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How Embu village Kianjokoma gained lasting infamy


Google Maps screengrab of Kianjokoma village, Embu County. [Courtesy, Google]

Kianjokoma. That name sends chills down the spine of many.

Last year, the name became synonymous with police brutality after two brothers died after they were arrested for breaching Covid-19 regulations.  Their bodies were discovered a few hours after they were bundled into a police van.

However, that was not the first time the small village tucked in Embu County was making headlines.

Its infamy dates back to December 17, 1983 when a farmhand, Jacob Maina, crept into his master’s house in the dead of the night and did the unthinkable. He struck his employer, John Kibaki Githinji, with an axe, killing him instantly in his house in Thunguri village.

Maina ransacked the house and then fled under the cover of darkness to Kianjokoma where he hid until December 29,1983 when he was arrested. At the time, the man who never went beyond primary school was 23 years. Kibaki, the man Maina killed, was the father of the then Vice President Mwai Kibaki.

When he fled to Kianjokoma, his relatives later said, he had resigned to his fate. He bequeathed his 350 coffee trees to his brother with a rider, ‘I do not think I will ever come back’.

When he appeared in a Nyeri court, the farmhand was barefoot and in shackles, under heavy police escort under the command of Assistant Commissioner of police, Charles Liyudi, who was at the time in charge of criminal investigations in Central province.

The last time Maina was ever seen by any of his relatives was in 1986 when his parents went to visit him at Kamiti Maximum Security Prison where he had been locked up after he was sentenced to hang. His appeal was rejected.

Sixteen years ago, Maina’s parents made a desperate plea to President Mwai Kibaki. The mother, Bertha Wangui, had cried: “Our son may have committed the unspeakable crime. Our son greatly wronged you by killing your father but please Mr President, you too are a parent. Give us our son back.”

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since that dreadful December night 39 years ago.

Kibaki has since done his time at State House for two terms and retired. Kenya no longer hangs murderers. The last hangman of Kamiti, Kirugumi Wanjuki had indicated that the last people to be hanged were the coup plotters.

Could it be that after all these years Maina could still be in prison? His whereabouts are a mystery just as the reason the senior Kibaki had to die in his sunset years in a most brutal manner. 

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