- In his autobiography, A Daunting Journey, Kiereini offers us an insight into the world of power, business, and high society in the Kenyatta-era.
As a senior civil servant, blue-chip boardroom director and an astute businessman, the late billionaire Jeremiah Gitau Kiereini strode the corridors of power like a colossus for three decades.
The positions lubricated the flow of money as he socialised with the high and mighty, investing in stocks and real estate.
In 2014, the man who died on Monday at the age of 90, fought to save his name — and part of his fortune — as the ghosts of listed motor dealer CMC returned to haunt him.
In his autobiography, A Daunting Journey, he glosses over it with an annexure dated May 14, 2012.
But there are other revelations in the book that offer us an insight into the world of power, business, and high society in the Kenyatta-era.
One day in the 1970s, Kiereini reveals for the first time, he almost killed populist politician JM Kariuki’s brother-in-law Harun Muturi, a city millionaire who had built his wealth by trading in gemstones and trophies.
In the world of business, the late Muturi — the proprietor of Mamba Village and the father of Solicitor-General Njee Muturi — was nicknamed ‘Meta Meta’, thanks to the shiny gemstones he sold.
He was, according to Kiereini, also famous as a loose tongue.
The potentially fatal act was contemplated at Nairobi’s Mayfair Hotel where Kiereini had gone for a drink.
At the table were some of the most powerful people in Kenya: Commissioner of Police Bernard Hinga, Head of Criminal Investigations Department Ignatius Nderi and General Service Unit (GSU) Commander Ben Gethi.
The discussion, according to Kiereini, narrowed to Attorney-General Charles Njonjo.
Also at the table was another millionaire Edward Kariuki who apparently had walked in with Kiereini from Njenga Karume’s Pizza Garden.
The week before, Mr Njonjo (who like Kiereini was a major shareholder of CMC) had been castigated by MPs for holding a parcel of land in Surrey, England, an act that was termed unpatriotic in light of Kenya’s colonisation by the British.
Kiereini writes that he felt obliged to defend Mr Njonjo, who was also thought to be disrespectful of Africans and carried himself with an air of superiority, having grown up as the eldest son of a chief.
For that, Muturi remarked that Mr Njonjo and Kiereini should be thrown out of Kenya.
“Thii ukere murumegwo Njonjo ninii ndoiga (Go tell your husband Njonjo, I'm the one who said so),” Muturi curtly said and continued to insult Kiereini.
“I was so enraged at Muturi’s foul and vulgar insult that I decided I would shoot him. I went to my car in an overwhelming rage, to get my gun... I even considered shooting them all! But as I walked out into the fresh air... I came to my senses... went straight home and slept.”
Had Kiereini returned, he would have altered the course of Kenya’s history radically. Perhaps.
During the Jomo Kenyatta era, Kiereini was the permanent secretary in the Defence ministry where he oversaw the modernisation of the military or what he calls “complete overhaul of military hardware…an extremely expensive exercise.”
He hardly mentions the procurement only disclosing that the Chief of Defence, Major-Gen JM Ndolo, would go to him with all his requirements.
“We would discuss the merits and demerits and we would then consult the suppliers.”
This arrangement, Kiereini says, did not please Ndolo who wanted the military to be independent from civilian supervision. (Ndolo would later be implicated in the 1971 coup attempt against Kenyatta).
Kiereini’s friendship with Mr Njonjo would flourish over the years.
The two invested in multiple companies over the decades, including entities falling under the CfC Stanbic Holdings.