Fond memories as 'Illiterate genius' Mulu Mutisya feted in 20th anniversary

The late Akamba kingpin Mulu Mutisya. [File, Standard]

The undoubted first Akamba kingpin who many regarded as an ‘illiterate genius’ for his lack of academic qualifications shall be celebrated today as Ukambani region commemorates the 20 years since his death.

Ukambani leaders led by Wiper boss Kalonzo Musyoka, his political mentee, and opposition leaders are expected to grace the anniversary which will be held at Mwala sub-County.

Although illiterate, Mulu Mutisya’s many talents and wit made up for his academic inadequacies and he was respected and revered by Akamba leaders. He built political careers and destroyed others at his own will.

Some of the leaders who Mutisya nurtured included Kalonzo, while those he thought undermined him, like David Musila, he destroyed. Both remember Mutisya as an influential person who was close to first President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. He became second President Daniel Moi’s close bosom friend, while appearing to many as his ‘choir member’ due to his sycophancy.

Mutisya, Kariuki Chotara, Ezekiel Barngetuny’, Shariff Nassir and Wilson Leitich were known to be Mzee Moi’s proud yet trusted lieutenants and court jesters who made Moi’s wars theirs, and fought them viciously.

While remembering Mutisya, Kalonzo described him as ‘an embodiment of servant leadership’ who sponsored the education of poor but bright students.

Kalonzo said these attributes earned Mutisya the name ‘Nau’ meaning father while at the same time coinciding with the New Akamba Union (Nau) a political association he formed in 1961 which was formed to cut Paul Ngei’s African Peoples Party’s wings.

According to Kalonzo, Mutisya’s political influence in Ukambani was so huge that after the 1997 elections, the community had a record of five ministers and held crucial security dockets such as the Special Branch (now commonly known as the National Intelligence) and the Commissioner of Police.

“He used his close association with President Moi to negotiate on behalf of his community; whenever he was given a huge lump of money, he used it to sponsor children and not for his personal gain,” Kalonzo told The Saturday Standard.

“Although our region was not in government, we have five Ministers who included Nyiva Mwendwa (Gender and Culture) Phillip Mbithi (Head of Public Service) Joseph Mulinge (Lands), Johnson Makau (Information) Phillip Kilonzo among others,” he added.

He reminisced how Mutisya ‘saved’ him from being sacked by President Moi after four ministers joined hands with one of the living Kamba politicians and approached Moi asking him to sack him for claims of being incompetent and a failure.

“He got wind of the matter and approached the second President and stopped the political machination that would have gotten me fired from the Cabinet. The four had joined together to clip my wings as they thought I was gaining ground politically and had the support of Mutisya who believed in my leadership,” Kalonzo said.

It was Mutisya who also prevented the sacking of Chief Justice Kitili Mwendwa by Mzee Kenyatta in 1970 when he was falsely accused alongside Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and Major General Joseph Ndolo, the Commander of the Army of plotting a coup against Kenyatta’s administration.

“Mwendwa’s brother Ngala Mwendwa made the remarks ‘blood is thicker than water’ in support of his brother and convinced Mutisya to take a delegation to Gatundu where Mzee Kenyatta pardoned the Chief Justice; that is how influential he was,” said Kalonzo.

However, David Musila narrated the ‘other side’ of Mutisya after he influenced his transfer as Nyeri Provincial Commissioner to the far flung North Eastern.

In his Season of Hope book, Musila explained how Mutisya interpreted his development projects in Ukambani as a ploy to undermine him and how senior government officials who were more learned sat on one side while Mutisya with no credentials ‘and not even a combination of our excellent academic credentials and high offices put together’ but all revered them.

Musila was referring to an incident where Kitili Mwendwa convened a meeting between him, then Attorney General Matthew Muli and Mutisya with a view of reconciling them to prevent Mutisya from ‘destroying his career’.

“During the discussions, the old man (Mutisya) levelled many accusations against me, most of which had been made by the politicians who wanted me out of Central Province such as lack of respect to Ukambani leaders and claims of fighting the President’s supporters in Central, land-grabbing claims in Kitui and failure of me to acknowledge his befitted status of Kamba leader which were untrue,” Musila said in his book.

Mutisya was nominated to Parliament in 1974 by Mzee Kenyatta alongside Njenga Karume of the Gikuyu Embu Meru Associations (Gema) for 18 years.

He was later appointed by the late Moi as chairperson for the National Water Conservation and Pipeline Company in appreciation of his political acumen. He died in 2004.