William X Scheinman, the American who rests beside Tom Mboya - Daily Nation

William X Scheinman, the American who rests beside Tom Mboya

Thursday July 5 2018

Tom Mboya

Ndiege, brother to Tom Mboya and curator at the Tom Mboya mausoleum in Rusinga Island at the grave of William X. Schfinman, an American whose wish was to be buried next to Mr Mboya when he died. PHOTO | BARACK ODUOR | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Exactly 49 years ago, an assassin's bullet robbed Kenya of hero Tom Mboya, one of the country's brilliant sons whose death changed the political landscape.

It is no wonder that at Lwanda Kamasengre village on Rusinga Island, a silvery bullet-shaped mausoleum stands tall; a stark reminder of Mr Mboya.

Today, chirping birds and a cool breeze from Lake Victoria punctuate the quiet 1970 structure surrounded by trees and home of Mr Mboya's parents.

Thousands of visitors come to the mausoleum annually. For one man, however, his friendship and attraction to Mr Mboya went beyond life.


Tacked next to the mausoleum is the grave of Mr William X Scheinman, an American who attained his wish to rest wherever Mr Mboya was buried.

Mr Scheinman, who died aged 72 in 1999 of kidney failure, was an American investor who dealt in aircraft parts and studied Wall Street merchants although an obituary in the New York Times said he was an “enthusiastic supporter of independence movements in Africa”.

A month after he died, his family transported his ashes to Rusinga and buried him next to Mr Mboya. Mr Paul Ndiege, Mr Mboya's brother and curatorial assistant at the mausoleum, says Mr Scheinman was one of Mr Mboya's friends who helped in building the mausoleum and visited the family yearly until he died.


"He was a great friend to the Mboyas, he even requested the family and the country to respect his will that if he died he be buried next to Mboya's gave," says Mr Ndiege.

So how did two men, two worlds apart meet and become this close?

Mr Scheinman’s connection to the independence movements had seen him serve as a board member on the American Committee on Africa, a non-profit organisation founded in the 1950s to support liberation in Africa against colonialism and apartheid.

Having travelled several times to Kenya and Tanzania, he established the African American Students Foundation.

It is through this that he worked with Mr Mboya to bring to the US the famous student airlift from 1957.


But he originally met with Mr Mboya when the former minister made a trip to the US, meeting Former US Presidents John F Kennedy and civil rights activist Dr Martin Luther King Jr.

Even after Mr Mboya’s death, Mr Scheinman remained connected to the family. In 1990, Mr Scheinman attended a wedding of one of Mr Mboya’s daughters.

“He loved the Mboya family with all his heart. He was like family because his friendship with Mboya was deep,” says Mr Ndiege.