Former Kanu strong man Kamotho dies

The family is planning to fly the body back home in readiness for burial.

Former Cabinet Minister and one time powerful Kanu secretary-general John Joseph Kamotho. JJ Kamotho died at a South African hospital on December 6, 2014. He was 72. PHOTO MARTIN MUKANGU | NATION MEDIA GROUP

IN SUMMARY

  • Mr Kamotho who served as Kanu secretary general for 14 years had been battling ill health since March last year where he was admitted at Nairobi Hospital for three months.
  • JJ Kamotho’s health status hit the headlines during campaigns for the Murang’a senate seat after he was taken ill while addressing a meeting at Ihura Stadium.
  • His became the fifth secretary-general of Kanu, the governing party since independence, in 1989 after the death of Moses Mudamba Mudavadi.

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Former Cabinet Minister and one time powerful Kanu secretary General John Joseph Kamotho died at a South African Hospital on Saturday. He was 72.

Popularly known as JJ Kamotho, the father of four died at Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg after suffering a cardiac arrest.

While confirming the passing on of the former minister, one of his sons Dr Charles Kamotho said their father had been admitted at the hospital for two months where he underwent a hip surgery.

“He underwent the surgery successfully and was recovering well but he developed pneumonia and eventually a cardiac arrest,” Dr Kamotho said on Saturday.

Mr Kamotho who served as Kanu secretary general for 14 years had been battling ill health since March last year where he was admitted at Nairobi Hospital for three months.

 “The pneumonia was resistant to many drugs but the doctors were able to battle the disease and he had been undergoing therapy since then,” Dr Kamotho said.

“We later discovered he had a hip infection and we took him to Nairobi Hospital where he was operated on but later referred to Milpark Hospital in South Africa where he died,” Dr Kamotho told the Sunday Nation Saturday.

SENATORIAL RACE
In May last year, his family came out to deny media and social media reports claiming that the politician was critically ill.

Reports on the social media and in one of the local dailies indicated that the politician who once served as MP in Kangema and Mathioya constituencies of Murang’a County was in a coma at a private hospital then.

Mr Kamotho’s health status hit the headlines during campaigns for the Murang’a senate seat after he was taken ill while addressing a meeting at Ihura Stadium.

He was eventually beaten to the seat by former Kenyan ambassador to Belgium Kembi Gitura in the March 4 General Elections.

The family is planning to fly the body back home in readiness for burial.

Former President Daniel Arap Moi under whom Mr Kamotho served as Kanu secretary general and minister in various dockets including Higher Education, Transport, Trade, Environment and Local Government said he had learned of the death with “deep sorrow and a profound sense of loss”

“Besides politics, Kamotho was a personal friend for many years. In politics, he was an energetic, thoughtful and indefatigable public servant and a man who contributed immensely in making Kanu a robust system in service to the people,” Mr Moi said, through his press secretary Mr Lee Njiru.

WORTHY OPPONENT

President Uhuru Kenyatta said he was deeply saddened by the death of a man he described as a “selfless political legend”.

“For more than five decades, Kamotho gave an exemplary service to the people of Kenya both as a civil servant and a politician. He was a true believer in our national values, and his energy, commitment and loyalty were beyond doubt. His rich legacy will live on,” Mr Kenyatta said.

Deputy President William Ruto said he had visited the ailing Kamotho three weeks ago in hospital in South Africa adding he was “perhaps the most unforgettable political party administrator in independence Kenya”.

And Deputy Speaker of the Senate Mr Kembi Gitura eulogised the former Kanu strongman saying Kamotho was a “worthy opponent, one who was in no way personal”.

“I would also like to extend the message to the people of Mathioya who he represented so diligently in Parliament for a considerable length of time. I have known JJ for many years and indeed, he and I served together in the ninth Parliament when I was MP for Kiharu,” he said.

Mathioya MP Clement Wambugu also condoled with the family saying the country had a lost a dedicated leader.

DIMUNITIVE POLITICIAN
Mr Kamotho became the fifth secretary-general of Kanu, the governing party since independence, in 1989 after the death of Moses Mudamba Mudavadi.

He served the party for 14 years only coming second to Mr Robert Matano as the longest serving leader in that position, Mr Matano served for 16 years from 1969 until he was replaced on August 1, 1985.

At his helm in Kanu, Mr Kamotho was a roble rouser, a vocal and hawkish no-holds-barred spokesman of the governing party who did not mince his words while defending the party.

His controversial statements earned him friends and foes in equal measure but it was his dedication to Kanu and his penchant to issue punchy statements that most will remember.

He was a darling of the journalists since he would craft and issue statements without much prompting.

The diminutive politician first went to Parliament as MP for Kangema in 1974. He served until 1983 when then President Moi called a snap election to purge “disloyal elements” or people who were perceived as being close to the then disgraced Charles Njonjo who had fallen out with Moi.

Mr Kamotho was elected back to the House in 1988 to represent Kangema until 1992 when he lost the seat to the late John Michuki.

He remained in the House for two consecutive terms as a nominated MP in 1993 and 1998. In 2003, JJ made it back to the House as MP for Mathioya, a constituency that had been hived off the larger Kangema by Moi in an attempt to give the MP a softer political landing.

DUMPED UNCEREMONIOUSLY
But in August 12 2002, Mr Kamotho who was then the Environment minister and assistant minister Fred Gumo were dumped unceremoniously from the Government for resisting a move by Mr Moi to anoint Mr Kenyatta as the Kanu presidential candidate.

Mr Kamotho who was born in 1942 joined Muthangari Primary School in Murang’a in 1948 and sat the Common Entrance Examination in 1952 later joining Njumbi Intermediate School in 1955.

In 1958, he sat the Kenya African Preliminary Examination and was admitted to Nyeri High School. He sat for the Cambridge Secondary Education Examination in 1962 and obtained Division Two.

He then joined the East African Customs and Excise and worked as trainee customs officer in Mombasa and later joined Standard Chartered Bank.

But Kamotho was still hankering for a university degree and he applied for a Russian scholarship and in 1964 joined the Moscow State University where he was to study Economics but quit after a year.

Mr Kamotho applied and got a scholarship from the Institute for International Education, tenable at the Syracuse University in the US for a degree in liberal arts.

He took courses all year round and in 1968, completed his first degree and returned to Kenya to teach at the Kenya Institute of Administration.

A year later, Kamotho went to the UK for a masters degree in Development Administration and Social Sciences at the University of Birmingham. He is survived by his wife Eunice and four children.

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