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“I don’t eat nyama choma, I eat a lot of veggies” ‘Duke of Kabeteshire’ Charles Njonjo turns 99

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BY OLIVIA MUNGWANA

Kenya’s Former Attorney General Charles Njonjo on Wednesday celebrated his 99th birthday.

Despite being just one year shy of the centenarian tag,, the Duke of Kabeteshire, as he is popularly known, still remains regal and enigmatic and also a celebrity.

In a previous interview, asked what keeps him young, Njonjo said he looks after himself.

I swim daily, I used to do 12 laps, now I do only seven. I also have a bicycle which I ride for 10 minutes daily, on top of the treadmill which I do for 10 minutes daily. I’m also careful about what I eat; I don’t eat nyama choma, I eat a lot of veggies,”  he told Business Daily in an interview

Njonjo, who featured prominently (and powerfully) in the post-independence politics of Kenya, was known for his “hawkish” brand of politics and is often touted as one of the wealthiest men in Kenya.

Below is an interview he did with Business Daily when he was 25 years.

To describe “Sir” Charles Njonjo as immaculate would be how the sky might attempt to describe the colour blue. It seems pointless and wasteful. But he seems to wear that adjective on his cuffs, doesn’t he?

At 95, he still remains regal and enigmatic— not to mention a celebrity; Kenya’s first Attorney-General for over 15 years, Member of Parliament for Kikuyu constituency, minister for Constitutional Affairs in the Moi government and, more recently, chairman of the East African Wildlife Society. Not to mention the prominent businessman tag.

Njonjo, who featured prominently (and powerfully) in the post-independence politics of Kenya, was known for his “hawkish” brand of politics and is often touted as one of the wealthiest men in Kenya.

In person, despite being five years shy of the centenarian tag, he refuses to be bowed by age (or man, for that matter). He remains resolute in his signature pinstripe suits and a blue checked shirt that he had on when I met him in his Westlands office. He was amusing, unapologetic, a straight-shooter, deliberate and astute.

What’s the story of that odd-looking bracelet on your wrist?

Oh this? This is an elephant bracelet. It’s a celebration and support of elephants. I wear it because I believe in the conservation of elephants. I believe we all have to save these animals for future generations.

What kind of a person were you in your prime; standing at the elbow of the bearded Jomo Kenyatta — the first Attorney-General of an independent republic, well-scrubbed in your pinstripe suit?

You know, I miss the discipline of that time. I miss the power I had, power that I could use for the common good. I miss the nation that we had then, a strong nation.

There is nothing that went on that we didn’t know about; we had the proverbial long arm of the law. We were always two steps ahead, we knew what conversation you had in your house the previous night.

What happened in Garissa recently would never have happened because we had total control of security.

What has changed over time for you, socially and politically?

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What has really changed is this new Constitution that we have. It is good but at the moment, because we don’t understand it, it’s bad and it’s dangerous. It has brought a lot of misunderstanding, ambitions and greed for power.

All these governors and this paraphernalia that go with it; motorcade riders. It’s brought ugliness and pretence. The whole intention of our constitution was for government to be closer to the people. That hasn’t been the case.

Are you happy with the work of the Judiciary now?

No. (Pause) I think we have a lot of people there who are inexperienced. This is because of appointment of people who are not seasoned.

You were once a very powerful man. What did you learn about power and influence?

That you can use it and misuse it. I used it for good, I could have used it to destroy.

Did power change who you were?

No, it made me humble. Power can make you arrogant and ruthless.

How do you manage to maintain yourself like this at 95?

I look after myself. I swim daily, I used to do 12 laps, now I do only seven. I also have a bicycle which I ride for 10 minutes daily, on top of the treadmill which I do for 10 minutes daily. I’m also careful about what I eat; I don’t eat nyama choma, I eat a lot of veggies.

What is your greatest struggle in life now?

(Pause) I’m struggling about you and your Press. I get my paper at 6am and I read it until 7am and I just get depressed with what I read. Then I wonder why I bother reading this newspaper, to depress me? It’s a habit though.

Look, you have done well for yourself in life, but you still wear a suit every day and come here to work! When will you say this is enough, I won’t come to work anymore?

Maybe when I’m cremated. Otherwise I will wait until I cannot move a limb. As long as my feet can carry me, I will come here daily.

Do you think about death, do you fear dying?

No. Death is something you can face, why fear it? I don’t engage in that kind of thought and I don’t want anyone to raise money when I die… friends meeting at the cathedral… I don’t want any collection of money.

Just how much are you worth? Do you know?

I’m a poor man. I’m not worth anything.

I don’t drink much… if I’m to drink, it will be just a bottle of beer and maybe a cider, that’s it.

Ok, so you don’t drink. What’s your sin then?

