Thursday, July 5, 2012

We no longer ask who assassinated Tom Mboya on 5th July 1969

Tom Mboya 

We no longer ask who assassinated  Joseph Thomas Mboya, on July 5 1969 and Josiah Kariuki Mwangi, on 2 March 1975. We know. We must now acknowledge these deaths as the Government of Kenya. 

And yet.... WHO ASSASSINATED these politicians, who?

The Government of the day must rise and serve justice, and tell the people…how to make sense of their history and nation. An apology is not enough. We have elected governments that have continued to operate as if these were not matters of urgency.

Writers and intellectuals have been relentless in this cause. Politicians have given up. The last voice I heard on Robert Ouko was James Orengo's and then it petered out. We cannot leave everything to a Truth Justice and Reconciliation Committee that has been dwarfed by controversy.  We have great hope in the Judiciary today. If only reforms will be real after the new constitution. We  have hope in committed people. Dr. Willy Mutunga, Kenya's Chief Justice is one of those who might make a big difference to Kenya's capacity to know herself as a nation, to believe in herself. And the citizens of course. 

We know our responsibility in communicating culture, history and peace. Tom Mboya, J.M Kariuki, Robert Ouko and Gama Pinto, no matter their weaknesses, are personalities that represented so much for Kenya that many people have died as a result of the deaths of these voices.

Chief Justice of Kenya, Dr. Willy Mutunga
We have to learn from history. Nations are still apologizing for the deportation of the Jews. Jens Stoltenberg the Prime Minister of Norway did so this year, January 2012. Recognition of such inhumanity, horror is important. It is vital.   

Joseph Thomas Mboya was assassinated on Saturday of July 5th 1969 in Nairobi Kenya at about 11am. The city of Nairobi and the entire country was plunged into darkness. We were paralysed. I was in Kiambu and shock spread everywhere so tangibly that children could touch it. We only asked the adults in hushed tones… “What is it?” As we crowded round radios.. Later a song was released. Tom Mboya, ndiye baba yetu… Afirika twasitikika!.... “Tom Mboya is our father and we in Afrika are distraught!” 

It was a dark day beyond every border. It was terrible in Nyanza and Kisumu the capital. At his ceremony there was a stampede. My aunt told me that Mama Ngina’s shoes came off there.  In Kisumu people were later shot the day when Kenyatta visited Kisumu to  open what was called the Russian hospital. Poet Macgoye was there. She wrote a poem about the children who were killed.

The darkness continues since Mboya’s death. No justice was served.  Writers and human rights activists continue to speak out and to ask questions.
This is Tom, the man Kenya lost.


David Goldsworthy wrote: Tom Mboya, the man Kenya wanted to forget. There are other books.
Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye has written about Mboya in her fiction. In Coming to Birth. Mboya was a brilliant leader.

In her fiction, Macgoye describes Tom Mboya after one of his meetings in Kenya. She writes,
"Martin was present at that Adult Education rally at Bahati where Tom finished his speech, debonair and controlled as ever and then rushed into the meeting which had been organised to exclude him."

On reading this, we realize that had the author captured Tom in a lively manner, Tom's image in action, this might have vivified this work tremendously. After all, Mboya's life had  marked effect on the major characters, Paulina and Martin. This minister was Martin's hero and when he died Martin's life was deeply influenced. It is then that Martin, and the author questioned the real meaning of freedom.
There is so much pain. There are no words. The characters speak…in sorrow…
Martin says in Dholuo.., "wawuok mondi" let us go… "woud min, nyathiwa" which means `child of my mother'. Macgoye further describes the situation in her poetry.

She wrote this poem For Tom only partly quoted here.

There's danger.
                            The grass is trampled.
                            Only vultures overhead
                            swoop, rend and darken.
                            All sheep is down,
                            The buffalo is down,
                            The elephant fallen,
                            Lion torn and unmanned.
                            Lie low for safety
                            The highest is gone.

"The hunters go unchecked; we see
                  Nothing to salvage from their prey. 
                  The carcase snatched from jackals,
                  lay encased, the spirit wandered free".

In a second poem,("For Tom another mode)", Macgoye asks     perti­nent questions about the death of Tom which led to so much distress in the land. She asks a question for freedom, for "the hunters go unchecked" after they have taken away the freedom to live, think and act from a leader who promised to be extremely helpful to the poor who needed him most and to the nation.

