Somewhere in Soin Ward, Rongai Constituency in Nakuru County. Four stone-built round huts stand conspicuously to travellers using the dusty route. While the locals have grown used to the huts, visitors in the area are intrigued by the presence of those huts that look more like ancient kilns
That the huts lie on Kenya Railways land could be a hint as to who built them. according to the locals, the two pairs of huts were put up in the early 1900s by Indian coolies who were building the Lunatic Express. What many may not know is that the Indian coolies also suffered from wildlife attacks in Rongai just not as high a scale as had happened in Tsavo.
To keep safe from the wildlife attacks at night, they had put up these two pairs of stone huts. The huts in each pair are attached to each other by a low build annexure which locals say was used as a kitchen.
The huts still stand strong and even their roofing was stone build. There were no windows but they had several small openings that helped in lighting and ventilating the interiors.
For eight years, until his demise on 9th of January 1988 Kariuki Chotara dominated Nakuru politics overshadowing even elected Parliamentarians.
During his eight years as Nakuru District KANU chairman, he made himself into a no-nonsense institution and was an un-understood enigma to many. Somehow, Kariuki who has a road in Naivasha town named after him built enviable political power around himself and was envied by many of his counterparts.
Chotara started his journey in party politics when he was elected the Naivasha sub-branch chairman in 1966. He held the post for 10 years until 1976 when he ran against Kihika Kimani as Nakuru District chairman.
Chotara became powerful following the passing on of Kenya’s founding President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. He was a useful tool that Kenya’s second President, Daniel Moi utilized to deal with the “Nakuru Mafia.” The “Nakuru Mafia” was a clique of wealthy and powerful Kikuyus who had emerged in Rift Valley during the reign of President Kenyatta. The faction had grown into affluence and political impunity in Kenyatta’s last days as President and Moi was looking for a way to trim their influence.
In the 1976 KANU Party elections, Kariuki Chotara had the temerity to challenge Kihika Kani the Nakuru KANU supremo in the party chairmanship. Of course he lost in the elections but he maintains that the elections aaaawere rigged. He even went ahead to file an appeal. Two years later, in 1979, following Kenyatta’s death the previous year, the appeal against Kihika was upheld and Kariuki Chotara took over as Chairman unopposed. He was also elected councillor to Naivasha Urban Council.
Kariuki Chotara as Nakuru KANU Chairman
Kariuki took to his new position as Nakuru KANU chairman with gusto and passion. He had a sharp tongue, made unbridled statements and spoke in black and white. The 1979 elections saw many of the previous political powerhouses in Nakuru lose their positions. The newly elected MPs and Councillors, all under the only political party KANU, soon learnt to toe the line behind Chotara.
Around this time, he was once quoted in the media saying that Nakuru being the President’s home town, the people needed to be peaceful and loyal to the President.
Moi loved Chotara and his way of doing things. He actually seemed to encourage it thereby building Chotara’s stature more and more. This in turn gave Chotara the confidence to continue running the party and political affairs of Nakuru the way he deemed fit. Anyone in Nakuru District hoping to make it in the political career had to pay homage to him.
During the 1983 General election, only those aligned to Chotara were elected. These were people expected to be loyal to Chotara, Moi and KANU. Kefa Wagara lost to Fred Kubai in Nakuru East while Francis Kimosop was elected in Nakuru North. Amos Kimemia was elected in Nakuru Town ousting Mark Mwithaga and Njenga Mungai was re-elected in Nakuru West.
Twelve candidates from Naivasha Urban Council who were to vie for civic seats but were opposed to Chotara were denied party clearance. This completely denied them to vie proving Chotara’s authority in Nakuru politics.
For his “splendid performance,” Moi rewarded Chotara with a nomination to parliament. Moi even went ahead to praise Chotara as a selfless man of action who could not be compared to any other KANU chairman in the republic.
During his term as chairman, Nakuru was the most active party branch. Weekly meetings were held to recruit more members but more so to warn those who were going against the party.
Having dealt with the “Nakuru Mafia,” Chotara turned his attention to the Kikuyus in Mt. Kenya whom he accused of all manner of schemes against the party, the President and himself. He went ahead to claim that there was a plot to assassinate him. His ruthlessness in dealing with his kinsmen earned him a lot of enemies from Kikuyu land who saw him as a traitor.
