Time Mzee Jomo Kenyatta Placed 1st African Chief Justice Under House Arrest

  • Mzee Jomo Kenyatta takes the oath of office during his swearing-in as Kenya's first Prime Minister on June 1, 1963 .jpg
    Mzee Jomo Kenyatta takes the oath of office during his swearing-in as Kenya's first Prime Minister on June 1, 1963 .jpg
    Daily Nation
  • In the 15 years that Kenya’s founding President, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, was at the helm, the country went through historical moments and was also riddled with scandals.

    One of the historical moments the country witnessed was the swearing-in of Kenya’s first-ever Chief Justice of African descent, Kitili Maluki Mwendwa, in the year 1968. He was also the first-ever Chief Justice of African descent in the whole of Africa.

    Mwendwa’s relationship with Mzee Kenyatta worsened over time with the bad blood between the two hitting climax in the year 1971, just one year after his reign as the Chief Justice ended. The Mzee Kenyatta government accused him of taking part in a coup against the Head of State.

    According to historical records, there was an elaborate plan to topple Jomo Kenyatta while he flagged off the 1971 East African Safari Rally at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) grounds.

    Kenya's founding President Jomo Kenyatta (center) and Kenya's first CJ Kitili Mwendwa (left).
    Kenya's founding President Jomo Kenyatta (centre) and Kenya's first CJ Kitili Mwendwa (left).
    The Standard

    In a 2010 article by the Daily Nation, the family of Mwendwa questioned why no answers had been provided regarding the tragic demise of the former Chief Justice.

    According to his brother, Ngala Mwendwa, the former Chief Justice was placed under house detention after being implicated in the plan to topple the Jomo Kenyatta government and was under the watchful eye of a spy at any given moment.

    Ngala noted that the house detention, which he describes as silent, lasted for a decade.

    Shortly after regaining his freedom, Mwendwa's life still faced hurdles with the government of the day watching all his steps and movements until he was involved in a road carnage that claimed his life.

    The September 1985 incident has largely remained inconclusive with parties believing that Mwendwa was eliminated and that there were forces behind his demise.

    At the time, he was driving to his Chania farm in Thika, carrying a briefcase full of money to pay workers, when his life was cut short. Since then, the briefcase was never to be recovered and a soldier who checked his pulse noted that he was still alive when he arrived at the scene.

    Questions later emerged as to why the person who took him for treatment opted for Thika Hospital which was 25km away yet the Aga Khan, which was better equipped in handling VIP cases, was just 15km from the scene.

    There was also a coincidence that a laboratory at Thika Hospital went up in flames on the same day.

    Mwendwa, who had served in public service and rose to the Chief Justice position at the age of 39 years, had also taken a 10-year break from politics and only returned after the demise of Mzee Jomo Kenyatta in 1978.

    Before his demise, he had just served as Kitui West Member of Parliament for one year.

    Former Kenyan Chief Justice Kitili Mwendwa
    Former Kenyan Chief Justice Kitili Mwendwa.
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