Josiah Mwangi Kariuki, popularly known as “JM,” was the politician famous for reminding the founding fathers of this country not to create a country of ten millionaires and ten million beggars. His warning proved prophetic as ours remains a very unequal society.
Detained under the Emergency laws in 1953, JM was released in 1960. He left for studies at the Oxford University in England, returning to serve as private secretary to then Prime Minister, later President, Jomo Kenyatta, before he was dropped in 1964.
He then joined politics, rising to Nyandarua North MP. He also helped found the National Youth Service. During the 1969 General Election, disillusioned by the government he had helped create, JM Kariuki ran on a platform of change. He challenged his constituents not to elect him if they didn’t like his work, and reprimanded his fellow politicians for stealing from the young nation. He told an eager audience at the University of Nairobi in 1970 that “It takes more than a national anthem to create a nation.”
In an address to students at Makerere University, he said Kenya’s version of African Socialism was a total hoax. Such public declarations earned him many enemies. For the 1974 General Election, JM was denied permits for all but one campaign meeting. Already immensely popular, he won with a landslide, and walked into a Parliament that gave him a standing ovation.
The adulation did not last. For his persistent questioning on the state of the nation, JM was murdered on March 2, 1975. His killers remain at large