Late Karundi Mathenge Was Frustrated by Kibaki’s Inner Circle
Karundi Mathenge was laid to rest on Saturday, March 22 2014 in Nyeri. The funeral was attended by, among others, Kenya’s Chief Justice, Dr. Willy Mutunga who was Karundi teacher at the University of Nairobi when the late Karundi was studying Law. It is notable that despite his busy schedule, Dr. Mutunga managed to get time to be part of relatives and friends who gathered at the homestead to be part of Karundi’s his final send off.
During fund raising in Stockholm for Karundi’s funeral expenses, some friends could not make it to the two harambees that were organized but sent their contributions after Karundi had been buried. These contributions amounted to Ksh 5.147 and have since been sent to the Karundi family by Mr. Martin Ngatia, one of the Karundi harambee initiative takers in Stockholm. The funds were sent to Karundi’s brother who has been handling the funds from Stockholm on behalf of the family.
Following the conclusion of Karundi’s funeral, the Karundi family in Kenya would like to thank all friends in Stockholm who contributed generously towards the Karundi funeral fund. Through Karundi’s brother, the family would like to make it known that they were extremely moved by the action of Karundi’s friends in Stockholm who intervened financially at short notice to help the family with the huge financial burden that came with the demise of Karundi.
“On behalf of the family, I take this opportunity to send the family’s gratitude for the solidarity friends in Stockholm showed us”, Karundi’s brother told KSB.
Karundi’s strategy from exile
When he left for Kenya during President Mwai Kibaki’s first term in office, Karundi did not have a lot of hopes and expectations about any dramatic political developments in Kenya under the Narc regime. Although he was the Chairman of Kibaki’s Democratic Party (DP) in Stockholm, Karundi remained open to friends and political acquaintances with the fact that DP (which was part of the Narc bandwagon) had no policies and strategies which would transform Kenya and get rid of the daily problems of corruption, high unemployment, tribalism in government and the general underdevelopment that had ruined millions of lives in Kenya.
However, Karundi expected that upon his arrival in Kenya, he would get an opportunity to serve the people of Kenya under the Kibaki regime that had come to power by a landslide majority. Karundi knew Kibaki personally and when Kibaki visited Stockholm in the late 90s, Kibaki did eat ugali at Karundi’s house in Alby during an exclusive dinner hosted in Kibaki’s honour. Just before he left for Kenya, Karundi received several assurances from the Kibaki regime that upon his arrival, he would be absorbed into the Party and well positioned to serve the Nation by bringing in new ideas he had accumulated from exile. Unfortunately, this did not happen because after landing in Kenya, Karundi continued to be ignored, isolated and prevented from getting contact with the then President Mwai Kibaki who was in power.
As he engaged in conversations with friends in Stockholm ahead of his final departure to Kenya, Karundi’s strategy was that once he arrived home, he would be able to work within the Party to propose viable political solutions he had developed over the years to help the Narc regime deal with the challenges it was facing. Karundi left Stockholm at a time when millions of Kenyans had great hopes in the new Narc regime which, despite its capitalist orientation, was seen as “different from Kanu” on grounds that dictator Moi had left the scene after 24 years of misrule. What was unknown to Karundi was that a cabal of devoted mafia elements who surrounded Kibaki had become too protective of the President and limited access to him in a way that Karundi could have no chance of getting his point to Kibaki, leave alone getting absorbed into the system.
The catastrophic disadvantage that weighed heavily against Karundi’s ambitions of making contact with President Kibaki was that Kibaki’s senility was in constant progression. This development is responsible for the easy take-over of State House business by the Mount Kenya mafia which was increasingly becoming restless as a result of the tension and political consequences that came with the battle between Kibaki and Raila Odinga following the betrayal and dumping of the Memorandum of Understanding that was secretly concocted and signed when Narc was being cobbled ahead of the 2002 elections.
Karundi kept at bay by Kibaki’s handlers
For the Mafia cartel that took charge of the Narc looting agenda and that decided on who could meet Kibaki, Karundi’s entry in Kenya from exile in Sweden was insignificant. This was because apart from fighting Raila’s LDP forces who had literally crippled the government, the Mafia was busy looting State coffers and as one scandal after another exploded in the media, the Mafia was more preoccupied with covering up their murky tracks and trying to contain the scandals than paying attention to a newly arrived former exile in the name of Karundi Mathenge. Worse still, Kibaki’s regime was violating human rights with impunity and, in the process, executing innocent civilians at an alarming rate. Under the circumstances, inviting Karundi to join Kibaki’s inner circle could have been tantamount to inviting a fierce detective at the scene of crime.
Another hitch which may have been unknown to Karundi was that Kibaki’s kitchen cabinet and Security homeboys that formed part of the State House mechanism knew that Karundi had very radical views that did not fit in DP’s framework of political solutions to Kenya’s problems. For example, Karundi was against land grabbing yet Kibaki was in the league of top land grabbers in Kenya. From the point of view of this corrupt elite, admitting Karundi (who remained non compromising on the question of corruption, human rights violations, tribalism in government, exploitation of workers and political opportunism) into the inner sanctum of the President’s palace was politically suicidal. It is for this reason that every attempt by Karundi to try and get to Kibaki was routinely frustrated until Karundi gave up.
Retreat into quiet life
Kenya-Stockholmers in the know will remember the number of times Karundi communicated to friends his frustrations with the new Narc regime, the shielding of the President by thieves in government and his inability to play any role in the political process due obstructions by personalities who believed that he was more of a threat to the establishment than a political asset. The mistreatment of Karundi at the hands of Kibaki’s handlers was hardly surprising.
When the possibility of him being ignored by the ruling elite was raised by some Kenyans during Karundi’s farewell Party in Stockholm, the late was adamant that he had received guarantees from the highest levels of government whom, he said, were aware about his impending arrival. Karundi drew parallels with the arrival in Kenya of the late Kenyan exile, Onyango Osumba, who had a more dramatic reception. Raila had not only mobilized top LDP officials to meet Mr. Onyango but also ensured a respectable media coverage at Jomo Kenyatta Internationa Airport. Although Onyango later encountered his own problems with the political big wigs of LDP, he never suffered the indignity of being kept at bay from top LDP leadership. Needless to say, Onyango was properly integrated into the LDP system, unlike Karundi whose arrival was never even acknowledged.
Frustrated, abandoned and left to waste away in political cold storage, Karundi gave up trying to link up with DP or getting in touch with Kibaki. He retreated into quiet life to observe events from a distance as he reflected on the developments and let-downs by political contacts.
As he withdrew into himself, cancer that had affected his throat was also taking its toll. Strong medication was weakening him and when he eventually entered into chemotherapy as the disease threatened his life, his frail body gave in and he quietly passed away in his sleep one early morning.
Karundi’s burial on 22nd March 2014 represented the end of a life of struggle, solidarity and frustrations. What is certain is that Karundi Mathenge’s struggles for a better Kenya will remain embedded in the hearts and minds of all those who knew him. The values he fought for, the political ideals he stood for and the Kenya he wanted are far from being realized. His death will remain a constant reminder to fighters still standing that the struggle against the system must continue.