By Titus Kakembo
The late Sir Charles Njonjo might be immortalised by naming one of the gorilla group leaders in Uganda after him. This was after he broke the record of tracking the apes at the ripe old age of 100.
To get there, Njonjo had to board what is called the “Mgahinga Chopper”.
“Asante (thanks)!” Njonjo told the team that enabled him to clap his eyes on gorillas for 60 minutes. The energetic porters scaled steep slopes, maneuvered through thorny bushes and waddled in the mud.
“One of my dreams has come true!” he said as he sucked a deep sigh of relief.
The news of Njonjo’s gorilla tracking went viral in Kenya. Many of his countrymen learnt about the existence of 450 apes in Uganda and have since fatad (emulated) him.
“Our aim is for Uganda Airlines to take Ugandans to tour Mombasa and return full of Kenyans to do what Njonjo did,” said the Uganda Tourism Board CEO, Lilly Ajarova. “Uganda has a lot more than gorillas to interest the most sophisticated traveller like Sir Njonjo.”
However, little did the energetic Mgahinga porters know their passenger was the first Kenyan attorney general from 1963 to 1979. Neither did they know that he played a vital role in the founding of Kenya as a nation at independence.
As if that was not enough mystery, they were not informed that their client was once a minister of constitutional affairs and MP of Kikuyu Constituency.
“Back home where he was born in 1920, the residents called him the Duke of Kabeteshire,” says Joseph Kariuki, a tour guide. “Sir Charles was his name because of his penchant for British lifestyle. This included his pinstripe suits and sipping champagne.”
The old man succumbed to pneumonia at his home in Muthaiga, Nairobi yesterday and was cremated at Kariokor Crematorium immediately – as he wished. He is survived by a wife Margaret Bryson and their children: Wairimu, Nimu and Joshiah.
“He was a very special family man. He has left a rich legacy that is intact. He passed on peacefully surrounded by family members at his home in Nairobi moments past 5:00am on Sunday,” Njonjo’s son-in-law, Carey Ngini, explained.
Njonjo’s body was cremated to fulfil his wishes.
“Njonjo was clear about what he wanted not just in life, but even in death and part of the instructions was that he is accorded a private sendoff devoid of the usual fanfare. He did not want a ceremony and what goes on with funerals of a person of his stature and so as a family, we have just fulfilled his wishes.”
Njonjo’s diet was toasted bread, a cup of tea, fruits and vegetables. Nyama choma was not part of his idea of dining.
Njonjo went to King’s College Budo in 1939 before joining Fort Hare University in South Africa, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English and South African law.
Politically, he was known to have tamed Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and ably paved the way for Arap Moi as president after Jomo Kenyatta’s demise.
Njonjo’s death has united Kenyans who are presently engaged in political rivalry. President Uhuru Kenyata, his deputy William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga described him as a “selfless leader.”