Jeremiah Gitau Kiereini: A Daunting Journey, tells the story of a young man born in Kibicho, Central Kenya in 1929, the year of the Great Depression.
The young man shares a birthday with prominent names such as American civil rights leader Martin Luther King and former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
Jeremiah would later become Kenya’s third and arguably most powerful Head of Civil under President Daniel Moi regime.
The first chapter briefly takes the reader into the Jeremiah’s lineage — and to a larger extent, traditional practices of the Kikuyu community.
Jeremiah narrates of being raised by a hardliner father called Kiereini, who had two wives – Njanja and Njuhi. Kiereini is the leader of his sub-clan and isn’t the most loved in the community. With the first wife, he sired Mai, Kirika, Jeremiah and Wambui while with Njuhi, he had Zakayo Njoroge, Elizabeth (Beth) Njeri and Jeremiah Gitau, the biographer.
The young Jeremiah, who would later divorce his first wife and years later re-marry, leaves home for Kagumo Primary School “with nothing but his life”.
He makes it to Alliance and finally Makerere University in Uganda and gets a job as an administrator at the Indian High Commission — where mistreatment of fellow Kenyans while fighting for independence in the 1950s infuriates him. The gods guide him into a rehabilitator in the colonial service’s concentration camps.
He later becomes Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Defence, before assuming the highest job in his career as the Head of Civil Service.
Jeremiah thrusts to the reader a version of himself many would contest, a version that actually fights for the people.
For example, during the Moi era, Jeremiah blocks illegal apportionment of land – even disobeying orders from the president himself.
The biography works hard to paint Jeremiah as one of those perfect people with zero sins, which is unrealistic.
However, the photos used are beautiful, even though the captioning leaves a lot of gaps, especially on the dates.
Given that this book is a memoir, most of the dates and events don’t seem to reflect the timelines. Jeremiah died on Monday evening at the ripe age of 90.