Mirugi Kariuki – Soldiering on despite persecutions

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 …….

Martin Gichinga
Author: Martin Gichinga

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