What you need to know:
- Marsden Madoka, who served the nation’s founding father as an aide-de-camp, says Mzee Jomo Kenyatta was fatherly, loving, caring and a person who appreciated what people did for him and for the nation.
- But he was also thorough and a stickler for perfection and discipline, Mr Madoka says.
Hussein Abdalla, a 77-year-old resident of Shauri Moyo, remembers the day he received news of the death of Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, the country’s founding president. He was at his place of work at Kariokor Market, selling his wares, when the one o’clock Voice of Kenya radio bulletin broke the sad news.
A wave of shock, uncertainty, disbelief and grief engulfed Kariokor Market, Mr Abdalla vividly remembers.
“People huddled in groups of three, four and fives speaking in low voices when we received the sad news that day. So revered was Mzee Jomo Kenyatta that we could not see Kenya without him,” Mr Abdalla remembers that day, 38 years ago.
Mr Abdalla, happens to be among Kenyans who only knew President Kenyatta from a distance.
However, there were those who knew him closely, and had the opportunity to work with him. They respected Mzee Kenyatta as a man of enormous influence and outstanding ability. One such person is Major (Rtd) Marsden Madoka, who served the nation’s founding father as an aide-de-camp (ADC.
STICKLER FOR PERFECTION
Mr Madoka says Mzee Kenyatta was fatherly, loving, caring and a person who appreciated what people did for him and for the nation. But he was also thorough and a stickler for perfection and discipline, Mr Madoka says. Mzee was very particular about time-keeping
Interviewed at his Karen home, the retired soldier says: “Mzee was very thorough. He interviewed me himself for the job. In the past, the ADC’s were not interviewed. They were appointed by the Army Commander and told to go. But this time, Mzee insisted on interviewing his candidates.”
He adds: “I was the tenth one to be interviewed and he picked me. That, in itself, was a great privilege to me but it also went a long way in saying how thorough Mzee was.”
Mr Madoka points out that although he was initially awe-stricken, working for the Head of State, Mzee Kenyatta treated him like a son. Through the confidence he showed in him, Mr Madoka says he felt comfortable working for Mzee Kenyatta.
And as he continued to serve as ADC, other qualities of the founding father emerged. Madoka learned that although people feared him, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta was a very patient and understanding person. He was also a person who respected the views of other people.
Days passed very fast, and the initial six-month period that was set for ADCs to serve the Head of State in those days passed. Because Mzee Jomo Kenyatta liked him, he asked Mr Madoka to stay another six months.
But the ADC – who was then in his twenties – wanted to go back to the barracks, develop his army career and get promoted. He hinted this to Mzee, who had grown quite fond of him. It was difficult for Mzee to let him go but he nonetheless did.
“So you can see that Mzee was understanding and he respected the views of others including those serving under him. He gave me the opportunity to do what I wanted,” Mr Madoka says.
He adds that contrary to the perception many people had, Mzee Kenyatta was not harsh. He was actually a very kind and understanding person.
“Occasionally, of course, in some public barazas Mzee would say some hard things but as President, Mzee addressed the issues which faced the nation,” Mr Madoka said.
For her part, his wife — Elizabeth Mumbi Madoka, who served the first President and his family as a social secretary — says Mzee Kenyatta loved his family and always created time for them despite his busy schedule as Head of State.
Mrs Madoka also commends the founding father’s motto of Harambee as a driving force that saw the implementation of many projects during the country’s infant stages.
“I think the Harambee spirit was very good because at that time everything was new. But with the Harambee spirit, we went on helping one another and built schools, roads and other projects,” Mrs Madoka says.
Mrs Madoka says Kenyans loved Mzee Kenyatta and could not believe that he had died when they received the news. They trooped to State House in their thousands to view his body.
Wanjiru Macharia was one of those who thronged State House to pay her last respects to the founding father.
She remembers queuing for hours to get a chance to view the body at State House. She had woken up early and walked from her home in Thogoto so that she could be among the first people to view the body.
By the time she got to State House at 6.30am, she found a long queue. "We were filled with epic grief. We had to pay our last respects to him,” Mrs Macharia says from her home in Thogoto.