Celebrated Icons who changed Meru History

Disregarding the myth about think pieces– Mass mourning of the deaths of prominent and famous people who left a mark on our lives deaths is not just a current-generation phenomenon -the Internet and social media only accelerate and amplify how people process profound, visceral sorrow.

Years from now, the most earnest, intensely felt remembrances on Facebook or Twitter -the ones reacting to an untimely, unexpected passing of heroes and icons like former Yetu Sacco CEO Patrick Mwenda Mugambi, former Finance Minister David Mwiraria, chairman of the National Council of Elders Phares Rutere and former Kiagu ward MCA Eunice Karegi among many others will take us back to that historic, shared moment of gut-punching, breathtaking shock and sudden loss.

Revisiting these memories again and again (and we do) can feel traumatic, and the most sensational details still shock decades later. But there’s a more expansive, alternate historycomponent at work, too, imagining what these legends might have created had they lived, and how their absence has shaped our society. Most clichés begin as essential truths: Yes, the icons featured and remembered here are gone but they’re never forgotten.

Patrick Mwenda Mugambi

Mwenda was the Yetu Sacco CEO until his demise on 18th December 2020 at Nairobi Hospital after a short illness.

Mr Mwenda was an essential icon of the burgeoned Yetu Sacco Society. Today Yetu Sacco boasts of attaining an asset base of Sh 5.7 billion, ranking it in the tier-one Saccos category.

The deceased was a gallant soldier, a go-getter with the valiant effort that ensured Yetu Sacco achieved great heights and also inspired cooperative movement.

David Mwiraria

Mwiraria was the Finance Minister of Kenya from January 2003 to February 2006 during President Mwai Kibaki’s regime. 

The famous government official, a two-term Imenti North MP and career public servant succumbed to cancer at the Karen Hospital in Nairobi five years ago.

During the 2007 elections, he tried defending his seat as Member of Parliament for North Imenti Constituency on a Party of National Unity ticket but was defeated by Silas Muriuki, who was running on a Mazingira Green Party of Kenya ticket.

Prior to going into elective politics, he had a long and distinguished career in the civil service, serving in various senior positions.

The former Finance minister and Alliance High School alumnus was an accomplished economist and one of retired President Kibaki’s most trusted friends. Like Mr Kibaki, he was a graduate of Makerere University, where he studied for his Masters after attaining his Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics at the University of East Africa, Uganda.

He was one of a number of veterans who had been in the system since the 1960s, helping shape policy and then eventually going into politics and was elected MP for North Imenti in 1992.

It was 21 years after his election that he took over at Treasury, trying to revive an economy in the doldrums and working in a government that headed a country that was in 2003 rated as among the most optimistic in the world.

He is credited with instilling financial discipline in government, resulting in stabilizing fluctuating interest rates and turning around an economy that was recording negative growth.

Mr Mwiraria and his team at the Treasury concentrated on the basics of reducing borrowing from commercial banks and as a consequence forcing them to turn to the ordinary Kenyans and run after them to offer loans.

His wife Jerusha Gatune succumbed to cancer in May 2003, just weeks before the soft-spoken man was scheduled to read his first Budget speech under former President Mwai Kibaki’s government.

When his wife died, he still reported to work to the bemusement of his colleagues, working hard to ensure his boss’ fiscal plan for the country is remarkable if only to match the euphoria that welcomed his election.

“For the first time in the history of the country, the taxpayer will get value for his money,” he declared just a day to the Budget.

This action of sticking to budgetary matters as he mourned his wife captured his essence; those who knew him said he was a time-conscious perfectionist and that, even if something bothered him, he would not let it manifest.

After all, he attained a master’s degree in mathematics aged just 26, the Budget had to be watertight, his personal circumstances notwithstanding.

Fast-forward three years and the statistician’s curriculum vitae, which was until then unblemished, got its stubborn stain which dramatically stalked him to his death.

Mwiraria resigned from office in 2006 after he was adversely mentioned in a report by John Githongo, the then adviser to Mr Kibaki on ethics and integrity.

The avid reader, farmer, photographer and golfer stood accused, alongside 13 other individuals, for his role in the infamous multi-billion-shilling Anglo Leasing scam.

Despite the blemish, Mwiraria was a mentor to many eminent people including the former Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi who was his close friend.

Paul M’Ethingia

M’Ethingia who took the Njuri Ncheke leadership position in 1987, was the fifth chairman after paramount chief M’Angaine M’Ithiiria, chief M’Ikiugu Gathinya, senior chief M’Anampiu Kaigwara and paramount chief Naaman Mwirichia. The former Chair died in December last year after a short illness.

He was eulogized as a wise elder who pursued peace and helped secure the future of Njuri Ncheke by allowing professionals to be initiated into the group.

