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Simeon Nyachae, the brain behind the first Jamhuri Day celebrations

NYANZA
By Edwin Nyarangi | February 1st 2021

President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta is seen introducing the PC for Rift Valley Province Simeon Nyachae. [File, Standard]

Simeon Nyachae joined the Civil service as Revenue Clerk at the District Commissioner’s office in Kisii in 1954 after serving as an untrained teacher at Kegati Primary School following completion of his Secondary School Education at Kisii High School.

Nyachae grew up in an influential family with his father the late Senior Chief Musa Nyandusi serving the current Nyaribari Chache and Nyaribari Masaba Constituencies as a Chief from 1926 to 1962.

 Chief Nyandusi also served as Chairman of the African District Council in South Nyanza District.

In his Autobiography; walking through the Corridors of Service, Nyachae said his father who was wealthy and polygamous with a rough estimate of around 100 children wanted him to join the civil service and that he was happy to see him grow to become a Provincial Commissioner while still alive.

“Teaching was the most open opportunity for school leavers, I worked as an untrained teacher for a while at Kegati Primary School, I hoped to train as a teacher at Kamagambo Teachers College but my father who had worked in government asked me to consider working in the government,” said Nyachae. 

The former Cabinet Minister said he used to work as a volunteer while teaching and that when he joined the civil service as a revenue clerk, he used to be paid Sh128 per month which was a good sum at the time and that among his colleagues in the same office was the late Foreign Affairs Minister Robert Ouko.

Lawrence Sagini who later became a Cabinet Minister in President Jomo Kenyatta’s government and at the time serving as the Headmaster at Masago Secondary School together with a European friend Dr Robert Levine were close friends to Nyachae and used to visit Mzee Nyandusi to discuss the Gusii culture.

Travelled to Britain for education

Sagini who later became Nyachae’s brother-in-law always tagged along with Dr Levine to Nyandusi’ home and with the white man showing great interest in the Gusii culture while Nyachae and Sagini discussed casually their interest of going to America for studies.

“The next time we met, Dr Levine had already made contacts with the University of Pennsylvania and they were ready to admit us, we were very excited and decided to tell my father who did not say much with our friend having the impression that he had accepted, but it later emerged that he did not like the idea,” said Nyachae.

The former Cabinet Minister said that his father having visited Britain during a tour for Chiefs organised by the colonial government, he preferred Britain to the US and insisted that if Nyachae was to go abroad it had to be in the UK.

Mzee Nyandusi sought an appointment with the District Commissioner over the matter but he did not help much with the responsibility to seek academic admission for Nyachae in Britain falling back on Dr Levine who worked hard to secure him a chance to study there something that made Nyachae’s father very happy.

When the Senior Chief mentioned to his friends at the African District Council where he served as Vice Chairman, they decided that they were going to support his training and trip to Britain with the District Commissioner in Kisii advising that he travels to the British Council office in Nairobi for an induction course on Britain.

“The induction course took place at the British Council offices in Mombasa for two weeks where I stayed in the house of Mr Momanyi from Kisii during the entire duration, I was taken through the rudiments of the British conversation, culinary skills, table manners and politeness with some things rather amusing like you should not talk with food in your mouth,” said Nyachae.

He travelled to Britain to study for a Diploma in Administration and on completion of his studies he came back home in early 1959 and was employed as an Assistant Administration Officer posted to Ukwala Division in the current Siaya County but he was not happy there since his immediate boss a white District Officer was not a friendly man.

Joined the East African Breweries

Nyachae said the District Officer was openly racist and did not even welcome him to his work station and did not delegate any duties to him and clearly he had an opinion that Africans had not reached the level of handling administrative responsibilities forcing him to resign after three months of service.

The former Cabinet Minister then joined the East African Breweries as a Labour Relations Officer where he was offered a better package than what he got in government administration finding himself as the only African in the management cadre of the alcohol manufacturing company at the time.

“One year after joining East African Breweries my father expressed his reservations about me joining the company, arguing that I had been trained to work for the government but had rebelled and gone to beer brewing business, my father never liked beer or its partakers, to him working for the company I supported the brewers and was one of them,” said Nyachae.

However, despite his stay at the company, Nyachae did not change his attitude towards alcohol and did not test or drink any despite being allocated one crate of beer weekly which he normally gave out to his friends who would drink and return empty bottles so that he could get them some more the following week.

