Day Kenyatta promoted DO during a drinking party

Mzee Jomo Kenyatta salutes supporters during a past event. [File, Standard]

Taking swigs of his brandy at the back of a shop as the borrowed radio rattled off the election results, the Kanu president who was wearing the party colours of red black and green monitored the happenings around the country.

The brandy he was sipping had been bought by Wariara, the host's wife, from a neighbour. Although it was not yet noon, Jomo Kenyatta was in the mood as he ticked off his candidates who had prevailed. Outside, his bodyguards and an army of supporters peered through the widows of the general shop to catch a glimpse of the man they expected to become president.

On this auspicious day in May 1963, Kenyatta made what was perhaps an off-the-cuff appointment in the most unexpected places: an improvised bar, a pronouncement he made in jest.

The late cabinet minister, Njenga Karume, in whose shop Kenyatta had retreated to while away the time as he waited for the results of the nomination to be concluded at Kiambu District Commissioner’s office, offers interesting insights into these proceedings in his memoirs.

"He introduced his compatriots properly but when introducing DO Karuga Koinange who was in his official uniform, he was a bit sly. 'And this person here is your next DC'. This made us look at each other with amusement and a certain amount of speculation. Karuga indeed became the DC for Kiambu and was later promoted to Provincial Commissioner for Central province."

He had been running errands in Nairobi but when he unexpectedly returned to Kiambu, he found a crowd outside his shop. When he elbowed his way into it, he found Kenyatta and a group of top Kanu officials, among them James Gichuru, lounging at the back with drinks.

Kenyatta and his entourage left to pick the nomination results but later returned, jubilant that his candidates had triumphed.

Kenyatta was disappointed when he learned that although Karume had a black and white TV, it could not transmit the election results during the day. On learning that his host did not have a radio, he asked him to borrow one from a neighbour.

Concerned that his bodyguards were hanging around him as he drank, Kenyatta retorted to Karume: "Njenga, I can't drink with my bodyguards. If you want to throw a party for them, that’s fine but not while I am here.”

Karume then herded the bodyguards but warned them to be ready the moment Kenyatta would move out.