Mboyaâs former Private Secretary, Otieno Nundu, 75, says he remembers the incident at the Convent Drive residence clearly.
"It was a few minutes to 7pm and the AP officer called from the gate to report that an unidentified man wanted to see Mboya," Nundu told The Standard On Sunday. "He insisted that the minister come out to meet the visitor who claimed he had an urgent message, but Mboya declined. When the policeman was persistent, Mboya became apprehensive and sent one of his relatives to meet the man. By this time, the AP officer was walking towards the main house. There was a sudden burst of gunfire forcing Mboya to run back into the house as the relative dived under a parked car."
Convinced he had hit his target, the policeman swiftly disappeared into the darkness. The only casualty, however, was the ministerâs Mercedes Benz, which took two bullets. Nundu believes the officer had planned to lure Mboya out of the gate and into the hands of an assassin. It was never established who the stranger was.
The policeman was arrested three days later, Nundu says. He was not charged with attempted murder, but instead disciplined for the lesser offence of wilfully damaging Mboyaâs car. Nundu says the man was jailed for a paltry six months and was still serving his prison term when Mboya was eventually assassinated a few months later.
Nundu said Mboya was shaken by the incident, but chose to play it down.
"It was scaring. The AP later claimed to have acted under the influence of alcohol, but we were convinced he had been paid to kill Mboya. Investigators never sought to know the identity of the strangers, who wanted to see Mboya at the gate," he says.
In another incident about a year earlier, a man armed with a panga walked to a function in Siaya and tried to reach Mboya at the VIP dais. Freelance journalist Odera Omolo, who was at the event, says it took the quick action of nearby Kanu youth-wingers to disarm the man. His motive was never established as police abandoned investigations claiming the suspect was mentally ill.
"Mboya did not want the incident reported because it would cause unnecessary tension," says Omolo. Associates like Nundu say Mboyaâs reluctance to speak up about the threats to his life and his failure to engage round-the-clock bodyguards may have helped his enemies to execute their plans with ease.
"Tom was eliminated by people who feared he was headed for the presidency," Nundu says. "They killed a great man who would have driven this country to greater heights. Kenya would be a much better country today, with Mboyaâs leadership."
Nunduâs conclusions about the killing may be right, but the question of who âtheyâ were is not as clear-cut.
Mboya was a national leader of Kanu. The fact that his alleged assassin, Njenga, was also a Kanu man informs the conclusion the assassination was motivated by a power struggle inside the party. Yet the struggle to succeed Kenyatta was not the only power struggle going on â or even the most immediate one.