Kariuki Chotara early days
Kariuki is said to have been born in Murang’a District in the early 1920s. His original name was Maina Mwangi but he was nicknamed Chotara because he was very light-skinned. At some point when the police were looking for him after he broke out of detention, he was described in The Standard newspaper as a man of small build, light-skinned almost yellow skin, with a small beard. He had dark brown eyes, very dark brown curly hair and a small mouth. Chotara used to stoop and walk with small steps and had the habit of hanging his head.
In the 1950s, it is reported that he moved to Nairobi where he joined the anti-colonial nationalist movement. In February 1955, Chotara was arrested and taken to Manyani Detention Camp. Three months later, on 7th May 1955, Kariuki Chotara and another identified as Mwangi Thuita escaped from Manyani. The two had crawled through the barbed wire making a successful break.
The police discovered the daring escape almost a week later and immediately mounted a manhunt for the two Maumau organisers. The police offered 450 British pounds for information leading to the arrest of each of them. On 21st June 1955, Kariuki and his fellow escapee were re-arrested in Parklands area, Nairobi.
Nakuru has had many MPs since the early days. At independence in 1963, Nakuru County, back then known as Nakuru District had four constituencies. Over time, Nakuru has grown to eleven constituencies. The original constituencies were Nakuru North (1966), Nakuru East, Nakuru West and Nakuru Town.
Nakuru North has over time given birth to Rongai, Subukia and Bahati while Nakuru West has spawned Njoro, Molo, Kuresoi North and Kuresoi South.
Nakuru East consisted the present-day Naivasha and Gilgil constituencies while Nakuru Town is today Nakuru Town East and Nakuru Town West.
Nakuru Independence MPs – 1963 Elections
At independence, there were three MPs elected to represent Nakuru District. All the MPS were elected on a KANU ticket. The MPs were;
In 1966, Vice President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga formed the Kenya Peoples Union (KPU). Some MPs followed him into the party which led to the “Little General Election” of 1966. These are the MPs that were elected at the election.
Nakuru North – Francis Koima Kimosop (In 1986, Francis Koima committed suicide. In the ensuing by-election, Eric Kibet Bomett was elected MP)
Nakuru Town – Amos Kabiru Kimemia
Nakuru East – Fred Kubai
Nakuru MPs 1988
In the 1988 elections, Nakuru West Constituency was renamed Molo Constituency and Rongai was created from Nakuru North. These are the Nakuru MPs elected during that election.
Molo – James Njenga Mungai
Nakuru North – Silas Mburu Gichua
Rongai – Eric Kibet Koras Bomett
Nakuru Town – Amos Kabiru Kimemia
Nakuru East – Gitahi Ngaruro
Nakuru MPs 1992
For the first time since 1966, Kenya went into elections in a multiparty state. Since independence, all Nakuru MPs had been from the KANU party. However, in 1992, the newly formed opposition party (Ford Asili) led by Kenneth Matiba took the lead. KANU managed only one out of the five seats.
Molo – James Njenga Mungai (Ford Asili)
Nakuru North – Joseph K. Kimani (Ford Asili)
Rongai – William K. Komen (KANU)
Nakuru Town – J.C Lwali Oyondi (Ford Asili)
Nakuru East – Francis J. M. Wanyange (Ford Asili)
Nakuru MPs 1997
In the 1997 elections, Kuresoi Constituency was created from Molo Constituency and Nakuru North was renamed Subukia while Nakuru East got Naivasha as its new name. KANU continued to lose but managed two out of the six seats. Mwai Kibaki’s Democratic Party (DP) carried the day. The following MPs were elected.
Molo – Dixon Kihika Kimani (DP)
Kuresoi – James Cheruiyot arap Koske (KANU)
Rongai – Eric Toroitich Morogo (KANU)
Subukia – Joseph M. Kuria (DP)
Nakuru Town – David Manyara Njuki (DP)
Naivasha – Paul Samuel Kihara (DP)
Nakuru MPs 2003
For once, KANU was elected out of power since independence. Daniel T. Moi was no longer the president as Mwai Kibaki took over with Kijana Wamalwa as the Vice President. This time around, the National Alliance Rainbow Coalition (NARC) carried the day not only in Nakuru but also in most parts of the country. The following MPs were elected.
For the first time, Nakuru elected a woman (Alicen Chelaite) to parliament. Jayne Kihara became the second shortly after when she was elected to replace her husband Paul Kihara who died a few months into the new government. Nakuru suffered another blow when the Nakuru Town MP Mirugi Kariuki who was also an assistant minister died in a plane crash.
Nakuru Town – Mirugi Kariuki (NARC) – Mirugi died in a plane crash in 2006 and was replaced by his son William Kariuki one year before the 2007 general elections.
