Nairobi News


Multiparty fighter Rubia dies a dejected man

Former political detainee Charles Rubia died on Monday a dejected man, spending his last days in the corridors of justice seeking compensation for his illegal detention and torture by the Moi government.

“He left us on Monday in the morning from what we suspect were age-related issues, but we shall wait for the doctor’s report to authenticate our suspicions,” his son Maurice Rubia told the Nation.


Mr Rubia, who died at the age of 96, was the first African Mayor of Nairobi and a long-serving minister. After he joined the calls for a return to multiparty democracy in the early 1990s, he was arrested and detained, becoming one of the few Kenyans to be detained twice during the Moi era.

“He paid a great price for his stand and was detained at the height of the struggle but he never wavered. I am proud to have known and worked with him,” ODM leader Raila Odinga eulogised him.

State House also announced that President Uhuru Kenyatta had sent a message of condolences to his family, friends and relatives, describing the veteran politician as “an icon of Kenya’s vibrant multiparty democracy.”

Senator Irungu Kang’ata, who was Mr Rubia’s lawyer, said the people of Murang’a had lost a great leader.

“When he was the mayor of Nairobi, he mobilised the people of Murang’a to come and invest in Nairobi, until some sections of the city became synonymous with investors from Murang’a,” Mr Kang’ata said.

Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria said Mr Rubia’s agitation for multiparty democracy led to devolution since he initiated efforts to ensure that Kenyans had a say in governance.

“To me he is not only the father of democracy, but also the father of devolution. Due to his efforts, Kenyans were able to vote a new Constitution which ushered in devolution,” the governor said.

Despite his role in the fight for a return to multiparty politics, Mr Rubia spent his last days fighting for justice as a case he filed in court in 2012 seeking compensation dragged on.


Despite his advanced age and poor health, he was forced to appear in court last month to testify.

“Our plea to both the Judiciary and the Attorney-General to have the case hastened did not bear fruit. This is despite the fact that he filed his case earlier than most of those who have since received compensation, including Kenneth Matiba,” Kang’ata complained.

In July, Mr Rubia made a claim for Sh40 billion compensation for illegal detention and torture, the largest in the country’s history.

The submissions for compensation were made seven years after Mr Rubia went to court in a case that has dragged on for years.

In the submissions, he gave a harrowing account of his torture, reactions of resentment, anger, and bitterness, loss of political and business opportunities and his search for some way to maintain moral character and be “human” again after detention.

He said the detention, broke down his wife, who never got to recover and eventually died.

He added that his well-educated children were denied jobs while he was removed from the directorship of various parastatals, and companies warned not to do business with him.

Mr Rubia was much richer than most, if not all, of the Moi era political detainees, having run a multi-billion shilling business empire that crumbled like a pack of cards after his detention.


Mr Rubia’s woes began in February 1987, when he was arrested and accused of financing the Mwakenya Movement and working in cahoots with church leaders to import guns for overthrowing the government.

He was detained at Nyayo House in Nairobi for about five days and released without any charges being preferred against him.

In the 1988 elections, the State machinery worked hard to ensure that he did not win, with the returning officer announcing two different sets of results.

On March 3, 1990, Mr Rubia and former Cabinet Minister Kenneth Matiba called a press conference at Chester House Nairobi and urged the government to embrace multiparty politics and consequently called for a peaceful rally in Kamukunji on July 7.

But they were arrested on July 4 and detained for nine months.

Mr Rubia was released from detention two weeks after doctors from the Nairobi Hospital informed the prison authorities that he required urgent medical attention.

“Thereafter, he underwent vigorous and prolonged treatment in London and further treatment in Kenya and London. Despite this, the petitioner was left with severe disabilities in his speech, among others … To date, the petitioner continues to receive treatment and will continue to do so for the rest of his life,” court documents state.

Mr Rubia was Starehe MP from 1969 to 1988, and served as an assistant minister from 1969 to 1978, and as a Cabinet minister from 1979 to 1988.