Jan 20, 2022

Mawazo Writing Africa

Writing about the main

Metamorphosis of ex-Attorney General, from oppressor to believer of change

She told me she came because she loved the magazine. As the secretary of a senior police officer, she had heard Attorney General Charles Njonjo tell him I had to postpone my arrest.

The recent arrest of Senior Counsel John Khaminwa and several other lawyers raised British and American concerns, hence it was best to wait to arrest a senior journalist.

I believed the secretary. I had been interrogated by the Special Branch (now National Intelligence Service) a week earlier, and before that I had received a blunt letter from Mr Njonjo condemning Viva’s content and asking me to remove him from our mailing list / p>

He had copied the letter to Jeremiah Kiereini, the head of the civil service (including the police). The year before I was also the first journalist in independent Kenya to be tried (along with the great and very vocal Wangari Maathai whom we interviewed). So I fled the country that night.

Of course, I was one of hundreds who came into conflict with the virtually absolute power of Mr Njonjo, which came directly from President Jomo Kenyatta – and did so for the first time Years of President Daniel continued Arap Moi.

Like me, most Kenyans saw in Mr. Njonjo the irreconcilable obstacle to building a more democratic, fairer, non-aligned and pro-African nation.

To At a time when there were many oppressors in our dictatorial rule, he stood out as the most powerful, whose single-minded goal was political “stability” at all costs by maintaining the status quo. He achieved this through the use of brute state and police force.

July 2013: Let us now come 31 years later to July 11, 2013. In the Basilica of the Holy Family, a funeral mass was held in Nairobi for Chelagat Mutai, a fiery MP in the 1970s who, among other things, campaigned against the land grabbing by the powerful in the Rift Valley.

She was indicted and imprisoned by Attorney General Njonjo in 1976 for inciting squatters to invade a sisal farm and fled into exile in Tanzania in 1981. When she died, she was no longer known to Kenyans.

As I wrote in my Sunday Nation column, those who honored Chelagat at the 2013 mass “were amazed to see Charles See Njonjo getting out of a car and joining them.

When speaking during the service, Mr. Njonjo told the congregation: that “he fought very hard against Chelagat back then, but I came for them today To honor the fearless young woman who mobilized so many people for her cause “it, especially the landless.”

Mr Njonjo actually picked me up from my house on Sunday morning to do Chelagat at Kenyatta National Hospital when her brother called to say she had passed away.

May 2004: When I returned home from exile, I was amazed to see that Mr. Njonjo was going through a change, the roots of which were mine could never fathom.

Despite our in the past ness he had come to see me, and at some meetings I found that the once domineering, arrogant kingmaker and adviser to two presidents and western ambassador had given up all his earlier trappings except his dignity and severity and a real wit and gaiety at his bow!

He had developed a barely visible change agenda for Kenya behind the scenes. He asked if I could occasionally support him on the communications front, which I agreed after making it clear that I would not accept payments.

Most fascinating, however, was his systematic pursuit with great humility and without Fanfares some of the champions of our second liberation he brought down during his prime.

I was glad to be able to help him with some of those I was close to like Chelagat, Abuya and Abuya Waruru Kanja. What impressed me most was that Mr. Njonjo sought out those who were no longer prominent and did not offer him any political benefit. In public, Mr Njonjo was also able to develop a close relationship with Mr Raila Odinga and his cohorts Anyang ‘Nyong’o and James Orengo as well as Koigi wa Wamwere and a few others who had all been persecuted by him before.

One of Mr. Njonjo’s clearest goals in this nearly two decades long incarnation was to help build a more inclusive Kenya, including the need to elect a non-Kikuyu president. His dream, of course, was that it could be Mr. Odinga. He never saw the fulfillment of that dream, but his early public support from Raila was instrumental in making the support of central Kenya more acceptable to a leader of the Luo Nyanza region whom they had previously vilified. This paved the way for much of the leadership in central Kenya, and especially President Uhuru Kenyatta himself, to recognize the value that the Raila presidency could offer after decades of devoted resistance.

