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I was fired from police for refusing to implicate Jaramogi in coup plot

Solomon Mulang’a with his wife Penina Kavutha outside the shack they built in 1961 in Matinyani, Kitui County, when he was a police constable stationed at Embakasi, Nairobi. [Photo: Joe Ombuor/standard]


Solomon Mulang’a with his wife Penina Kavutha outside the shack they built in 1961 in Matinyani, Kitui County, when he was a police constable stationed at Embakasi, Nairobi. [Photo: Joe Ombuor/standard]

Solomon Mulang’a was once an energetic police officer in founding President Jomo Kenyatta’s security escort detail before becoming Vice President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga’s lead bodyguard.

Now aged 78, he hobbles to his sunset with little to flaunt for the enviable perch that many in the force craved.

Mulang’a, who was assigned to Odinga for three years, attributes his slip to a wretched low that on intrigues by Kenya’s first African Commissioner of Police Bernard Hinga. He says  Hinga vengefully tossed him out of the force without terminal benefits for refusing to play ball in fixing Jaramogi after his acrimonious fallout with Kenyatta in 1965.

“I almost failed to educate our only son who looks after us today,” he laments, his face a picture of pain.

Coup plot

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Flanked by his wife, Penina Kavutha, at their home in Matinyani, Kitui County, Mulang’a recalls how Hinga hurled insults at him when he declined his offer of Sh1,500 to implicate Jaramogi in a coup plot.

“I had been recalled to general duties from Jaramogi Odinga’s escort detail after he formed the opposition party, Kenya Peoples Union (KPU), when one day I was told that Mr Hinga wanted to see me at his office in Gill House. I froze literally,” narrates Mulang’a.

He says he did not know what Hinga wanted from him.

“He told me he had heard that Mr Odinga and I enjoyed a deep relationship. After a pause, he looked me straight in the eye and said he wanted me to tell him what Mr Odinga and Ugandan President Dr Milton Obote talked about when the two leaders met at the Rock Hotel in Jinja.”

Mulang’a says he was taken aback by Hinga’s request and told him that he could not have known what the leaders discussed because he was not with them at the talks, but remained outside with Dr Obote’s bodyguards.

He says an angry Hinga lunged forward on his seat as though hit from beneath and asked him whether or not he was interested in his job. He replied in the affirmative, to which Hinga exploded: “You are hiding the truth. Allegations are rife that Odinga and Obote discussed a possible change of the Kenya Government.”

Mulang’a recalls how Hinga threatened to sack him for hiding the truth, but gave him  48 hours to come back and tell him the truth or else be dismissed from the police force with nothing to show that he ever served. Mulang’a says he refused to budge and recalls how a fuming Hinga fetched a blank paper and ordered him to write a resignation letter and sign.

“My conscience could not allow me to betray Jaramogi who had treated me well for the three years that I had been with him,” he says.

What followed was a bombshell when Hinga ordered Mulang’a to go back to his rural home in Kitui District and not even venture in Kitui town for five years.

“He would send officers from Nairobi, led by a sergeant, every three months to ascertain if I was complying with the order,” Mulang’a recalls. He gives the officers names as Sergeant Musyoka Masive, Constables Abdi Noor and Malombe Kaluma. He says the three came every three months and enquired from people in his Matinyani neighbourhood if he was living by the order.

Adds his wife Kavutha: “Those were truly difficult days. We dug for people in their shambas to get money for food. We became the laughing stock of the village. May God rest Hinga’s soul in peace,” she concludes, films of tears showing in her eyes.

Mulang’a went to Nairobi after the five years and secured a job as a Securicor guard, courtesy of a white man, a Mr Witford, with whom he had worked in the police force. Only then was he able to pay school fees for their son.

“I earned Sh800 per month for 10 years before the company folded and I had to return home in 1984. I have been here since, surviving as a subsistence farmer,” he says.

It was during his days as a Securicor guard that Mulang’a built the one bedroomed house where he lives with his wife today. Standing a few metres away is a round shack with mud walls, its roof a study in rusty iron sheets.

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“I built it in 1961 while serving as a corporal in the police force and earning Sh305 per month. It is the only asset I can show for my time in the force. Today it serves as our kitchen,” he says.

Mulang’a says he served in Kenyatta’s motorcade for only three months before he asked the white officer in charge of the presidential escort to transfer him to other duties because he could not cope with the rigours of waking up in the wee hours of the morning to reach Gatundu by 5 am.

“Kenyatta’s day started early and the old man was often up and about in the farm by 5 am. I had to leave our camp in Muthaiga by 4.30 am and return late, which I thought was unfair to my wife and young son,” he adds.

He describes the transfer to the Vice President’s security detail as a sweet coincidence.

“It elevated me to the comfort of a car from the distress of a motorcycle. The Vice President’s official residence at Kabarnet Lane overlooking Kibera was near compared to Gatundu,” he relates.

“More important was Jaramogi’s friendship and generosity. We would share meals with him, from his favourite nyuk kal (millet porridge) in the morning to main meals. Trips to his rural home in Bondo were fun with fish galore.”

How was Jaramogi’s relationship with Kenyatta? Mulang’a says the two were friends who differed on ideology.

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“Jaramogi wanted equality for Kenyans while Kenyatta seemed to prefer some people. Jaramogi wanted freedom fighters to be given farms for their sacrifice, but Kenyatta refused, saying nobody was entitled to anything for free. That was the genesis of their difference.

Mulang’a describes the relationship between Kenyatta and then powerful Cabinet Minister Tom Mboya as “very good”.

“Kenyatta trusted him until those in his inner circle started viewing him as a threat to the Kikuyu’s hold on the presidency. They poisoned that good relationship out of envy,” he explains. But Mulang’a is categorical that Jaramogi and Tom Mboya were never friends.

“Jaramogi viewed Mboya with suspicion and abhorred his runaway appetite for power. I remember Jaramogi urging him several times to dilute his appetite for power and tread carefully as he was still young.

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