Sunday, October 12, 2008



Sunday Standard
Otober 12, 2008

By Patrick Wachira

The political landscape is replete with individuals who fell, under the hand of former President Moi, from grace to grass, with some rising again.

For others, it was the reverse and they rose from the stables to the stars and then fell again to ignominy.

Still, others have risen from the ashes and went ahead to rediscover their footing in politics and elsewhere.

The individuals, who strode the corridors of power and dispensed influence to those who mattered, were proof that in politics, there are no permanent friends or enemies.

Some, like former powerful AG Charles Njonjo, have taken decades to find their voices again, after a commission of inquiry was instituted to probe their activities.

Others faded from the scene and wallowed in limbo, away from the influence-peddling manoeuvres of yesteryears, perhaps shrouded in the nostalgia of days gone by.

Still, others re-ignited their political careers and fashioned a sense of direction, even capturing parliamentary seats and Cabinet positions.

George Saitoti

He stayed in the political cold for 14 months after the 1997 elections, when the country had no Vice-President. It was not immediately clear what had irked Moi.

What was obvious was that Saitoti was re-appointed in April 1999, after ruckus by civil society and mainly opposition politicians, who talked of a constitutional lacuna.

Moi gave him back his lifeline, saying "Haya, chukua, kama hiyo itaongeza sufuria ya ugali kwa nyumba yenu!" (There, have it, if it will increase the number of pots for ugali in your houses!)

Saitoti was to be a heartbeat away from the presidency for three years until August 30, 2002, when he was, again, dropped for perceived disloyalty. Musalia Mudavadi, who served for two months before elections, succeeded him.

He joined other Kanu stalwarts who ditched Kanu when Moi picked his preferred successor, Uhuru Kenyatta at the infamous Kasarani meeting, dubbed by former Kanu bigwig Joseph Kamotho "uchaguzi ya makelele" (sic).

It was a sort of complete cycle that the man who plucked Saitoti from a teaching job at the University of Nairobi was the same to tell Kenyans: "Saitoti is my friend but friendship is different from politics." And with that, Saitoti was dropped as VP.

Charles Mugane Njonjo

Despite standing by Moi and ensuring those fronting the Change-the-Constitution movement in 1976 failed, Njonjo’s falling out with Moi was the result of perceived complicity with Moi’s enemies.

Before Kenyatta died, Moi was so apprehensive of the Kiambu and Kikuyu mafia that he contemplated dropping his presidential ambitions, but Njonjo, then AG, prevailed upon him to stay put, which paid off in the end, when he ascended to the top seat.

Ironically, it was Njonjo, while riding in Kenyatta’s limousine, who recommended the appointment of Moi as VP after the resignation of Joseph Murumbi in the 1960s.

Senior Counsel Paul Muite who represented Njonjo in the commission of inquiry in 1983after former minister Elijah Mwangale named him "traitor" in Parliament, says Njonjo was a victim of the purge that followed the attempted coup.

"Njonjo was not planning a take-over from Moi. His removal as AG was just a way of removing him from a job with security of tenure so that he could deal with him politically.

"Moi’s instincts told him he could not be "king when the king-maker was still around. He was feeling insecure. He would never have been President were it not for Njonjo," Muite told The Standard on Sunday.

By the time the commission of inquiry wound up, it emerged that he abused office amid claims of attempting to take over the Government.

Njonjo’s fall was mighty, from a triumvirate that dined with the president to a distant memory in the periphery of national politics.

Njonjo, 88, stayed away from public limelight until 1998, when he was made chairman, Kenya Wildlife Service.

More recently, he has become entangled in Anglican Church controversies, especially the Lambeth Conference and gay clergy politics.

Mark Too
The high-flying former Nominated MP nicknamed ‘Bwana Dawa’ was so close to the President that many believed he had his ear on all issues.

Between 1991 and 2002, Too wined and dined with the high and mighty, so much so that he earned himself the unofficial title of ‘Ambassador without portfolio’.

Indeed, at one time, he would deliver messages from the former president to the then Democratic Republic of Congo’s president Laurent Kabila at the height of insurgency.

Add the view that he initiated the merger between Kanu and the National Development Party and you have a potent mix of a ‘Mr Fix It’ whose fall no one saw coming. He believes some people hijacked his project of bringing Raila Odinga into the Kanu fold at the time of the merger.

Signs of trouble started when former Coast CID boss Joseph Nyaseda went to his Muthaiga house and told him he was required to resign. Before long, his fortunes started dwindling.

In a span of months, he had lost his posts as chairman, Kenya Farmers Association, Standard Group, Nandi Kanu Branch and deputy chairman, Lonrho East Africa. He lost his passport, too.

Thereafter, he stepped down, under pressure, as chairman, Kenya Sugar Board. He believes Moi was fed on gossip, which led to his downfall.

Joseph Kamotho

The straight-shooting Kanu secretary-general for 13 years enjoyed the eye and ear of Moi until the two fell out briefly before Kamotho made a comeback.

Kamotho says his problems did not arise from the "traitor" issue. "I had no problem with Moi. It is civil servants around him who undermined me. That is why even after being hounded out of politics, I still had access to him," he says,

"After the elections, he (Moi) ordered that I be given a job. I was," says Kamotho of the several Cabinet portfolios he handled.