According to Njuri Ncheke Operations Secretary-General Mbaya Muthamia Mr M’Ethingia will always be celebrated as an articulate elder who fought against female genital mutilation and helped in the resolution of many land disputes.

M’Ethingia was among a group of elders who backed former Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi’s dream of a United States of Africa.

The deceased is also remembered for slapping prominent Meru politicians, including Governor Kiraitu Murungi and former Finance minister David Mwiraria, with hefty fines for going against the ideals of Njuri Ncheke.

It was during his tenure that Njuri Ncheke asked former president Mwai Kibaki to pay a goat after former First Lady Lucy Kibaki allegedly slapped former Imenti Central MP Gitobu Imanyara.

Eunice Karegi

The former Kiagu ward rep died a year ago while undergoing treatment at a city hospital.

Keregi, who was elected on a Maendeleo Chap Chap party ticket, was one of the two women elected MCAs in the county assembly of Meru.

Before she was elected MCA, Karegi was the Constituency Development Funds (CDF) chair in Imenti Central.

During her burial mourners cited enormous developments across Central Imenti arguing that this good scorecard while as CDF chair gave her the victory as Kiagu MCA in the 2017 general elections

She died while serving as the Maendeleo Chap Chap chairperson in Meru County.

Mzee Phares Rutere

Until his demise, Mzee Rutere was the Chairman of the National Council of Elders and the Secretary General of the Njuri-Ncheke.

The late Rutere was at the helm of Njuri Ncheke for several years and is credited with modernising the council’s operations.

Alongside the late Paul M’Ethingia, Rutere wooed professionals into the Njuri Ncheke Council of Elders and led a push to have alternative dispute resolution mechanisms embraced by the Judiciary.

In 2019, Mr Rutere handed over leadership to two secretaries, in a mediated deal, after a four-year court battle over the council’s leadership.

He was actively engaged in national politics as chairman of The National Council of Elders.

His death was mourned by prominent leaders including former President Uhuru Kenyatta.

According to the former President, Mzee Rutere was a wise, and astute elder and leader who cherished and championed national cohesion, progress and a value-driven life among Kenyans.

Rutere was a robust custodian of the rich African culture who tirelessly championed the utilization of culture in imparting life skills among the youth.

Uhuru mourned the departed elder as someone who always worked hard to ensure Kenyans lived in harmony with each other.

In September last year, Mr Rutere celebrated his 80th birthday in a ceremony where his family launched the Phares Rutere Education Foundation as part of his legacy project.

Evans Njoroge

Njoroge was Meru University of Science and Technology’s student leader. Until his demise, the 23-year-old was an outspoken leader, and a fourth-year student pursuing a degree in Mathematics and Computer Science.

Popularly known as ‘Kidero’, he led a demonstration against the institution’s management to champion the student grievances leading to his death four years ago. 

Victor Gituma

Gituma was a famous Meru lawyer in the corridors of law. The lawyer shone into the limelight during a petition against Governor Peter Munya on the results of the gubernatorial election.

The famous lawyer died eight years ago in a road accident involving his vehicle and a lorry at Gatauga, along the Meru-Nkubu highway.

Abednego Mutembei Miitine

Miitine, popularly known as “Kastarehe” was the Maua Ward representative until his demise eight years ago in a road accident at the Subuiga blackspot on the Meru-Nanyuki highway.

Kastarehe, who met his death while rushing for a meeting in Nanyuki, was a very hardworking Member of the County Assembly of Meru.

Robert Gitonga

Gitonga, a well-known Ward administrator passed on after a deadly road accident in Meru. News of his demise was broken by governor Kiraitu Murugi who showered him with a lot of praise.

The Late Gitonga previously worked in the Special Programs Department where he served diligently before getting promoted to ward administrator.

Kangori M’Thaara 

The Ameru Njuri Ncheke Council of Elders Tharaka Nithi, died while receiving treatment at St Ann Hospital, Igoji in Meru County- Njuri Ncheke Maara branch chairman Ngai Kanampiu reported in September 2022.

M’Thaara was the undisputed leader of the Njuri Ncheke Supreme Council of Elders and a respected leader in the wider Ameru Njuri Ncheke hierarchy.

The heroic former Chairperson was mourned as a champion of education and development.

Tharaka University’s acting Vice-Chancellor and the Ameru Professionals Association chairman Prof Peter Muriungi revealed that the deceased was one of the Njuri Ncheke leaders who went to the State House in Nairobi and urged President Uhuru Kenyatta to allow the establishment of Tharaka University.

M’ Thaara was also mourned as a mentor of most of the elders in the region, and a hero who also composed the cultural songs sung during their ceremonies.

Silver Buoy

Silver Buoy, a Meru Musician died three months ago. Details on the cause of death were not revealed to the public.

The famous Meru Musician was formerly signed to the Watanashati label before he left and went independent.

Buoy will be remembered for his great talent and his popular songs such as Haitowezekana and Maromba.

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