Charles Njonjo Biography

Charles Njonjo whose full name is Charles Mugane Njonjo was born in 1920 in Kabete. He was Kenya‘s first post independence Attorney General from 1963 – 1979 and the Minister for Constitutional Affairs( 1980-1983). He is the son of ex Senior Chief Josiah Njonjo .

Charles Mugane Njonjo Education

Charles Njonjo attended Alliance High School and the prestigious Kings College Budo in Uganda. Njonjo proceeded to Fort Hare University, South Africa, for his BA in law degree, and later Exeter University London School for a diploma course in social anthropology between 1947 and 1950.

He thereafter enrolled for a law degree at Lincoln‘s Inn and graduated in 1954. He worked at the chambers in London before returning to Kenya in 1955.

Charles Njonjo Career

Charles Njonjo was a Crown Counsel handling cases under Companies and Bankruptcy Ordinance in the Supreme Court as well as serving as the assistant registrar general up to 1960.

He served as Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions before he was appointed Kenya’s Attorney General, succeeding A.M.F. Webb, QC, in 1963.

Njonjo resigned as Kenya’s attorney General in 1983 and rejoined Parliament as the new Kikuyu MP after incumbent Amos Ng’ang’a stepped down for the Attorney General who became a disciplinarian renowned for bureaucratic efficiency and supporter of state control.

Charles Njonjo played a pivotal role in the life of a young nation by ensuring that the colonial and conservative Constitution remained.

But he made several changes, including repealing in 1963 colonial laws that had turned the country into the Kenya colony. He ended capital punishment for rape of a white woman by a black man.

That whites were to be judged by White judges (who had jurors and not assessors as was the case of Africans) was restructured and racially separated courts abolished in 1967. Colonial passbooks were also replaced by identity cards.

Charles Njonjo made his office powerful by not only being at the centre of political power and decision making, but also by straddling the police force, legal fraternity and the Civil Service. He incorporated the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) and made it part of his chamber’s criminal prosecution.

He moved the Criminal Law (amendment) Bill 1971 that introduced the death penalty for those found guilty of robbery with violence. He helped avert a Constitutional crisis when the ended the Change the Constitution lobby group that wanted the law amended to bar a sitting Vice President from automatically succeeding the President upon death or incapacitation.

He tabled amendments to the Marriage and Divorce Law that intended to reduce the number of unmarried women in Kenya by, among others, upholding the equality of women in marriage.

Charles Njonjo was feared and loathed as his office gave him powers to initiate and end cases without being subject to higher authority.

Njonjo did not repeal oppressive laws, such as the Public Order act  that restricted Kenyans from assemblies, while the Societies Act led to the enforcement of the sedition laws on flimsy grounds. Media freedom was restricted further weakening the Constitution as a guarantor of individual freedom.

There were no mechanisms of challenging the constitutionality of any legislation enacted under his watch

Many political dissenters were detained without trial on minor offences as Njonjo retained detention laws and ensured tough prison conditions for inmates. Kenya became a single-party dictatorship after Njonjo lobbied parliament to amend the Constitution.

Through amendments to the Marriage and Divorce Law 1972, he refused to make adultery a criminal offence.

He opposed use of Kiswahili in Parliament, a move that was defeated in the house in 1975 when both Kiswahili and English were declared official languages.

Charles Njonjo Age

Charles Njonjo was born in Kabete in 1920.

Charles Njonjo Suits

Charles Njonjo owns about 20 suits, all tailored in Britain.

Charles Njonjo Wealth

Charles Njonjo wealth include: CFC bank, CMC, Car & General, shares in BA, Barclays Bank & Standard Bank, Brooke Bond, Alico Insurance and Ibonia farms

Charles Njonjo Family

Charles Njonjo Wife

Charles Njonjo is married to Margaret Bryson

Charles Njonjo Children

Charles Njonjo is married to Margaret Bryson and have two children a son and daughter; Nimu Njonjo and Wairimu Njonjo.

