Humour as Kenyattas gather for kin’s burial

President Uhuru Kenyatta and First Lady Margaret Kenyatta lay a wreath at the grave site of the late Margaret Wambui Kenyatta. (Photo: lMaxwell Agwanda/Standard)


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President Uhuru Kenyatta and First Lady Margaret Kenyatta lay a wreath at the grave site of the late Margaret Wambui Kenyatta. (Photo: lMaxwell Agwanda/Standard)

President Uhuru Kenyatta and First Lady Margaret Kenyatta lay a wreath at the grave site of the late Margaret Wambui Kenyatta. (Photo: lMaxwell Agwanda/Standard)

Members of the Kenyatta family Thursday came together for the burial of the founding president’s oldest daughter, Margaret.

Matriarch Mama Ngina and her son President Uhuru Kenyatta led the family as Margaret, famously remembered for being Nairobi’s first and only woman mayor, was buried.

Margaret was buried in a private ceremony at her Ngando home in Dagoretti, Nairobi, attended by family and a few invited guests.

The populous Kenyatta clan, Amboi a Mbari ya Magana, had earlier congregated at St Andrews Church, where the funeral service was held.


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Margaret, who also served as Kenya’s Permanent Representative to the United Nation Environment Programme, died last week aged 89.

She was President Jomo Kenyatta’s second child after the late Peter Muigai Kenyatta, Jomo’s son with his first wife, Wahu.

Great-grandmothers met great-grandchildren during the ceremony, some coming from as far as England, where more of Jomo’s family from his second wife, Edna Clarke, lives.

Margaret was said to have inherited many of her father’s attributes.

“She had this charisma and authoritative voice, similar to Jomo’s, yet she remained graceful and down to earth,” recalled Grace Kabayo from Uganda, a leader in the Pan-African Women’s Organisation, an international body that Margaret founded.

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Mourners said Margaret followed in her father’s footsteps in the struggle for the country’s independence.


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Another of Jomo’s daughters, Kristina Wambui Pratt, who spoke on behalf of the family, recounted how her sister kept track of their father’s detention and imprisonment in Lodwar and Samburu.

“She led Jeni (another sister) and myself all the way to Lodwar to visit our father who was then under house arrest. One thing I remember while we were there was she brought us sweet, succulent oranges, which we really treasured,” said Kristina.

Uhuru led the eulogies of his half-sister, terming her a strong woman, a trait he said runs in the family.

“You all agree that I come from a family that has very strong women,” he said. “Coincidentally, we also tend to attract strong women, starting with my mother, Mama Ngina, who was handed over to this old man at a tender age, but who has remained the pillar of our family,” Uhuru said, causing laughter.

“This also applies to my wife Margaret, who was afraid of marrying me because she feared that I would end up in politics while she wanted to lead a quiet life. But I convinced her,” he added.

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Uhuru hailed the struggle of women, even as he rallied Kenyans to ensure the two-thirds gender rule was implemented.


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Those who were accorded time to offer their condolences included Deputy President William Ruto, who said the late Margaret served the country with distinction and integrity.

He also recounted a brief encounter with her when she served as a commissioner with the defunct Electoral Commission of Kenya in 1997, just after he joined politics.

“We thought we could use her influence to short-change the process and get ourselves exempted from sitting the proficiency test, but she sent us to the Kenya National Examinations Council to bring a note indicating that our certificates were genuine. That was a show of integrity,” said Mr Ruto.

Margaret’s peers

The ceremony was attended by many of Margaret’s peers who, in their eulogies, nostalgically remembered the Pan-African struggle that left activists in the present-day crusade for women empowerment longing for similar figures.

Former MP Phoebe Asiyo, academician Eddah Gachukia and activist Muthoni Likimani impressed mourners with their strong command of English despite their advanced age.

“This is a very uncommon moment, when you get to interact with graceful ladies in their 80s, and who are speaking fluent English,” Ruto said in recognition of the grace exhibited by the three women who mourned the passing of their compatriot – from their school days to the struggle for independence.

“Lately I have been looking at my boss and realising that the colour of his hair is changing, and so is mine, but when I saw these ladies, the rest of us look like infants,” added Ruto.


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Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero said records he inherited from the defunct Nairobi City Council showed that Margaret’s integrity was beyond reproach.

He said unlike many of her successors, she did not allocate any public property to herself.

“I can say without any fear of contradiction that Margaret served this city with utmost integrity. She did not allocate herself any houses or plots, as did many of those who came after her,” said Dr Kidero. 

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