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Scribes remember Jomo’s fear for heights, speed

Alberto Leny  @PeopleDailyKe

Mzee Jomo Kenyatta was a loving patriarchal figure who liked to spend quality time with family members.The late veteran journalist Joseph Karimi, who authored the acclaimed book ‘The Kenyatta Succession’ with distinguished editor Philip Ochieng, recalled Mzee’s last moments with close family: “Kenyatta left Nakuru for Mombasa on July 29, 1978, briefly stopping over in Nairobi before travelling down by road.

He had a phobia for flying and heights, one of the last flights he took being when he went to attend the Lancaster House conference on the independence constitution way back in the early 1960s.

He also detested lifts and never allowed fast driving. The late politician John Keen who travelled with him to London remembers the terror in Mzee’s eyes as he literally trembled when the aircraft hit a heavy cloud or “air potholes.”

The last time he flew was from Dar-es-Salaam to Mombasa shortly after independence, Presidential Escort Commander Bernard Njinu told journalist Kamau Ngotho. Upon landing, the irate Kenyatta told Njinu to tell the pilot (expletive deleted) that “henceforth he would be flying his mother, not Kenyatta!”

On his last journey to Mombasa, Mzee had several engagements during his 19-day stay in which he met his entire family on August 15, including Peter Magana who had come all the way from the UK where he still lives.

This was a sort of premonition to bid close loved ones goodbye, a wish not infrequent among the aged at the twilight of their impending demise.

Kenyatta has been described by his biographer Jeremy Murray-Brown as an affectionate father to his children but one who was frequently absent.

Kenyatta was married four times – Grace Wahu, Edna Clarke, Grace Wanjiku and Mama Ngina, the matriarch who took over the mantle and still remains the pillar of the extended Kenyatta family today.

Between 1953 and 1961 when Uhuru was born, Kenyatta was in detention in Lokitaung.

Anna Nyokabi followed Uhuru in 1963.

The quiet but business-minded Muhoho Kenyatta was born a year later and today oversees the family’s expansive business interests that include investments in banking, agriculture, manufacturing and media.

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