Mzee Nyandusi assembled a group of Chiefs who included Senior Chief Zakaria Angwenyi and Chief Anderea Mokaya who accompanied him to Nairobi to see the Chief Native Commissioner with their mission being to complain about Nyachae’s resignation from the Provincial Administration to join East African Breweries.

Central PC Simeone Nyachae presents an award. [File, Standard]

The Commissioner, Mr Windley, who late became the Governor of the Gambia called the Managing Director of East Africa Breweries who in turn sent him to the offices of the commissioner where he found him (Mr Windly) waiting in the company his father and chiefs at the Old Jogoo House.

“The Commissioner and the Chiefs told me to either follow their demands since they had facilitated my studies in Britain to work in government or I pay back the expenses of training me. I could not understand what Mr Windley was saying.  I knew that my father and African District Council supported my studies,” said Nyachae.

He explained to the Commissioner that he did not like the Provincial Administration following his short stint in Ukwala where the District Officer never respected him with Mr Windley promising to post him to a place with a friendlier District Officer if he accepted to work for the government again.

Nyachae said to avoid the harassment mounted by the Chiefs who included his own father, he accepted the offer to go back to government and was posted to Kangundo in Machakos County.

He worked under David Luke who was the area District Officer and with Brigadier Patrick Hughes who was their District Commissioner.

He described Hughes as a good administrator who would jokingly remind him of his detour from government despite being trained in Britain to be a government administrator and would later be appointed as a city magistrate with Nyachae later getting a promotion to work as a District Officer in Machakos Headquarters.

“It was later recommended that I should take an advanced course at Kenya Institute of Administration mainly in Field Administration based on the system of administration that the colonial government had developed with African graduates from the institute expected to take over from the British Field Administrators,” said Nyachae.

When he completed his studies, Nyachae was gazetted as a First Class Magistrate and was appointed to take charge of Makueni division which comprised Wote, Sultan Hamoud, Emali and Kibwezi where he could spend up to three days in a week meeting and attending to residents’ issues in a tent before going back to his work station in Wote.

The period between 1962 and 1963 witnessed the preparation for the transfer of the management of colonial administration to the African people with Independence beckoning with Nyachae being among those selected to take an advanced course in Oxford and Cambridge Universities of which he was sent to Churchill College of the Cambridge University for a one year course.

First Jamhuri Day Celebration

Nyachae was posted as the Nyandarua District Commissioner immediately he landed back home from Britain and was given three days to see his family before reporting to his new work station with his first assignment being to settle landless people under the Land Transfer Programme from the British Settlers to the locals.

“I had only worked in Nyandarua District for seven months and was surprised that out of the 41 District Commissioners across the country I was transferred to Nairobi to work under the late Thomas Mboya as Deputy Director for National Celebrations domiciled in the then Constitutional Affairs ministry as Kenya became a republic in December 1964,” said Nyachae.

President Moi accompanied by Principal Secretary in the office of the President Simeone Nyachae congratulates new Attorney-General Joseph Kamau Kamere after being sworn in. [File, Standard]

He describes Mboya as someone committed to his work and had the gift of absorbing issues quickly and giving out well thought intelligent feedback and that at no time did he see him panic or frustrated as they planned the first Jamuhuri Day celebrations and that he always appeared calm describing his killing in 1969 as one of his saddest moments in life.

Nyachae said that the government provided him with a helicopter that enabled him to visit all the 41 districts across the country where he held meetings with government officials on the best ways to arrange for the celebrations with his brief being to explain why there was a change of the system of government from an Executive led by the Prime Minister to that led by the President.

In January 1965 he was transferred to head what was known as Nairobi Extra-Provincial District where he served for four months before being moved to Rift Valley Province as a Provincial Commissioner at the age of 34 before being transferred to Central Province in the same capacity in May 1971.

Nyachae served in Central Province until 1979 when President Moi appointed him to serve as a Permanent Secretary in the office of the President where he served until July 1984 before replacing Jeremiah Kiereini as Chief Secretary until 1987 when he retired.

The former Cabinet Minister speaks of his role to ensure that Civil servants were not harassed by politicians who wanted sometimes to break the laid down government procedures which he said earned him enemies who embarked on wanting to bring him down once he retired with some targeting his investments across the country.?

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