Former Subukia MP Koigi Wamwere has recounted how the fallen cleric Raphael Ndingi Mwana ’a Nzeki came to his aid when he was in detention.
It was at the time no one dared openly associate with a dissident or their families and friends. It was during the era of the single-party dictatorship.
Koigi said the retired Archbishop, who died Tuesday, came to the rescue of his wife by giving her a job to fend for their children who had been left destitute when he was detained. This was after he openly challenged the political establishment.
Koigi’s wife sought the help of the church through a Catholic priest in Nakuru. The priest would then approach Ndingi who, by that time, had emerged as the strongest defender of human rights and would tell off the Government whenever he felt it had violated these rights.
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It was hard to ignore Archbishop Ndingi. If he was not articulating the Catholic church‘s opposition to issues such as the use of contraceptives, especially the condoms, he would be on the warpath with the rulers, speaking up against excesses of the Government.
Archbishop Ndingi would offer Koigi’s wife a job at St Mary’s Mission. This annoyed the authorities. Predictably, he was summoned for questioning.
“They asked him why he was sympathetic to government critics. He was asked if he was a supporter of dissidents.
They wanted to know what business he had giving my wife a job. And it was not beyond the authorities to detain him,” Koigi said in an interview Tuesday.
During the questioning, Archbishop Ndingi reportedly said his action was only on humanitarian grounds and had nothing to do with the Government of the day or the supposed dissidents.
“I did not employ her because I support dissidents, but because she is alone and has no food,” Ndingi is said to have told his interrogators.
“He told them he was not a supporter of dissidents, but he had offered my wife a job because she had nothing to feed her family with,” said Koigi.
Archbishop Ndingi also promised the politician’s wife would not have the job the day Koigi would come out of detention.
Koigi said he came to learn later that his wife was employed at the mission three years into his detention. And when Koigi left prison, his wife lost her job.
Koigi, unaware of the promise Ndingi had made to authorities, was bitter that his wife had been sacked.
“Immediately I was released, my wife lost her job. I was stranded because I too did not have a job. I could not understand why they had sacked my wife,” said Koigi. Soon after, he was informed that Ndingi had promised to keep her in her job only until he is released.
“Instead of getting offended, I respected him as a man of his word. He was principled. It was amazing that he could keep his word. We don’t have many people who can that these days. He was a man of God as a voice of the voiceless,” said Koigi.
“Since Archbishop Ndingi retired, the church has lost its voice yet it is expected to be the conscience of the society. He was among the most courageous people I know. It is terrible we have lost him,” said Koigi.