Objectively assessing the legacy of the Njonjo < / p> h2>

Njonjo has now left at the age of 101. But although a full four decades have passed since he was humiliated from his dominant position of power in 1982, and although he did not hold any significant public office thereafter, his death is nonetheless widespread. No wonder – under Mzee Jomo Kenyatta he was undoubtedly the determining architect of the new Kenyan state, an order that astonishingly continues to this day, for better or for worse. He wielded and monitored power with resolute, razor-sharp, and ruthless clarity, benefiting from the direct connections he established with major power brokers and bureaucrats and delivering what they needed. While this was made possible by its proximity to Mzee Kenyatta, it required exceptional skills and organization.

This enabled Njonjo to keep track of the critical internal workings of the entire state, not even Mwai Kibaki and Uhuru Kenyatta could set up as president. This network of strategically placed supporters enabled Njonjo, through meticulous advance planning, to prevent a powerful Kikuyu oligarchical group from preventing Vice President Moi from becoming incumbent president after the death of Mzee Kenyattta in August 1978, as the constitution required. A peaceful transition to a new regime that was never considered automatic has been achieved mainly thanks to Njonjo.

Still, it is not surprising that many of those commenting on Njonjo are now mainly on the fertile list the negatives of his first two decades in power. His extremely conservative anti-change policies were anathema to most Kenyans. Politically, he was against some of the fundamental premises on which our freedom fighters had fought for decades. He also brazenly promoted an Anglo-centric ideology that was hideous to most people because it trampled Kenyan culture and values. The always succinct Sunday Nation columnist Philip Ochieng captured it perfectly by referring to Njonjo as “Afro-Saxon”, the world’s first.

For many nationalists, progressives and Muslims, Njonjo’s close alliance with Israel and his promotion of contact with white South Africans and their apartheid regime at a time when virtually all of Africa was being boycotted by both states was not only wrong, it also threatened Kenya’s security. As regressive as these positions were, everyone has a right to their views, of course, especially if they were openly explained, as Njonjos always were.

But what was unacceptable were some outrageous views that Njonjo had about his Kenyan compatriots articulated that will forever tarnish his heritage. The most famous of these were his statement that he would not shake hands with Luos (because cholera was widespread in Nyanza) or fly on an airplane piloted by a black African.

A focus on this aspect of Njonjos The unfortunate legacy is understandable; it does the Kenyans a great disservice if analysts and scholars do not try to develop a fuller and more objective understanding of how one of our most powerful leaders rose – even if it is just a matter of seeing how we do can avoid a repetition phenomenon. We cannot blind ourselves to what is important in the real world.

Njonjo has gained his power mainly from the total trust that President Jomo Kenyatta has placed in him. He paid this back through his high level of organization and effectiveness and could rely on him to deliver what the two presidents – Mzee Kenyatta and Moi – wanted. The extremely close relationships he had with the British and Israelis, supported by Mzee Kenyatta’s heavy dependence on him, also earned Njonjo additional support from the President as it provided the Presidency with another level of protection and stability.

Njonjo’s ability to stand by and keep his promises has earned him the loyalty of his fellow civil servants. During the famous Kibaki-Njonjo rivalry in the early 1980s, in which most of us supported Kibaki, I was shocked to discover that some people from Vice President Kibaki’s backyard in Othaya came to Njonjo with a request for help, as they thought he would deliver, but with the vice president couldn’t be sure, the group said.

One of Njonjo’s other accomplishments was that he was a successful advocate for the vice presidencies of Moi and Kibaki. It was not an easy task, considering they both eventually became presidents.

Njonjo was also a strong advocate of women’s rights and was instrumental in getting a controversial historical successor law through much of the traditional in 1981. abolished bias, including preventing women from acquiring their husband’s property.

Finally, I should mention that I was deeply touched when I quietly left Kenya in December 2013 due to political harassment that Njonjo insisted a small lunch for me a few hours before I left. He also invited Raila, James Orengo, Fidel Odinga and his close ally Stanley Githunguri. (Anyang ’Nyong’o, for whom Njonjo felt a lot of affection, was out of the country).

What was most remarkable for me was to see how openly Njonjo spoke to the others. In conclusion, let me say that anyone who evaluates Njonjo’s legacy must place a high value on the amazing transformation that has marked its last two decades. I firmly believe that in countries like Kenya we need broad coalitions for human security and stability. In this context, there is much to be gained and little to lose by hugging leaders like Charles Njonjo. Our humanity also cries out for such a reconciliation.

Mr. Salim Lone, former spokesman for the United Nations and Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga, now lives in New Jersey , USA