In Kenya’s history of more than fifty years, many refer to the month of August as an evil one, characterized by tragedies and events that shaped the country’s bearing.
For instance, it is in the month of August that Kenya lost some of her beloved and promising sons, who were wielding massive power before their demise, throwing the country into a political spin.
It was also during this eighth month of the year, that the government of the then President Daniel Moi was almost toppled.
As the month of August 2023 begins, we take you down memory lane and revisit how some of these misfortunes redefined the future and the history of Kenya.
Thomas Joseph Odhiambo Mboya was assassinated on August 5, 1969, when Kenya was still an infant republic, as the wave of independence swept across Africa.
Mboya was an influential trade unionist, politician, and Pan-Africanist, who had big dreams for Kenya.
He played a vital role in advocating for workers’ rights and a key figure in shaping Kenya’s economic policies in the early post- independence period.
Between 1953 to 1963, he was general secretary of the Kenya Federation of Labour (KFL) which led Kenyans against European ownership of land.
In 1957, Mboya won the legislative council elections, becoming one of only eight elected African members on the council.
Also, Mboya was a founder-member of the Kenya African National Union (KANU) in 1960.
Mboya served as the Minister of Labour in the coalition government before independence.
In addition, he actively took part in the constitutional talks that led to independence in 1963.
After independence, President Jomo Kenyatta appointed him Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs.
From 1964 to 1969 Mboya served as minister for Economic planning and Development.
During this period, he developed the foundation for a strong mixed economy and capitalist-oriented policies that Kenya applies till today.
Mboya’s death triggered tensions between the dominant Kikuyu and other ethnic groups, especially Mboya’s Luo Community.
Jomo Kenyatta’ Death in August
Jomo Kenyatta became first Prime Minister when Kenya gained independence in 1963 before becoming a republic in 1964.
In 1946, Kenyatta became president of the Kenya African Union (KAU).
Kenyatta and other KAU leaders were arrested in 1952 for their participation in Mau Mau Rebellion and sentenced to seven years.
Kenyatta was released in 1961 and he joined KANU and soon became its president.
In his reign, Kenyatta urged reconciliation among the various Kenyan political factions and devised the national slogan, Harambee which translates to “pull-together”
Jomo Kenyatta died in Mombasa on August 22, 1978.
His death ushered in the presidency of the then Vice President Daniel Toroitich arap Moi, who some described as an accidental president.
Moi became Kenya’s longest-serving President ruling the country for 24 years, from 1978 to 2002.
He consolidated power and turned Kenya into one party state under KANU before this was repealed in 1992 when the section 2A of the constitution was repealed.
Moi played a key role in shaping Kenya’s political history by introducing Uhuru Kenyatta into politics.
In 2001 November, he made Uhuru Kenyatta, son of Kenya’s founding president, the Minister of Local Government. In 2002, he picked Uhuru as his preferred successor.
Even though Uhuru lost to Mwai Kibaki, he would later become the President in 2013, serving for two terms up to August 2022.
1982 Coup d’état attempt
On August 1, a section of the Kenya Air Force tried to overthrow President Daniel arap Moi’s government.
Under the command of Senior Private Hezekiah Ochuka, the group captured Eastleigh Air Base and Embakasi air base.
Further, they took control of Voice of Kenya radio station in central Nairobi and announced that the military had overthrown the government.
The coup left more than 100 soldiers and at least 200 civilians dead, including several non-Kenyans.
After the failed coup, a total of twelve people were sentenced to death, and over 900 were jailed.
The convicts who were hanged were buried at the Kamiti Maximum Security Prison.
First Vice President Oginga Odinga was put under house arrest for allegedly financing the organizers
His son Raila Odinga was charged with treason and sent to detention alongside others.
After the coup attempt, the entire Kenya Air Force was disbanded.
The coup attempt was also a direct cause for the snap 1983 General Election.
1998 US Embassy Bomb Blast
On August 7, 1998, a bomb blew up in front of the American embassy in Nairobi.
This attack left more than 200 dead and another 5,000 injured.
According to the US Embassy website, the embassy shared a parking lot with several other buildings, including the Cooperative Bank and Ufundi House.
Additionally, the U.S. embassy had an underground garage that included a delivery dock.
The parking situation was a constant worry to all as it was a huge vulnerability. U.S. Embassy Nairobi’s garage entrance was protected by a manual drop arm, secured with a padlock and local guards controlled the security feature.
Due to worries about the vulnerability, the city authorized the bank to install a second drop arm at the gate entrance of the shared parking lot. On the morning of August 7, workers were there preparing to install the new drop arm.
This was the scene when the attackers drove their pickup truck into the parking lot.
The driver and passengers insisted that they had a special delivery for the embassy loading dock, which was hundreds of pounds of explosives.
When the guards refused to allow them in, as they were trained to do since the truck was not authorized to enter, the attackers began shooting and threw a grenade.
The drop arm remained locked with its padlock as the guards dove and ran for cover.
The frustrated terrorists then triggered the bomb in the rear parking lot instead of beneath the embassy as planned.
Their intention was to level the embassy, and they would have done so if not stymied by the Local Guard Force and locked drop arm. As it was, 213 people died immediately, forty-four of whom were U.S. Embassy Nairobi staff, and over 5,000 were injured.
Michael Kijana Wamalwa
The late Mwai Kibaki, then president, appointed Wamalwa as his Vice-President in December 2002.
Wamalwa served for only nine months as he passed on August 23, 2003.
Wamalwa and other young leaders dubbed ‘Young Turks’ formed Forum For Democracy Restoration (FORD) which pushed for constitutional reforms.
He was respected and known for commitment and peace building.
His death paved way for Moody Awori to become the vice president serving between 2004 and 2007.