My sin? (Thinks). I don’t sleep enough. I’m unable to do eight straight hours of sleep… that I regret because I’d love to have a deep sleep.

Because I’m thinking… and I’m worried… (Pause)… I’m thinking of things… you know, like what will you write about me after this? I debate with myself in bed.

What do you least like about Sir Charles Njonjo?

(Pause). I like myself… no, I really do.

Have you been a good father?

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Because I have looked after my kids well, I have seen them through their education; one is a barrister, the other is a scientist and one is a veterinary doctor. They have turned out well, I think. I have given them what my father gave me, an education.

What was your limitation as a father?

(Laughs) You know, sometimes these kids argue with me, saying dad, this is not right, this isn’t supposed to be like this… my son was arguing with me last night from the UK. He doesn’t agree with what I say and I can’t force him, because that’s his position.

But him arguing or not agreeing with you isn’t your limitation, is it? What is yours?

That I can’t flog him… (chuckles)… I mean I can’t beat him up.

You would prefer to beat him up?

(Chuckle) No, I prefer to talk to him but he wasn’t listening, but in the end, I won the argument! (Laughs).

Do you have an inheritance plan in place, or will we be treated to a public circus of kids fighting for their father’s wealth when he’s long gone, like we have witnessed in the Kirima and Karume cases?

Yes, yes… we have sat together and they know what they will get and inherit. There is a will they can’t challenge and I advise our people to write wills because what we witness with the people you have mentioned is sad. If they were to come back to life today, I don’t know what they would say!

Why did you marry so late?

Because I couldn’t find a girl I could live with.

You? All those girls you must have met in Kenya and abroad? Not one single one you could live with?

All those girls [and] I couldn’t find one I could live with. It took me a long time but eventually, I found one and I married her at All Saints Cathedral… she was in the choir.

Were you looking for a choir girl?

No, she just happened to be in the choir. (Laughs).

Is Kenya worse now than it was in the 1960s?

Yes, even your shilling is worse off.

Your suits are an urban folklore. Is it true that you once had a suit that had your initials —CN — inscribed in the stripes?

Yes, I used to have that suit; bought it in London, tailored in London

That’s what I like — not a plain one like yours. (Grins)

I don’t even wear blazers, I did all this for you. Don’t you think I have tried?

Yes, you have tried but next time you come here without a tie, I will show you the door.

How many of those suits do you own?

What has been your greatest loss in life?

My greatest loss was the death of President Jomo Kenyatta. There was a man I followed and trusted and that’s the man who used to lead the country with a rungu(club) but at least we were united.

I could go to North Eastern and come back. You try and do that today, you’ll be back a corpse.

Who is your closest and most trusted friend?

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Today? (Pause) I trust myself. It’s difficult to say, apart from my own family, the only man I trust is Richard Leakey. I hope he saves our wildlife with his new appointment (as chairman of the Kenya Wildlife Services). (Pause) Who is the editor of your paper?

That’s a lady… no, this is not the man who I’m thinking of who writes for you people, a nasty fellow who wrote an untrue story about my involvement in the CMC scandal.

You see, CMC Motors was a company started by Europeans to sell vehicles and the way they were doing it in those early years was that European employees used to get paid part of their salaries here and part in England to supplement their salaries and to maintain their way of life, but also to keep them interested in working here.

Some directors were being paid from overseas but your people picked that and said that was wrong. But it wasn’t only CMC that was doing it during that time. Many companies in East Africa were also doing it to maintain their European staff.

You must be referring to the audit report by Webber-Wentzel…

The audit by the South African company? (Dismissive wave). No, nothing to do with that. That money was kept in England and was done by the book. I didn’t take trouble replying to that news report, I treated it with contempt.

What is the most common question people ask you when they meet you?

They don’t ask me anything, they are usually intimidated. But you are a brave young man, asking me all these questions, I commend you for that. Thanks.

I’m not, I’m a factual man. I don’t imagine romance. I’m not going to engage in fantasies and things like that, nothing.

When you once went to Ronalo Foods in town for lunch with Raila, a cross-section of your tribesmen felt, at that time, that you were jumping in bed with the enemy, they felt betrayed…

(Long stare) Don’t Kikuyus eat ugali?… (Pause) Don’t they? Why can’t I eat ugali with Raila without it being turned into a cinema?

What are you reading now?

How do you fill your time?

I visit my coffee farm in Kiambu every evening. I also have a goat farm for milk. That occupies my time.

Where the devil lives, you don’t want to be on Facebook.

It’s a social media platform where people connect with friends and share things.

Is it a gathering of people at night? I don’t know these modern things. I don’t even know how to use a phone like this one you are using to record me… my phone only keeps numbers.

How much do you have on you right now?

What do you mean? As we speak?

