Governor Nderitu Gachagua dies after two-year battle with cancer

Nyeri Governor Nderitu Gachagua. (Photo: Moses Omusula/Standard)

Nyeri County is mourning Governor Nderitu Gachagua who succumbed to pancreatic cancer at a hospital in London Friday morning.

Gachagua died at 2.15am Kenyan time at The Royal Marsden Hospital, ending a two-year battle with the condition.

He was receiving treatment at the premier facility dedicated to treatment and research on cancer. The 64-year-old is survived by a wife, Margaret and four children, two boys and two girls.

The governor was last seen in public in November when he hosted President Uhuru Kenyatta during a development tour of the region, before leaving promptly for the United Kingdom.

According to family sources, Gachagua's health had improved dramatically and he was preparing to return home until it took a turn for the worse about three days ago.

“He was actually ready to come back home next week. He was upbeat, jovial and packing his bags, ready to come home, but then three days ago his health took a turn for the worse,” said his brother Rigathi Gachagua.

Gachagua's close relatives were with him in London where he has been receiving treatment since December.

His deputy, Samuel Wamathai, said, "The Governor tried to talk to me last night (Friday night) and I could hear from his voice that he was very weak".

Gachagua's elder brother, Jack Reriani, eulogised him as a "go-getter who always achieved what he wanted". The family has kept the news of Gachagua's death secret from their frail mother who was very close to the governor.

"We have not told our mum and I intend to wait until my family comes from the United Kingdom so we can break the news to her. She lost our father in 2014 and we know that this will break her," Reriani said.

Gachagua, a former Mathira lawmaker, becomes the first governor to die in office and is expected to be succeeded by his deputy Samuel Wamathai until the August 8 General Election.

He had a tough time with the County Assembly last year, with the two facing off over the county budget, followed by an impeachment motion that he overcame.

The matter of his health was a subject of speculation and, until Friday when it was confirmed that he had indeed been battling pancreatic cancer, was shrouded in mystery and secrecy.

Wamaathai Friday released a statement, saying the county government was consulting the office of the Attorney General on the transition process. He assured residents that the county was stable.