Charles Njonjo Daughter

She honed her professional skills as a criminal lawyer, representing some of Britain’s hardcore lawbreakers. But she has since shed the barrister’s gown and now dons the bodysuit of a sea diver as she represents the survival rights of one of the most endangered fish species. It might have seemed natural for Nimu Njonjo, first-born child of former Attorney General Charles Njonjo, to take up a law career like her father. But, as it turned out just five years after graduating with a Masters in Law, she was not a chip off the old block. Hands that flipped law journals now hold the controls of speed boats off the shores of Diani, south coast, where she pursues the passion of her life. And the entry into the wide open seas and giant waves where she works was in dramatic impact as can never be found in the suave corridors of a law firm. Nimu returned to Kenya from UK in 2004 after practicing for five years and then, through a near-fatal boat accident in July of the same year, met the man who would introduce her to the activities of the deep blue sea and become her husband. She met and fell in love with German marine conservationist, Volker Bassen, who saved her life when she got involved in the boat accident while on a diving expedition. “A freak wave hit our boat hard, overturning it during a diving excursion in the south coast. I lay trapped under the boat with a fractured eye socket after a metal frame hit my sun glasses,” Nimu says. She says had it not been for Bassen, the story might have been different. “I was in a lot of pain, a big piece of glass stuck out of my eye. Volker managed to retrieve me from under the boat and swam with me to the shore,” she says. Bassen assisted Nimu to safety after taking her out of water and managed to get her to the Diani Beach hospital where she got medical attention. She says Bassen saved her life and she has not left his side since. The couple wed last year in a colourful private ceremony in Nairobi where Prime Minister Raila Odinga was one of few invited guests. Back to south coast, they had founded the East African Whale Shark Trust (EAWST) to help conserve the endangered whale shark, known in Kiswahili as papa shilingi due shilling-sized patterns that cover its body. The couple’s daily lives revolve between the air, water and dry land as they engage in the adventurous conservation work. Frequent flights On frequent excursions, they take off from Ukunda airstrip in a micro-light aircraft, Bassen on the controls, that flies just above the water and spend several hours scouring the sea surface along the south and north coasts for whale sharks. The couple look like they are riding a flying motorbike as they soar on the small drone with a high pitched sound and wings spreading out like a parachute. Their work involves tagging the large, spotted fish with satellite tags for future monitoring of their movement and safety.
When they spot any whale shark, they use satellite monitoring to verify if it is tagged. If it is not, the co-pilot, Nimu, communicates with the skipper of a back-up boat transports divers and videographers to the fish’s location. “The divers plunge into the water when they spot the fish, a docile species despite its size, and using a sling-type spear gun, attach the satellite tags onto the shark’s skin. The tags come with chips that are programmed to transmit data via satellite and in future the location of the fish can be located. The couple have helped tag almost 40 of the rare species. They have helped raise local people’s awareness on the need to papa shilingi, hunted for its meat and treasured fins that are sold as decorations. Nimu attended the prestigious Bristol University in UK then the Kings College for her masters. “I was a crime lawyer, most of my clients were hardcore criminals but after a five year stint I wanted to come home,” she said. For Bassen, a former commercial fisherman, the sea has always been his field. “The sea is my passion . It has always provided for me all the delights and satisfaction that I want in life, right now I am putting everything into marine life conservation,” Bassen, 41, told The Standard. Bassen who was Born in Germany grew up in Sweden and came to Kenya about 20 years ago and decided to settle. “Our aim in starting this work was to pressurise the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) which has jurisdiction over marine creatures to ban hunting of whale sharks along the Kenyan coastline,” he says. Nimu says from their Diani beach home, “I am always busy although I operate from home most of the time. I answer emails and take bookings for all those keen on whale shark expeditions as well as carry out administrative work for EAWST.” Professional diver Bassen, a professional diver, has lived up to his calling, and is recognised nationally for his ability. He was called up in 2008 to assist in a salvage and rescue operation during a helicopter accident atop Mt Kenya. The chopper had crashed into a lake on top of the mountain and in freezing temperatures of minus 4 degrees, Bassen was among the team that managed to locate the body and bring it down,” he says. He says while there has been concerted efforts to conserve wildlife on dryland, very little seems to be done on water. During the couple’s honeymoon, they celebrated their achievements by flying out to Malaysia and Thailand where they made 36 dives in 10 days.

