In Summary
  • Uhuru said he would be naïve to be associated with Mungiki in a majority Christian country as they would cost him votes.
  • He said it might be a good idea to meet senior editors but he was cautious that he didn’t want to be seen like he was lobbying for undue favours.
  • If President Kenyatta is uneasy with the media, his younger brother Muhoho has allergy for it.

My first and only eyeball to eyeball contact with Mr Uhuru Kenyatta was when he was minister for Local Government in the twilight years of the Daniel arap Moi presidency.

It was an informal meeting arranged by his personal assistant, Mr Geoffrey Gachagua, who is today MP for Mathira constituency.

I was a senior writer at the Daily Nation and had been invited to see Mr Kenyatta with Mr Mwangi Chege, who was News Editor at the People Daily before it was acquired by the Kenyatta family.

Mr Kenyatta was on his first presidential campaign in 2002 as the Kanu candidate in an election he lost to Mr Mwai Kibaki of Narc.

His campaign had not been receiving the best of media coverage and he wanted to informally hear from insiders what it is he wasn’t doing right.

We found him, to use the words of retired President Kibaki, in a foul mood.

The previous day, a section of Central Kenya politicians led by Cabinet minister Ngenye Kariuki had led disruptive demonstrations in Thika town to support Mr Kenyatta’s candidacy.

The media reported the noisy youth were members of the outlawed Mungiki sect.

Despite not being in the best of moods, Mr Kenyatta received us with courtesy.

To make the session as informal as possible, he invited us to sit with him at the coffee table not at his official desk.

The man has a firm handshake and ability to make a stranger feel at ease.

“Welcome Kamau and Mwangi; my PA, Geoffrey, tells me you’re his good friends. Now tell me, why is it that the media is so unfair to me?” he opened the discussion.

The incident the previous day had really got into his nerves and he was looking for a chance to ventilate.

“Look my friends,” he said, “I didn’t organise the demonstrations in Thika.

"The fellows who did so didn’t even have the courtesy to inform me in advance.

"I definitely would have rejected the idea outright and told them if they must demonstrate they do so in their home town and not mention my name at all.

"But see what the media has gone to town with: That it’s Uhuru who organised the demonstrations! Yet nobody from the media contacted me or my people. We just woke up to read about it in the newspapers! How unfair can media get!”

What annoyed him most was the association with Mungiki. 

A few weeks earlier, another group still calling itself Mungiki had denounced him in the city centre and burnt his effigy outside Jomo Kenyatta mausoleum.

“The other day another group still calling itself Mungiki demonstrated against me.

"Now a different group is purporting to demonstrate in my name. Can’t the media investigate and tell us who the so-called Mungiki is? Are these simply not jobless youths misused by selfish politicians?” he fumed.

He went on that he would be naïve to be associated with Mungiki in a majority Christian country as they would cost him votes.

He then referred to the one event that damaged his relationship with the media perhaps more than any other.

Days to voting in the 1997 General Election when he vied as MP for Gatundu South, his rival and incumbent MP Moses Mwihia was allegedly kidnapped in a crowded city street, “killed” and his “blood-stained” vehicle abandoned not far from the Kenyatta family ancestral home in Gatundu.

The entire plot sounded amateurish. That a candidate would have a rival, a sitting MP, kidnapped at daytime in a busy city street, killed and his car abandoned next to one’s home.

All the same, the media made headlines of the story without much effort to ask probing questions, much less seek Mr Kenyatta’s side of the story.

The kidnap story turned out to be a hoax. But the damage was already done. Mr Kenyatta lost the election by a wide margin.

Apparently he never forgave the media. Or even if he did, he never forgot.

His litany of complaints that morning didn’t end there.

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