Veterinarian-turned-politician, Apollinary Mukasa Mango, is remembered for implementing changes to improve the livestock and health sectors in Kenya. He worked in three ministries under President Daniel arap Moi, starting as Minister for Livestock when the position fell vacant in 1981, two years after he joined Parliament for the first time.
Before entering politics in 1979, Mango was a lecturer in Veterinary Sciences at the Kabete Campus of the University of Nairobi. He won the Busia East parliamentary seat, which was later split into Butula and Nambale constituencies. He won the seat on his first attempt and initially remained on the backbench in the National Assembly. After the 1979 General Election, Busia South Member of Parliament James Osogo’s win was challenged in court and nullified. He had been Minister for Livestock. Moi replaced Osogo with Mango.
Mango wasted no time in introducing animal censuses, a first in the country. This action helped Moi when he gave detailed population statistics of animals per district and province during his public rallies. The animal statistics covered cattle, goats, sheep, chicken and even donkeys where they existed.
In conjunction with the Ministry of Public Works, Mango is credited with intensifying the construction of cattle dips around the country complete with link bridges on small rivers to ensure easy access by the animals to the dips. He also increased the budgetary allocation for animal vaccination against rinderpest and foot-and-mouth disease.
After just one year, he was transferred to the Ministry of Health where he undertook to open several health centres and dispensaries around the country. He tried his best to distribute them in every district based on population and distance from one clinic to the next. Relying on his knowledge of primary health care, he sought financial aid through his international connections. It was under him that the Kenya Finland Company (KEFINCO) was established to dig boreholes in villages nationwide. His argument was that clean water was key to preventing diseases like cholera and dysentery. Kefinco water not only helped communities but also rural schools where children and teachers were able to gain access to clean water. These boreholes remain a major source of clean water supply in rural areas.
A stickler for procedure, Mango began to question how some tenders had been awarded in the ministry. This did not please influential medical procurement networks, which fought to have him removed from the ministry. He was transferred to Cooperative Development following a Cabinet reshuffle in September 1983 after just two years in the Health docket. Mango took office when the cooperative movement was undergoing a transformation. Savings and credit cooperatives (SACCOs) were going beyond extending the traditional loans to members and diversifying into buying and developing property, which had been the exclusive preserve of farmers’ cooperatives in coffee, tea, pyrethrum, cotton, sisal and cereals before and after independence. It was now extending to the salaried members of SACCOs. Mango only stayed in this ministry until a Cabinet reshuffle in 1984 when he returned to the backbench.
Mango’s time in the Cabinet was not without some controversy. He is alleged to have threatened journalists with the banning of newspapers, an allegation he denied. In 1983, he was counted among politicians calling for Charles Njonjo, the disgraced Minister for Constitutional Affairs, to be charged with treason.
Born on 18 March 1936, Mango eventually left Parliament to lead a simple life between Nairobi and his rural home until his death on 13 October 1998 at the age of 62.