The former chairman of the Committee of Experts (CoE) that drafted the 2010 Constitution Nzamba Kitonga is dead.
He is said to have collapsed while attending a funeral in Mutito, Kitui East Constituency, and died while being rushed to hospital.
His young brother Muthusi Kitonga said the lawyer became unconscious at the funeral and his wife, who had accompanied him, evacuated him. The brother said the family suspects the former LSK chairman could have had a heart attack.
“It was an emergency that we tried to have him airlifted to Nairobi for specialised treatment but all our frantic efforts didn’t bear fruit,” he told Sunday Nation last night.
The lawyer was driven by his wife from Mutito, about 75 kilometres from Kitui Town, and they decided to proceed to Nairobi when air rescue help wasn’t forthcoming. His condition deteriorated upon reaching Machakos Town and was pronounced dead at Shalom Hospital.
He added: “Nzamba’s masterful touch as a team leader during a critical moment of significant transition that saw Kenya’s independence constitution give way to a new order that marked a turning point whose echoes remain part of the guiding principles and reference points that should also inform the path of future negotiations that will, in turn, continue to reshape and fortify the destiny of our nation.”
Mr Kibaki said Mr Kitonga made his contribution to an eventful trigger moment that will forever define the direction Kenya will take in days to come.
“He goes down in the annals of history as one of the few Kenyans who played an important catalyst role in redefining the course of our nation’s history,” he said.
ODM leader Raila Odinga, who was prime minister when the senior counsel led the CoE, also sent his condolences.
“I have received with deep shock the passing of Dr Nzamba Kitonga, one of our country’s eminent lawyers; a first-rate legal mind and fighter for constitutionalism. Dr Kitonga consistently interpreted the constitution to make sure it grew with our people and our nation. His death is an irreparable loss to our quest to improve on our 2010 Constitution where he served as chair of Committee of Experts,” Mr Odinga said.
Kitonga was born in Kitui County 64 years ago. A Senior Counsel, he was regarded as one of the best constitutional lawyers in the country. Highly regarded within the legal fraternity, Mr Kitonga has never allowed the many hats he has worn before influence him.
Always amiable, the senior counsel would walk across Uhuru Park heading to Milimani Law Courts or back to town whenever he was not in a hurry.
He is a former chairman of State Corporations Appeals Tribunal; chairman, Committee of Experts on Constitutional Review for Kenya; a previous Jurist of the year; and a former president, East African Law Society.
He was among persons who were shortlisted for the position of Chief Justice and sought to replace retired CJ Willy Mutunga.
Justice David Maraga beat him and others to the position.
The lawyer has been vocal on BBI matters. He had proposed a hybrid system of governance as proposed by the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).
He also said that if there is an assurance of attaining the two-thirds gender rule, that has become a contentious matter, scrapping the seats should not be opposed.
“If doing away with the Woman Rep positions will create gender parity, then it is a good move. But then again, it is good to note that Parliament is getting more bloated. We need to look for a new formula,” he said.
Kitonga also criticized the government’s move to co-opt Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) Director-General Mohammed Badi into the Cabinet.
“A general is not a CS and cannot sit in Cabinet. It also affects the structure of command, as his boss is the Chief of Defence forces and not subject to civilian authority,” he said.
Various leaders joined the family and friends in mourning the lawyer.
Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko tweeted: “It is with profound shock and sadness that I have learned of the passing on of one of Kenya’s finest constitutional lawyers this evening, Philip Nzamba Kitonga.”
Law Society of Kenya President Nelson Havi said the sudden death was a blow to the legal fraternity.
“The burden and pain of untimely death has weighed down upon the Law Society of Kenya heavily today. We have just lost Nzamba Kitonga SC this evening,” he posted on his Twitter handle.
Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu termed Kitonga as a “great son of Kitui who devoted his entire life to public good”.
“We will remember him as a patriotic Kenyan who believed in the rule of law and immensely contributed to our 2010 Constitution. He believed in a democratic Kenya governed by rule of law where all Kenyans enjoy freedom and rights. Having passed on at a time Kenya is gearing up to change the Constitution to make it better, his contribution will be missed,” said Ms Ngilu.
Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu, in a statement, said she had received the sad news of the passing on of Mr Kitonga with a heavy heart.
“My condolences to his wife, children and the entire family. Kitui has lost an illustrious son of great repute. Kenya has lost an accomplished constitutional scholar and leader,” she said.
She added; “Nzamba’s immense contribution to the crafting and promulgation of the 2010 Constitution of Kenya and his role in expanding the democratic space that we all enjoy will be remembered for generations to come.”
Chief Justice David Maraga said the lawyer was one of Kenya’s most distinguished legal practitioners and a key pillar in the country’s constitutional journey.
I have learnt with great sadness about the demise of Senior Counsel Nzamba Kitonga, one of Kenya's most distinguished legal practitioners and a key pillar in the country’s constitutional journey. May God give his family the fortitude to bear this heavy loss. pic.twitter.com/DwUrTxRu9G
— David Maraga (@dkmaraga) October 24, 2020
Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Junior has described Nzamba as ‘a gentleman and one of the top legal minds in Kenya. Rest In Peace our dear friend and senior.’
Our condolences to the family and friends of Nzamba Kitonga SC. A gentleman and one of the top legal minds in Kenya . Rest In Peace our dear friend and senior
— Sen Mutula KilonzoJR (@SenMutula) October 24, 2020
The Raila Odinga-led party eulogized the lawyer for his contribution in drafting Kenya’s Constitution.
“We join the rest of the country in mourning the passing on of one of Kenya’s greatest lawyers Mr. Nzamba Kitonga. The late Kitonga’s immense contribution to the drafting of the 2010 constitution will be remembered by many who followed the process.”
The lawyer has been praised for his patience and understanding in handling constitutional matters.
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