With just 141 days to the August 9 General Election, the political season has hit the fever pitch. Politicians have taken to campaigning, referring to textbook tactics and some of them awakening ghosts from the past.
In the most recent comments that sparked debate, Moses Kuria gave his two cents on why Raila Odinga would not become president. In his remarks on March 18, he claimed that the people from Mount Kenya would not vote for him, owing to an oath taken in 1969.
Kenyans.co.ke did research on this oath and came across the narration of billionaire Njenga Karume confessed to taking the oath at Jomo Kenyatta’s Ichaweri home and penned down what, according to him, happened.
In his autobiography, Beyond Expectations, Karume noted that the oath was ideated in July 1969 following the assassination of then powerful minister Tom Mboya, which caused political tension in the country.
Former Cabinet Minister and tycoon Njenga Karume.
He narrated that at the time, the Kenyatta government was being blamed for the murder. While it discoloured the relationship between the Kikuyu and Luo communities, it also illuminated the disunity between the various Agikuyu subtribes.
“There was an erroneous discontent during that difficult period. The Luo were grumbling and suppressed and the Kikuyu were more than divided than ever before. Other tribes felt that they were sidelined and neglected when it came to the benefits of Uhuru,” he stated.
“It was said that Mbiyu Koinange, Arthur Wayoike Thungu (Kenyatta’s trusted bodyguard), and a few others suggested that the Kikuyu community take a loyalty oath and commit themselves to the President personally. This way, those who took the oath would forever be religiously bound to support Kenyatta, no matter what else might happen,” Karume wrote in his book.
The late Karume told how he was made to take the oath at the late President Kenyatta’s home in Gatundu. He explained that he was asked to visit the residence by Kariuki Kimani wa Mbagi, the manager of Kenyatta’s firm in Njiru.
“Kariuki informed me that the president wanted to see me urgently in Gatundu. We met in Ruiru and drove to Gatundu together but when I arrived, I was not taken to Kenyatta’s house as usual,” he wrote.
He explained that Kariuki told him that the Head of State was waiting for him in another house, leading him to the security quarters. However, when the got to the quarters, he was ushered into a dark room but the President was nowhere to be seen.
Instead, he spotted an old friend Kaniu Kinyanjui, a close friend, and several other me who were holding pangas. He was then instructed to strip down.
“‘Remove your clothes, my in-law,’ Kaniu told me. I immediately realised that this was an oathing session, I had taken oaths before, notably the Mau Mau ones.
“The oath involved chewing some mucky stuff and pledging my loyalty to Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, the government, and his Kikuyu leadership, and to stand with my tribe at all times. I was also asked to contribute some money for the cause,” he narrated.
After partaking the oath, Thungu opened up that the alleged urgent meeting with the president was bait to lure him. It then dawned on him that there was a possibility that Kenyatta was not aware of what was happening.
He added that several cabinet ministers might have also been made to take the oath known as chai in the same fashion, with children also called upon to pledge their allegiance.
“I did not mind taking the oath so much, but I could not understand how it could be done at the president’s home. The idiots were so sloppy that they even administered it to children, which was totally against the cultural concept,” he wrote.
Karume noted that the religious people were against the oath, noting that it brought more harm than good to the Agikuyu community. He opined that the oath further polarized the Kikuyu community.
“Some of the members of Kenyatta’s kitchen cabinet believed that if senior figures pledged their loyalty, it would make them more steadfast against the onslaught of other tribes.
“The politically beleaguered President is said to have accepted the idea rather reluctantly. The 1969 “chai” therefore worsened the existing situation by a considerable degree,” the late president’s close ally stated.
Apart from pledging loyalty to the president, some of those who took the oath were asked to ensure that the presidency would never go past River Chania (a reference to Nyeri County where the Kikuyu communities in Kiambu and Nyeri were at loggerheads).
However, the oath debate did not come up when Mwai Kibaki contested the presidency and got votes from across Kikuyuland.
The late billionaire Njenga Karume (in a suit).