How Moi plotted Njonjo's downfall

President crafted Charles Njonjo’s downfall over fear of another centre of power


Charles Njonjo during an interview on August 20, 2010. FILE PHOTO | JENNIFER MUIRURI
Charles Njonjo during an interview on August 20, 2010. FILE PHOTO | JENNIFER MUIRURI |  NATION MEDIA GROUP
By NATION REPORTER
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Former powerful minister Charles Njonjo’s career ended in a public and noisy way.
This was due to President Daniel arap Moi’s resolve to entrench himself in power by getting rid of leaders he thought would become so powerful that they would create another centre of authority.
It all started with a presidential rally in Kisii District.
President Moi, who was touring the region, told the gathering that some Western countries were grooming a traitor to take over the country’s leadership.
This resulted in an orchestrated assault on the Constitutional Affairs Minister with his political enemies ganging up to condemn the “traitor”.
Mr Njonjo had joined elective politics in 1980 after retiring as Attorney-General.
He used the networks he had formed as AG and his closeness to Mr Moi to become one of the most powerful politicians in the country.
Some went to the extent of describing him as co-president.
In the process, he made many enemies.
'A STUMBLING BLOCK'
To his admirers, Mr Njonjo was a constitutionalist and a key figure in the peaceful transition from the Jomo Kenyatta era to that of Mr Moi.
According to Mr Moi’s biographer Andrew Morton, the President realised that the minister’s star was fast rising.
“Njonjo represented a stumbling block if Moi was ever to be recognised as an effective head of state both at home and abroad. A parting of ways became inevitable,” says Morton in his book Moi: The making of an African Statesman.
The entry of Mr Njonjo into politics brought him into conflict with Vice-President Mwai Kibaki amid local and international reports that there were rifts in the Moi Cabinet.
Two days after the Kisii rally, Kerio Central MP Francis Mutwol, then secretary of Kanu’s Parliamentary Group, narrowed down on the “traitor who wants to be installed president”, who “travelled a great deal” and had “a lot of money” outside Kenya.
On the same day, Mr Kibaki said the traitor would be “shown no mercy”.
On June 29, Mr Martin Shikuku tabled papers in Parliament alleging that Mr Njonjo had business links to apartheid South Africa, had smuggled arms into the country and had bribed MPs to support him.
While Mr Njonjo dismissed the accusations as “witch-hunting”, he was on the same day suspended from the Cabinet and a Judicial Commission of Inquiry appointed to investigate the allegations.
The following day, he was suspended from Kanu and quit his parliamentary seat.