Source: Standard Digital 

11 Things You Never New About Charles Mugane Njonjo

    1. Sir Charles Mugane Njonjo, born 1920, is the son of former colonial chief Josiah Njonjo.
    2. He received a degree in law from the Fort Hare University in South Africa. After Kenyan independence in 1963, Njonjo was appointed Attorney General.
    3. Charles Njonjo, the former Attorney General never intended to marry an African girl, let alone a woman from Kabete where he was born in 1920. Njonjo, a member of the Kenya Bachelor’s Club, later married Margaret Bryson in 1972 at the age of 52.
    4. His greatest political loss was the death of President Jomo Kenyatta.
    5. He was as a Member of Parliament of Kikuyu Constituency and was subsequently appointed as the Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs.
    6. He has little faith in the current Kenyan constitution.
    7. He married late because he couldn’t find a girl he could live with.
    8. He is one of the wealthiest men in Kenya.
    9. At 95, he swims daily.
    10. He owns about 20 suits, all tailored in Britain.
    11. He stopped reading, doesn’t watch TV, and is not interested in Facebook.


Charles Njonjo
Charles Njonjo

Charles Njonjo Video

Interview Charles Njonjo – I miss the power to do good

To describe ‘Sir’ Charles Njonjo as immaculate would be how the sky might attempt to describe the colour blue. It seems pointless and wasteful. But he seems to wear that adjective on his cuffs, doesn’t he?

At 95, he still remains regal and enigmatic — not to mention a celebrity; Kenya’s first Attorney-General for over 15 years, Member of Parliament for Kikuyu Constituency, minister for Constitutional Affairs in Daniel arap Moi’s government and, more recently, chairman of the East African Wildlife Society. Not to mention the prominent businessman tag.

Njonjo, who featured prominently (and powerfully) in the post-independence politics of Kenya, was known for his “hawkish” brand of politics and is often touted as one of the wealthiest men in Kenya.

In person, despite being five years shy of the centenarian tag, he refuses to be bowed by age (or man, for that matter). He remains resolute in his signature pinstripe suits and a blue checked shirt that he had on when I met him in his Westlands office.
On his wrist gleamed an understated Patek Philippe timepiece. He was amusing, unapologetic, a straight-shooter, deliberate and astute. Shrewdness radiated through his very being, and when you held his unwavering gaze and looked deep into his rheumy eyes, you couldn’t help feeling like a ball of wool in the paws of a cat.

Interviewer: What’s the story of that odd-looking bracelet on your wrist?

Charles Njonjo: Oh this? This is an elephant bracelet. It’s a celebration and support of elephants. I wear it because I believe in the conservation of elephants. I believe we all have to save these animals for future generations.

Interviewer: What kind of a person were you in your prime; standing at the elbow of the bearded Jomo Kenyatta – the first Attorney-General of an independent republic, well-scrubbed in your pinstripe suit?

Charles Njonjo: You know, I miss the discipline of that time. I miss the power I had, power that I could use for the common good. I miss the nation that we had then, a strong nation. There is nothing that went on that we didn’t know about; we had the proverbial long arm of the law.

We were always two steps ahead, we knew what conversation you had in your house the previous night. What happened in Garissa recently would never have happened because we had total control of security.

Interviewer: What has changed over time for you, socially and politically?

Charles Njonjo: What has really changed is this new Constitution that we have. It is good but at the moment, because we don’t understand it, it’s bad and it’s dangerous. It has brought a lot of misunderstanding, ambitions and greed for power.

All these governors and this paraphernalia that go with it; motorcade riders. It’s brought ugliness and pretence. The whole intention of our Constitution was for government to be closer to the people. That hasn’t been the case.

Interviewer: Are you happy with the work of the Judiciary now?

Charles Njonjo: No. (Pause) I think we have a lot of people there who are inexperienced. This is because of appointment of people who are not seasoned.

Interviewer: You were once a very powerful man. What did you learn about power and influence?

Charles Njonjo: That you can use it and misuse it. I used it for good, I could have used it to destroy.

Interviewer: Did power change who you were?

Charles Njonjo: No, it made me humble. Power can make you arrogant and ruthless.

