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Jackson Angaine dominated politics in Eastern province for over five decades

KENYA @ 50
By KENNETH KWAMA | November 15th 2013
Jackson Harvester Angaine in his heyday.  [PHOTO: FILE/STANDARD]

By KENNETH KWAMA

Jackson Harvester Angaine who died holding onto the title of the King of Meru had many firsts in his political career. His firm grip on Meru politics for many years was achieved through wit and an iron fist.

In 1997, he showed a streak of his political brilliance when he started off by backing one candidate for a parliamentary seat in Meru. Along the way, he shifted allegiance and threw his weight behind the rival.

This is not how a king is expected to behave. A king is expected to be resolute, strong and unwavering. But Angaine was clever enough to read the mood on the ground and align his allegiance to what the people wanted.

Angaine, who was widely recognised as the ‘King of Meru’, dominated politics in the Eastern parts of the country for well over five decades – from the days of the Kenya African Union (KAU) where he joined the likes of the late James Gichuru, Achieng Oneko and Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, among other pioneer politicians.

He was arrested in 1952 alongside Kenyatta for his role in the Mau Mau liberation struggle and moved from one detention camp to another.

Once freed, the man commenced the journey that gave him a stranglehold on Meru politics when he was elected to the Legislative Council alongside the late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and Tom Mboya.

Kanu founders

He was amongst Kanu’s founder members and later wormed his way into Kenyatta’s heart when in 1961, he mobilised his people to contribute towards buying a Mercedes Benz for Kenyatta shortly before his release from prison.

When Kenyatta got out of prison, he became one of the founding President’s trusted confidantes. Kenyatta rewarded his loyalty by making him the Minister for Lands and Settlement the entire duration of his presidency.

He served in the ministry until 1979, when he lost his Imenti North seat to Nteere Mbogori.

President Moi re-appointed him to the Cabinet and made him a Minister in the Office of the President on recapturing his seat in 1983.

He held onto the position until 1992, when former Finance Minister David Mwiraria dislodged him.

It is while serving at the OP that Angaine revealed his other side. He did not hesitate to crack down or even intimidate those perceived to be dissidents.

One of his casualties was current Supreme Court judge Mohammed Ibrahim.

The judge was detained in the run-up to the aborted July 7, 1990 pro-democracy rally, known by the sobriquet Saba Saba, at Nairobi’s Kamukunji grounds.

Angaine allegedly signed the letter, which stated that the young lawyer had been involved in subversive activities aimed at undermining and overthrowing the Government of Kenya.

Even as old age limited his movement and memory, the King of Meru made it a duty to keep up to date with the politics of the day. This was the case even when he was on his deathbed in February 1999 when he strived to keep tabs on developments all over the region.

Angaine did not know his exact age. He believed he was about 100 years old, but accounts by relatives estimated his actual age to be about 86 by the time of his death in 1999.

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