Obituary

Kenya Air Force Commander who married house help dies on his birthday!

His children said as a father, Maj-Gen Duncan Wachira was an ‘abusive, armed and violent psychopath’

Retired General: Maj-Gen Duncan Wachira’s loneliness led him to the arms of his house help and the beginning of a property tussle with children of his first wife.

By Undercover Reporter

On October 23 this year, retired Maj-General Duncan Kireri Wachira, could have celebrated his 76th birthday. Instead, the former Air Force Commander who married his house help, succumbed to diabetes and high blood pressure at the Nairobi Hospital.

The death was made public by Margaret Wakonyo Kireri, the house help he met 19 years ago and proceeded to chase his first wife’s three children who often said, as a father he was an “abusive, armed and violent psychopath.”

They accused their father, a man of towering physique, of even transferring some properties to her in a move which formed part of a High Court battle for his estate pitting two sons from the first wife, Ann Wanjiru.

She was a teacher at Pangani Girls High School along Juja Road in Nairobi, the road Wachira used on his way to Moi Air Base, Eastleigh, the work place that forged his career. But after their divorce in 1997, Wanjiru left on a one-way ticket to the land of Mr Trump. Not many of Wachira’s colleagues noticed she had left. After all, Wachira never took her to the Officer’s Mess or invited her for during official state functions.

Three years later, Wachira approached the house help, Wakonyo, who later told the court that “one day he held my hand and openly declared that he was lonely and that he admired me” and requests for friendship led to Wachira taking her for driving lessons, trusting her with his properties and paying for her bride price in her rural home in Kinamba, Nyahururu, in 2010.

She had been employed with one child, but gave birth to another with Wachira

Comrade power: Maj-Gen Wachira was rewarded for quashing the abortive 1982 coup attempt in Kenya above. Over 100 soldiers and 200 civilians died. Its effect lasted two decades including university students use of the term ‘comrade power’ then used by soldiers.

Five years later, Wachira officially dissolved his first marriage and cemented the new one with a church wedding and used a court order to cut off sons Michael Wanjohi, now a banker and Edward Thiong’o, an engineer and their sister Sylvia Muthoni from his life. The former Commander then retreated to his 100 acre farm in Nyahururu, Nyandarua County.

For company was Wakonyo, the house help. She had been employed with one child, but gave birth to another with Wachira.

But the sons, somehow collected Sh1.3 million in rental income from their father’s properties whose estate included; a dairy farm in Limuru, three residential houses in Nairobi and a commercial building in Ongata Rongai on the outskirts of Nairobi. They argued that the properties, including their residence in Kilimani, were acquired by their parents and Wakonyo the house help, was a joy rider and sister kill-joy.

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Due to ill health, doctors advised Wachira to leave cold Nyahururu for warm Nairobi. To occupy his city home, Wachira gave his children (who lost the case) marching orders even as Thiong’o tried holding on to their Kilimani home against a father he described as “a narcissist habitual liar of unsound mind and not competent to swear an affidavit.”

As the case ensued, Wakonyo was demanding a share of as the second wife and for which she sought court orders demanding she be included as a beneficiary.

The High Court granted Wakonyo rights to be his guardian

Comedy or errors: It was in Maj-General Wachira’s tenure as Air Force Commander when the ’82 Air Force reverted to the Kenya Air Force through ‘a case of theft by servant.’

Her expenses included medical bills for Wachira who was then ailing and in and out of hospital, general maintenance and upkeep of herself and the children.

The High Court granted Wakonyo rights to be his guardian as the case progressed. But not many Kenyans are familiar with military generals, especially retired ones. If they retired when Daniel arap Moi was still president, like Maj-Gen Wachira, then they become pellets in a sack of memories.   

Wachira, who rose from military cargo plane pilot to chief of logistics at the Defense Headquarters on his way to being Kenya’s eighth Air Force Commander was born in Mahiga, Othaya, Nyeri County, at the height of World War II in 1945 although that was not the reason he became a soldier.

His time in Kenya’s Air Force was punctuated by many things besides instilling fear down the boots of many soldiers with his slave driver work ethics. For starters, he was the one who spearheaded the creation of the Air Force Qualified Flying Instructors programme that trains our own pilots on home soil instead of flying them out of the country.

But that was not the reason he most remembered despite it saving Kenya tonnes of dough. Wachira’s time had two memorable incidents, one major and sad, the other hilarious for its absurd, but profound for its end result.

The first is that the Kenya Air Force staged a coup against Moi’s government on the morning of August 1, 1982.

Hezekiah Ochuka was Kenya’s “president” for less than six hours

Loyal commander: Maj-Gen Wachira was rewarded for being among the loyal Air Force soldiers who helped in quashing the abortive coup of August 1, 1982.

