Original Research - Special Collection: Social Memory Studies

Karubiu wa Munyi and the making of modern Kirinyaga, Kenya

Julius Gathogo
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 76, No 4 | a6198 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v76i4.6198 | © 2020 Julius Gathogo | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 12 June 2020 | Published: 05 November 2020

About the author(s)

Julius Gathogo, Research Institute for Theology and Religion (RITR), University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa; and, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Kenyatta University, Mombasa, Kenya


The article sets out to explore the lessons that can be drawn from the selfless and integrity-driven leadership offered by some pioneer post-independent Kenyan leaders such as Karubiu wa Munyi. With more financial scandals increasing in the public domains, as in the case where over 15 mega corruption scandals remained unaccounted for, by 2018, the need to draw some lessons from the likes of wa Munyi becomes an important matter worth consideration in the 21st century. As we seek to demolish both colonial mentality and neo-colonialism in the 21st century, there is a need to reconstruct the memories of some of our key actors in our African societies, as we seek to rebuild our respective contexts. Having lived under deadly and complicated theo-historical times, but eventually overcame hunger and famine, war, colonial bombs and general poverty, the article hypothesises, he stands out on a pedestal and remains a critical reflective case for masses of people who are walking through the valleys and shadows of death in Africa and beyond. In its methodology, the article develops mainly from the researchers’ interviews with wa Munyi who is eventually chronicled, as it seeks to ascertain whether there are lessons to draw from his ‘philanthropic’ and integrity-driven leadership. Was the virtue-driven leadership of Karubiu wa Munyi a by-product of Africa’s Ubuntu [caring for the other] cultural heritage and the evangelical Anglican Christianity that settled in his locality since 1912? And has the society lost its cultural morality and the virtue-leaning evangelical Christianity that was ushered in by the Church Mission Society at the beginning of the 20th century? In this article, Gitugi kia bururi [the critical cornerstone] – the casual description of wa Munyi – symbolises the ideal leaders who remain at peace with themselves and the general society even after retiring from active public duties; as their respective consciences are above board. Africa has to take lessons from such selfless leaders. The materials in this article are gathered through interviews with wa Munyi and other people who are connected to issues under consideration. A review of relevant literature has also been done.

Contribution: The article adds to the growing knowledge by its originality; a phenomenon where a little-known civic leader (Karubiu wa Munyi) is used as a lens through which we can understand the modern day Africa. Has the continent that sought independence from the colonialists who came after the Berlin Conference of 15 November 1884 to 26 February 1885 recolonising itself through neo-colonialism and corrupt practices of unimaginable proportions? The article is relevant to the HTS Journal and the world of scholarship as it shows God’s works in history, as it confirms that a people who walk through the desolate valleys and shadows of death, and are starring at the total annihilation, do also have a future.


Ideal African leadership; neo-colonialism; colonialism; Karubiu wa Munyi; leadership lessons; corruption


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