10:42 AM, February 17, 2012
Dear Mr. Pike and Ms. Gicheru:
I am not just a contributor to the Star, but an avid reader of the newspaper. I make sure I purchase it EVERY DAY by 7 a.m.
As is my routine, I picked up today's edition and started perusing leisurely through the publication.
My heart skipped a beat when I came to the Society column on page 35. What almost gave me a coronary was a story by Grace Keronga headlined: STL: We are not fundraising for Dad's funeral.
In the piece an individual, Charles Mwangi, referred to as STL's manager is quoted as saying, "There are online reports that the family is fundraising for the Saturday burial...but we are taking issue with the fact that some unscrupulous people started fundraising using fliers and even provided a phone number. We can finance the funeral without a fundraiser."
It so happens that I, Onyango Oloo, am a member of that funeral committee in Nairobi. Other members include John Maina Mwangi, a first cousin to the late Jeff Mwangi; Maina Chege, another cousin of the deceased; Wahinya Boore, a long time friend and Kenyatta University year mate of Jeff Mwangi and Melissa Awero, a family friend from Norway.
Jeff Mwangi, Onyango Oloo and Wahinya Boore were among the university students who were arrested, tortured and jailed by the Moi-KANU regime in the aftermath of the attempted 1982 coup. We spent many years together as political prisoners at the infamous Kamiti Maximum Security penitentiary on the outskirts of Nairobi and have remained steadfast comrades ever since. This is how the latter two became members of the Nairobi Funeral Committee following the former's devise.
Before the committee embarked on any activities, Wahinya Boore and John Maina Mwangi travelled to Iregi village, Maragua, Muranga County to visit the elderly parents of Jeff Mwangi Kwirikia. They specifically sought the cooperation, endorsement and support of the parents to validate and legitimize the activities of the funeral committee. Both Jeff's father and mother did so without hesitation. It was decided that since John Maina Mwangi was a FIRST cousin of Jeff, he should be the Treasurer of the Nairobi Funeral Committee. An account was opened at the Harambee Avenue branch of Equity Bank with three signatories. This was done with full knowledge and involvement of Jeff's parents and other members of his family. All the members of the committee were on hand at the Cargo Centre of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport when the body arrived on Monday, February 13, 2012 early in the morning. In fact, John Maina Mwangi, one of our committee members, is the one who paid for and helped to clear the costs at the airport. Citizen TV interviewed Jeff's father, Wahinya Boore and Onyango Oloo at the airport. This piece was aired at the 1 pm, 4 pm and 7pm newscasts on the same day.
The committee sent out a plea regarding Jeff Mwangi Kwirikia which was widely circulated on the internet, via email, blogs, discussion forums and Facebook.
Melissa Awero a member of the committee took out money from her own pocket, to pay for the first obituary notice published in the Daily Nation newspaper.
In the meantime the committee convened daily, PUBLIC and OPEN meetings at the All Saints Cathedral, not only to fundraise, but to discuss other matters relating to Jeff's burial arrangements.
At one such meeting on Tuesday, February 15th 2012 STL, the said Charles Mwangi, STL's mother Perpetua (who is actually divorced from the late Jeff who was remarried to another woman, Wangeci, who is currently in Norway) attended.
At one point Charles raised some concerns regarding the involvement of certain family members in the Nairobi Funeral Committee.
At this point, the entire Nairobi Committee offered to IMMEDIATELY step down and hand over the Equity Bank account to STL, Charles Mwangi and any other family members.
Instead of responding to this overture, Perpetua, STL mother WALKED OUT of the meeting to convene an impromptu caucus outside the kindergarten room where we were meeting. STL and Charles Mwangi excused themselves, claiming that they had to pick up someone at the airport. When members of the committee including this writer, protested that they could not just utter serious allegations casting aspersions on the integrity of individuals in the room and leave without waiting for an amicable resolution, they simply walked out.
We did not see them at the Wednesday and Thursday meetings of the Nairobi funeral committee.
At the Wednesday meeting, the Chair of the local (Muranga) committee called members of our committee to provide updates and coordinate planning on such items as the programme, the flowers and the catering. It was resolved that members of both committees would meet face to face to finalize these arrangements with our committee reporting on our fundraising efforts.
At our Thurday meeting it was resolved that four members of committee, Wahinya Boore, John Maina Mwangi, Melissa Awero and Maina Chege would travel to Jeff's home and handover the cash collected officially to the custody of Jeff's parents and the local funeral committee. As this story broke, those individuals were already en route to Muranga County.
You can imagine our shock therefore to come across this defamatory story in the middle of all these frantic preparations.
Speaking personally, I am the one who went physically to the Office of the Prime Minister to deliver our plea. I also contacted Gitobu Imanyara among other public figures, civil society organizations and the wider mainstream media. Now contemplate the phenomenon of turning to page 35 of the Star and reading Grace Keronga's piece while our plea is in their inbox. If some of these people did not know us, they would automatically conclude that we are a bunch of conmen, fraudsters and charlatans taking advantage of Jeff's death for personal material gain.
We are gravely disappointed that the Star opted NOT to contact any of us on the funeral committee to give our side of the story and react to these putrid and sordid insinuations.
We are hereby requesting the Star to publish this letter as part of your paper's Right of Reply tradition.
For the moment all our energies are focused on ensuring that our late comrade, compatriot and friend Jeff Mwangi Kwirikia is accorded a decent and dignified funeral. We will explore the legal options available to us at a latter date. We do not wish to be drawn into the internal family feuds pitting members of Jeff's former wife Perpetua (STL's mother) and that of his current wife Wangeci.
(Member of the Nairobi Funeral Committee in charge of Communications)
We append the plea from the committee which was carried on Jukwaa, an online discussion forum that I founded in August 2005 and still administer. You will notice that a similar libelous story is carried on the Capital FM website in a link posted on Jukwaa as a response to our announcement: