For a man whose life was confined to the exactness of science and the proof-ability of statistics, Prof Abel Mugenda’s death has been shrouded in intrigue and vagueness.
A week after his death, new information shows that President Uhuru Kenyatta might have been misled on the professor’s cause of death.
Although his family announced that he died after a short illness, details are emerging that Prof Mugenda, husband of Judicial Service Commissioner Prof Olive Mugenda, may have committed suicide.
The Saturday Standard perused a police report indicating that the university don leapt to his death from his room at a prestigious hotel in Nyeri town.
The report indicates that the 66-year-old jumped to his death from the sixth floor of the four-star hotel at 5am on January 5.
For a man who commanded attention in lecture halls in some of Kenya’s most prestigious universities, it is ironical that to the staff at the hotel, Prof Mugenda has become a sort of elephant in the room. A topic too big to be broached.
Prior to his death, the academician had stayed at the hotel for four days, from January 2 to January 5.
Staff at the hotel remain reluctant, even afraid, to speak about the incident that has shaken the academic world.
Those who do, talk of a conspiracy to conceal any information that might shed more light to why the man of books took the fatal plunge.
“It is very true (that he jumped) lakini imefichwa (the incident has been concealed),” said a staff member.
The guarded reports that appeared in the press and President Kenyatta’s statement issued last Saturday said the professor had died after a short illness.
Yet, multiple corroborating statements point to the troubled last minutes of his life in which the lecturer allegedly attempted to slit his own throat before taking the jump.
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Documents at Nyeri Police Station indicate that the officers had received a report that a man who had booked into the hotel as Abel Mugenda had fallen from a ledge on the sixth floor and died on the spot.
A police source privy to the incident said the officers believe the don took his own life and are not treating the death as suspicious.
Some hotel workers said the renowned professor of statistics and research looked disturbed from the moment he walked through the imposing hotel entrance and further past the well polished shiny floor, onwards to the reception to book his room at the beginning of the year. Mugenda got a room in the new wing of the hotel established in 2015.
“He was all alone most of the time and would appear in the dining hall for meals. He was mostly on phone but we would not notice something unusual,” said a staffer.
The Saturday Standard has been reliably informed by officers who reviewed the surveillance footage that Prof Mugenda had attempted to slit his throat and had a towel wrapped around his neck when he jumped.
The professor, our source said, left his room on the fourth floor then took a lift to the sixth floor from where he jumped.
Our source further said a witness saw the professor leap from the building and yelled to prevent him from jumping but it was too late.
The source said there was pressure to keep the incident quiet due to the stigma around the idea that a successful professor would choose to die.
Until his death, Prof Mugenda, who was just shy of turning 66, was a professor of statistics and research at United States International University-Africa (USIU-Africa).
He will be buried on Friday next week at Thogoto village in Kiambu County.
Mugenda is survived by his wife Olive and four children; Albert Gitau, Christopher Nyoike, Angela Wambui and Linda Wambui.