From castrating mau mau fighters to State House; the complicated legacy of Jeremiah Kiereini

He worked with Idi Amin to crush the Mau Mau in Central Kenya

From castrating mau mau fighters to State House; the complicated legacy of Jeremiah Kiereini

Former Head of Public Service and billionaire businessman Jeremiah Kiereini on Tuesday morning passed at the age of 90 years.

It was case of the setting down on one of the most complicated figures who shaped the history of Kenya in ways that only a few have managed to do so.

Born in a rural humble family, in 1929, Kiereini joined the elite club after joining Alliance High School and later Makerere University – then a reserve of the brightest minds.

However, after leaving Makerere, he made a choice to become a colonial homeguard – even though he had already taken the secretive Mau Mau oath binding him to the African cause.

Along with the late John Michuki and former Ugandan President Idi Amin Dada, Kiereini was one of the most ruthless colonial administrators who crushed the Mau Mau in every sense of the word.

As a fast-rising officer, he at one time headed the Gathigiriri detention camp (now Gathigiriri Prison) where Mau Mau officers were ostensibly supposed to be rehabilitated.

The prisoners have given horrifying accounts of torture, including being castrated by the administrators who worked under Kiereini.

In 1963, Mau Mau’s goal of independence was finally reached but in one of the greatest historical betrayals, the home guards such as Michuki and Kiereini were awarded with strategic public service jobs.

Kiereini rose to become Defense Permanent Secretary before ultimately heading to State House where he worked as head of civil service under President Daniel arap Moi.

Upon his retirement in 1985, Kiereini joined the business world where he leveraged the connections he had made in public service to earn a fortune and become a billionaire.

He has in the past said that he belonged to a small club of moneyed Africans, mostly working in government, who would not socialize with the “poor” who were driving single exhaust cars.

We would not allow people who had cars with a single exhaust to sit with those of us who had dual exhaust systems, at clubs and social events. I have to laugh at it now,” he said in his memoir.

For 24 years, the late tycoon Chaired the board of the East African Breweries Limited (EABL), earning EABL beers the nickname “Kiereini Waters”.

He was also a long-serving board of CMC Motors before he left in 2012 after a Capital Markets Authority (CMA) report linked him and several other directors of fraud involving siphoning cash from the firm and stashing it in offshore accounts.

Alongside his bosom friend Charles Njonjo, another notorious home guard with a legendary disdain for Africans, they invested in bluechip companies including Unga Group Limited, CMC Holdings, CFC Stanbic, Heritage Insurance and CFC Life among others.

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