Interviewer: How do you manage to maintain yourself like this at 95?

Charles Njonjo: I look after myself. I swim daily, I used to do 12 laps, now I do only seven. I also have a bicycle which I ride for 10 minutes daily, on top of the treadmill which I do for 10 minutes daily. I’m also careful about what I eat; I don’t eat nyama choma, I eat a lot of veggies.

Interviewer: What is your greatest struggle in life now?

Charles Njonjo: (Pause) I’m struggling about you and your Press. I get my paper at 6am and I read it until 7am and I just get depressed with what I read. Then I wonder why I bother reading this newspaper, to depress me? It’s a habit though.

Interviewer: Look, you have done well for yourself in life, but you still wear a suit every day and come here to work! When will you say this is enough, I won’t come to work any more?

Charles Njonjo: Maybe when I’m cremated. Otherwise I will wait until I cannot move a limb. As long as my feet can carry me, I will come here daily.

Interviewer: Do you think about death, do you fear dying?

Charles Njonjo: No. Death is something you can face, why fear it? I don’t engage in that kind of thought and I don’t want anyone to raise money when I die… friends meeting at the cathedral… I don’t want any collection of money.

Interviewer: Just how much are you worth? Do you know?

Charles Njonjo: I’m a poor man. I’m not worth anything.

Interviewer: Do you drink alcohol?

Charles Njonjo: I don’t drink much… if I’m to drink, it will be just a bottle of beer and maybe a cider, that’s it.

Interviewer: Ok, so you don’t drink. What’s your sin then?

Charles Njonjo: My sin? (Thinks). I don’t sleep enough. I’m unable to do eight straight hours of sleep… that I regret because I’d love to have a deep sleep.

Interviewer: And why can’t you?

Charles Njonjo: Because I’m thinking… and I’m worried… (Pause)… I’m thinking of things… you know, like what will you write about me after this? I debate with myself in bed.

Interviewer: What do you least like about Sir Charles Njonjo?

Charles Njonjo: (Pause). I like myself… no, I really do.

Interviewer: Have you been a good father?

Charles Njonjo: Yes.

Interviewer: How do you figure?

Charles Njonjo: Because I have looked after my kids well, I have seen them through their education; one is a barrister, the other is a scientist and one is a veterinary doctor. They have turned out well, I think. I have given them what my father gave me, an education.

Interviewer: What was your limitation as a father?

Charles Njonjo: (Laughs) You know, sometimes these kids argue with me, saying dad, this is not right, this isn’t supposed to be like this… my son was arguing with me last night from the UK. He doesn’t agree with what I say and I can’t force him, because that’s his position.

Interviewer: But him arguing or not agreeing with you isn’t your limitation, is it? What is yours?

Charles Njonjo: That I can’t flog him… (chuckles)… I mean I can’t beat him up.

Interviewer: You would prefer to beat him up?

Charles Njonjo: (Chuckle) No, I prefer to talk to him but he wasn’t listening, but in the end, I won the argument! (Laughs).

Interviewer: Do you have an inheritance plan in place, or will we be treated to a public circus of kids fighting for their father’s wealth when he’s long gone, like we have witnessed in the Kirima and Karume cases?

Charles Njonjo: Yes, yes… we have sat together and they know what they will get and inherit. There is a will they can’t challenge and I advise our people to write wills because what we witness with the people you have mentioned is sad. If they were to come back to life today, I don’t know what they would say!

Interviewer: Why did you marry so late?

Charles Njonjo: Because I couldn’t find a girl I could live with.

Interviewer: You? All those girls you must have met in Kenya and abroad? Not one single one you could live with?

Charles Njonjo: All those girls [and] I couldn’t find one I could live with. It took me a long time but eventually, I found one and I married her at All Saints Cathedral… she was in the choir.

Interviewer: Were you looking for a choir girl?

Charles Njonjo: No, she just happened to be in the choir. (Laughs).

Interviewer: Is Kenya better or worse now than it was in the 1960s?

Charles Njonjo: Yes, even your shilling is worse off.

Interviewer: Your suits are an urban folklore. Is it true that you once had a suit that had your initials – CN – inscribed in the stripes?