                   "Who calls him rich in worldly things? 
                  We knew him rich in peasant tongue, 
                   Thought in each language newly sprung
                   and courtesy, the grace of kings."

“In 1965, Pio Gama Pinto, formerly an activist for independence in 1950, was assassinated for political reasons. When in 1975, Josiah M. Kariuki, Member of Parliament disappeared and his dismembered body was found in Ngong Hills, the people of Kenya were deeply shocked. Macgoye, narrates in Coming to Birth how the people never stopped to miss their elected but killed leaders.  They mourned and commemorated them. The impact of J.M's death was strong: "J.M. burst upon the scene as a martyr and a paroxysm of grief ran through the city. The skies were leaden that April and it grew colder and colder." And pop music makers of the day, Kamaru and others did not fear so ask Kenyatta in songs in his mother tongue which they spoke what happened to Kariuki. The song went... People of our mother since Kariuki has died... and he has not stolen or killed anybody He has died for being good... and you ask yourself what you will die for... a song I heard and which moves me still. "Andu a maitu tondu Kariuki ni akua.. na tikuiya kana kuragana.. tundo arakua arakwire wega wake.eee na inyui mwiyuragiee mugakua kiii_ oiii oiii ooiii ye.. J M Kariuki mwendwo ni iri...." Kenyatta banned the song.
JM Kariuki

A bomb blast at a Nairobi bus station in 1975 preceded J.M. Kariuki's death. Some ordinary Kenyans were killed in that mysterious incident. Macgoye shows the negative impact of these mysterious deaths of leaders on the people and on the country as a whole. In so doing, Macgoye is questioning the fact that some individual's political careers and therefore freedom, were so thwarted. “ (Philo Ikonya MA thesis)

Charles Mugane Njonjo  is testifying today, 5th July 2012,  in the Kirima case in Nairobi was interviewed by Citizen TV and a series run in 2008 &2009 on the assassination of JM Kariuki on March 1975. It is still about questions, not answers but it gets very close. Leaves it in Government. Now we want acknowledgement.

Charles Mugane Njonjo

Former legislator, Martin Shikuku who is unwell today told me in 2008 and that is also recorded in the Hansard (Kenya Parliament official documentation) how he spoke to JM Kariuki when Mboya was killed urging him to support him when he asked the question in Kenyatta’s Bunge. Everyone was a afraid. JM Kariuki was Kenyatta’s secretary. Shikuku asked the question in Kenyatta’s  Parliament, Who killed Tom Mboya? He was supported by Deputy Speaker, Seroney. J.M. Kariuki did not manage. Martin and Seroney were detained. But a five years and a few months later, J.M. Kariuki was assassinated too. Now Shikuku still went to Parliament and still asks from his sick bed am sure….”Who killed Joseph Thomas Mboya? Who killed Josiah Mwangi Kariuki? We ask because it is good when governments acknowledge their big errors even if time has passed. Norway only apoligized to the Jews this year. We ask. But we know even when we ask. We know. It is better that you, governments of today, come clean and speak to us. There is something about healing in agreeing on what happened if we are one! These issues have never been focused on in a way that can unite us and now we are often torn and in tribal shreds. Some of the politicians today were still in Parliament then, many have died without telling us what they knew or felt, registering their grief beyond tribal and family cocoon, bar talk. 

We do not need whispers anymore. We need crystal clear voices of justice on what went wrong, symbolic ceremonies, justice for the families, shrines and museums where we make reparation for their bodies so violently taken, all of them...all the heroes of Kenya recognized and their role, and more books and poems. Songs. Songs in all languages of Kenya but songs of unity in our struggles. Songs for heroes. Not songs of the hatred that injustice has borne among us and tribalism, the child of political machinations. We need hope in the likes of Shikuku, Seroney, Ouko, Kariuki and Mboya who spoke the mother tongue of justice without worrying about clans and ethnicity they came from. All these and more love protests, so that history is forever alive!

Robert Ouko, left Minister for Foreign Affairs, Jimmy Carter and  Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi on the last tour they  made A few weeks after their return, Robert Ouko was assassinated. 

Eh Mungu nguvu yetu!


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