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January 2, 2018


2017 saw the deaths of several influential personalities in Kenya and worldwide

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Deaths Of Significant Figures In 2017

Deaths Of Significant Figures In 2017

2017 saw the deaths of several influential personalities in Kenya and worldwide, including Chuck Berry, Senator GG Kariuki, Nicholas Biwott, Fats Domino and Bishop Cornelius Korir…


TAHIR SHEIKH SAID, known by many as ‘TSS’ died at the age of 75. A wealthy businessmen with an estate estimated in the multi-billion of shillings, his businesses included TSS transporters, TSS Service Stations and TSS Grain Millers.


NDERITU GACHAGUA, a billionaire businessman, became Nyeri’s first governor but always an aggressive politician Gachagua’s term in office was stormy and there was even an attempt to impeach him. He died in the Royal Marsden Hospital in London at the age of 64 of pancreatic cancer.

BOY JUMA BOY, the Senator for Kwale, died aged 57 after a short illness. He was reportedly suffering from high blood pressure just before his death.


CHUCK BERRY was not just one of the pioneers of Rock & Roll music with songs such as “Maybellene” (1955) and “Johnny B. Goode” (1958), he defined and developed Rhythm and Blues into what made rock and roll distinctive and was a major influence on subsequent rock music and musicians. The Beatle John Lennon said: “If you want to give Rock and Roll a name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry”.


JANET KANINI, a popular TV presenter with NTV, died from lung cancer on April 1.

DAVID MWIRARIA was a former Finance Minister under President Mwai Kibaki and MP for Imenti North. The Anglo Leasing scandal tarnished his reputation as he, along with 13 others, was alleged to attempted to defraud the government of over Sh4 billion.


SENATOR GODFREY GITAHI KARIUKI, known to all as GG Kariuki, had been involved in Kenyan politics since Independence in 1963, serving as a minister under Presidents’ Jomo Kenya and Moi. At the time of his death aged 78 he was Senator for Laikipia. He wrote a biography, Illusion of Power: 50 Years in Kenyan Politics.


JOSEPH OLE NKAISSERY was Interior Cabinet Secretary at the time of his death at the age of 67 from a suspected heart attack, having been the MP for Kajiado Central. A tough character who took over a difficult portfolio in the face of increasing Al-Shabaab attacks, Nkaissery was criticised for attempting to introduce stringent security laws that many thought would have censored the media.

NICHOLAS BIWOTT served as a Member of Parliament from 1979 to 2007 (Keiyo South and later Keiyo Marakwet) who served in eight ministries, five of which as a Cabinet Minister. A highly successful businessman, unbeknown to many, Biwott was also a passionate activist and sponsor in the fields of education (in particular education for girls), health and help for the disabled. It is probably true to say that few men in Kenya have ever been the subject of such myth and misinformation as Nicholas Biwott [SEE LINKS to – Nicholas Biwott 1940 – 2017; also Who Killed Dr Robert Ouko and Why? and Kenya Unsolved; and The Strange Case of the Kenya Kroll Report].

BETHUEL KIPLAGAT was a long-serving and high-ranking diplomat, serving as Kenya’s ambassador in France (1978-81) and as High Commissioner to the United Kingdom (1981-83) before becoming Permanent Secretary in The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1983-81). Kiplagat had a troubled tenure as chairman of the TJRC (2009-2010) and was adversely mentioned (probably unjustly) for his alleged role in the Wagalla Massacre but leaves a far more positive legacy for his role in mediating peace in Uganda, Mozambique, Ethiopia and Sudan.


CHRISTABEL OUKO was the widow of the late Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Robert Ouko (his second wife, married in 1966). After her husband’s murder in February 1990, Mrs Ouko remained reticent on the subject as to who had been responsible (although see LINK – interview with author Sam Okello). The British police, Kenyan police and the Parliamentary Select Committee all noted that “she did not tell everything she knew about her late husband’s death”.


“FATS DOMINO” (born February 1928) was an American pianist and singer-songwriter and one of the pioneers of Rock and Roll music. Although less-well known now, Fats Domino sold more than 65 million records and between 1955 and 1960 he had eleven Top 10 hits in the US charts, best known of which was “Blueberry Hill”. During his career, Domino had 35 records in the US Top 40.


JAIDEEP SINGH VOHRA, also known as ‘JS’ or ‘Pinky’, was well known among Kenya’s motor racing fraternity. He was killed in a road accident during the East Africa Safari Classics Rally.

WAHOME GAKURU, the Governor for Nyeri, was an academic who greatly contributed to Kenya’s Vision 2030 and was one of the brains behind major infrastructure projects during President Kibaki’s tenure.

BISHOP CORNELIUS KORIR was a highly respected and much loved peacemaker who sought to bring reconciliation among warring communities in the Rift Valley. During the 2007-08 post-election violence Bishop Korir personally confronted armed youths.


FRANCIS NYENZE was Member of Parliament for Kitui West. He died of colon cancer on December 6 aged 60.

PROFESSOR CALESTOUS JUMA was a leading Kenyan academic who became internationally recognised as an authority on the application of science and technology in the field of sustainable development. Professor Juma also became the first African Science and Environmental correspondent for the Daily Nation newspaper.


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