alexa How Moi dealt Gema a death blow - Daily Nation

How Moi dealt Gema a death blow

Sunday June 1 2008


Retired President Moi’s political conflict with the Gikuyu, Embu, Meru Association (Gema) started in 1977 after the organisation’s two-day conference starting on April 16 in Nyahururu town.

The meeting touched on nationally sensitive political issues, including mandating its officials to discuss constitutional matters.

This was to give birth to the Change the Constitution group that advocated legal changes that could bar Mr Moi, who was then the vice-president, from succeeding Mzee Jomo Kenyatta as president.

Mr Moi, the leader of government business in Parliament, issued a strong statement in the House later, saying the Gema meeting was not a normal occurrence.

He asked political leaders not to use welfare organisations to spread or denounce political issues.

“Welfare organisations should not be involved in political matters,” he said.


A year later, President Kenyatta died and the hammer fell on the welfare organisations and particularly Gema whose key officials like Kihika Kimani and Njenga Karume were thrown into the political cold.

Then, Gema’s resolutions were that all communities it represented should resist being “bought” ahead of Kanu elections that had been postponed on April 3, so as not to destroy the communities’ unity.

The campaign to disband Gema started in earnest in July 1980 after its delegates conference at the Kenya Institute of Administration in Kabete.

A resolution was reached to disband all tribal welfare and community associations.

The plan was to let the country know that President Moi, who was just two years old in office, was not in favour of tribal organisations.

The officials of Gema, the Luo Union and the New Akamba Union called upon their branches to disband.

Ministers had turned the whole issue of tribal organisations into a kind of loyalty test.

Although Gema made a feeble attempt to resist disbandment calls, they caved in after another conference in Kiambu town on September 28, 1980.

Gema national chairman Mr Njenga Karume backtracked  and ordered all the organisation’s branches to start winding up.

Some years earlier, a Gema delegates congress in Nyahururu had resolved to interfere in the country’s politics if the security of the country was at stake.

President Kenyatta backed the organisation then.

Mr Karume used Gema to champion the Change the Constitution campaign and, when Mr  Moi became president in 1978, things changed.

When the organisation was banned, its holding company, Gema Holdings, a property and land buying firm, changed its name changed to Agricultural and Industrial Holdings Company.

Today, with indications that the three communities are trying to regroup and revive Gema, the ramifications it may have on national politics may be read with  suspicion by other communities.