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When State barred JM Kariuki from addressing public meetings

 JM Kariuki. [File, Standard]

On Sunday, March 2, 1975, popular Nyandarua North MP Josiah Mwangi Kariuki, popularly known as JM Kariuki, was reported missing.

His body was later discovered in a thicket near Ngong' hills and identified 10 days later at the City Mortuary.

While fingers pointed at top government operatives, JM knew he was living on borrowed time and with each setting sun, he was getting closer to the end.

His popular slogan that Kenya was a country of 10 millionaires and 10 million beggars was causing discomfort within top government echelons.

Four years before his death, the flamboyant MP had become a persona non grata at various forums despite being Assistant Minister for Tourism and Wildlife.

At one point, the government, through the provincial administration barred guests that included members of parliament from accessing his home to celebrate his birthday.

On Wednesday December 8, 1971, Lurambi South MP Brown Tsuma made a motion of adjournment in Parliament to discuss the frustration JM was feeling from the same government he served.

The motion was fuelled by a letter delivered to Tsuma and signed by S K Ngutu, the then District Commissioner for Kakamega that barred JM from addressing a fundraiser organised by Tsuma on the pretext that JM posed a security risk.

The letter stated: "I refer to a licence issued to you to hold a public meeting at Muslim School, Kakamega Town on 13th November 1971. Under powers conferred upon me by Section 5 (4) (II) of the Public Order Act, Cap 56, I hereby amend the licence by deleting the name of the Hon. J M Kariuki appearing in the second part of the schedule."

Apparently, JM had also been barred from speaking at another meeting organised by Lurambi North MP Burudi Nabwera on similar grounds. "We should be told that from now onwards, JM Kariuki shall never be a public speaker anywhere or at any rally. If that is the case, why is the government keeping him as an Assistant Minister?" asked Tsuma.

After Tsuma's submissions, several members rose, each claiming to have received instructions to not allow JM from addressing their meetings. Juma Boy, then Kwale Central MP, stated how a junior civil servant had 'advised' him that if he wanted JM to address his meetings, then he (Boy) should not list JM's name among the list of speakers.

That same day, a police officer confronted JM at the meeting and told him not to say a word to the crowd at the harambee. "I want to give my donation but can I greet the wananchi?" JM asked. The officer declined to give in to JM's request after which JM stood up, gave his donation without uttering a single word.

It was Nakuru town MP, Mark Mwithaga, who came close to identifying the key reason why JM was a gadfly on the face of the establishment.

"Power struggle has dangerous ends," he said. The game ended four years later when JM was silenced for good.

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