The suffering of MoiAfter Jaramogi Oginga Odinga resigned from the Kenyatta administration (actually he was forced out without being told directly to leave by political frustration and pressure masterminded by one Tom Mboya) Kenyatta appointed Joseph Zuzarte Murumbi vice president.
Kenya’s second Vice President was a fascinating character and it is sad that too little has been written about him (partly due to the fact that the man kept his mouth firmly shut until his death in 1990 at the age of 79.) It is said that he was the offspring of a Goan trader and a Maasai mother but spent the first 16 years of his life in India. After that he traveled the world extensively and at one time worked in London as press and tourist officer in the Moroccan embassy.
Kenya's short serving second Vice President, Joseph Murumbi.
Mystery has always surrounded Murumbi’s sudden resignation on August 31st 1966 after serving as VP for only 15 months. The truth is revealed in this earlier exclusive Kumekucha post.
To understand the whole scenario better, picture a typical Kenyan today in the Diaspora who gets a chance to get involved in the politics of their motherland after years of working abroad. That kind of person is bound to be extremely patriotic and eager to do good for their country. They are also likely to be very idealist in their approach. Now you can begin to understand the disillusionment he must have encountered as VP to a president who was surrounded by bloodthirsty selfish individuals who were amassing land and wealth like there was no tomorrow. But the final straw for Murumbi was probably the discovery that his close friend Pio Gama Pinto had been murdered by the Kiambu mafia. Lawyer Pheroze Nowrojee agrees and says; "The assassination of Pinto illustrated to Murumbi the shocking extent to which the new government had departed from its promises. His feeling, evidently, was that these were not the values for which so many had suffered, and his departure was effectively only a matter of time."
Pinto was assassinated on February 25th 1965 and Murumbi was not VP at the time. So what is meant here is that Murumbi was already disillusioned with the Kenyatta government before his appointment as VP and probably thought that he would change things as the “second in command”. It is also possible that Murumbi would not have known for sure who ordered the hit on Pinto until he had served several months as Vice President where he was bound to come across a lot more privileged information than an ordinary minister would ordinarily have access to.
After Murumbi, Daniel arap Moi was appointed in late 1966. How the Moi appointment was decided on is rather fascinating. Powerful AG Charles Njonjo was traveling in the presidential limousine with President Kenyatta somewhere close to Nakuru. Njonjo was making suggestions of possible VPs and Kenyatta was dismissing them one by one. Names like Tom Mboya rolled off Njonjo’s mouth but it was obvious why such a person would not be appointed. Kenyatta had learnt his lesson with Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and basically what he was looking for was a non-threatening (to the presidency) person who would also be a political asset. When Njonjo’s top choices ran out he started mentioning the names of everybody and anybody he could think of and each time Kenyatta shook his head. When he mentioned Moi, Kenyatta hesitated for a few seconds and then smiled and nodded his head in agreement. In the months and years to follow Moi helped Kenyatta to settle many Kikuyus in the Rift Valley amongst his Kalenjin community after their prime land in central province had been taken over by Kenyatta and his close associates. So in that respect he was a great asset to Kenyatta in planting the seeds for the terrible tribal clashes that were to come later and long after Kenyatta’s death.
But being VP was not easy for Moi. Indeed several times he even complained to Kenyatta about the harassment he was suffering. Kenyatta did nothing. There were even times when Moi would lead a Kenyan delegation to some conference abroad but end up being totally ignored and taking orders from others in the delegation who were in reality much more powerful than he was. Like Dr. Njoroge Mungai.
But the abuse did not stop there. In one very humiliating incident, Moi returned from a foreign trip to be cornered by James Mungai, assistant commissioner of police in charge of Rift valley province based in Nakuru where Kenyatta spent most of his time. Mungai was related to Kenyatta. Read more about James Mungai and how he lives today in this earlier Kumekucha post.
Mungai told Moi that he suspected that he had come back into the country with guns to overthrow Kenyatta and so he was subjected to the kind of search that only prison inmates have to go through. What that means is that somebody is stripped naked and that place down there where inmates hide all kinds of stuff is searched thoroughly. It is said that Moi felt that this was too much and complained directly to Kenyatta. Kenyatta answered by asking a question. Who is the minister in charge of the police? (At that time Moi had the home affairs docket and the police was under that minsitry. Moi himself later transferred the police to the office of the president when he took over power.) Moi replied that he was the minister in charge of the police and that was the end of that conversation.
Moi went through many humiliating experiences as Vice president. To his credit he weathered the storm and managed to remain humble and persevering. And although he came very close to resigning on one or two occasions, he held on to the post until Kenyatta’s death in August 22nd 1978.
Interestingly until the last minute, Moi did not have any ambitions for the presidency of Kenya despite being VP for so long. In fact one of the compelling factors that convinced him to hold onto the post with the suffering that went with it was the fact that he knew too much and it was clear that the Kiambu mafia would not be comfortable with him out of government considering how much he knew. It was likely that on his resignation from government, he would have either died or just disappeared without trace as was the norm.
I am personally convinced that there was divine intervention in Moi’s survival and ascension to the presidency. Sample the following.
There was a paramilitary group formed called the Ngoroko. This unit was set up after the change-the-constitution bid by the Kiambi mafia failed. The Ngoroko’s mission was simple. On the death of Kenyatta they were supposed to wipe out all opposition to one of the members of the Kiambu mafia taking over the presidency. It was obvious that on Kenyatta’s death orders would be relayed to the paramilitary group through Mbiyu Koinange who was always at the president’s side at a key member of the Kiambu mafia. Koinange was a minister of state in the office of the president. Now on the night that Kenyatta died in Mombasa, Koinange was away on business in Nairobi. He had flown out that very evening. That is the first time he was not at the president’s side in 20 years. Absolutely amazing. Still word leaked out somehow that Kenyatta was dead and roadblocks were set up near Nakuru because it was known that Moi was at his farm near Nakuru. It was critical that Moi got back to Nairobi to summon a cabinet meeting and for AG Charles Njonjo to ensure that the constitution was followed to the letter. Moi abandoned his official car and instead was bundled into the boot of a very old Peugeot 404 that he used to use around the farm. That is how he got past a deadly Ngoroko roadblock and made it back to Nairobi. For those who know what an old Peugeot 404 looks like, it is a car with a rather large boot. Still Moi is a very tall man and it must have been very uncomfortable traveling most of the way back to Nairobi inside that boot.
Again it is said that after the first cabinet meeting, Moi was terrified and confided in Njonjo that he did not feel that he was able to step into Kenyatta’s shoes. Hawa wa-Kikuyu wataniua (these Kikuyus will kill me) Moi is said to have told Njonjo in Kiswahili whilst almost in tears. Njonjo quietly explained that he would stand by his side and help him settle into the presidency and would ensure that he was protected from any would-be assassins. Moi reluctantly accepted and in many ways this explains the power that Njonjo wielded in the early Moi years where he would ride in the presidential limousine with Moi and GG Kariuki and Nicholas Biwott practically all the time. At one point people would mockingly refer to the three politicians as Moi’s three wives.
Amazingly on taking over power Kenya’s second president was ready to forgive all this suffering that he had gone through. But something dramatic would happen that would completely change his approach to the presidency and begin a reign of terror in Kenya that almost rivaled the Kenyatta days.
Get a Free copy of almost the entire book Dark Secrets of the Kenyan Presidency
To be continued. In the next post More amazing facts about the presidency.