They had the power to speak to power and that threatened power. They had the power to seek power for the people and that’s why they were murdered.
One. “Jambo, bwana,” came the greeting in his Westlands driveway. Out rang the bullet and the brain box, ideologue and strategist of Kenya's left was gone, forever.
The death of Pio Gama Pinto in 1965 seriously disoriented Jaramogi Odinga’s, and the left’s vision. And, says my good teacher, this murder accelerated Vice President Joseph Murumbi’s resignation.
Two. Fifty years ago on the afternoon of the July 5 as he bought medicine at a chemist in Nairobi’s CBD, shots rang out.
Only a bullet would have stopped Kanu’s and Cabinet’s strategic genius, gifted global networker, determined to be president.
Yes, suddenly Thomas Joseph ‘TJ’ Mboya, master of the parliamentary dispatch box and skulduggery, was gone, forever.
Three. Josiah Mwangi ‘JM’ Kariuki was filthy rich with a private jet to boot, but he spoke for Kenya’s dirt poor. He pricked, nay, tormented, the conscience of the nouveaux riches and political elite.
A favourite of the students of the University of Nairobi, JM had a national following and harboured presidential ambitions. He was the only Kikuyu to attend TJ’s burial in Rusinga Island.
And then in March 1975 he was gone, forever, and in an instant. His body, decomposing and disfigured with acid, was found in Ngong Forest.
Four. He was a brilliant foreign minister knowledgeable and experienced as he was in diplomacy, civil service, regional cooperation and Cabinet. He was an unrelenting defender of government and Kanu policies in single party era, no matter how unpopular.
Then Dr Robert John Ouko was gone, suddenly, forever, in February of 1990. Assassination is lethal, clinical and final. The target is here now and gone now. Forever. Who killed them?
Enter outgoing Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua. He claimed last week that Deputy President William Ruto, and his legislator sidekicks Aden Duale and Kipchumba Murkomen, want to assassinate him.
Good grief! Did not last July Dr Ruto's spin doctors claim in a social media post that a plot had been hatched by Cabinet ministers from Mount Kenya region to assassinate the DP?
The murder claim was a diversionary red herring for a politically besieged Number Two. I am unequivocal now that Dr Ruto would be better served at a strategy drawing board than thinking about taking out Dr Mutua.
Dr Ruto has everything to lose from being associated with harm caused to a perceived adversary where Dr Mutua has status-enhancing and sympathy-eliciting publicity to be gained from claiming Dr Ruto wants to kill him.
Assassination claims by Kenyan politicians are often a dead cat strategy. When an issue is dominant or threatens to dominate the news agenda, one can introduce a dead cat to divert the attention because all will switch to talking about the carcass.
Notice that most of the claims are made by politicians who are under pressure. This says they are meant to garner sympathy and or esteem for the politician as an insurance policy or cushion against escalation.
It is no coincidence that Dr Mutua would claim his life is in danger when Ukambani is abuzz with speculation that a new alliance between his foes Johnston Muthama and Kalonzo Musyoka on one hand, and Dr Ruto on the other, is in the works.
And Dr Mutua did not revisit the fact that he launched his presidential bid at the same event at which he announced his bid for re-election as Governor in 2017. Tellingly, last month he asked Dr Ruto to resign and declared he was ready to be appointed DP.
But Dr Mutua said that Dr Ruto is plotting to eliminate him because he has been campaigning against his corruption. What he did not say is that those attacking Dr Ruto’s corruption are adamant he is unfit for the presidency.
So Dr Mutua ranks himself among the DP’s foremost foes. Indeed, he referenced past assassinations to buttress his position that his life was in danger, which qualifies him for enhanced security.
Therein lies the problem. One, Dr Mutua is not among Dr Ruto’s heavyweight and bitterest political opponents such as organised labour boss Francis Atwoli or rivals for the presidency, such as former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
Two, Dr Mutua and Dr Ruto could not hold a candle to TJ, JM, Pinto or even Ouko. Why in the world would anyone want to kill them?