Thursday, December 10, 2009
What Njenga Karume left out of his biography
Everybody has skeletons in their closets. Everybody!!! I am talking about those dark little secrets that one would never dare tell.
So to be fair to one Njenga Karume, it is a wonderful thing that he has made the brave (and rare in Africa) move to write a biography. There is no doubt that he has gotten an excellent ghostwriter and probably the best book editor that money can buy to bring out a very well written book. Perhaps the best written biography ever in these shores. Not bad for a man who hardly got any formal education to speak of.
What this man has done should be encouraged as much as possible amongst other Kenyans and indeed Africans across the continent.
Having said that, it is also worth noting that Njenga Karume is one of the most controversial Kenyans still around who has straddled the twin arenas of big business and big politics for a very long time indeed. The man knows a lot and I dare add has also done a lot, both good and bad.
Although he was not a member proper, of Kenyatta’s inner kitchen cabinet, Karume knows enough to shed much more light on some of Kenya’s big mysteries, like the murders of Tom Mboya and JM Kariuki. Not to mention the disappearance without trace of one Kungu Karumba. I am not surprised that he has steered clear of some of these very sensitive topics. After all some of the chief murderers who participated in these crimes are still very much alive. And besides even where they have passed on, those murders have helped retain the status quo and a system that has helped Mr Karume rake in billions over the years.
Still I have to admit that there were quite a number of shocks for me in the Karume book. For instance everybody knew that the man had access to President Jomo Kenyatta but I was surprised at the ease with which the man could just pick up the phone and talk or leave a message for a president who would disappear from the public for weeks on end and would regularly slip in and out of comas. Indeed Mr Karume’s honesty in many instances is very refreshing and will make this biography a hot seller for many years to come.
I went to school with one of Njenga Karume’s sons (he was a couple of years ahead of me) and one incident stands out in my mind that illustrated just how wealthy the man was especially in those days (early 80s). The younger Karume was pretty popular in school and everybody knew that it was his dad’s wealth and influence that had gotten him to the national school and not his academic prowess. But what he lacked in academics he more than made up for on the social scene. This chap would “borrow” his dad’s cars and paint the town red with his friends and girls from Kenya High School. One day he was involved in an accident that badly damaged the Mercedes Benz car he was using. The young lad was terrified of his dad and could not dare bring back the badly dented car and so it was towed away to some garage where the repair bill proved to be too high even for the crazy pocket money the young Karume used to receive. And so it was stuck there for quite some time. It took Njenga Karume months to realize that one of his personal cars was missing.
One of the things that has been left out of the Njenga Karume biography is his extremely dodgy beginning where it is said that some of the activities he got involved in in the early days to raise capital for his businesses was stealing car tyres.
Secondly although Karume’s ability to use his political contacts to profit hugely on the business front comes out very clearly in the book, one curious deal made possible by then Finance Minister Mwai Kibaki is missing from the book.
Mwai Kibaki leaked out a small part of his budget proposals a few days earlier which he knew would greatly profit Mr Karume. The price of beer was set to rise by 10 cents (roughly the equivalent of Kshs 2 today). I have to admit that there are many businessmen who would have gotten this same information and done very little if anything with it, but not Mr Karume. The man started working his phones and through his beer distribution business, placed a colossal and unprecedented order for beers. In those days he had a huge depot for storing the stuff so storage was not a problem. Naturally the huge order was being paid for at the “old prices” that is minus the 10 cents. Mr Karume then postponed making any deliveries for a day or two (another name for that is hoarding) until after the budget was read. The result was that he made a fortune from this insider trading transaction. Karume and Kibaki have remained friends for years except that brief moment prior to the 2002 presidential elections when Karume’s business empire faced some serious cash flow problems and he ditched Kibaki and the party he (Karume) himself had formed and financed to back Uhuru Kenyatta for the presidency. To his dismay he ended up with the losing horse but was quickly back in Mwai Kibaki’s fold shortly after Narc started crumbling. The two men have too many secrets they share to remain separated for long.
Read this previous Kumekucha article on a dirty deal that Njenga Karume executed.
Kumekucha Chris will be back this weekend with his controversial Weekend special. This time he digs into the dirty secrets of the presidency. Don't miss it. Cancel all your weekend dates stay away from the beaches if you must, at the very least make adjustments... he promises you will NOT regret it. This Saturday and Sunday only here in Kumekucha.
Posted by Chris at 3:02 PM