Except for Mwai Kibaki, who surprised President Daniel Moi with his resignation announced via TV on Christmas Day in 1991, some ministers who served in Moi’s Cabinet were often fired without warning.
Ministers Darius Mbela, Peter Oloo Aringo, Waruru Kanja, Maina Wanjigi, Kipkalya Kones and former Head of Civil Service Geoffrey Kareithi were sacked via the dreaded 1pm radio news bulletin on Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC).
The stories of the ministers are told in a yet-to-be-released book titled 24 Years of the Nyayo Era: Moi Cabinets Volume I & 2.
Kareithi was sacked over lunch time as he shared a meal with his successor, Jeremiah Kiereini, a man who had deputised him on several occasions.
“The announcement that Mr Kiereini had been appointed to replace Mr Kareithi was made on radio. It presented an embarrassing situation for Mr Kareithi when the two met for lunch at Red Bull Restaurant on the material day. Mr Kiereini knew about the impending announcement but his boss Mr Kareithi did not,” says the book.
“As the two, accompanied by Attorney-General James Karugu and of Kenyatta College (later Kenyatta University) Principal Joe Koinange, walked back to their office after lunch, people started congratulating Mr Kiereini, and that’s how Mr Kareithi found out that he had been replaced,” the book narrates
Kareithi was dismissed without being given a chance to defend himself. This is after Burudi Nabwera, the then minister in the Office of the President, disclosed that Kareithi had made a clandestine trip to Uganda in February 1989 at a time when the relationship between Kenya and Uganda was strained.
Kones’ fate was made public while he was on a trip to his father’s farm in Molo.
Immediately after his sacking, his driver abandoned him and took the ministerial car flag to Molo police station, forcing Kones to hitchhike to Nakuru town.
Before he was fired, Kones had tried to hand over his official car and flag after hearing rumours that he was about to be dismissed.
Then a minister in the Office of the President, he was convinced that Moi was about to fire him based on rumours that the president was holding regular meetings with his main rival in Kipsigis politics, John Koech.
To avoid the humiliation, Kones surrendered the flag and official limousine at the Mau Summit General Service Unit post on the Nakuru-Eldoret highway.
However, the station commander declined to receive the two symbols of office, arguing that he was neither the appointing authority nor the caretaker of State House property.
Kones’ fears were confirmed after Koech assumed his position. But Koech remained anxious that he might be the next victim.
In February 1997, Moi sacked then-Agriculture Minister Darius Mbela, a great singer and composer, without explanation.
This was his second dismissal – the first one happened in November 1992.
Before his sacking, the minister had announced plans to privatise all sugar companies, a move that drew furious response from leaders in cane-growing regions, thereby scuttling his plans.
“I was not surprised because I was appointed through (a) radio announcement and I was relieved of my duties through the same,” stated Mr Mbela upon his sacking.
In February 1996, Moi sacked Dalmas Otieno without giving an explanation.
But the dismissal was linked to his opposition of a government directive after he sided with sugarcane farmers protesting importation of the commodity.
The tenure of James Njagi Njiru at the National Guidance ministry came to an abrupt end after Moi abolished it in 1989 following a gaffe.
“The President had visited Meru District, and after addressing a meeting at Kinoru Stadium, he decided to fly back to Nairobi in a military helicopter and allowed Njiru to use his official limousine to get back to Nairobi.
On the way, Njiru committed an unforgivable sin. When he got to Wang’uru Township in Mwea, he ordered the presidential motorcade to stop. Reason? There was a cheering crowd that demanded to be addressed by the President, or so they thought. Njiru could not resist and decided to address the gathering from the top of the presidential limousine. This incident angered the President and he summoned Njiru to his office in State House the next day, as pressure from leaders mounted for him to take action against his minister, who was now being accused of plotting to take over the government,” the book says.
A week before he learnt of his sacking, Maina Wanjigi, then the minister for Co-operative Development, had protested the demolition of properties in Muoroto slums, in his constituency, by Nairobi City Council.
Oloo Aringo was sacked as minister for Environment following the 1982 coup in which he was accused of celebrating the attempt to overthrow the government.
Waruru Kanja was dismissed while on official duty in Naivasha.
“Upon hearing the news, his driver removed the flag from the car and abandoned him at Kinungi along the Nairobi-Naivasha road. But the politician, who was a man of the people, managed to hitch a ride to Nairobi form a motorist,” the book narrates.
Days before he was sacked, Kanja accused the government of having a hand in former Minister Robert Ouko’s death.
Those who got appointed to the Cabinet also rarely got the information beforehand. For instance, Adhu Awiti was appointed as a minister while on a bus travelling from Kisumu to Nairobi.
When he arrived in Nairobi, he was immediately escorted to an official government limousine.
Francis Masakhalia, Kenya’s seventh Finance minister, learnt of his transfer to the Ministry of Energy via radio.
Masakhalia was transferred after failing to reverse the downward trend of Kenya’s economy. He had only been at the position for six months.
Former Nyakach MP Ojwang’ K’Ombudo was informed about his appointment four days after his nomination, on his return from a trip overseas.
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