Since 1902

Gema delegates 'crawled' from Elwak to vote for Kihika

Jomo kenyatta and Mama Ngina during Madaraka day celebrations on June 1, 1978. [File, Standard]

It sounded like a great idea. Majority of Kenyan communities had crafted associations and it seemed sensible for Mt Kenya too to establish its own. But the good idea was hijacked by hawks determined to rival Kanu and Jomo Kenyatta's government. Kenyatta grudgingly gave consent for the formation of Gema (Gikuyu, Embu and Meru Association) and he was picked as the patron.

The intention was that under no circumstances was the association going to get involved in politics. This was the reason Kenyatta entrusted James Gichuru, his Defence minister to be coordinator of MPs from Mt Kenya to assist in popularising Gema.

The interim chair was Dr Gikonyo Kiano deputised by Jeremiah Nyagah. Lucas Ngureti was the secretary-general and Mwai Kibaki, the treasurer. Waruru Kanja was the organising secretary and Jackson Angaine, assistant secretary-general. 

Apparently, some politicians were unhappy with the Gema officials and could not fathom waiting for two years so they could take control of the potent political vehicle. They, therefore, held a secret meeting in Wambugu farm, Nyeri, and came up with a lineup of their officials and a plan for a showdown with the Gichuru group in the presence of Kenyatta in Gatundu.

They convinced Kenyatta to push forward the elections, arguing that the interim officials were too elitist. The takeover group scored an early win when Kenyatta sanctioned the expansion of the list of interim officials to include Njenga Karume, Duncan Ndegwa and Matu Wamae. When the elections were ultimately held in 1973, the takeover group had a field day. They had done their homework and brought bogus delegates whose only agenda was to vote out the founder officials. 

One of the contestants, Kihika Kimani, presented Gema delegates he said were from all over Kenya including El Wak. To beat his rival Kanja, he hid bogus delegates recruited from the streets of Nairobi in a hotel in Nanyuki. He fed and bribed them so that they could not be swayed by Kanja whose delegates were being pampered in a hotel in Embu.

Kihika defeated Kanja in an election where most interim officials like Kiano did not even attend the handover ceremony. Gema was now under the chairmanship of Karume, deputised by Central Bank Governor Ndegwa while Ireri Njeru was the secretary-general and Jacob M’mwongo, treasurer.

After the elections, Gema stopped the pretense of being a welfare association and at times contradicted Kanu and the government. Gema even tried to change the Constitution and manage Kenyatta's succession.