Coup mastermind, Senior Private Hezekiah Ochuka was Kenya’s “president” for less than six hours of the 12 hour coup which cost the economy over Sh 500 million. Key coup plotters: Senior Privates Ochuka and Pancras Oteyo Okumu and Corporals Charles Oriwa, Walter Ojode, Bramwel Injene Njereman and Sergeant Joseph Ogidi were later hanged in 1987-the last such punishment in Kenya.

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For staging a coup, the Kenya Air Force was disbanded and renamed the ’82 Air Force, a name the airmen hated with all their collective military hearts. While the bloody repercussions of the coup were felt in all spheres of a Kenyan’s life until Moi left power in 2002, Wachira would play a hilarious role in having the name changed to Kenya Air Force.

Many airmen implicated in the abortive coup had their lives ruined though lengthy jail terms. Ten to 30 years in the cooler. Those who served and later released, were followed by military intelligence officers everywhere. They were issued with IDs that indicated they were part of the disgraced Air Force. Most never secured any jobs.

President Moi, a target of the coup plotters was never the same again. He seized the chance to settle old political scores-like marginalizing the Luo Nation for forming a large part of the coup plotters which had implicated former Opposition leader Raila Odinga and his father, the late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga- for providing ‘coup logistics.’

In Raila Odinga: An Enigma in Kenyan Politics, a 2006 book by Nigeria’s Babafemi A Bedejo, the man now firmly in Jubilee government, did not deny playing a role in the coup meant to transfer power from largely Luo military plotters to a Luo politician, Jaramogi, who had been shivering in political Siberia since his fallout with founding President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta in 1966.

Moi used the aftermath of the coup to assert himself by systematically instituting a dictatorship through consolidation, centralization, and personalization of power while neutralizing disloyal elements, real and imagined.

In his 1988 revised book, African Successes, American scholar David K. Leonard notes that the coup attempt was “a piece of good luck” for Moi as it attempt legitimized Moi’s reorganization of the command structure of the armed forces and the police. Once the attempt had been made and suppressed, he was able to remove leaders from positions that were most threatening. The armed forces and the police “were neutralized”.

Maj-Gen Wachira, having been among the soldiers who helped quash the coup, became a beneficiary in the new military rearrangement in which loyalists were rewarded with new positions, money, houses and large farms.

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Kenya Air Force existed in law but not ‘82 Air Force

Pango: Maj-Gen Wachira’s first wife taught at Pangani Girls’ High School before divorcing and leaving for the USA without their thee children in 1997.

But the ultimate prize was Wachira taking over from Maj-Gen  Dedan Gichuru after President Moi appointed him Kenya’s eighth Air Force Commander in 1989, the year Communism fell across Europe and along with it, the Cold War. 

Maj-General Wachira served for five years to 1994 and his tenure was marked with renaming the ’82 Air Force to the Kenya Air Force through a theft case!

It so happened that some Sh500, 000 was stolen between November 1991 and July 1992 when Maj-Gen Wachira was Air Force Commander at the Moi Air Base.

The culprit was the paymaster, Captain Geoffrey Kujoga Murugi who was court martialed by Wachira, the Air Force Commander.   

But Murugi’s lawyers, Kauma Mussilli and Milton Imanyara argued that their client was being court marshaled by the Kenya Air Force, yet be belonged to the ’82 Air Force.

The case got more interesting:  Kenya Air Force existed in law but not ‘82 Air Force. In changing the names after coup, the Moi government forgot to enact the new name in law!

Since Murugi was not a member of Kenya Air Force then he could not be tried

 under the Armed Forces Act of which ’82 Air Force was not part and they advanced the view that Murugi was “technically a civilian who could not find justice if subjected to a military trial”.

Murugi won the case and the court martial was dissolved on March 9, 1993.

Maj-Gen Wachira did not see how Murugi could go free on a technicality over names and this time, roped in Chief of General Staff, Gen Mahmoud Mohammed with whom he had helped end the coup which led to the ’82 Air Force name in which Murugi was hiding.

The Generals had the name changed from ’82 Air Force to Kenya Air Force just to charge Murugi afresh in another court martial. He was found guilty and jailed for three years, but died at Kamiti Maximum Prison just three months later.

Maj-Gen Wachira’s spirited attempt at not being defeated by a thieving Air Force Captain was what got Kenya Air Force its old name complete with the old uniform which the airmen love to bits.

Maj-Gen Wachira has since been buried by the Kenya Defense Forces in full military honours. Never mind when he died, his colleagues did not which relatives to call and give their poles: The only cellphone number they had was Maj-Gen Wachira’s-whom they could not call under his current condition.

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