Yes, in your wallet. I want to know how much a man like you walks around with in cash.

Let me check… [fishes out a wad of cash —guesstimate Sh10,000 — held together with a silver money clip].

(Laughs) Okay, this interview is over. You have enough.

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KCSE candidate loses two teeth in brutal attack by prefects

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A Form Four student at Mutindwa Day Mixed Secondary School in Tharaka-Nithi County lost two teeth in an alleged brutal attack by the school head boy and four of his friends.

Ian Karani, who is recuperating at PCEA Chogoria Mission Hospital where he was admitted on Wednesday last week, told the media that the prefect and his colleagues beat him up for walking out of the dining hall with food against the school regulations.

“The head boy approached me demanding to know why I taking my food outside the dining hall and before I explained he descended on me with blows before his four friends joined him,” Karani said.

Left lying

He said after a thorough beating he was left lying on the ground with blood oozing from mouth and the nose where he was picked by teachers and rushed to the hospital.

The students said teachers lied to the hospital that he had accidentally fallen and also demanded that he should not tell the truth to avoid the matter becoming a police case.

Mr Murithi Ndubi, Karani’s father, said when he got information on what had happened to his son, he rushed to the hospital and found him at the casualty room unconscious.

READ ALSO:   Kibaki and Njonjo: Neighbours who don't get along

He claimed that teachers have been intimidating his son forcing him to lie that he fell so as to protect the school reputation and avoid dragging the management into police cases.

“I want justice for my son because he suffered permanent injuries at the hands of prefects and teachers don’t want the truth to come out,” said Mr Ndubi.

Indiscipline case

School principal Mr Mugambi Mitambo agreed that the boy was beaten by the school head boy and four other Form Four boys and assured that he was handling the indiscipline case appropriately.

“Karani lost his teeth while fighting with the prefect and other four boys and I’m handling the matter as an indiscipline case,” said Mr Mitambo.

BY Nairobi News

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News

Sonko compares his extended foreign tour to Trump’s trips abroad

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Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko who has been ‘missing’ for almost two weeks now has compared his absence to that of United States President Donald Trump.

Even as he is being investigated in numerous corruption cases, Sonko has had the time to visit several countries abroad including Dubai, Italy, France and later in the week he will be visiting South Korea.

On Tuesday, through social media, Sonko explained why he has been away, stating that all the trips he has taken are good for the city.

“In the last week starting Monday 7th October, I have been out of the country on an official tour where I visited Europe (France) Montpellier, Copenhagen (Denmark) and Asia (South Korea) to attend key note events where other major cities of the world were represented by my counterparts,” Sonko wrote Facebook.

He compared the trips to those of Trump after he took over the Oval office.

“In 2017, US President Donald Trump made several foreign trips, one from 20th to 27th May (8 Days) where he visited a number of Middle East Countries and another in November 5th to 14th (10 Days) visiting Asia, the Korea Peninsula and China. In 2018, Trump went for several foreign trips with one lasting from June 7th to 16th (9 Days) in Europe,” he explained.

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He further said that as the governor he has also made several crucial official trips to represent Nairobi City around the world in the last two years.

This he explained is because he believes it is important for him get to interact with other world city leaders and get to see or learn what they are doing differently in their respective cities.

That aside, Sonko admitted that he has been enjoying every moment of his foreign trip.

BY Nairobi News

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Entertainment

Nazizi exhilarated as son meets President Uhuru Kenyatta

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Last week marked eight decades since St Mary’s School, Nairobi was started and in honor of the fete, the school’s former and current students came together to celebrate.

Leading the ceremony was Saints alumni President Uhuru Kenyatta who stole the show when he turned up dressed in full school uniform.

Legendary Kenyan Hip hop artist Nazizi Hirji’s 9-year-old son Tafari Firoz who is a pupil at the institution had the privilege of meeting President Uhuru Kenyatta and sharing a cake-cutting session with him.

Tafari was among a select number of students chosen to participate in the event.

An elated Nazizi took to Instagram to share her proud mama moment with her online family.

“The president of my heart @tafari_firoz got to meet the President of Kenya yesterday. The celebration was #saintsat80 and yes @uhurukenyatta is an old Saints boy. Super proud mum,” she wrote.

Nazizi’s son with President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Joining the president in celebration of the school’s 80th anniversary was Citizen TV news anchor Jeff Koinange, Baringo Senator Gideon Moi and business mogul Jimi Wanjigi, also alumnus of Saints.

The president was pleased with the warm welcome he got from St Mary’s students and in turn extended an invite to the learners to visit the State House for a tour as he urged for the school’s improved infrastructure.

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“Let’s put up credible framework to marshal resources to assist the school in improving libraries and other infrastructure. Institutions’ histories are kept alive by people,” said the President.

By SDE

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