Since 1902

Nzamba Kitong'as humility re-visited

Former PM Raila Odinga signs a condolence book for the late Nzamba Kitonga at Githanga hills Court in Nairobi. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

Senior lawyer Nzamba Kitonga who was buried on Saturday led a simple life that belied his tremendous achievements.

However, despite his accomplishments in law, Kitonga, who died at the age of 64 never showed any "bigness" in his life, as Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana said of him in his eulogy. (They were students at the University of Nairobi in the 70s.)

 Humble to a fault, Kitonga never valued largesse or pomposity, his friends said.

On Saturday, the law icon was given a state-funded send-off befitting his enormous contribution to the country.

President Uhuru Kenyatta sent his special message through defence Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma eulogising Kitonga as a gift to humanity.

"I regret that we have lost him when the country needed his constitutional expertise the most,"  said the president, referring to the heated debate around the BBI report.

The chopper carrying the body of the senior counsel landed at Mutitu Boys High School 40 minutes after lifting off from Wilson Airport Nairobi.

From there, the body was driven through Mutitu wa Ndooa market centre where mournful residents lined up along the streets and waved endlessly to give their last respects to the man they popularly knew as 'mwene katiba' (the owner of the constitution).

The cortege then snaked its way to his rural home before the body was again driven to Mutitu Mixed Secondary School for a requiem led by the Kitui Catholic Bishop Joseph Mwongela.

And this was quite ironical. For his stature in society, no one would have imagined that the acclaimed lawyer would die eath as his wife Caro drove him for over 150km, some of it on rugged terrain to seek medical attention in Nairobi after he collapsed at a burial in his village neighbourhood.

His young brother, former MP Muthusi Kitonga, said when the lawyer's condition became critical, they tried to reach out to the Amref's Ambulance air wing but to no avail, prompting Kitonga's wife to hit the road.

She never made it to Nairobi as her husband's condition deteriorated within Athi River and was pronounced dead on arrival at a local hospital.

While recounting the ordeal and the moment her life's partner breathed his last, the widow broke down.

"...a senior counsel is driven 170kms to look for oxygen when he could have received medical attention anywhere on the way, it is really sad," said Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Junior while decrying the pathetic state of county hospitals.

Disciplined, hardworking, God's gift to humanity, a man of integrity....the accolades flowed from colleagues, friends, agemates and neighbours of the late Kitonga.

His four children described him as an early riser who would religiously be in his office at 7 am.

"He was a man aware of his commitments and pledges and never wavered on any of them. If he promised you something,  it was as good as done," they said of their father.

Wiper Democratic Movement leader Kalonzo Musyoka, ODM leader Raila Odinga during Nzamba Kitonga's burial in Mutito, Kitui East- Kitui County ton Saturday. [Dennis Kavisu, Standard]

Prof Kibwana said Nzamba liked a low profile despite being a walking pool of legal expertise. It is a trait he showed even in his school days.

"We were together at the university and it took us a while before we knew who his father was. He never showed any "bigness" like other children from big families," Kibwana said, alluding to the fact that the lawyer's father was a famed senior chief in Mombasa who also became an MP for Mutitu Constituency.

Former Kitui governor Dr Julius Malombe remembered the Kitonga as a humble man who was committed to his word.

"We called each other 'waasa' (brother) and I knew he supported the BBI and devolution as long as the devolved functions were accompanied by requisite funds," Malombe said.

His name Nzamba meant a cockerel, hence a symbol of bravery, pride and strength.

"Nzamba is a hero. He lived true to that name and distinguished himself in the practice of law," Kalonzo said.

Mutula Kilonzo Junior added: "Nzamba and my late father worked so hard to ensure we got a new constitution because they knew even if we did not get the presidency, there would be money flowing to the counties. We must support that which ensures counties get extra money."