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72-year history of death and tears of Nairobi’s Woodley estate


Colonial Nairobi City Mayor Charles Woodley established Woodley Estate in 1950. [File, Standard]

How can so much death, pain, power and history be packed in a single city estate?

When colonial city mayor Richard Woodley established an urban estate 72 years ago, his plans were that each of the 300 tenants would live there happily ever after. But a strange curse seems to have been preying on the estate even as it attracted the famous and the powerful.

This string of bad omen started when the occupant of house number 113, Ramogi Achieng Oneko was grabbed from his house in 1969 and detained as President Jomo Kenyatta reined in on Jaramogi Oginga Odinga’s allies.

For the next six years, his family lived in destitution, wholly dependent on donations from neighbours such as Barrack Obama Senior.

Three years after Oneko's release, Makuyu MP Jesse Mwangi Gachago a resident of Woodley, was arrested and tried for stealing coffee and was ultimately jailed. He spent two years in jail before he was released on a presidential pardon.

After an attempted coup in 1971, Yatta MP Gideon Mutiso was fetched from his house in Woodley and was found guilty of masterminding the coup and was jailed on June 8, 1971, for nine and a half years.

Meanwhile, former Gem MP Otieno Ambala was arrested at his Woodley home in June 1985 and driven to Kisumu where he was charged with the murder of Horace Ongiri Owiti, his successor.

Ambala died in custody from what police described as a heart attack in Kodiaga Prison on the same day that Owiti was being buried. The pathologist who performed his autopsy A Ribeiro died in a plane crash on Ngong Hills on his way back to Nairobi.

Interestingly, former Nyando MP Onyango Midika who also lived in the estate was jailed for theft but would later reclaim his glory after he bounced back to Parliament and was elevated to the Cabinet.

Another political detainee, Mirugi Kariuki (Nakuru Town), a resident of Woodley died alongside other parliamentarians in the 2007 Marsabit plane crash.

Earlier, Captain Paul Muthee, who lived near Mirugi’s house and was piloting the ill-fated Kenya Airway plane that crashed in Abidjan in February 2000, killing 150 people.

In February 2008, newly elected Embakasi MP Mugabe Were was gunned down at the gate of his house in Woodley just 200 metres from the scene of the abduction of Charles Sosah who had also been executed on February 11, 2001, for standing in the way of grabbers.

Other MPs who have resided in Woodley were Henry Ruhiu, Joseph Muturia, Dr Muriuki, Mulu Mutisya, Luke Obok, Mwangi Maathai and Musalia Mudavadi. 

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