Charles Njonjo

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Sir Charles Njonjo
Charles Njonjo when Kenyan Attorney General, c. 1970
Attorney General of Kenya
In office
Succeeded byJames B. Karugu
Minister of Justice
In office
Preceded byTom Mboya
Succeeded byKiraitu Murungi
Personal details
Charles Mugane Njonjo

(1920-01-23) 23 January 1920 (age 100)
RelativesEmma Njonjo & James Njonjo
EducationAlliance High School
Alma materUniversity of Fort Hare & Lincoln's Inn, London School of Economics

Sir Charles Mugane Njonjo (born 23 January 1920) is a former Attorney General of Kenya (1963 – 1979), and Minister of Constitutional Affairs (1980 – 1983). Charles Njonjo is also popularly referred to as "The Duke of Kabeteshire".[1][2]

Early life and career[edit]

Njonjo was the son of Josiah Njonjo, a colonial paramount chief and one of the foremost collaborators of British rule in Kenya.[3] The Njonjo family were close friends of Harry Leakey, whose son (Louis) and grandson (Richard) would later play important roles in archaeology and Kenyan politics.[4]

In 1939, Charles and his brother James[5] were admitted to King's College Budo, the best school in East Africa.[6] After completing his secondary education at Alliance High School in Kikuyu, Njonjo enrolled at Fort Hare University in South Africa, where he graduated with a bachelor's degree in Law. He returned to Kenya and was appointed a legal clerk in the colonial government in 1955, having completed a Law degree at Lincoln's Inn in the United Kingdom. This was at the height of the state of Emergency, which had been declared in order to defeat the attempts of Mau Mau freedom fighters to gain independence. After returning to Kenya Njonjo served in the Colonial government where he built a reputation as a diligent lawyer, and therefore was considered to become Attorney General in the Independent Kenya under President Jomo Kenyatta.[7]

In 1976, during a period of tense relations between Kenya and Uganda, Njonjo took part in secret negotiations with Israel that proved instrumental in the success of the Israeli military’s Operation Entebbe. The government of Kenya allowed the Israeli armed forces to use Nairobi airport as a stopover base in the context of the military assault on Entebbe airport that ended a week-long hostage crisis involving Israeli air passengers taken prisoner by a PLFP commando.

President Jomo Kenyatta died in 1978, to be succeeded by Moi as Njonjo had anticipated. Charles Njonjo entered into parliament in April 1980 after retiring as attorney general at the age of 60, a post in which he had served for 17 years.[8] He had considered politics for over a decade but hesitated due to lack of a popular base. He was elected MP for Kikuyu unchallenged, after the incumbent MP had resigned his seat the day before Njonjo announced his candidacy. In June 1980 he was selected for a newly created cabinet position by Daniel arap Moi, as minister for home and constitutional affairs, during an expected cabinet reshuffle.[9]

Miller Inquiry[edit]

After the attempted coup of 1982, Moi decided to purge his party and cabinet of figures he had established wanted him out of power. Chief among them would be Njonjo, and powerful internal Security minister, G.G. Kariuki. He was dragged through a judicial inquiry, which concluded that he had abused office, and had tried to take over power from Moi. he was forced to resign, effectively destroying his political career. Daniel arap Moi. In the early 1980s he was the chairman of the East African Wildlife Society.[10][11]

Return to Public Life[edit]

In 1998 he returned to public life, and was appointed chairman of the Kenya Wildlife Service.[12] In October 2006 there were indications that Njonjo was attempting a comeback in Kenyan politics, including his show of support for Raila Odinga.[13] Today, Charles and his brother James remain some of the richest people in Kenya, with a family estate exceeding $3 billion.[14] He has extensive landholding across the country. He also owns interests in high-profile financial institutions, including banks and insurance companies.

He turned 100 on 23 January 2020.[15]


  1. ^ Alan Rake (1993). Who's Who in Africa: Leaders for the 1990s. Scarecrow Press. p. 153. ISBN 0810825570.
  2. ^ The Standard, July 11,2014
  3. ^ Bach, Daniel; Gazibo, Mamoudou (2012). Neopatrimonialism in Africa and beyond. New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-68793-5.
  4. ^ chief, F. Abiola Irele, Biodun Jeyifo, editors in (2010). The Oxford encyclopedia of African thought. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-533473-9.
  5. ^ "Old Budonian: Life and times of Kenya's Sir Charles Njonjo". Daily Monitor. Retrieved 2020-09-24.
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Sir Charles Njonjo Biography, Family, Wife Children and Wealth". 28 November 2015.
  8. ^ David Throup; Charles Hornsby (1998). Multi-party Politics in Kenya: The Kenyatta & Moi States & the Triumph of the System in the 1992 Election. James Currey Publishers. p. 30. ISBN 978-0-85255-804-1.
  9. ^ Hornsby, Charles (2012). Kenya : a history since independence. London New York: I.B. Tauris. ISBN 978-1-78076-501-3.
  10. ^ Swara Magazine, Vol. 6, No. 5, 1983
  11. ^ Kenya Cabinet Official Faces An Inquiry on 'Irregularities', The New York Times, June 30, 1983
  12. ^ Veteran Kenyan politician rehabilitated, BBC, July 10, 1998
  13. ^ The return of Charles Njonjo, Kenya Times, October 27, 2006
  14. ^ Staff, Editorial (2018-04-13). "A highlight of the top ten richest men and women in Kenya, 2017-2018". Kurd Net - Daily News. Retrieved 2020-09-24.
  15. ^ Old Budonian: Life and times of Kenya’s Sir Charles Njonjo