'Patriot' who formed militia but was accused of treason

When the 35th US President John F Kennedy challenged his countrymen not to ask what their country could do for them but ask what they could do for their country in 1961, he didn't think that this would be taken literally by a Kenyan businessman.

Kennedy's message resonated well with Andrew Mungai Muthemba, proprietor of Kentazuga Hardware Ltd, Nairobi. You see, Muthemba was not just any Kenyan. He was a cousin of Kenya’s powerful Attorney General Charles Njonjo.

Sometimes in 1981 when he learnt that Kenya’s security was at risk, Muthemba who would later confess to have dallied in private investigations volunteered to recruit a militia group to deal with the threat.

Besides recruiting 50 highly trained military officers to neutralise the political threat he perceived to be facing the country, Muthemba also used his own money to buy specialised guns, which were to be smuggled into the country.

His patriotism was however misconstrued by other state agents who arrested him and charged him with treason. The charge was later dropped. His role in what later became to be interpreted as an attempt to topple the government became public when he was called as a witness during a commission of inquiry formed to probe Njonjo, after he was branded a traitor.   

Muthemba was unmasked in January 1981, when Captain Ricky Waithaka Gitucha, at the defunct Kenya Air Force headquarters in Nanyuki, launched  investigations  of the arms smuggling  racket from the military deport  which ultimately led to his arrest nd charge with treason alongside Dickson Kamau Muiruri.

Muthemba, investigations later showed, had invested Sh288,000 as a deposit to acquire guns and ammunition. During the commission of inquiry, Njonjo disowned his cousin but the commissioners were not fooled as they described Muthemba thus:

“We paid very close attention to Muthemha as he testified. We found him one of the most intelligent and lucid witnesses. We find that he took care to protect himself and his cousin Njonio, whenever occasion demanded.”

The state may have branded Muthemba a traitor but his family has fond memories of the man who died 20 years ago.

To commemorate the 20th anniversary of his death, the family remembered him fondly, "We shall forever miss and cherish your great and noble attributes of love generosity and immense wisdom. We have no doubt that you are in the best place in God’s heavenly abode."