The call came when the bus was on its way to Kibera. The instructions were simple, the driver was to report to the Kenya Bus headquarters immediately. Since there were no mobile phones at the time, the call to Mbuthia Wangome was made through a two-way radio communication systems.
By the time Mbuthia arrived at the KBS headquarters, all his bosses were in a panic. Mbiyu Koinange, the powerful minister in the Office of the President, had made the order and nobody knew why he wanted to talk to Mbuthia.
As soon as Mbuthia was ushered into Koinange’s office, the minister fired off a series of questions. “Are you related to Dedan Kimathi Wachiuri? the minister asked. Long were the days when such a question would have made an African faint, this was 1966 and Mbuthia was not scared.
He responded that the freedom fighter was his brother-in-law. Dedan was married to Mbuthia’s sister, Mukami.
Koinange pressed on, demanding to know where Kimathi’s children were. When he was informed that they were in a school run by an Indian, the minister demanded that Mbuthia take him to the institution immediately.
Mbuthia’s recollections of his encounter with Koinange are recorded in his sister’s autobiography.
“We got into the minister’s limousine and drove to the orphanage where Kimathi’s children were. The minister said that he wanted the children out of there and in a proper school. He began making arrangements to get the children out.”
After explaining the struggles his sister Mukami was going through in her quest to educate her children, Koinange told him to go to his office later so that he too could be assisted to get land in Gatuanyaga, near Thika.
“He said he would help my sister and also help me settle down because I had been helping Kimathi’s children. The offer to help me was unexpected. I was so excited. I began going to his office at any single opportunity,” Mbuthia explains.
When he sought to solidify the promise by getting a written pledge, Koinange declined. And after 12 years of numerous trips and unfulfilled promises Mbuthia finally realised that he had been taken for a ride. Much later, Mbuthia decided to pursue the matter once more.
“I went to see him at his offices at KCB. I waylaid him as he was about to get into the lift and told him, ‘minister, I have come to remind you of the promise you made’.”
But all Koinange said of the matter was: “Look at me now. I have been brought to deal with animals in an inferior ministry. What do you think I can do for you now?”