By IMANENE IMATHIU
and JOE OMBUOR
Veteran politician and one-time Cabinet Minister Jackson Harvester Angaine died at his Meru home yesterday.
A relative, Mr Stanley Mwithimbu, said Mr Angaine died in the morning and his body was moved to Nairobi.
Mr Angaine, who believed he was about 100 years old, was actually around 86, according to Mr Mwithimbu.
Mr Angaine, who styled himself "King of Meru", dominated Meru politics for well over five decades - from the the days of the Kenya African Union (KAU) when he brushed shoulders with the late James Gichuru, Mr Achieng Oneko and Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, among other pioneer politicians.
Mr Angaine was arrested in 1952 alongside Mzee Jomo Kenyatta for his role in the Mau Mau liberation struggle and tossed from one detention camp to another.
On being freed, Mr Angaine was elected to the Legislative Council alongside the late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and Tom Mboya, and was among Kanu's founder members at the advent independence. He later became Mzee Kenyatta's trusted confidante.
"I mobilised the Ameru to contribute towards buying a Mercedes Benz car for Mzee Kenyatta shortly before his release in 1961," he said during an interview with the Nation in 1996.
Mr Angaine served as Minister for Lands and settlement from 1963 to 1979, when he lost his Imenti North seat to Mr Nteere Mbogori.
Prsident Moi re-appointed him to the Cabinet and made him a Minister in the Office of the President on recapturing his seat in 1983, which he clung to until 1992, when DP's David Mwiraria dislodged him in the wake of the multi-party euphoria.
The passing on of Mr Angaine marks a watershed in Meru politics. The man who believed he was the unchallenged hero of Ameru was a politician par excellence. Even as the relentless afflictions of old age limited his movement and played havoc with his sight and memory, he kept up to date on the politics of the day.
He believed the self-proclaimed pedestal of leadership of the Ameru was his by right. "The people of Meru declared me king at a big meeting organised by the Mau Mau in Meru Town in the 1950s. The honour will remain with me until I go down," he told a Nation journalist during an interview three years ago.
In 1996, he cautioned his opponents that he would remain on the scene despite his advanced age. "It looks like God will take me into the next century and beyond, so they had better not start jostling for my niche as if I do not exist," he had said.
He was a descendant of the late Paramount Chief Angaine M'Itiria.