot to him. His legacy in rugby certainly lives through them.
- Benja was honest to a fault. His brutal honesty could be interpreted for insubordination especially for a country whose culture is so ingrained in an authoritarian system. He questioned it. He sought freedom. He was brutal in his assessment of many situations. Needless to say, this bred conflict while all he did was fight for his team
- Benja loved life. He showed it in the things he did. His sharp dress sense at every occasion, love for fine wine, fine food, luo music. At times I imagine he would have fitted very well in Nigeria with Ogaz. He had the poise, stature and presence
- Benja loved God. He gave God all the glory for his successes. He played his part in making prayer an important aspect of the National Teams. An enduring image of him on his knees thanking God upon Kenya’s qualification for the Rio Olympics remains embedded in our minds and hearts. The other image is of Fiji and Kenya praying together after a hard fought match. He pioneered the relationship between Kenya Rugby and CITAM church through which many players have grown and developed.
Benja touched the lives of all the people who he came across in a positive way. He left an indelible mark in the history of our rugby and our country. A man of many firsts, he lifted the name of this country well beyond the wildest dreams of this country. I thank God for the life of Benjamin. May he rest well
Kenya Rugby Union