Cache of firearms and foreign connections that nearly compromised Kenya's security

The commission chaired by Justice Cecil Miller, Justice Chuuilat Madan and Justice Mrs Effie Owuor, was Gazetted in 1983. [File, Standard]

It took 107 days and 62 witnesses to clip the wings of powerful Cabinet Minister Charles Njonjo, who believed that he was destined to occupy State House some day, and that the occupant then was “just a passing cloud”.

After the public humiliation where the “Duke of Kabetshire” was exposed to public ridicule and daily glare of media cameras, he was ultimately tossed into political oblivion, marking the end of a career for one of Kenya’s most powerful ministers.

Throughout his “days on the cross”, Njonjo wore a brave face just like the finely cut suit he adorned and like the English gentleman he had always projected. He decided to fall on his own sword rather than engage his accusers in a protracted fight.

When he was given an opportunity to defend himself at the end of his ignominious trial, Njonjo did so in just 14 words: “I thank President Moi for his Christian wisdom and maturity in leading the country.”

The details of Njonjo’s crime as outlined in judicial proceedings are contained in a report, The Judicial of Commission of Inquiry into into Allegations Involving Njonjo, presented to President Moi on November 9, 1984.

The commission chaired by Justice Cecil Miller, Justice Chuuilat Madan and Justice Effie Owuor, with Jared Kangwana and Benjamin Kubo as members, was gazetted vide Notice No 4051 on October 20, 1983.

Terms of reference

The commission’s terms of reference had been to inquire into allegations made within and outside Parliament involving Njonjo, a former Minister for Constitutional Affairs and Kikuyu MP that he had conducted himself “in a manner prejudicial to the State and calculated to cause alarm and despondency with a view to undermining the office of the Head of State of the Republic of Kenya and the image and performance of the government”.

During the inquiry, 62 witnesses were summoned to testified and although Njonjo was given unlimited right and opportunity to adduce material evidence in his behalf, in refutation of the allegations and also in refutation of the evidence adduced, he merely denied the allegation.

Some of the notable witnesses were ODM leader Raila Odinga, former vice president Wamalwa Kijana, Dr Robert Ouko, former minister Fred Gumo and businessman Naushad Merali.

The allegation ranged from illegal importation of firearms with an intention of toppling President Moi’s government to claims that he was sponsoring parallel leaders to illegal meetings and bribery.

The commission established that indeed Njonjo was involved in illegal importation of arms and ammunition into Kenya.

Details of Njonjo’s crime were presented to President Moi on November 9, 1984. [File, Standard]

It noted that there was evidence clearly establishing that there was accumulation of an “inordinate quantity” of firearms and ammunition together with the installation of ground-to-air and air-to-ground transmitting and receiving radio equipment stored in two adjoining rooms of a private dwelling house, the property of people known as Haryanto family, and situated on Lenana Road.

More worrying, the report noted that the “huge cache of arms and ammunition was stored centrally within lethal range of the State House”, the headquarters of the Kenya Army and a police station.

“That much we saw for ourselves when we visited the Haryanto home officially during the course of the Inquiry,” the commissioners said.

The report said that the Haryantos and Njonjo would seem to have endeared themselves to each other so much so that at the age of 61, Njonjo was the best man at the wedding of a 19-year-old Haryanto son.

Notably, according to the report, several members of the Haryanto family were licensed to hold firearms totalling more than 100. But two particular instances the commission claimed to have used established that members of the Haryanto family and some friends, totalling 32 persons, came to Kenya in June 1980 and during the trip they brought firearms. 

They were met and accommodated in the VIP lounge of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport by Njonjo’s official driver Kabucho who was in his police uniform. On the particular occasion, Kabucho collected the luggage of the Haryantos which included firearms and ammunition, slipped it through using the AG’s Mercedes Benz car registration Number KVD.

The commission noted that the second consignment of arms and ammunition was brought into the country by the same American Kent Crane who was accompanied by another American called Theodore on March 31, 1981 aboard British Airways BA 054 from South Africa and were picked at the airport by Kabucho.

“Crane is the same individual who came with the Haryantos in June 1980 with arms and ammunition. Crane and Theodore flew into Nairobi on flight number BA 054 from South Africa,” the report said.

Firearms saga

The commission observed that on the firearms saga they were given three different versions of how the arms left the airport, namely, the Walker version, the Gichuru version and the Julius Angwenyi version. Charles Gichuru was Walker’s deputy.

One of Charles Njonjo's allegations was the illegal importation of firearms with an intention of toppling President Daniel Moi’s government. [File, Standard]

Douglas Walker, a superintendent of police and chief licensing officer at Central Firearms Bureau, was a close associate of the Haryantos and Njonjo. Angenyi was an assistant security officer at the Ministry of Transport and Communication at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

In its conclusion, the commission’s report noted that “by building up an arsenal in the Haryanto home, which must have been intended for use in an insurrection, and allowing the residents of South Africa to enter Kenya in utter disregard of Kenya’s security, Njonjo conducted himself in a manner prejudicial to the security of the State. We find this allegation well established”.

The reported noted that Njonjo studied in Kenya, Uganda and South Africa before he qualified as a lawyer in England after his call to the English Bar by Grays Inn.

It noted that the former AG, who began working at the Chambers of the Attorney General where he worked as a Crown Counsel before he became the first African Attorney General from 1963 to 1980, was a widely travelled person, and extensively involved in several commercial enterprises.

The report noted that in April 1980, Njonjo retired as AG to contest a parliamentary by-election for Kikuyu Constituency and would be appointed Minister for Constitutional and Home Affairs, before he was suspended on June 29, 1983.