Naivasha – Paul Kihara (NARC) – Paul Kihara died just a few months after being elected. His wife Jayne Kihara was elected MP in his place.
Nakuru MPs – 2007
This was President Kibaki’s second term in office. The aftermath of the general election was rocked with chaos and violence that left thousands dead, maimed and displaced. Nakuru was especially badly hit by the 2008 Post Election Violence (PEV).
The following MPs were elected.
Molo – Joseph Ng’ang’a Kiuna (PNU)
Kuresoi – Zakayo Cheruiyot
Rongai – Luka Kigen (ODM)
Subukia – Nelson Gaichuhie (PNU)
Nakuru Town – Lee Kinyanjui (PNU)
Naivasha – John Njenga Michael Mututho (KANU)
Nakuru County MPs 2012
In 2012, Kenya went into the elections under a new constitution promulgated in 2010. It was also time to elect the fourth president with Kibaki having served his maximum two terms.
Constituencies (also called sub-counties in the newly devolved governance) had also been reviewed. Nakuru now boasted of 11 constituencies. Naivasha had birthed Gilgil, Subukia gave birth to Bahati, Njoro was created from Molo and Kuresoi was divided into Kuresoi North and Kuresoi south. Nakuru Town was also divided into Nakuru Town East and Nakuru Town West.
The new constitution had also re-introduced the post of the County Senator and created the post of the Governor as the County head.
These were the leaders elected in Nakuru Couty at the 2012 elections.
On 25th September 1974, President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta officially opened the school then known as Ngwataniro Shule ya Jomo Kenyatta. The school was opened just three weeks before the 1974 General election. Until 2017 when the school split into two autonomous schools for boys and girls respectively, it used to be a mixed boarding public school.
Sitting on a 78-acre piece of land, the school was a brainchild of former MP for Nakuru Hon. Dixon Kihika Kimani. The school name was changed to just Ngwataniro Secondary school in 1980 but in 1983, it adopted its present-day name, Jomo Kenyatta High school.
Four years after the official opening, 1977, the school had its first O’level candidates. In the following year, the first-ever TSC teacher joined the school.
Indiscipline was a huge concern in the early years of the school. It got too bad that at some point, the provincial and education offices had wanted to close it down. To curb the situation, the provincial police boss was appointed chairman of the school’s BOG.
The first-ever TSC headteacher was posted to the school in February 1978. Being an Indian by race it was believed he would exercise neutrality in this school that had been bedevilled by squabbles, indiscipline and poor academic performance.
“The school was built for 3,000 students, but at the time I took over I only found 67. Everything was in a state of decay, the laboratories had broken down, dormitories had no beds and basically, no parent wanted their child there,” says Mr Gill Singh who had just been promoted to the post of Headmaster. Before taking on the job, Mr Gill had requested the TSC to protect him from local politics.
After Moi took over as President in 1978, he didn’t make secret his dislike for Hon. Kihika Kimani. He kept accusing the school founder of interfering with the school management and before long, Kihika and the entire board was forced to resign. This was expected to bring back sanity to the school.
Mr Gill served at the school until 1992 when he transferred to Flamingo High school in Bondeni.
In 1993 the management of Jomo Kenyatta High school made changes and boys and girls started learning separately. The ultimate aim was to totally separate the school into two different schools. One for boys and another for girls. The dream was realized in 2016.
For Susan Kihika’s dad, Kihika Kimani, 1974 was a good year. It was in this year that he was first elected to Parliament. Best of all, it was in this year that his favourite daughter Susan Wakarura Kihika was born.
Born on 11th December of that year, Susan can be described as that child who grew “loved by God, and by the people.” She’s also an apple that didn’t fall very far from the tree.
A courageous politician who doesn’t shy away from controversy, the second Nakuru County Senator inherited more than just leadership skills from her dad. But while her dad was limited in terms of his education, Susan Kihika is a polished leader holding several academic certificates from Kenya and from abroad.
After her primary school at Busara Forest View academy in Nyahururu, she proceeded to one of the most sought after secondary schools in Nyeri County. Bishop Gatimu Ngandu Girls High School or BG as it’s fondly known is a school every girl growing up in Nyeri and surrounding counties aspires to join. The school is one of the best performers not only in Central Kenya but in the country. In the home county, the girls compete with the bright boys from both Kagumo and Nyeri high schools which are the leading secondary schools in the region.
The young Susan did not disappoint. After her KCSE she got admitted into another prominent educational institution in the country. This time, she got admitted to Nairobi University. However, she was barely here for a semester when her father took her to study in the UK.
