Friday, December 12, 2008



By Amos Kareithi

Red dust swirls into the morning air as soil is scooped from the final resting place for a man whose death marks the end of an emotive chapter in the history of the Independence struggle.

To the villagers of Muthurumbi, Gatundu, Thika District, the mound of soil that covered the remains of Rawson Mbugua Macharia on Thursday was the final reminder of a man they considered anathema, more like Christians consider Judas Iscariot.

The 96-year-old man made history by default for testifying as the key prosecution witness against Jomo Kenyatta and five others in the 1952 Kapenguria Six trial.

Hostile glances
On Thursday, he was free from the scorn and hostile glances that had followed him for nearly six decades since he confessed that he had lied to nail Kenyatta, under financial and other inducement by the colonial administration.

Macharia’s home is five kilometres and two valleys away from Kenyatta’s rural home. Gatundu town stands in between like an arbitrator between two erstwhile protagonists.

Macharia’s grave lay alongside his wife’s who died ten years ago, leaving the old man to go into self-exile from Muthurumbi to Juja town.
His was a life lived under an unending shadow of accusation and condemnation that also affected his family. But the family never disowned him.

Mr Samuel Marima, 66, who supervised the digging of his father’s grave and burial, wearily explained how since his school days he was prejudiced for being Macharia’s son.
"When I was at Ituru High School, I was hounded and hunted by journalists. They came to interview me about my father. Why they did not go to him still puzzles me," says the retired banker.

He adds: "People may say a lot of things, but he was the best dad I could ever have. My family was never in want and he was very considerate and hard working."
Marima explains that his father migrated from his home in 1999 and went to live with his relatives until his last days after his wife Edith Mwihaki died.

The unthinkable
Macharia made history in 1952, when he did the unthinkable by testifying against Kenyatta in colonial Kenya’s political watershed case.

The nation was scandalised when Macharia accepted Sh47,000 and a trip to London to study as compensation from the British government to give their charges against Kenyatta credence. "What many Kenyans have chosen to ignore is that my father later owned up and exposed the whole Kapenguria trial as a sham. For his pains, he was jailed," Marima says.

He says even the late president understood that Macharia had helped create his enigma and that is why he never punished him. "I recall one day during a rally at Gatundu, Mzee Kenyatta saw my father, called him and asked: ‘Macharia, where have you been all these days? Why can’t you come to Ichaweri one of these days so that we can talk?’

On another occasion, Marima recalls how, while driving in a friend’s car, he was involved in an accident just outside Kenyatta’s home in Gatundu. "Kenyatta, whose motorcade was passing by, stopped. He ordered his presidential detail to rush me to Gatundu Hospital where I was treated. To the best of my knowledge, there was no bad blood between him and my father," he says.

"But what was it like to grow up as a son of a man who had created so many enemies?" We ask. "My father lived his life. He confronted his challenges head on and we did not have to carry his tag as a bad egg. He went public with what he had done. He paid the price and lived on," his son says.

On December 5, the 96-year-old great grand father ventured out of his son’s home to Juja. When he was returning, walking on the busy Thika Road, he was hit by a motorbike and died. For a man who, according to his family, was never admitted to hospital even for a day, it was shocking that he died from a seemingly simple looking mishap.

A week before Kenya celebrated its 45th birthday, the man, who wrote a chapter of its history has died, having seen the full circle of post-independence history that he played a part in forming.