The Kariakor Hindu Crematorium chimney steadily released smoke that curled outwards into the blue skies as the fires consumed the flesh and bones of the Duke of Kabeteshire, Charles Njonjo.
The smoke, the fire and the ashes marked the end of the life of Kenya’s first Attorney General, who was aged 101. Cremation was one of Njonjo’s last documented wishes.
Sometime in 2020, Njonjo penned his last wishes. The Sunday Standard can reveal that the Duke of Kabeteshire had stated in his Will that after being cremated, his ashes should be scattered in his two properties in Kiambu County.
The former AG was married to Margaret Njonjo and they had three children: Wairimu Njonjo, Wambui Njonjo and Josiah Njonjo.
He tasked the four with this rite that would see him unite with mother earth, albeit differently.
“I express my desire to be cremated and that my wife, my daughters and my son, should scatter half of my ashes at my farm Ibinoi Estate, Kiambu, and the other half at my other farm, Kibichiku, Kiambu,” he wrote on May 29, 2020.
Njonjo served as Kenya’s first native Attorney General between 1963 and 1979. He retired aged 60.
Njonjo took over from Eric Griffith-Jones, the Attorney General of the British administration in Kenya, who was appointed to the position in 1955.
Griffith-Jones had been Kenya’s Attorney General and Minister for Legal Affairs since May 1, 1955.
Njonjo was thereafter elected unchallenged to the National Assembly in April 1980 as MP for Kikuyu.
Late President Daniel Moi appointed him to Cabinet in June 1980 to serve as Minister for Home and Constitutional Affairs.
His wealth, according to documents filed before the Family Division, is estimated to be around Sh318.8 million.
His most priced earthly fortune is Sh200 million property in Nairobi. Another one, in Naivasha, is estimated to be worth Sh25 million and Redhill Sh60 million.
He also had interest in hotel industry as he had shares at Oceanic Hotel Limited. At the same time, he held shares in Safaricom, and Mua Insurance and Tarabete Farmers Association.
Njonjo also owned a Range Rover estimated to be worth Sh15.3 million and a Suzuki estimated to be worth around Sh440,000.
Njonjo married Margaret Bryson in 1972. He was 51 years old at the time.
Bryson was the daughter of Anglican missionary in Kenya, Rev Edgar Bryson, who was based in Kapsowar, Elgeyo Marakwet County.
He stated in his will that the four would be the beneficiaries of his wealth.
The former AG left his property at Kanyenyaini, Murang’a, for his son Josiah. He also bequeathed him another property in Naivasha.
He also ordered that the remainder of the estate should be shared equally among his widow and her three children.
In the event they all pass on, he said, the the estate should be passed to his grandchildren.
In his will, Njonjo declared that the spouses of his children were not his dependants, thereby locking them out from directly inheriting him.
“I further declare that the spouses of my children are not my dependants and any benefit that they may have received from me, whether directly or indirectly during my lifetime, has been as a consequence of my obligation and duty towards my children. If during my lifetime I have financially assisted the spouse of a child of mine, then it has been given as a result of that child requesting and I would have honoured my child’s request out of love and duty to maintain my child and my child’s family. Such assistance given should not be construed as any obligation I had towards a spouse of my child,” Njonjo wrote.
He also left part of the estate under a trust. He said the trustees ought to enjoy free and unfettered powers to invest and insure the properties against loss and damage.
He stated: “No trustee shall be personally liable for any breach of trust whether by way of commission or omission done or suffered unless it shall be proved that at the time of his or her doing or suffering such breach or of his or concurrence therein such act or default or suffered by him or mala fide (carried out in bad faith or with intent to deceive).”
The trustee, he said, would provide financial resources from the assets to settle any claims or liabilities of the estate.
“I direct that my trustees shall have and enjoy all the powers, authorities and discretions conferred on trustees or executors by any statutory enactment or otherwise and in addition thereto and following powers authorities and discretions,” he directed.
Njonjo was the son of the late Josiah Njonjo, a colonial paramount chief and one of the foremost collaborators of British rule in Kenya.
In 1939, Njonjo was admitted to the King’s College Budo, a privileged East African school located in Nsangi, Wakiso District, west of Kampala, Uganda.
After completing his secondary education at Alliance High School, Njonjo enrolled at the Fort Hare University in South Africa, where he graduated in 1946 with a bachelor’s degree in English and South African Law.
He returned to Kenya but had an ambition to study law.
At the time, African students were forbidden from being admitted to the bar.
As a result, the colonial administration offered him a scholarship in England to study public administration at the University College of the South West of England at Exeter, now known as the University of Exeter.
The colonial administration wanted him to replace his father, Chief Josiah Njonjo, in the provincial administration. He flew to England in 1947.
He completed his law degree in 1949 but rather than returning to Kenya, he embarked on further studies so that he could be admitted to the bar at Gray’s Inn.
As soon as the colonial administration in Kenya learnt of his decision to study for the Bar, they cut off his stipend. He was also asked to move out of 36 Great Cumberland Place, which housed Kenyan students and visiting dignitaries in London.
A friendly Welshman, Elwyn Jones, who was a London solicitor, took him in to train in his chambers.
Njonjo worked there until he was called to the bar at Gray’s Inn in 1952.
He was only the second Kenyan African barrister after Argwings-Kodhek, who had been called to the bar in January 1951 at Lincoln’s Inn.
Njonjo worked in London for two years and returned to Kenya at the end of 1954. He then went into the State Law Office and on March 1, 1955, he was appointed as assistant registrar-general.
In June 1956, he was posted to Mombasa where he worked as deputy official receiver in charge of bankruptcies, and later crown counsel. He operated from the Legal Mansion on Fort Jesus Road.
Njonjo became Attorney General in independent Kenya under President Jomo Kenyatta.