The weather in the United Kingdom was not friendly to Susan. She again transferred and joined the University of Northern Texas in Denton, USA. She graduated with a degree in Political Science and Government. That was not the end of her quest in academic matters as she also holds a jurist Doctorate Law Degree from the Southern Methodist University. This got her admitted to the Texas State Bar.
Before going into private practice when she set up the Kihika Law Firm, Susan Kihika had worked as a prosecutor and chief prosecutor. Her law firm had specialized mostly in representing immigrants.
This trait of standing with the seemingly lowly in the society has carried on to date. In most of her appearances as Senator, Susan Kihika has emerged as a voice of the voiceless. As a representative of the people in Nakuru County, Senator Susan Kihika has never shied away from lending her voice to the downtrodden and to those whom justice has been denied. One particular case is when she stood out as a lone voice withstanding insurmountable pressure in her quest to find justice for the Patel Dam tragedy victims in Solai.
Susan Kihika plunge into politics
After a twenty-year stint overseas, Susan Kihika returned to the country in August 2012. The general elections were to be held the following year in 2013. These were the first elections under Kenya’s new constitution promulgated in 2010. In these elections, devolution would be implemented and Kenya would have Senators, Governors and Women Reps who had previously not been part of Kenya’s political dispensation. The post of councillors and mayor’s had also been scrapped to be replaced with a county Parliament whose members would be called Members for County Assemblies (MCAs) led by a Speaker.
Susan threw herself into the political ring vying as MP for Bahati. Her greatest competitor was the incumbent, Hon. Onesmus Kimani Ngunjiri, a veteran KANU political operative. As fate would have it, she lost to Kimani Ngunjiri.
“I was completely new in politics in 2013. I even didn’t know where the boundaries were and I would sometimes even find myself campaigning in the neighbouring constituency,” Susan recollects. However, the loss did not kill her political dream which was by now fully ignited. Actually, from an early age, she had loved politics. Like a sleeping giant rousing from a long stupor, her political dream was now fully awake and she hasn’t looked behind.
With the establishment of County Assemblies, Susan set out to vie as the first-ever County Assembly speaker for Nakuru. With the guidance of MPs David Gikaria and Kimani Ngunjiri, she threw her hat into the ring and this is where her political skills first came into play. This time around, and numerous times after, the scion of Kihika has proven herself to be an astute political tactician and strategist. Similarly, over the five years that she was the county Assembly speaker, she showed the world that she was no pushover.
Achievements as Nakuru County Assembly Speaker
“We used to see her as a weak Speaker probably due to her small stature. We considered her an inexperienced political figure and we imagined that we could manipulate her. But she proved us all wrong and we learnt our lessons the hard way,” says a former MCA who served under Speaker Kihika.
While she was a speaker, she also served as the Vice-Chair of the County Assemblies Forum (CAF). This is a body that brings together the speakers and MCAs across the country and acts as their lobby group. in the early days of her tenure as a speaker, MCAs could only earn a gross salary of Kshs. 79,000. She was among those who lobbied for the increase arguing that underpaying MCAs “would make them susceptible to being compromised.”
The County Assembly of Nakuru, led by Susan Kihika, was instrumental in setting the pace for devolution to take root in the County. They made laws, passed rules and made it easy for devolution to work.
It was also during her tenure that the construction of Ugatuzi Plaza which was officially opened by President Kenyatta in 2019 was started.
There were many intrigues during that period. As Susan set out to create laws that would govern and operationalize devolution in Nakuru, some disgruntled quarters tried to destabilise her albeit unsuccessfully.
In 2014, an impeachment motion was brought against Speaker Susan Kihika. The speaker was accused of among other things “failing to discharge her duties impartially.” The motion was however defeated.
When she decided to vie for senate, there were many who again tried to put hurdles along her path. When the President and his deputy appointed her to lead the Presidential campaigns in South and Central Rift, many seasoned politicians in the county came out guns blazing to fight her. It was at this point that her relationship with Hon. Kimani Ngunjiri took a turn for the worse. Although their relationship was to improve later, it has been a matter of on and off. Some other politicians although not as outspoken have lived with that grudge to date probably not accepting the fact that Susan Kihika, a greenhorn politician in their eyes, has emerged as such a strong and influential political player in Nakuru.
