In Summary
  • With the continued death threats against Kenyatta, it was the mild-mannered Oneko who was, literally, putting his life on the line for him.

VAT 69 was Jomo Kenyatta’s drink in the evening after the Lancaster talks.

Together with Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, they would sit and while away the time on the veranda of their hotel, according to Fitz de Souza, a lawyer who was at the negotiating table.

In his newly published memoirs, De Souza says that “when official meetings were finished, we talked over the day’s events, or socialised a little. Kenyatta, avoiding Tom Mboya and Njoroge Mungai, his personal physician, spent most evenings drinking on the veranda of his hotel room with Odinga.

"Kenyatta drank only VAT 69. He joked it was the Pope’s phone number. They would sit and chat for hours, and being both older, I think felt they understood one another”.

According to De Souza, “it would transpire that Kenyatta wanted Odinga as his number two, and Finance Minister in the new Government.

RIGHT-HAND MAN

When the British overruled this, however, he accepted their wishes, and it shocked us all that he gave in just like that.

"We realised Kenyatta was very fond of Odinga in a way, while at the same time he wanted to make sure he was the right man, who would implement and support his own policies.

"There was only one other person close to Kenyatta during the Lancaster House conferences; anyone wishing to see the Kikuyu leader at his hotel had first to get past Achieng Oneko, who slept in the next room, barring the door with his bed.

"With the continued death threats against Kenyatta, it was the mild-mannered Oneko who was, literally, putting his life on the line for him."

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