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How Ben Gethi Led JM Kariuki to his Murderers

JM Kariuki JM Kariuki in NYS uniform when he was National Leader of NYS, a position that was equal in rank to commander of the army

Not that Ben Gethi. Another one who is the grandfather of the man engulfed in the current NYS scam. JM Kariuki was a man marked to die. In 1975,Ben Gethi was a friend to JM Kariuki. Gethi who was at the time the GSU commandant went on to become police commissioner. JM Kariuki, the Nyandarua North MP, who at one time was the National Leader of NYS, had become a thorn in the government’s ass. Read how, Ben Gethi inadvertently led  JM Kariuki to his death on the orders of Mbiyu Koinange. The story was published by the Daily Nation in 2000. Before his death in 1994, Ben Gethi confessed his role in the murder to JM Kariuki’s sister.

Daily Nation, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th March 2000.

The story was published by the Daily Nation in 2000 in print format. Much later,African News Online Blogspot then converted it word for word to digital format. We have borrowed the the story directly from the latter. Many thanks to both The Daily Nation and African News Online Blogspot for excellent journalism and dedicated effort in preserving the story for posterity.

Startling new evidence about the murder of charismatic politician J.M. Kariuki is revealed by the Nation today.
The populist MP was interrogated at the Kingsway House headquarters of Special Branch, exactly 25 years ago today, after being framed for a series of bombings in the capital. JM was also questioned about secret bank accounts he had allegedly opened and the supposed disappearance of funds donated by foreign countries to the National Youth Service which he had headed and to former Mau Mau fighters.

He was shot in the arm by the then head of the GSU (General Service Unit), Ben Gethi, during a bitter exchange with one of his captors, President Kenyatta’s personal bodyguard, the Nation has discovered.Then he was dragged out and driven to the Ngong forest where his body was found by a herdsman.The Nation also reveals that JM was threatened by a powerful son of President Kenyatta, Mr. Peter Muigai, two months before his murder.

Who fired the shots that killed Josiah Mwangi Kariuki (JM) Kariuki? New evidence shows that the first bullet was fired by General Service Unit Commandant Ben Gethi in a Nairobi building and that it was not intended to kill and didn’t kill him. The fatal shot was not fired until the fiery Nyandarua North legislator was driven behind Ngong Hills by men assigned by President Kenyatta’s bodyguard, Senior Superintendent of Police Arthur Wanyoike Thungu.

By early 1975, somebody had decided that Josiah Mwangi Kariuki – popularly known as JM – had to be eliminated.
President Jomo Kenyatta was old and ailing. JM was believed to have his eyes on the presidency. Besides, JM had a dashing style and struck a powerful chord with the masses. It earned him bitter enemies in Kenyatta’s State House.
Not only did the dapper Nyandarua North MP give generously to charity, but his speeches were increasingly populist. He was known to have given the princely sum of KSh 80,000 to a public cause at a time when the President’s highest known donation was KSh 3,000 to the Jomo Kenyatta College of Agriculture at Juja.

His repeated attacks on the establishment did not help matters. On the 10th anniversary of Kenya’s independence (1973), Mzee (Jomo Kenyatta) joyfully extolled the country’s achievements while JM remarked elsewhere that Kenya had become a country of 10 millionaires and ten million beggars.The first danger signal to JM came a few days before Christmas 1974. JM was playing darts over a drink at Nakuru’s Stags Head Hotel with Mark Mwithaga, his long-time friend and MP for Nakuru Town, when Assistant Foreign Affairs Minister Peter Muigai Kenyatta and Nakuru Mayor Mburu Gichua walked in. They strode right up to the two and one of them barked at JM: “You have brought trouble here from Nyandarua. Be warned: This is Nakuru and we can finish you at any time!”

Mwithaga recalls their deep surprise. “Muigai and Gichua never even bothered to say hallo to us. They just lectured JM and left. We were very, very shocked”. Muigai, President Kenyatta’s eldest son by his first marriage, was a key member of the Kiambu political mafia. If JM wished to dismiss the Stags Head encounter as an isolated incident, he was in for a surprise.

In January 1975, a well-connected Assistant Minister asked JM out for lunch at the Norfolk Hotel to “discuss a worrying matter”. At the meeting, the Assistant Minister spoke of a secret meeting by a politically influential group which had decided that JM must be eliminated. The conspirators, said the Assistant Minister, hoped to convince President Kenyatta that JM was organising a citizens’ revolt against the government.

They had shown Mzee selective extracts from JM’s speeches. And although Kenyatta had not approved their plan, the conspirators believed they had sufficiently poisoned his mind. The friend advised JM to seel audience with the President and give him his side of the story. One hurdle stood in JM’s way. The leading anti-JM conspirators also happened to be the gate-keepers of Kenyatta’s State House.

JM’s youngest wife, Terry Wanjiru, recalls her husband’s fruitless attempts to see the President in his final years. A chance presented itself at the wedding of Attorney-General Charles Njonjo on November 18, 1972. Cutting through the throng of dignitaries, JM walked over to Mzee and gave him a warm handshake. An excited Kenyatta replied “You’re so lost JM. These days you don’t come to say hallo to me!” To which JM replied, “Mzee, I have always wanted to come to see you but your men have been blocking me”. “Is that so?” was Kenyatta’s reply and he promised to look into the matter.

By early 1975 nothing had changed. JM was still unwelcome at State House yet he was increasingly desperate to meet Kenyatta. Driving home to Gilgil in early February 1975, JM came across Njenga Karume, the Nominated MP and influential chairman of the powerful tribal organisation GEMA (Gikuyu Embu Meru Association), near Naivasha. JM flagged down Karume and the two chatted by the roadside. Karume, now the MP for Kiambaa, recalls: “JM looked disturbed. He was not the confident man I knew. He began by thanking me for having stood by him in 1974 when a powerful clique wanted GEMA to campaign against him in the 1974 elections. Then he told me of the plot against his life and his difficulties in reaching Kenyatta”. Karume sympathised with JM’s predicament and promised to secure him an appointment with the President.

Go to next page to read how the schemers actually planted bombs all over Nairobi then blamed it on JM. 

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10 Comments on How Ben Gethi Led JM Kariuki to his Murderers

  1. 0


    Imeet Hon.J.M kariuki as astudent leader in ateahers college in 1973 he was charismatic n very focused friendly person down to earth an dlikeable I had no idea two years latter he was to die last year I visited the spot where they murdered him it is wasting away any family members kindly do something for the memorial site many of the names mentioned are long dead save for my friend Hon,Mark Mwithaga

  2. 0


    For JM Kariuki’s bravery in colonial detention read “Britain’s Gulag” by Caroline Elkins.

  3. 1


    Kenya leadership rotten to the core. And to think we have these murderous snakes’ offspring sitting in top leadership today, no wonder were facing the plight we do as a country. From terrorism, to corruption, land grabbing, mega scandals you name them.

  4. 0


    Amazing revelation,good history.

  5. 1


    Amazing…Well written and equally well researched.

  6. 1


    It’s high time we rewrite our history

    • 0


      Sure. I think its good that the true facts of our history be preserved for future generations to read so they don’t make the same mistakes.

  7. 0


    Good piece of story i have learned a lot about kenyan young age and the plight of leaders like JM who wanted to walk the talk in leadership

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