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Njonjo tracks gorillas ahead of his 100th birthday

Monday January 20 2020

Attorney-General Charles Njonjo

Attorney-General Charles Njonjo is awarded a certificate after tracking gorillas at Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. PHOTO | COURTESY 

MARY WAMBUI
By MARY WAMBUI
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If tracking gorillas before he turns 100 was on Kenya’s first Attorney-General Charles Njonjo’s bucket list, he can now tick off that item.

The 99-year-old spent a part of his Sunday morning engaging in the adventure in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda.

The activity was among several lined up for the ageing but articulate former politician, whose penchant for black, striped coats, gold chain watches and bowler hats earned him the nickname “Duke of Kabeteshire”.

In a short clip shared by the Uganda Wildlife Authority’s (AWU) social media sites, Mr Njonjo says he is fond of the country because of the experience he had at Kings College Buddo, a secondary school in the western parts of Kampala.

“I was very lucky to see the gorillas — two babies and two big bulls,” Mr Njonjo said.

Afterward, officials from the authority presented Mr Njonjo with a tracking certificate and wished him the best.

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“Thank you Mr Njonjo for loving Uganda and visiting Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The memory of hosting you will live forever,” AWU said in a tweet.

MARITAL PRESSURE

Kenyans and Ugandans took to social media to celebrate the man on his upcoming birthday.

“Great to know that a 100-year-old can do gorilla tracking. Happy birthday Attorney General Charles Njonjo,” Dennis Mugarra wrote on Facebook.

Nangayi Peter wrote “Happy birthday Attorney, you and others laid the foundation for legal practice. Enjoy it mzee!”

Born on January 23, 1920, Mr Njonjo spent a large part of his life in the United Kingdom, where he studied law before returning to Kenya and serving as the country’s first AG for 17 years.

He is also famous for marrying his wife, a Briton, at the age of 52 due to pressure from Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, who reportedly could not stand being advised by an AG who was still a bachelor.

LEGAL JOURNEY

Mr Njonjo acquired his famed British mannerisms in the UK, where he was called to the bar at Gray’s Inn after his studies. He returned to Kenya in 1954.

Mr Njonjo revealed in an earlier interview that his long stay in the UK was prompted by his humble background.

“My father could not afford my college fees and I had to do manual work, including washing dishes, to see myself through college,” he said.

His career began the same year he returned to Kenya. The colonial government hired him as a High Court registrar before he was promoted to the position of registrar-general and later a senior counsel at the AG’s office.

Later, Mzee Kenyatta appointed him AG after the country gained independence in 1964.