Fred ‘Kaa ngumu’ is back with ‘clubs blazing’

Sunday February 16 2020

Former Cabinet minister Fred Gumo. At one time, infuriated by journalist David Makali’s decision to publish unpleasant stories about him, Gumo had the journalist kidnapped. ILLUSTRATION | JOSEPH NYAGAH | NATION MEDIA GROUP


During his time, that period when he ruled the Nairobi political roost, Fred Fidelis Gumo, the former Westlands MP, was known for his violent swagger.

Now over 70 years old, the former minister in the Grand Coalition government has defied nature and refused to mellow with age, maintaining the character and the agility of an 18-year-old.

Throughout his life, Gumo has had a sharp and intense mouth that is only matched by an equally quick slap or fist, as the case may be, oftentimes insulting, slapping or boxing his way out of a situation.

Widely known for his moniker Kaa ngumu (be tough), he announced his retirement from active politics in 2013, but it appears the voluble former minister is back.

There is a feeling the man is missing the fast lane; the adrenalin-filled kind of politics he was so used to in his heyday, perhaps an indication that he could be contemplating a political comeback.



Just before the 2013 General Election, Gumo, who had served as MP for a cumulative period of 23 years, abruptly announced his exit from the political stage, arguing that he had reached his peak and that he wanted to pass the baton to the younger generation.

“I have done all I could have done in my lifetime as a public servant, and as such, I’m embarking on a low-key life so that I can have more time with my family,” he added, even as he challenged his age-mates and those older than him to also consider quitting.

“They should learn to quit while they can still be useful to their families and businesses in their private life. I appreciate the phrase ‘leaving while it’s still sweet’,” he purred.

It now appears the man who was incessantly linked to the Jeshi la Mzee, a political gang that caused terror in Nairobi under his command, had not learnt anything and that, in making the announcement, he was merely kidding.

He is yet to pass a baton, and there is only remote likelihood he will. It has taken the death of his mentor, former President Daniel arap Moi, for his drift to be clearer.

Last week, Gumo assailed former Subukia MP Koigi wa Wamwere, who had unleashed a tirade against Moi.


A remorseless Koigi has cheered Moi’s death and expressed his wish that the late president rots in hell, attracting Gumo’s wrath.

Angered by the comments, Gumo returned fire in his usual abrasive style. “He should be thankful to Moi,” Gumo retorted after viewing Moi’s body as it lay-in-state at Parliament Buildings.

“He should not be bitter because Moi gave him 50 acres of land on which he lives, a car and educated his son at Kabarak High School for free. Let him come out and deny,” he purred, adding that many people supported the late president.

Koigi answered Mr Kaa Ngumu, denying that Moi ever gave him land. Neither did the former president pay fees for his son, Koigi said.

An abrasive person is one who hurts, annoys, irritates and criticises anyone and anything without any seeming remorse.

They are of two types: one who lacks self-awareness and does not know they are abrasive, and the other who knows full well that they are abrasive and take pride in it.

Gumo is the latter, taking full pride in irritating his adversaries. While he has portrayed himself as a rubble-rouser, the former MP is elitist and a hater of the low.


When he served at City Hall as the head of the Nairobi City Commission, he would be remembered for the merciless way he flattened the Muoroto slums along Landhies Road, the site where Nacico Plaza stands today.

The commission’s bulldozers showed up at the venue in the dead of night and without warning and through a public address system, the poor fellows, who at that time were in deep slumber, were asked to leave or they would be crushed inside their hovels.

An estimated 50 died during the mayhem, while Gumo drowned in a wave of condemnation.

No less a person than President Moi cantered to his defence, going to the extent of sacking Maina Wanjigi, then-Minister for Agriculture.

“When I was studying in London, you were busy selling meat in your father’s butchery,” Wanjigi retorted when Gumo called him a tribalist.


In the late 1960s, Gumo was convicted on his own plea of guilt to a charge of corruption in public office and was fined Sh2,000.

He was arrested and arraigned in court and admitted to having accepted a Sh300 bribe while working as a Price Control Inspector in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

At one time, infuriated by journalist David Makali’s decision to publish unpleasant stories about him, Gumo had the journalist kidnapped by his Jeshi right in the middle of city centre, carted to Karura Forest where he was beaten but was lucky to escape with his life.

True to his character, Gumo would a week later show up in Makali’s home district where he loudly bragged about the beating.