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Village mourns down to earth 'Katiba owner'

By Philip Muasya | October 26th 2020

At his home in Mutitu, Kitui East, Nzamba Kitonga who died on Saturday aged 64, was popularly known as mwene katiba (the owner of the Constitution).

The moniker was derived from the pivotal role he played in giving the country the Constitution (2010) when he chaired the Committee of Experts (CoE) on constitutional review.

A son of the late Kanu senior chief Kitonga Muthangya, Kitonga and his siblings among them former Kitui East MP Muthusi Kitonga, spent their formative years in Mombasa where their father was a chief in Changamwe.

That was until the old man relocated to his rural home in Mutitu to contest for a parliamentary seat that he easily won. Years later, Kitonga's younger brother, Muthusi, would also win the parliamentary seat once held by their father.

Tributes poured in yesterday for the senior counsel. Many described Kitonga as a great legal mind and a man of unmeasured humility, who would go out of his way to lend a helping hand when called upon. Many say he never allowed the many professional hats he wore in life get to his head.

Legal assistance

Patrick Wambua recalls his days at the university when as students, they would often visit Kitonga's office, then situated on Wabera Street, in need of legal assistance. 

"When I was in campus, we would from time to time need legal documents signed by a lawyer. We always used to go to his office for that critical signature and stamp. Not once did Nzamba Kitonga ever ask for any payment. I have had occasions to meet him several times and his humble mien has remained true. What a loss," said Wambua.

The senior counsel pursued his law degree at the University of Nairobi and his legal prowess saw him elected the president of the Law Society of Kenya (LSK). He also served as the president of the East Africa Law Society, the head of the Comesa Court of Justice and chairman of State Corporations Appeals Tribunal.

Perfect health

Those who had an opportunity to interact with him in the streets of Kitui town say he was a down to earth man who never valued pomp or largesse. 

"I spotted him several times sitted on benches here in town while engaging locals. His humility wouldn't give you a hint that he was such a big name. He was quite a humble man," said Cyrus Moki, a resident of Kitui town. 

Kitonga died as his family made frantic efforts to rush him to a hospital in Nairobi after collapsing at his home in Kitui. 

His brother Muthusi Kitonga said earlier in the day, he was in perfect health and had even attended a funeral in the neighbourhood before falling sick at around lunch hour.

Muthusi said when his brother's condition seemed to deteriorate by the minute, they tried to summon the Amref ambulance air wing from Nairobi to airlift him but to no avail.

With his condition worsening, his wife decided to drive him to Nairobi from Mutitu, some 200km away only for him to be pronounced dead at Shalom Hospital, Athi River in Machakos County.

In 2013, Kitonga ran for Kitui governorship but came third, behind Dr Julius Malombe and Kiema Kilonzo.

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