He says "Murang’a mafia", and a former head of Civil Service undermined him.

Kamotho was to fall out again with Moi when he and other Kanu stalwarts opted out after Moi picked Uhuru as his preferred successor in 2002. The Liberal Democratic Party was born, which later joined NAK to form Narc.

Kamotho says he still holds Moi in high esteem. He lost his Mathioya seat even after suddenly becoming a supporter of Kibaki, whom he described as his neighbour.

Elijah Wasike Mwangale
For his troubles and role in naming Mr Charles Njonjo as the so-called "traitor", out to undermine the Government, Mwangale (now deceased) was rewarded with the plush post of Foreign Affairs Minister.

From this perch, he enjoyed close rapport and proximity with the Head of State, much to his advantage.

In the 1992 polls, Mwangale lost to former Trade and Industry Minister Mukhisa Kituyi, which saw him lose his Cabinet post.

Again, Moi bailed him out and the man landed a job as Chairman of the Kenya Bureau of Standards. He was later appointed Special Envoy to Somalia.

By the time of his death, he was involved in his own businesses and had retreated from active politics.

Jonesmus Kikuyu
The then Iveti South (Machakos Town) MP fell out with Moi when he said that veteran freedom fighter, Paul Ngei, was destined to be President.

And for good measure, Kikuyu quipped that when that happens, "I will fly a flag" (read ministerial position). He also described Mulu Mutisya, then a Moi point man and Ukambani supreme, as a traitor.

For his utterances, Kikuyu and another politician, Fred Omido, were expelled from Kanu at a time when it was the sole party in the land.

Nicholas Kiprono Kipyator Biwott

Biwott’s dwindling fortunes peaked last year when he lost his Keiyo South seat, which he had held onto for six terms consecutively.

The fact that he lost to a greenhorn, Mr Jackson Kiptanui Kamai was another sign his fortunes were on the decline. He has served in six Cabinet portfolios.

He also lost control of Kanu to a faction led by Mr Uhuru Kenyatta last year after a High Court ruling in favour of the latter. His woes worsened when he was banned from travelling to the UK and the US.

Moi was forced to drop him for the first time, despite his proximity to the seat of power, after the 1990 murder of Foreign Affairs Minister Robert Ouko.

He was cleared after various probes into the killing and later re-appointed to the Cabinet.

Biwott, said to be fabulously rich, is now out of elective politics, and little is heard of him. The fall is enormous, for a man who once rode with Moi in the presidential limousine and was said to be the most powerful man outside the presidency.

Simeon Nyachae

After serving as PC, Chief Secretary and Finance Minister, Simeon Nyachae’s fall started in 2000, when Kanu’s National Governing Council suspended him and a few dissident MPs.

Though he was kicked out along with the late Minister Kipkalya Kones, with whom he shared a party later, Ford-People, Nyachae took the fall in his stride and announced plans to contest the presidency.

It appeared that his grouse was that he had been moved from the powerful Finance Ministry to the backwater Ministry of Industry.

His political fortunes have since plummeted as his presidential bid came a cropper and his attempt to retain his Nyaribari-Chache seat failed.

Although he served in Parliament for three terms, he announced his intention to retire from politics last year. He still ran, though. Nyachae remains an influential leader and a successful businessman.

Kihika Kimani

One of the authors of the Change-the-Constitution movement that sought to bar Moi from ascending to the presidency in the event of the death of Kenyatta, Kihika rued his schemes when Moi became president.

So apprehensive of his fate was he that he fled to Tanzania when Moi’s presidency was just months old in 1979. After three years he returned to dabble in politics, getting elected to Parliament four times by the time of his death in 2004.

Former Internal Security Permanent Secretary Hezekiah Oyugi was used to dismantle land-buying companies, which Kihika had used as a springboard to politics.

His effective return to the political high table was in 1997 when he hosted Moi in Nakuru and paraded a group of youth, saying they were Mungiki and had repented.

Moi warmed up to him, using him to eclipse former Minister in the Office of the President, GG Kariuki, who had curiously fallen out with the system. Kihika was back to Kanu.

By 2002, he could not find a party to sponsor him for the elections.

Paul Kibugi Muite

The former Kabete MP and Senior Counsel was earmarked for detention in 1990 at the height of the crusade for multi-party politics. However, a logistics bungle saw him escape by a whisker.

His association with perceived "dissidents", who included former Transport Minister Stanley Matiba, lawyers Gitobu Imanyara and John Khaminwa and former Nairobi mayor Charles Rubia rubbed the authorities the wrong way.

A day to the 1990s Saba Saba day, government operatives camped at his offices at Electricity House, waiting for him with a signed detention order but ended up arresting his colleague Mr Mohamed Ibrahim.

As police looked for him, he says: "I was in my house that week as police looked for me in my friends’ houses, not expecting I would be in my own. No one looked there!"

There followed three weeks of pressure for Moi to release Imanyara, Ibrahim and Khaminwa.

When he resurfaced from his house and went to State House, accompanied by his wife, word was out that Moi wanted a written apology, which Muite says was not forthcoming even as then State House Comptroller Abraham Kiptanui insisted on one. Muite says he talked in person to the President "whom I found waiting". The search for him was over.