Susan Kihika got cleared by IEBC to vie for Senator in May 2017. Shortly after, she had to face another hurdle when the Political Parties Disputes Tribunal (PPDT) ruled that she couldn’t run. According to her accuser, she was not qualified to run since she had not resigned as Speaker. Her accuser was the same MCA who had brought an impeachment motion against her. The accuser was herself vying as an independent. The ruling by the PPDT was however trashed by Judge George Odunga.
“The tribunal did not have jurisdiction to interpret the law, hear, and determine the matter,” said Justice Odunga. “Ms Kihika is the Jubilee nominee for the seat. The decision made on June 12, 2017, must be null and void and is, therefore, quashed,” ruled Odunga.
Senator Susan Kihika’s campaign for the senate was one of a kind. From the end of 2016, several colourful billboards bearing the name and beautiful portrait of candidate Susan Kihika dotted the Nairobi Nakuru highway. The billboards caused a sensation among the youth of Nakuru who would discuss Susan Kihika’s charm and beauty endlessly on their social media platforms.
Apart from the billboards, Susan Kihika’s posters and other campaign materials could be found in every part of the expansive Nakuru County.
“We know her already. We already feel her presence and will vote for her,” voters would declare from even the furthest corners of the county.
She was among the 23 women who went into nominations seeking to vie as senator under the respective parties. After the nominations, she was among the 17 women who went into the general elections seeking to be elected and she ended up being one of the only three women elected senators in 2017.
It was during these campaigns that SK proved her indefatigable nature. It was not a surprise for her to hold up to five campaign rallies a day many kilometres apart. Remarkably, she would always look fresh at every rally as she engaged the people and addressed their issues. She got along well with the young and old respectively. The young ones could easily relate to her easy-going nature while the elderly held nostalgic memories of her late dad who had helped resettle thousands of them after independence. He had done this through the gigantic land buying company, Mutukanio – Ngawataniro Land Buying Company.
Undoubtedly, Susan Kihika was the most popular candidate in Nakuru in 2017. Even the opposition supporters asserted their love and support for her. At one stop in Olkaria ward (Naivasha), which has been an ODM zone for many years, the residents promised to elect her senate but vowed to give their presidential votes to the ODM candidate.
“We can assure you Susan that we shall unreservedly give you our votes. However, we cannot promise the same for the presidential seat as we must give that to baba (Raila),” a speaker had said to her.
Come to the elections on August 8, Susan Kihika was one of the super winners. With a total of 669,550 votes, she had amassed a whopping 89.6% of the votes cast for the senate seat. In Nakuru, no other candidate had such a high number of votes.
Getting Down to Business
In the Senate, Susan Kihika was among the four others who had applied for the seat of the Deputy Speaker. However, elections were not held and instead, the party leadership called for a parliamentary group meeting and through compromise, the Senate deputy speaker’s seat went to Kithure Kindiki. Senator Kihika became the Majority Whip deputised by Irungu Kang’ata.
Shortly after the elections, into Jubilee’s second term, things fell apart in the ruling party. Two opposing factions arose with one supporting the Deputy President and his bid for Presidency in 2022. The other faction believes that Deputy President Dr William Ruto has squandered his opportunity to take over from Uhuru.
Ever the stickler in the rule of justice, Senator Susan Kihika has chosen to be on DP’s side christened Tangatanga by the haters. The other side nicknamed Kieleweke has the President’s favour which saw Susan and her colleagues in Tangatanga getting punished. Susan, Kindiki, Murkomen among others were de-whipped from their house positions. Others who supported Ruto have had cases brought against them. As one blogger aptly put it, “You cannot afford to support the Deputy President if you’re corrupt. Charges will be brought against you before you can even attend two rallies.” It, therefore, goes without saying that the legislators supporting Ruto are those without skeletons in the cupboards.
Senator Susan continues to carry on her role as Senator and as a voice for the voiceless. Apart from the Solai saga, Senator Kihika has been outspoken against the death knell cast on saw millers in Elburgon. The ban on logging left many investors bankrupt and thousands of Molo, Njoro and Elburgon residents jobless. She was also at the forefront of fighting for the rights of former employees of Timsales Limited who were sacked without a care for their rights.
One of her most trying moments was during the London Ward by-elections. While the Senator was supporting Nzuki Wachira, the area MP was supporting a candidate called Francis Njoroge. Njoroge who lost in the by-election was vying on a Jubilee ticket while Nzuki who emerged victorious vied on another party affiliated to Jubilee. The UDA party was recently rebranded with a new symbol and national officials.
The so-called deep state seemed to have fully decided to support the Jubilee candidate and Susan and her supporters had to bear several teargas attacks and intimidation in a bid to discourage them. But the untiring Susan proved once again to be a tactical strategist and her candidate emerged top.
