Former Cabinet Minister Simeon Nyachae is dead

Former Cabinet Minister in the Moi administration Simeon Nyachae is dead, the family has confirmed.

Born in 1932 to the legendary colonial-era chief Musa Nyandusi, Nyachae belonged to the first crop of British-trained African administrators who also made it big in business.

He attended Torquay College, UK, between 1957 and 1959 and later Churchill College, Cambridge.

He rose through the ranks from a District officer in Kangundo and other parts of Machakos District in 1963 to a Provincial Commissioner between 1965 and 1979 and later the Head of Civil Service and Secretary to the Cabinet in the Moi administration.

From the civil service, he vied and won the Nyaribari Chache seat on a Kanu ticket in 1992.

Moi would appoint him the Minister for Agriculture and then Finance.

In 1999 he fell out with Moi and was moved to the less glamorous Ministry of Trade.

He later joined the Opposition, his party being Ford-People on whose ticket he would unsuccessfully vie for the presidency in 2002.

In 2004, a beleaguered President Kibaki invited him to the government as the Minister for Energy and later agriculture.

In 2007 Nyachae failed to recapture his parliamentary seat after which he started disappearing from the limelight.

Perhaps one of the most trying moments in Nyachae’s civil service career was when , as the Central Provincial Commissioner, he had to represent President Jomo Kenyatta at the burial  the popular politician whose assassination was widely blamed on the government in  March 1975.

Simeon Nyachae when he was the Finance Minister.

In his autography ‘Walking Through the Corridors of Service’ Nyachae writes:

“When I represented the President at the burial of JM, I read his speech despite the high tension. At the funeral, I was left with a feeling that if it were somebody else, probably a Kikuyu, sent with the message, he or she would not have been allowed to read it, because of very strong anti-Government feelings at that time. One could hear people talk in Kikuyu "let him read, he is only a messenger".

They viewed me as an outsider and not one of their tribesmen who they suspected to have been behind the death of JM.

Former President Moi  (right) and Finance Minister Simeon Nyachae.

I read it hastily — I read it all, folded it and decided to make my own speech. I condemned the murder and the people applauded. I could not help but hear people speak in low tones "this man is for us and is with us".

There were issues of conscience — JM was murdered and even the President condemned the killing in his speech. The problem was that the people had made up their mind that the Government had been involved in the murder and being the head of Government, Kenyatta "was part of the scheme that eliminated JM".

It did not matter how sympathetic the president’s speech was. People were not interested in what he said. There was tension of course, but people did not shout at me. There was a platoon of General Service Unit officers nearby to watch over and prevent any chaos that could have erupted.

I was aware of Government ministers who had been approached to read the speech, but they shied off. I knew Dr Julius Kiano and Jeremiah Nyagah were asked and they declined. Geoffrey Kareithi, who was the Head of Public Service, called me and said they had found it difficult to find a minister to send. Therefore, I was required to read the speech and being the President’s representative in the region, I had to represent him at the burial. I was given no option.

As a civil servant, I could not refuse my boss’s decision. But after condemning the murderer, some rumours started going round the same afternoon that my speech of condemnation would cost me my job. When I arrived in Nyeri, my wife Grace told me about the talk in town. I told her I would wait to be told by my bosses. That night, Kenyatta rang me up and asked me how the burial went. I told him there was tension, but it ended well and he responded that he had been told the same. And the discussion ended without the sacking that had been rumoured.

Thereafter, I told my wife: "If my boss has told me that I am a brave man, where is my sacking coming from? When people realised I was not getting the sack, a few individuals from Kiambu who did not like me either as a person or the way I handled issues, started gossiping that I had survived because of a historical relationship between my late father and Kenyatta.”