Forty years ago yesterday, Kenya’s founding father Mzee Jomo Kenyatta collapsed in a washroom in Msambweni before he died at 3.30 am the following day at State House, Mombasa.
But while the then government mandarins claimed Jomo died “peacefully in his sleep”, it would appear the Country’s first President was abandoned and neglected by corrupt aides whose focus was on succession, wealth and all the fine things of life.
This, according to Lee Njiru, then a young information officer at State House before he rose to become ex-President Moi’s press secretary is what eventually took Kenyatta to the grave.
According to Njiru, a year before his death, Kenyatta had become increasingly feeble, his speech incoherent and almost senile.
“During this hour of need, Mzee Kenyatta was abandoned and neglected by his aides and top advisors whose unbridled greed for power, property and money was their propulsion force,”Njiru opened up after 30 years of Kenyatta’s death.
“Outwardly, they pretended to love Mzee, while in fact they used him as an object of exploitation. They should have been prosecuted for criminal negligence.”
He explicitly names the then Minister of State in the Office of the President Mbiyu Koinange who ironically was also Kenyatta’s brother in law, then Coast PC Eliud Mahihu and State House Comptroller Alexander Gitau.
Ironically, the Kenyatta family have never spoken publicly of any ill treatment of the former President over the years.
The family has religiously marked Kenyatta’s death anniversaries and a similar ceremony would be held today at the Holy Family Basilica.
In fact, former first lady Mama Ngina Kenyatta, a permanent fixture during the annual anniversaries never takes to the podium to speak.
“The then Minister of State in the Office of the President, Mr Peter Mbiyu Koinange, was at the high table. I cast a furtive glance at him to see his reaction and noticed he was not bothered,”he stated.
On his way out of the luncheon, Kenyatta missed his way out and ended at the dingy caretaker’s office, Njiru recalls.
But when he was redirected to his sleeping room, he could not make it upstairs, ran out of breath and asked for a chair.
But despite the failing health, he says, Koinange, Mahihu and Gitau still pressed on with a function in Msambweni.
This is where Kenyatta collapsed before he died the following day.
Njiru says Kenyatta’s health had been slowly deteriorating but his aides paid little attention
He distinctively recalls an incident in early 1978 when Kassim Bakari Mwamzandi, then an assistant minister for Foreign Affairs brought a foreign envoy to present his credentials to Mzee Kenyatta in Nakuru.
“After receiving the credentials, Mzee Kenyatta bellowed: ‘You are welcome to Kenya. If you have any problem do not hesitate to see me. If you don’t that’s your own business.’” Njiru recalls.
“And introducing Mbiyu and Mwamzandi, he said, pointing at the two, ‘This is my father and mother.’”