In early 2018, Senator Susan Kihika was elected as first Vice President of the Bureau of the Forum of Women Parliamentarians. The bureau is part of the International Parliamentarians Union (IPU). In October the same year, Kihika took over first as the acting President and later as President replacing her predecessor Hon Ulrika Karlsson of Sweden.
Away from politics, Susan is a family and a social person who will always find time for her family, friends and her ventures outside the public life. She is a mother of two daughters, Tiffany (Tiff) and Ashley. She also engages in wheat farming.
Her husband is businessman Samuel Mburu (kiongozi) a close ally to the Deputy President. During her traditional dowry ceremony at her mother’s home, it was the Deputy President who led the negotiations for the groom.
“I have known Sam as a hardworking diligent young man for many years. He is a close friend and we have come a long way,” the DP once said in a live interview.
She has been described as an iron lady of Nakuru politics, outspoken, aggressive, no-nonsense, powerful and straight talker. While all these words could describe the lady poised to be the third Governor for Nakuru County, Susan Kihika can simply be described as an easy-going, straightforward lady who cuts no corners and values loyalty highly.
The Nakuru Amateur Boxing club was formed and registered in 1962. The club that is colloquially known as Madison Square has one of the best boxing rings in Africa.
The building currently known as Nakuru Amateur Boxing club was initially a garage. Constructed in 1936, the original owner was Mrs Marion Elizabeth Couldrey. She had a team of mechanics who used to service farm machinery. Later it was used as a garage for the British Army machinery.
Marion Elizabeth was the wife of Frank James Couldrey. Frank is described as a strong compulsive write who upon his death was mourned by both friend and foe. He was an editor and owned the Kenya Weekly News.
After the Second World War, the building was used as a depot for soldiers operating in Lanet. It had been leased to one Jack Thompson until 1957.
Setting up Nakuru Amateur Boxing club
In 1958, Mr Maxie McCullough and Major F. Ryan took over the building. The two embarked on its renovation and in 1959 set up a committee to oversee boxing at the new premises.
Maxie McCullough had been involved in boxing for several years. He had been recruiting boxers from schools including Phillip Waruinge who was to become a national hero later. In 1962, the club was registered as a sports club.
Some of those who pioneered at NABC include; Phillip Maingi, Stephen Ndegwa, John Nderu, Gabriel Kinyua, Peter Morris, Sammy Kiratu, Stephen Gichaya, Arizona Odak and Kamau Mbugua among others.
To finance the running of the club, Maxie McCullough who acted as the coach had set up a bar within the club. The bar still stands to date. According to Phillip Maingi who used to train under McCullough, the coach was late for training only once in the entire period he was there.
“Maxie was never late. He would open the club punctually at 5 PM from Monday to Friday. It was only once during this time that he came late,” Maingi says with administration.
The passionate coach had bought some foldable chairs from the Odeon Cinema which he would fold and put under the ring. Unfortunately, he suffered a cardiac arrest while at the club and was rushed to Annex Hospital. He later passed on in Northern Ireland which was his origin.
NABC would train its members to take part in local and regional competitions. The first stage was the Rift Valley Championship followed by the Kenya Novice Boxing Championship. The third stage was the Kenya Intermediate and then the Kenya Open Championship.
Maingi, a boxer turned writer and farmer, says that unlike today’s boxing which he describes as robotic, back then they were taught defensive and offensive tactics.
“In my opinion, boxing is the most beautiful sport,” says the retired boxer in nostalgia.
Successes from NABC
Mr Phillip Waruinge is without a doubt the most successful boxer to have come out of NABC. At 17 years, he represented Kenya in the All African Games held in Cairo, Egypt. The same year, he won a bronze at the Commonwealth Games. For more of his successes, read this article about Phillip Waruinge.
Isaiah Ikhoni was a member of the famous “Hit Squad” that made Kenya proud in the 70s. His style was fast and accurate and he won Kenya a Gold medal at 1987 All African Games held at Kasarani.
Peter “Dynamite” Odhiambo won gold at the 1995 All African Games. Daniel Mwangi was another product of NABC who represented the country in several bouts.
Steve Muchoki is another pugilist who went on to do Kenya proud after honing his skills at NABC.
The Nakuru Amateur Boxing club still stands. Although it’s a shadow of the days it used to be considered “a factory for boxers” it still attracts a sizeable crowd whenever they have tournaments.
