In Summary
  • Head of Civil Service Geoffrey Kareithi said he had never met a man who believed in back channel, oaths, and conspiracy as Koinange did.
  • Thus, the President instructed the Director of Intelligence that even in case of illness, only PS Kareithi, not Minister Koinange, should access the presidential intelligence brief.

While working on an investigative story on the 1975 assassination of fiery MP JM Kariuki, I sought an interview with former Director of Security Intelligence James Kanyotu.

The request was declined but, through a third party, the retired top sleuth sent me verbatim recording of his testimony when he appeared in camera before a Parliament committee that investigated the murder.

The intelligence chief had told the committee that the Minister of State in the Office of the President, Mbiyu Koinange, had wanted him to implicate JM in alleged training of illegal militia in Zambia, but Kanyotu flatly refused.

That was only a few hours before JM’s bullet-riddled body was found in Ngong Forest.

These are excerpts from the Kanyotu testimony:


"On my way from home, a car passed me. It was a Peugeot 404. It stopped in front of my car.

A fellow called (Peter) Karanja, a bodyguard to Mbiyu Koinange, stopped me and said he’d come from Nakuru to look for me.

So, he came to my office with me in my car. This was about 5 o’clock.

He told me somebody had told him there were certain people from Banana Hill (Kiambu) who had been recruited to be sent for military training in Zambia, and the man who had told him this said they’d been recruited by J.M Kariuki.

I asked him who told him that and he said it was somebody from Banana Hill and that his son had already gone to Zambia.

He said he’d told this to Koinange who in turn had told it to the President.

He had been told there was a letter and told to come and get the letter from me.

I told him I had no such letter and he should go and look for it himself. And if he got it, not to come back to me but take it to the person who had sent him. I was not interested.

I knew for a fact there was no such letter, and whoever had sent him wanted to authenticate the lie about the letter by involving my office. I wouldn’t allow that."


The parliamentary probe committee summoned Koinange several times to appear before it and respond to testimony by the Intelligence head, but he ignored the summons.

Eventually, when the committee wrote its report and mentioned Koinange as a person of interest in the JM murder, Kenyatta ordered that the name and that of the President’s rogue bodyguard, Wanyoike Thungu, be deleted from the report.

When JM was reported missing and before his body was discovered disfigured and dumped at the City Mortuary, then-Vice President Daniel arap Moi had been ordered to tell Parliament that JM was alive and on a business trip to Zambia.

Again, the Intelligence head told the probe committee that he had advised the President that Mr Moi shouldn’t issue the statement in Parliament but was overruled. Here is what Kanyotu told the committee:



Question: “Mr Kanyotu, you have told us about a letter linking JM to secret training of militia in Zambia, which you say was a lie. Now, you must also be aware of a statement made in Parliament by the Vice President to the effect that JM was on a business trip to Zambia when in fact his body was rotting at the City Mortuary. What is this Zambia connection in the murder mystery?”

Kanyotu: “I am aware of the statement by the Vice President. On the day he talked in Parliament, I had been alerted about the statement he was to issue and rang the President to advise against it. At that point it was clear in my mind about foul play and that JM could actually be dead. All the same, the misleading statement was given in Parliament against my counsel.”

Question: “So, why Zambia?”

Kanyotu: “JM had business interests in Zambia. I think something to do with export of mines. I guess whoever came up with the idea of Zambia had that in mind and thought the lies would be believed if Zambia was mentioned.”

In a conversation with Jomo Kenyatta-era Head of Civil Service and Secretary to the Cabinet Geoffrey Kareithi, he told me that in his entire life, he had never met a man who believed in back channel, oaths, and conspiracy as Minister Koinange did.


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