In Summary
  • At one time, Mboya was Kibaki’s boss in the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development, when Kibaki served as Mboya’s assistant minister.
  • It is Mrs Channi who called the ambulance that took Mboya to Nairobi Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
  • We are again caught neck deep in vicious electoral politics, but electoral politics awash with ethnic innuendoes and subterfuge.

Just last week, I passed by the Tom Mboya statue on Moi Avenue, next to Standard Chartered Bank, for the umpteenth time.

And for the umpteenth time, I could not hold my anger at seeing his monument — abandoned and desecrated.

Since February, 2017, the statue has been ringed with mabati (iron sheets) apparently for renovations. But these renovations seems to be a long time coming — what with the country in the heat of general election campaigns.

On August 8, the electorate will vote — to either retain their leaders that they choose in 2013 — or pick new ones, from the President to the local member of the county assembly (MCA).

The fact that the country is in the grips of “do or die” high-octane electoral campaigns does not even begin to explain why the statue of an icon of Kenya’s struggle for independence has been left to stand as a sore thumb in the city centre.


The statue was erected in October 2011 during the reign of former President Mwai Kibaki, Mboya’s bosom buddy in the heady days of the 1960s.

At one time, Mboya was Kibaki’s boss in the ministry of economic planning and development, with Kibaki serving as Mboya’s assistant minister.

Together, they were the architects of the now famous Sessional Paper Number 10 on African Socialism and its Application to Planning in Kenya, published in 1965.

I crossed the road — Moi Avenue — and passed exactly outside where Mboya was gunned down by the assassin. The street was then called Government Road. Mboya had a Sikh friend, Mr Channi, who ran a chemist, Channi’s Pharmacy.

On the fateful day of July 7, 1969, shortly before 1.00pm, TJ, as he was fondly known to his friends, walked into the pharmacy and bought some skin lotion, but not before he had banter with Channi and his wife — as he usually did.


As he walked out of the chemist, Mrs Channi heard some commotion outside and rushed to see what was happening. It is believed that as the killer, who was waiting for Mboya at the exit of the chemist, pumped bullets into the minister, he collapsed on the laps of a screaming Mrs Channi.

It is Mrs Channi who called the ambulance that took Mboya to Nairobi Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Who was Tom Mboya? Why was TJ such a force in the Kenyan political arena? As the country gears up for elections in a month’s a time, what lessons can we draw from the short life of Mboya, 48 years after his death?

Born on August 15, 1930, on a European sisal plantation in Kilimambogo, about 70 kilometres southeast of Nairobi, Mboya grew up away from his ancestral home on Rusinga Island, in Lake Victoria.

This growing up far away from among his Luo people was to shape Mboya’s attitudes, conviction and philosophy later in his life.


His father was a farmhand in the British settlers’ sisal estates. Witnessing first hand his father’s exploitation under the cruel, harsh and racist settlers, it is not for nothing that TJ, later in his adult life, would become a fierce trade unionist, honing his skills as a labour rights leader.

Page 1 of 2