When the late Mirugi Kariuki decided to vie as MP for Nakuru North in November 1982, little did he know that the decision would put him into a collision course with President Moi.
Having detained MP Koigi Wamwere after the August 1982 coup attempt, the late Moi was determined that no other Kikuyu would represent his home constituency. The moment he got wind of lawyer Mirugi’s intention, he sent a stern warning to him saying that severe action would be taken against him.
If Koigi was a thorn in Moi’s flesh, Mirugi was, in the late President’s opinion, several times more subversive. And since all available intelligence showed that Mirugi would easily win the race in a free and fair contest, Moi had to resort to unorthodox means.
On the day he was to present his nomination papers, a dragnet was laid out for him. These were the days when KANU was the only party and failure to present the papers would automatically disqualify him. Despite all these evil mechanizations though, Mirugi soldiered on and presented his papers.
Back in those days, the provincial administration would oversee the elections. To ensure that Mirugi lost, by all means, President Moi called all DCs to a “seminar” in Kabarak during the elections and the same DCs who had mastered the art of election stealing were to act as returning officers. They had only one job description, to ensure Mirugi would not be declared the winner.
Until his death in a plane crash twenty-two years later, Mirugi Kariuki maintained that he won the November 1983 by-election in Nakuru North.
A man said to be Moi’s nephew, Francis Koima Kimosop was declared winner in the by-election replacing Koigi who was still in detention. But what Mirugi Kariuki went through in 1982 was just a tickle compared to what he was to go through in the following year’s general elections in 1993.
Miruki Kariuki in the 1983 General Elections
The September 1983 General Elections were held 14 months earlier to “calm the nation” after Moi accused an unidentified Cabinet Minister of working with foreign forces to undermine his administration. In the polls, there were no presidential elections as Moi was unopposed in the only legal political party, KANU.
As the elections drew closer, Moi made it no secret that he had his eyes on Mirugi who he considered a nuisance. During his campaigns the previous year, Mirugi had vowed that once he went to Parliament, he would “cause the release of all political prisoners.” These sentiments hadn’t gone down well with mzee Moi.
Addressing a public rally at Uhuru Park in the run-up to the elections, Moi didn’t hide his distaste for Mirugi. “I must warn him, this lawyer, that if he’s going to talk the way he talked last year, he will face the consequences,” Moi swore.
The drama came to a climax when Mirugi was planning to present his nomination papers. When he went to Nairobi to be cleared, he was the very last person who was allowed in. The KANU treasurer ole Tipis would take the money and give the candidates a certificate with two signatures; Moi’s and his. After Mirugi paid, he was given an unsigned certificate and had he not been keen, he would have left the premises with useless papers. Lucky for him, he noticed this and they reluctantly gave him a duly signed copy. This was after Tipis had talked to Moi for almost 45 minutes on phone. Again, he was sternly warned not to “misbehave.”
Having gotten the certificate, the Deep State of the day decided they would arrest Mirugi on trumped-up charges and keep him in a cell so as not to present his nomination. Luckily for him, a friendly intelligence officer leaked the information to Mirugi including when and how the arrest would be made.
With this information, Mirugi disappeared to hide in Nyahururu when the arresting officers came to arrest him that evening. He escaped by jumping over a fence to a neighbour’s home and a driver drove him to Nyahururu. The angry officers ended up arresting Mirugi’s brother, Samuel Gakinya, to use him as bait.
On the day of the nominations, a contingent of police officers manned the DC’s office to prevent Mirugi from accessing the office at the Old Town Hall. Luckily, again, for him, there was a blood donation office next to the DC’s office and a charcoal store. Mirugi was smuggled in by hiding in the back of a pickup that was delivering charcoal and that was how he presented his papers.
Unfortunately, the police officer was so agitated knowing he would be punished for his failure to prevent the presentation of the papers.
Even after presenting the papers to an angry DC and being declared duly nominated, Mirugi was arrested and taken to Central police where his brother Gakinya was still being held. Trumped-up criminal charges were brought against him but were later dropped after the elections.
But that, was by no means the end to Mirugi’s woes as he was to be arrested again and held for five months on other trumped-up charges …….
Nakuru Town is one of the urban centres in Kenya that has jacaranda trees beautifying the streets. The jacaranda trees have become part of the townscape and the residents have become very protective of the trees. In 2007, there was a row between the Nakuru Municipal Council and the China Road and Bridge Company when they cut down 2000 jacaranda trees. This was during the expansion of the road entering Nakuru from Lanet which was being built into a dual carriageway to ease congestion.
