How Nyachae saved KSGKSG-admin
By Samwel Kumba and Ephline Okoth
On Monday, as the nation celebrates the life of a seasoned public administration officer and a former Cabinet Minister, Simeon Nyachae, the Kenya School of Government (KSG) reckons the role he played in safeguarding continuity of civil service training.
The family of the late Nyachae earlier confirmed that the burial will take place on Monday, February 15 in a private ceremony at his home in Nyosia Village, Kisii County. A funeral service will be held on the same day from 9.00 am at Gusii Stadium. Nyachae served in three governments; that of the late Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, the late Daniel Arap Moi and former President Mwai Kibaki. He died aged 88.
Variedly described as a businessman, politician, former chief secretary, and ex-head of civil service, Nyachae had considerable contribution to the nation. He died at the Nairobi Hospital on Monday, February 1 where he had been undergoing treatment, according to family sources.
In his condolence message, President Uhuru Kenyatta termed Nyachae’s successful transition from public service to the world of business and politics as a demonstration that focus and hard work pays.
“Throughout his many years of service to the nation, right from his time in the provincial administration through to his transition into business and politics, Mzee Nyachae exhibited exemplary zeal to succeed and as he exits from this world, he leaves behind a rich legacy of success,” President Kenyatta eulogised.
Training at KSG
Nyachae’s interaction with the School dates back to his early years in the service. In 1954 Nyachae began work as a District Clerk, stationed in Nyaribari Location where his father was a chief. In effect he was being apprenticed. As he worked there, Nyachae attended some basic administrative courses at the School (then Maseno Government Training Institute, which was to later be transferred to become Embu Government Training Institute), the current Embu Campus.
Fast forward to November 1961, Nyachae was posted to Kangundo Division in Machakos District, where he served first as a District Assistant and then later as the District Officer for the Division. This was one of the more difficult Provincial Administration postings in Kenya at the time because it was a centre of agitation against the British rule.
He remained in Kangundo Division for only six months, too short a period to have real impact, but he considered the experience to be a seminal one in his career. From it, he understood what field administration really meant and that independence would bring problems as well as prospects.
Nyachae’s next assignment was, again, to the School (then Kenya Institute of Administration) in Lower Kabete, where he took the District Officer’s course. There he took the law examination and qualified as a first-class magistrate, a role which at the time was combined with that of a District Commissioner. That course and the one on Colonial Administration which he undertook in 1963 at Cambridge University, were also designed to socialize the new recruits into their roles as their colonial predecessors had understood them.
In addition to the training in the law and administrative practice, there was instruction in small arms, horseback riding, and table manners. These symbolized the kind of administrative and social role they were expected to play in Kenyan society.
The socialization process was clearly rushed, and one would have expected its impact to be diminished as a result. For example, Nyachae was able to stay for only six of the nine required months at Cambridge because the Kenyan government needed him. But the instruction had its effect nonetheless.
The law-and-order component of the role remained the primary concern of the Africans inducted into the provincial administration in this period, and they resisted attempts by a later generation of expatriate administrative trainers to shift the courses decisively toward the primacy of a developmental role by stressing economics, sociology, and planning.
Although many of them were strong supporters of economic and social development, they firmly believed that it could be achieved only if law and order were maintained, and they considered the latter their first priority.
After his training at the School (then Kenya Institute of Administration) and the Cambridge courses, Nyachae also served briefly in Makweni Division of Machakos District. During this period Nyachae had a serious accident which left him with recurrent back troubles. When he returned to provincial administration from Cambridge, England, in March 1964, he was to face the challenge of governing an independent, not a colonial, Kenya.
Nyachae’s entire upbringing aimed him toward the Provincial Administration and its law-and-order orientation. His father’s example and wishes so inclined him, and his early withdrawal from secondary school precluded more professional options.
Defended KSG existence
Standing by his belief in enhancing the capacity of public servants to effectively contribute to governance of the country, Nyachae defended the existence of the School (then Kenya Institute of Administration), which was then faced with eminent conversion into a university.
The late Nyachae, at a conference on ‘The Kenya we want’ in 1985, differed with the then Head of State, the late President Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi publicly on the decision to convert the School to a university. As one of the major beneficiaries of the trainings the School offered, Nyachae saw this closure and conversion to a university as a detriment to empowerment of the civil servants. Given his background, Nyachae took capacity building of civil servants seriously.
The School became a target due to pre-occupation with university education where the country faced high numbers of students seeking education and qualifying for university education. Yet, the existing universities were already too bloated with increasing numbers and few lecturers owing to the then double intakes among other factors.
Even though the takeover of the School was a done deal, after Nyachae’s position, the decision was rescinded owing to a number of factors including his insistence that ‘civil servants had to be inducted on government policy issues by bonafide senior civil or public servants and not by university lecturers’. The earlier decision, however, saw the School lose part of its land, facilities, and staff.
The Kenya School of Government then survived courtesy of Nyachae. That is the man Kenya is mourning and laying to rest this Monday. The man who believed in realizing good governance and transformation of service delivery through training and empowerment of the public servants.
The man who, when no one easily differed publicly with the ‘no nonsense’ President Moi, did risk to do so in support of the existence of the Kenya School of Government.
As a School, we pay tribute to Nyachae, because if it were not for him, and many other Kenyans who believed in the investment on public servants, the School could not be in existence.
Nyachae, and many others, understood the necessity of the School. Having been an alumnus and gone through the District Officers Course and Basic Administrative Courses, Nyachae appreciated the vigour with which civil servants received empowerment to support the development of the nation.
And up to his death, Nyachae demonstrated the will to see a transformed public service in the various positions he held while in the service.
Born on February 6, 1932 in Nyosia village, Nyaribari in Kisii to colonial-era chief Musa Nyandusi, Nyachae was trained at the Kenya School of Government and in the UK as a public administrator.
The late Nyachae rose through the ranks including from a District Officer in Kangundo to be appointed District Commissioner at the time of Kenya’s independence in 1963 before serving as a Provincial Commissioner between 1965 and 1979.
He later served as Chief Secretary and Head of Civil Service under late President Daniel Arap Moi. The former minister leaves behind a vast business empire with interests in manufacturing, transport, real estate, banking and large-scale farming.
President Uhuru Kenyatta said the former Nyaribari Chache MP was jolly, accessible and dependable.
“I recall with nostalgia my many interactions with Mzee Nyachae over the years. As an elder and friend, Mzee Nyachae always had a word of wisdom and encouragement for me. Many will remember and miss Mzee Nyachae’s warm personality and especially his hearty and infectious laughter,” he said.
In 1992, Nyachae left the civil service to join politics and was elected as the Nyaribari Chache Member of Parliament, a seat he retained in successive elections until his defeat in 2007. During his tenure as an MP, President Moi appointed Nyachae a Minister of Agriculture and later Finance.
Nyachae was moved to the less powerful ministry of Trade. He soon quit the ruling party Kanu and resigned from government after viewing his removal from the Finance ministry as a demotion.
He would join the opposition party, Ford Kenya, through which he unsuccessfully contested for the Presidency in 2002 against opposition backed Mwai Kibaki. In 2004, President Kibaki appointed him as a Minister for Energy and later Roads.
Nyachae retired from active politics in 2007. He had five wives and 20 children. His son, Charles, who is the former chairman of the Committee of Implementation of the Constitution, and currently a judge at the East African Court of Justice, is touted to emulate the father’s political track record.
His body is currently at the Lee Funeral Home in Nairobi.