Two Great Kenyan Maestro’s See the New Year and Breath their Last.
We woke up on the second day of 2022 with the sad news over the passing away of two great Kenyan icons; Sir Charles Njonjo and Dr. Richard Leakey. Njonjo was Kenya’s first Attorney General and served under Jomo Kenyatta and later briefly under Daniel Moi.
This man Njonjo has been hailed by many as great public library that went down with a lot of history about our country Kenya. In the days of Kenyatta, Charles Njonjo was a very trusted ally of Kenyatta that he even rode with him in his presidential limousine.
When asked why he married late, he answered that he was so focused in his work till time slipped by so to say. When he died yesterday, many Kenyans took to social media with a sharp focus on his role in shaping our country’s history and also in regards to him marrying at the age of 52.
He was known as the ‘Duke of Kabeteshire’ largely because of his English mannerisms. He was son of chief Josiah Njono. Having grown up a privileged child, he joined Alliance high school before he went to Uganda, then South Africa at the height of apartheid and then finally crowned it all in the UK.
When he came back to Kenya, in 1954, he started off as a high court registrar under the colonial government before he moved ranks to become the deputy public prosecutor in 1962 and later the attorney General when Kenyatta took office.
He fell out with Moi in 1983 when he was implicated in the 1982 coup that sought to overthrow the passing crowd, Daniel Moi, that never passed. And after that fall out, Njonjo didn’t associate himself much with politics up to until his death.
He is a man who lived to the true dictates of the slogan that there is life after politics. I think he guarded his faculties; the mind and heart so well such that when Moi threw him out of government, the man quickly carved a different course for his life privately and ended up living to 102 years, a great fete for that matter.
He will be remembered as the man who wore stripped suits bought in London and a signature red rose lapel that popular say took to be a different fresh real rose for each day but one which stands to be disputed simply because I never met the man in person even after passing Muthaiga several times hoping to meet him running or taking a walk.
He was cremated yesterday at the Kariokor Hindu crematorium at about 10 a.m. shortly after his death at the wee hours of January 2nd 2021 after suffering from an acute bout of pneumonia at his Muthaiga home in Nairobi. He is survived by his widow and three adult children.
And yesterday as well Kenya lost another historic figure, Dr. Richard Leakey who was largely known as a conservationist and paleoanthropologist. He served briefly as the head of public service towards the end of Mzee Moi’s tenure in office in the year 1999 to 2001.
He also served in various capacities as the founder of wildlife direct, an NGO that has been involved with conservation efforts across a wide spectrum and was the Chairman of the board of the Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) where he served from the year 2015 after he was appointed by president Uhuru Kenyatta.
He was very instrumental in brokering a deal on the use of a viaduct during the construction of the Nairobi-Mombasa standard gauge railway such that the railway would pass over the Nairobi national park over a length of 18 meters.
He is identified more with his conservations efforts from the time Moi appointed him head of the Wildlife Conservation Department (WMCD) to help in curbing poaching activities that had risen and posed a threat to the elephant population in Kenya and later at the appointment by Uhuru Kenyatta.
He, together with Moi did feature in international news in 1989 during the burning of a stock pile of 12 tons of Ivory at the Nairobi National Park. During his tenure, it is worth noting that poaching activities reduced drastically.
Dr. leaked passed away aged 77 years. He is survived by his widow Meave Epps and three children. Truly as Samba Mapangala sang, Dunia Tunapita (We are sojourners in this world). We better live with that in mind such that we may live fully.