They settled on Dr Josephat Njuguna Karanja
, the then High Commissioner to London, for a variety of reasons.
Thus it was that when Koinange, Gachathi and Mungai met, the name of Dr Karanja
- a man who had taught history for just a short time at the college, emerged.
During their late December 1969 meeting, it was decided that "first thing in the new year", Koinange was to draft the letter to Kenyatta asking him to withdraw Karanja
from London to take over from Dr A Porter, whose term as principal was ending in June 1970 "when the Kenya university comes into being."
Koinange then informed Kenyatta that "interested parties" and "reliable senior officials of the ministry of education" had unanimously agreed to recommend Dr Karanja
had not been at the university for long and was thus inexperienced in running an academic institution.However, Koinange reminded Kenyatta that Dr Karanja was formerly a lecturer "but it is considered that his absence from the college for some time is offset by the position he has held in the last six years."
"It is suggested that early steps be taken to return Dr Karanja
and second him immediately to the headquarters of the Ministry of Education for special duties for a short period during which he
will familiarise himself with the functioning of central government and be involved with the mechanics of establishment of the university.Thereafter, he should be released to go to the university to work with Dr Porter for at least three months before the latter leaves," he wrote.And on the strength of that simple letter signed by Koinange, the President announced the appointment of Dr Karanja on April 13, 1970.
On April 29, 1970, Education minister Taita Toweett stood in Parliament to defend the appointment of Dr Josephat Njuguna Karanja
as the new Principal of the University College of Nairobi
From the backbench someone shouted that the appointment was "tribal".
Thirty-three years later we can reveal the contents of the secret letter and scheming that were behind the appointment - crucial information to which neither the public nor the education minister was privy.Toweett had earlier told the House that Karanja, the first Kenyan High Commissioner to UK, was "qualified" and that his appointment followed "a recommendation from the College Council, which forwarded his name to the Visitor of the College".
It is this group, and not the College Council
, as Toweett was to tell Parliament, that recommended the name of Karanja
to the "Visitor of the College", prompting Kisumu Town MP Grace Onyango to ask: "And who is this Visitor you are talking about?