The day Jomo Kenyatta died, his vice-president went missing

Then-Vice President Daniel arap Moi (left) and Attorney General Charles Njonjo in Mombasa in August 1974. [File, Standard]

Wambugu later explained that Njonjo had told him the Cabinet meeting would not take place until the VP was traced and brought to Nairobi.

The mission to find and evacuate Moi to State House Nairobi was frantic as it was dramatic. Wambugu was tasked with issuing orders to his senior Assistant Commissioner of Police, Kenyan Commandant Charles Mathenge Njuki, who was at the time the commander of the Police Airwing.

Mathenge flew out of Wilson airport in fixed-wing Cessna aircraft and was followed by a helicopter to the general direction of Baringo, Moi's home, as Wambugu frantically tried to locate the missing heir apparent.

When the Officer Commanding Police Division (OCPD) Baringo went to Moi's home, he found that the VP had already left. The security forces finally traced the VIP and his bodyguards in the wild, and ultimately directed Mathenge to the place.

Since the fixed wing could not land in the hilly terrain that the VP had been located, Mathenge had to land his Cessna and switch to the helicopter which he finally flew to State House, after special clearance from the watchtowers at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Wilson and Eastleigh Airbase in Nairobi.

Finally, more than 8 hours after Kenyatta died, his deputy was sworn in as an acting President. A power vacuum had been averted, marking the beginning of Moi's 24-year tenure.