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Death robs country of bright leader

It was a grim jinx for Nyeri county when Governor Wahome Gakuru died in a freak dawn accident yesterday, nine months after his predecessor Nderitu Gachagua died at a London hospital. Dr Gakuru perished in a horror crash when his official Mercedes car veered off the road and ploughed into the guardrails, with apparent massive impact.

The crash, which occurred at Kabati area on the Nyeri-Nairobi road moments before 7am, left his personal assistant, his driver and guard with serious injuries. The first pictures of the crash were a shock to behold, with the guardrail having ripped the left side of the car where the governor was riding in the front seat. The rail ripped through the car.

The county had to deal with another sorrowful moment less than a year ago when Gachagua, who had battled cancer for a long time died at a UK hospital. Kameme TV producer Benjamin Warugu who had booked the governor for an interview said he called the county boss at 5.20am to confirm the appointment. “The governor told me he was just then leaving his Ring Road home in Nyeri and he hoped to make it for the show,” he said.

Later in the morning, Kameme TV anchor Mburu wa Ndung’u enquired from the producer about the governor, but when Warugu called, the phone went unanswered. They were later to learn Gakuru had died in the crash and broke the news on the live show.

The governor was with his driver Samuel Kinyanjui, bodyguard Ahmed Abdi and personal assistant Albert Kaguru. Gakuru and the other occupants were rescued by members of the public and rushed to Thika Level 5 hospital where he succumbed to injuries while receiving emergency treatment. “We heard a loud bang followed by screams from locals and rushed to the scene to help rescue the occupants,” said a witness.

They used a power saw to cut the rails to free the trapped victims. Murang’a County Commissioner John Elung’ata said when the accident occurred around 6.45 am it was raining heavily. He said by the time the governor was rescued from the scene he was breathing and may have passed on while being taken to hospital or when undergoing treatment.

Murang’a County Police Commander Naomi Ichami said investigations had started to establish the cause of the accident. She cautioned road users to be extremely careful especially during the rainy season adding that the area is a black spot especially when it rains.

Gakuru, who was seen as a promising leader is also the second Nyeri governor to die in office after the death of the first governor, Nderitu Gachagua in February. A former Vision 2030 director, Gakuru won the Nyeri seat in the August 8 General Election after garnering 280,037 votes against then incumbent governor Samuel Wamathai’s 85,316 votes.

Deputy governor Mutahi Kahiga was set to take over office for the remainder of the term. And speaking at Nairobi Hospital after visiting the late Gakuru bodyguard, personal assistant and the driver who suffered multiple injuries, Council of Governors chair Joseph Nanok called for thorough investigations.

He was accompanied by Central region police chief Gideon Amalla, Murang’a governor Mwangi wa Iria and his Kirinyaga counterpart Anne Waiguru. “The driver is in stable condition while the personal assistant and bodyguard have had to be operated on after multiple injuries,” he said.

Governor Wa Iria said Central Region Police Chief assured them of thorough investigation after visiting the victims in the hospital. “He has assured us that investigations are on and the report will be made public when complete,” he said.

Nanok said Nyeri Deputy governor will head Nyeri County burial committee while he will co-chair the National committee with ICT Cabinet secretary Joe Mucheru. Meanwhile, Nyeri Council of Elders said they will hold a cleansing ceremony to get rid of what they termed as “jinx” of those occupying the county’s top seat.

They, at the same time, said Gakuru will be buried in accordance with the rights of a respected Gikuyu elder. Led by high priest Kariuki Wa Kabui, they promised to hold a prayer session in one of their shrines before holding the ceremony.

“We are saddened by the death of Gakuru and we will go before a mugumo tree to ensure that if there is a jinx, it’s gotten rid of,” said Kabui. At his Nyeri home his caretaker, Mathew Mngesi was yet to come to terms with the news.

He said the governor who had initially planned to travel yesterday evening, changed his mind and left later than he intended. Mngesi had worked for the governor for six months, and described him as a great man and a friend.

In Nyeri town, residents milled around hotel windows to watch on TV the breaking news in disbelief. Businessman Stephen Maina termed the death “a big blow to residents.” Taxi driver Samuel Nderitu said Gakuru was development conscious and a “people person.” Jane Wanjira said it was a tragic occurrence.

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