Gema treasurer who was ousted by Karauri dies

There is a befitting tribute to the late former Nyambene South MP Jacob Mwongo (pictured) by his youth rival, the former Assistant Minister Mathew Karauri. Mwongo died on Wednesday.

In his autobiography The Way I am, Karauri writes about his first attempt in the 1974 general elections to snatch the seat, then covering the whole of Tigania.

Karauri, then aged 28 had resigned from his teaching job at Chogoria Boys High School after one year to launch his bid for the Nyambene South parliamentary seat.

Mwongo hailed from Kianjai area and when Karauri arrived at a bar there to launch his campaigns, he was surrounded by a hostile crowd that almost roughed him up after branding him just a boy who would not manage to unseat the “invincible” incumbent.

Karauri then goes on to narrate how hard it was to unseat the former MP who was also the Gikuyu, Embu and Meru Association (Gema) Treasurer and and had represented the area for two terms between 1969 and 1979.

“He was a very worthy opponent, hard to beat and my father’s agemate; we had a very exciting contest,” Karauri said yesterday in a condolence message.

Mwongo, 90, died on Wednesday morning at the Kiirua Mission Hospital from old age complications according to his fifth child, the High Court Judge Richard Mwongo.

For a long time, Nyambene South which was later renamed Tigania Constituency and later on split into Tigania East and Tigania West experienced some of the most violent political campaigns in Mt Kenya region.

Humiliating contests

Tigania East still hosts some of the most humiliating political contests anywhere in the country, with contestants being given dubious nicknames by their rivals.

Meru Deputy Governor Titus Ntuchiu said Mwongo will be remembered for retiring honourably after losing to Karauri and never interfering with terms of successors.

“He will also be remembered as a Tigania leader who came closer to solving the perennial water problem in the area because most of the projects there were his brainchild,” Mr Ntuchiu said.

Mwongo’s loss in 1979 could partly be attributed to the new government’s bid to remove the Kenyatta era hardliners in Gema.

In Tigania, he is hailed as a defender of the weak, the down-trodden and an advocate for education in a region that had lagged behind the more urbane Imenti. “His love for education was such that at 80 years, he opened a primary school which we had to close down because he could not run it at his age,” Justice Mwongo said yesterday.

He quietly retired to farming coffee and tea. During last year’s Jamhuri Day, he was among recipients of the Head of States Commendation by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Mwongo spent his last year trying to resolve the border dispute pitting his Tigania and Tharaka regions and Isiolo and Meru counties, drawing from his long experience as a leader. His wife Joyce passed on in 2001 and he is survived by two daughters and four sons. He will be buried in his Kiguchwa farm on August 28.