Recently, residents were up in arms when the owners of Golden Mall in Industrial Area Nakuru tried to bring down several jacaranda trees to make an entrance into the mall. But when were these jacarandas planted and who planted them?
While the jacarandas along Nakuru’s Section 58 towards Lanet were planted in the 1970s by the council, the trees in Milimani and Statehouse had been there since the colonial times. Several decades later, the trees give Nakuru a unique identity.
The trees along the highway were an idea given by President Jomo Kenyatta while he passed through Nakuru at one point. The residents and the council enthusiastically took on the task led by among others former Nakuru Mayor Dr. Isaack Kirubi. Among the trees felled during the road works was a commemorative tree planted by Mama Ngina Kenyatta.
Frank Walter James (Jacaranda Jim)
Had it not been for this gentleman, Frank Walter Jameson, the beautiful jacaranda trees we see in Nakuru and other colonial time towns in Kenya would not exist.
Born in Durban, SA, in 1873, his fascination and love for the jacaranda tree was so high that he was nicknamed “Jacaranda Jim.”
Jacaranda Jim was appointed Nairobi’s Town Planning Consultant in 1926. With his great weakness for planting jacaranda trees, he would plant the purple tree wherever no other idea came to mind. As one author has put it, “jacarandas are an exotic blessing that was left behind by the British at the end of their colonial rule.”
After Nairobi, the idea of using Jacaranda for urban beatification spread to Nakuru, Nanyuki, Nyeri, Kiambu, Limuru among other old urban centres in Kenya.
However, it was Pretoria South Africa where he oversaw the planting of the largest number of Jacaranda trees estimated at 70,000. The sight when the trees blossom in summer draws in thousands of tourists who visit to behold the “Jacaranda City.” In Pretoria, there even exists the rarely found white-flowered jacarandas.
Next time you’re walking around Nakuru while the Jacarandas are in bloom, say a thank you prayer to Jacaranda Jim who passed on in 1956.
As we celebrate Labour Day, we wish to celebrate one of Kenya’s pioneer Trade Unionists who spent the better years of his youth fighting for the rights of African workers.
Born in 1917 in Nairobi, Fred Polworth Kibuthu Kubai first worked as a telegrapher at East Africa Posts and Telecommunications after his education at Buxton Baptist School in Mombasa. In 1945, at the age of 28, he was posted to Rongai and then Nakuru Post office.
He, however, worked for only one year in Nakuru before he resigned citing job discrimination against black employees. Thus started his journey in trade unionism 15 years working for posta.
Immediately after his resignation, Fred Kubai joined the trade union movement so he could assist fellow workers to achieve equality at the workplace. The mistreatment of the blacks at their places of work is what led Kubai to join the African Workers Federation Union where he became an official. By 1949, he had managed to unite all the registered trade unions in Kenya under the Trade Union Trade Centre.
His activities agitating for the rights of black workers put Kubai in a direct collision with the colonial settlers who were the majority of employers. In 1950, he led a hugely successfully boycott against a royal charter that would have made Nairobi a city. He argued that landowners within and around Nairobi area were not compensated for their land losses.
To keep him out of circulation, Fred Kubai was arrested and accused of the murder of alderman Muchohi Gikonyo. After a 9 months trial, Kubai was acquitted and he returned to his activism with renewed zeal.
In addition to mobilizing for blacks to join the trade union movement, Kubai was at the same time mobilizing for membership to the only black political party, the Kenya African Union (KAU). He was elected the Nairobi branch chairman for KAU in 1951 and also the National Vice-Chair.
On 20th October 1952, Fred Kubai was among those arrested in operation Jack Scott together with five others who have since been nicknamed the “Kapenguria Six.” The six were initially confined in Lodwar before he was transferred to Kabarnet in 1960. He stayed there until the 25th of March 1961 when he was released and put on house arrest for six months.
Kubai rejoined the trade union movement immediately he was released from the house arrest in 1962. He was appointed as a director to the Kenya Federation of Labour and played a role in the writing of the 1962 Industrial Relations Charter.
With independence, Fred Kubai was elected the first MP for Nakuru East which was comprised of the present-day Naivasha and Gilgil constituencies. As an MP, he was also appointed to the cabinet serving as the Assistant Minister in the Ministry of Labour and Social Services. In his second term as MP between 1983 and 1988, he served as an Assistant Minister in the office of the President. He retired from public service in 1988.
Fred Kubai died on 1st June 1996. He had lived such a secluded live after retirement that it was only after four days that his death was reported in the media. Thus ended the life of a career trade unionist.