Paul Ngei

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A consummate politician, the Kangundo-born journalist found his way into the annals of history almost by accident, when he punched a colonialist during a heated argument.

Ngei was at the time the editor of the Kikamba newspaper, Wasya Wa Mukamba. He was charged with assault and jailed for three months in 1952, coinciding with the declaration of the state of Emergency.

He was sent to Kapenguria where he met Jomo Kenyatta, together with Kungu Karumba, Fred Kubai, Bildad Kaggia and Ochieng Oneko – all of whom faced the charge of being members of a proscribed movement, the Mau Mau.

It was while in jail that Ngei reportedly proved his worth to Kenyatta by stopping a colonial jailer from caning the old man. He would later rescue Kenyatta again when another political detainee, Kariuki Chotara, attempted to stab him (Kenyatta). Chotara was unhappy with Kenyatta for not doing his share of hard labour.

Emerging from jail to lead the nation, Kenyatta repaid Ngei for his loyalty by naming him to his cabinet. He also spared Ngei from embarrassment when he was implicated in smuggling, a development which saw him suspended as minister in charge of maize marketing.

When Ngei was found guilty of committing an election offence, Kenyatta authorised the Constitution Amendment Act No. 1 of 1975, extending the presidential prerogative of mercy to include annulment of an election court. This effectively gave Ngei an opportunity to participate in the subsequent election.

Notwithstanding his excesses, Ngei’s name is woven with Kenya’s for his sacrifice in his youth, and for being witness to history.