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Nation mourns ‘minister without a flag’

Seth Onyango @SethManex

He didn’t die just an archbishop. He died a minister, the longest serving “Education minister”. But one without a seat in Cabinet, or a convoy of state-of-the-art State-plated fuel guzzlers. Not even a flag.

The late Archbishop Emeritus John Njenga acquired the non-official capacity from the people he touched through his zealous footprints in the Education sector.

When he first arrived in the Eldoret Diocese, which covered Eldoret, Kitale, parts of Kakamega and Pokot, he was struck by the absence of schools and hospitals, according to his biography, Love and service to the people of God.

He made building of  schools and health centres a priority. His picture next to founding President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta became a common fixture as they opened a school here and another there.

By the end of his 18-year tenure as Bishop of Eldoret, Njenga had spearheaded the founding of more than 40 secondary schools in the region.

President Uhuru Kenyatta with Catholic clergy during the requiem mass for Archbishop John Njenga at the University of Nairobi grounds yesterday. Photo/GERALD ITHANA

And yesterday, President Uhuru Kenyatta called on the Church and State to be interdependent as he led the nation in paying tributes to the fallen icon.

It was Njenga’s humility that the Head of State recalled most as he revealed the departed cleric had been a frequent visitor to their home in Gatundu.

“I have had the opportunity to know Archbishop Njenga almost all my life. He was a man of humility, a man of great humour, a man dedicated to the service of God and to the service of man, not just to satisfy their spiritual needs, but also their human needs,” he said.

Speaking during a requiem for the cleric at the University of Nairobi grounds, Uhuru acknowledged Archbishop Njenga’s efforts to foster peace in the country and his passion for education.

“He ensured the church and government would walk together, to ensure our young country, at that time would offer quality education to our people,” he said.

Deputy President William Ruto eulogised Archbishop Njenga as a selfless Kenyan, a visionary leader and a committed bishop. Ruto said although he was not Catholic, he grew up knowing the bishop as a dedicated servant to whom the nation will be forever grateful.

Former vice president Moody Awori said he lost a great friend that he knew for more than 73 years since their teenage days at Mang’u High School. 

Archbishop Njenga died aged 90 at Nairobi’s Mater Hospital on November 4. He was buried yesterday and became the first Catholic Bishop to be laid to rest at a special place created recently at the Holy Family Minor Basilica in Nairobi.

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