Charles Njonjo: Yes, I used to have that suit; bought it in London, tailored in London.

Interviewer: Why pinstripes?

Charles Njonjo: That’s what I like — not a plain one like yours. (Grins)

Interviewer: I don’t even wear blazers, I did all this for you. Don’t you think I have tried?

Charles Njonjo: Yes, you have tried but next time you come here without a tie, I will show you the door.

Interviewer: How many of those suits do you own?

Charles Njonjo: I don’t know, maybe 20?

Interviewer: What has been your greatest loss in life?

Charles Njonjo: My greatest loss was the death of President Jomo Kenyatta. There was a man I followed and trusted and that’s the man who used to lead the country with a rungu (club) but at least we were united. I could go to North Eastern and come back. You try and do that today, you’ll be back a corpse.

Interviewer: Who is your closest and most trusted friend?

Charles Njonjo: Today? (Pause) I trust myself. It’s difficult to say, apart from my own family, the only man I trust is Richard Leakey. I hope he saves our wildlife with his new appointment (as chairman of the Kenya Wildlife Services). (Pause) Who is the editor of your paper?

Interviewer: Rhoda Orengo, why?

Charles Njonjo: That’s a lady…no, this is not the man who I’m thinking of who writes for you people, a nasty fellow who wrote an untrue story about my involvement in the CMC scandal.

Interviewer: You see, CMC Motors was a company started by Europeans to sell vehicles and the way they were doing it in those early years was that European employees used to get paid part of their salaries here and part in England to supplement their salaries and to maintain their way of life, but also to keep them interested in working here.

Some directors were being paid from overseas but your people picked that and said that was wrong. But it wasn’t only CMC that was doing it during that time. Many companies in East Africa were also doing it to maintain their European staff.

Interviewer: You must be referring to the audit report by Webber-Wentzel. I’m not acquainted with the facts of this report but I’m informed that it basically said that you were involved in a scheme with some directors at CMC Motors to over-invoice imported vehicles and funnel the funds in offshore accounts…

Charles Njonjo: The audit by the South African company? (Dismissive wave). No, nothing to do with that. That money was kept in England and was done by the book. I didn’t take trouble replying to that news report, I treated it with contempt.

Interviewer: What is the most common question people ask you when they meet you?

Charles Njonjo: They don’t ask me anything, they are usually intimidated. But you are a brave young man, asking me all these questions, I commend you for that. Thanks.

Interviewer: Are you a romantic?

Charles Njonjo: I’m not, I’m a factual man. I don’t imagine romance. I’m not going to engage in fantasies and things like that, nothing.

Interviewer: When you once went to Ronalo Foods in town for lunch with Raila, a cross-section of your tribesmen felt, at that time, that you were jumping in bed with the enemy, they felt betrayed….

Charles Njonjo: (Long stare) Don’t Kikuyus eat ugali?… (Pause) Don’t they? Why can’t I eat ugali with Raila without it being turned into a cinema?

Interviewer: What are you reading now?

Charles Njonjo: I stopped reading books.

Interviewer: How do you fill your time?

Charles Njonjo: I visit my coffee farm in Kiambu every evening. I also have a goat farm for milk. That occupies my time.

Interviewer: Do you watch TV?

Charles Njonjo: No.

Interviewer: Are you on Facebook?

Charles Njonjo: What is Facebook?

Interviewer: Where the devil lives, you don’t want to be on Facebook.

Charles Njonjo: No, what is it though?

Interviewer: It’s a social media platform where people connect with friends and share things.

Charles Njonjo: Is it a gathering of people at night? I don’t know these modern things. I don’t even know how to use a phone like this one you are using to record me… my phone only keeps numbers.

Interviewer: How much do you have on you right now?

Charles Njonjo: What do you mean? As we speak?

Interviewer: Yes, in your wallet. I want to know how much a man like you walks around with in cash.

Charles Njonjo: Let me check….[fishes out a wad of cash — guesstimate Sh10,000 — held together with a silver money clip].

Interviewer: Money clip! Sexy!

Charles Njonjo: (Laughs) Okay, this interview is over. You have enough.

Adopted from Business Daily