Why August brings dark memories from Kenya's history

A convoy of army trucks pictured at the KICC where looted goods were being stored by National Youth Personnel on August 7, 1982 [Courtesy]

Whew… The terrible month is finally over. And what a month it has been? Peaked Covid-19 fatalities, inexplicable deaths of suspects in the hands of the police and freak accidents from the road and potent gin. The grim reaper, it appears has been on the rampage.

August has dark memories some of which will forever remain engraved in the country’s history pages.  For the first president, Jomo Kenyatta, 1961 August started well for it marked his journey to fame and power. He must have been quite ecstatic when he was freed on August 21 that year to go to Gatundu where a new house, car and life of glamour awaited him.

However, exactly 17 years and one day later, Kenyatta died in Mombasa. This plunged the country into some uncertainty, given the tussle on his succession after that night of August 22, 1978.

Four years later, in 1982, the country was jolted when a group of Kenya Air Force soldiers attempted a coup in the wee hours of August 1.  It is estimated that about 300 civilians and soldiers died.  Although their attempt failed and the plotters sent to the gallows, the coup opened a dark chapter in Kenya’s history, marked with political repression under a one political party system.

The grim reaper found a reason to give the month a bad name again in 1997 when on August 13,  ethnic clashes erupted in Likoni, claiming the lives of about 40 people.

The following year on August 7, 1998, over 200 people died and thousands were injured when terror group Al-Qaida bombed the US embassy in Nairobi, bringing it down and affecting some adjacent buildings.

The chilling deaths of Bishop Alexander Kipsang Muge, the outspoken Anglican cleric through a road crash in August 1990, can only be equated to the sock of the inexplicable death of Masinde Muliro in August 1990 at the airport minutes after arriving from UK.

There were other shocking deaths of notable leaders such as that of the murdered Father Anthony Kaiser on August 24, 2000, and the eloquent Vice President Kijana Wamalwa on 23 August 2003 in London. The self-proclaimed people’s watchman and former Butere MP, Martin Shikuku, also died on August 22, 2012. 

It is, however, not all gloom, for August 4 2010 marked Kenya’s rebirth after the promulgation of a progressive constitution, which also dictates that General Elections be held on the second Tuesday of August every five years.