Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery complained of sharp chest pains moments before he collapsed and was later pronounced dead early Saturday morning, family sources told the Nation.
This came as President Uhuru Kenyatta on Saturday held an emergency National Security Council meeting at State House, Nairobi, and appointed Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i to act in the Interior docket.
As detectives continued to comb various places where the Cabinet Secretary was hours to his death — including the Bomas of Kenya and his Karen residence — details have emerged of his final movements.
The police are said to have collected various samples from his house and at the Bomas Lounge.
Maj-Gen (rtd) Nkaissery reportedly arrived at his Karen residence at around 9pm and had dinner with his family.
He was said to have been at the Bomas of Kenya before heading home.
But hours later, after midnight, he was being rushed to Karen Hospital, a few kilometres away, after complaining of sharp chest pains and collapsing.
According to Karen Hospital board Executive Chairman James Mageria, the Cabinet Secretary was dead by the time he was driven to the hospital.
“I was called after midnight and told that the body of the CS had been brought. I left immediately and, when I arrived, Dr Anthony Gikonyo, a cardiologist, told me he had already died. He said they had tried to resuscitate him without success,” Dr Mageria said.
The Cabinet Secretary was reportedly pronounced dead some time after 1am and his family notified.
Dr Mageria said he immediately called State House Chief of Staff and Head of Civil Service Joseph Kinyua, Inspector-General of Police Joseph Boinnet and the Director of Criminal Investigations Ndegwa Muhoro.
Mr Kinyua later released a statement indicating that Maj-Gen (rtd) Nkaissery had died “a few hours after being admitted for a check-up”.
“The country to be updated as more information becomes available,” Mr Kinyua said in the first official confirmation of the death released at almost 4am.
Last evening, the government issued another statement, this time signed by Government Spokesman Eric Kiraithe, clarifying that Maj-Gen (rtd) Nkaissery had not been admitted to the hospital.
“It is with great sorrow that we mourn the passing on of General (rtd) Joseph Nkaissery, the Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government, who passed away this morning at Karen Hospital. He was 67 years old,” the statement read.
“Details related to his sudden death are now beginning to emerge. It is now clear that the General collapsed while at home and was rushed to the Karen Hospital and, upon further examination, was pronounced dead on arrival. Both the hospital and his family have clarified that he was not admitted at the facility,” the statement explained.
“Under the strenuous circumstances, an earlier statement indicating that Nkaissery passed on while receiving treatment at Karen Hospital was made in error,” it added.
The Nation has learnt that after the Interior CS was pronounced dead, the first to arrive at the hospital was the Deputy Inspector-General in charge of the Kenya Police Joel Kitili followed by Mr Boinnet.
A security cordon was thrown around the hospital as the senior government officials deliberated with the hospital authorities on the next course of action.
It was not until after 4am that the CS’s body was transferred to the Lee Funeral Home, accompanied by family members and the government officials who had camped at the hospital.
Maj-Gen (rtd) Nkaissery’s widow, Hellen, was also taken ill following the news of her husband’s death.
The news appeared to have hit the government hard, with President Kenyatta immediately calling off his intended campaign tour of Turkana County.
In his message, the President said he had lost a personal friend and a colleague, revealing that he spoke with the Cabinet Secretary on the phone “as late as 9.30 last night”.
“Today is a sad day for Kenya and all our people. We lost a gallant officer, an officer who has, for the most part of his life, served with total dedication and love for his country.
“Maj-General Joseph Nkaissery was a man who believed in this country, believed in the principles and foundations on which this country was built.
A man who dedicated most of his life to serving this great nation,” Mr Kenyatta said, flanked by top government officials including Mr Kinyua, Defence CS Raychelle Omamo and Mr Boinnet.
He also noted that Maj-Gen (rtd) Nkaissery was the main force behind ensuring all was set for the IAAF international junior athletics championships to be held in Nairobi.
The CS had visited the Safaricom Stadium in Kasarani early Friday morning to inspect preparations for the forthcoming athletics championships during which he whipped section heads into action and issued ultimatums that the preparations for the event be completed in good time.
After leaving the Sports Centre at around 1pm, Mr Nkaissery attended the National Prayer Rally at Uhuru Park, together with President Kenyatta, Third Way Alliance presidential candidate Ekuru Aukot and Prof Michael Wainaina, who is an Independent candidate.
The prayer rally, organised by the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya, was meant to bring leaders together and enable them to pledge to uphold peace before, during and after the August election.
“During the prayer function, he looked healthy and energetic. He was jovial and we exchanged very warm moments.
He was happy,” Bishop Mark Kariuki of the Deliverance Church said.
Although the CS did not address the public at the rally, he was seen moving around and shaking hands with various dignitaries, among them Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero who was sitting next to him.
From the rally, Maj-Gen (rtd) Nkaissery left for his Harambee House office where he spent a few minutes attending the National Security Advisory Committee meeting. He is said to have left his office after 6.30pm.
On his way home, he is said to have passed by the Bomas of Kenya.
Workers at Bomas, who spoke to the Nation in confidence, said that the CS was a regular visitor who usually drove by on his way home.
On Saturday, the facility, which was already closed to the public by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) as it is set to be used as the national tallying centre during next month’s General Election, was cordoned off with only scene-of-crime police officers allowed in to conduct their investigations.
At around 7.30pm on Friday, Maj-Gen (rtd) Nkaissery is said to have called Kajiado County Commissioner Harsama Kello and told him about a fundraiser he was scheduled to attend at Ng’atataek yesterday in aid of needy school children.
“He told me he would pick me up in Kajiado at around 11am (yesterday) to accompany him to the fundraiser,” said Mr Kello.
“Little did I know that that would be the last time I would be speaking to my boss,” Mr Kello told the Nation.
The circumstances are similar to the deaths of Maj-Gen (rtd) Nkaissery’s predecessors at the Interior Ministry — Prof George Saitoti and his assistant minister Joshua Ojode — who were also headed to a harambee in Ndhiwa constituency when they died in a helicopter crash in June 2012.
Ng’atataek is about 15 kilometres from Ilbisil town, Maj-Gen (rtd) Nkaissery’s home area.
On Saturday, when we got to his home at around 7.30am, we found armed Administration Policemen manning the locked gate, with instructions not to open for anyone.
They said they had received orders to be at the gate by 4am.
Residents we spoke to said they were saddened by the death. “We have lost our father; he took good care of the Maasai people,” said Lesan Nchakarian.
As news of the death spread, leaders from all walks of life trooped to the Lee Funeral Home in Nairobi to view the body.
They included National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale, Dr Kidero, Coast Regional Commissioner Nelson Marwa, Kajiado Senator Peter Mositet, 2013 presidential candidate James ole Kiyiapi, Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko, Nairobi County Assembly Speaker Alex ole Magelo, Cotu Secretary-General Francis Atwoli and former Interior CS Joseph ole Lenku.
Kajiado West MP Moses Sakuda, called for thorough investigations into the death.
Other MPs included James Rege (Karachuonyo), Peris Tobiko (Kajiado East) and Elijah Memusi Kanchori (Kajiado Central).
Additional reporting by David Mwere and Joseph Ngunjiri