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Why August Is Considered As Kenya's Dark Month

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Kenya's flag at half mast.

Kenya's flag at half mast.

Kenya And The August Fear

August is normally a high season in Kenya when the weather is warm and dry. The lack of rain, combined with an ideal air temperature, makes it an excellent month to watch the Great Wildebeest Migration in Maasai Mara, or even treat yourself to the spectacular views of Mount Kilimanjaro. Just keep in mind that the nice weather brings crowds and it will be busier this time of year, which loosely translates to improved living standards and a boom in our economy.

There are no rains anywhere in the country during this travelling period, except for mountains areas. In places like Mount Kenya and Hell's Gate National Park, you'll find rain about half of the time.

However, it is this august that Kenyans fear the most. For Kenya, August come with a catalogue of tragedies. But why should a mere month of the year make a country of 580,367 km² have so much fear? Let's take a look at some dark moments that have occurred in Kenya in August.

August come with a catalogue of tragedies in Kenya.

— Albert Mungai

August 22, 1978: Kenya’s first President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta passes away

On 22 August 1978, Kenyans were awakened with tragic news, Kenya's founding father, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta had died of a heart attack in the State House, Mombasa. The flamboyant leader is said to have died aged 80-81 years. He was mourned as a great leader who fearlessly fought for Kenya's independence.

Kenya's biographer Jeremy Murray-Brown described him as a unique leader who liked to dress elaborately. "Ever a showman, [Kenyatta] could appear one moment in gaily coloured shirts, decorated with the cock of KANU, and the next in elegant suits from Savile Row, seldom without a rose in his buttonhole; he could be photographed in leopard-skin hat and cloak waving a silver fly-whisk or in old slacks on his farm tending his shrubs; he was equally at home in academic robes at a university function and in sandals and shorts on the beach at Mombasa. African exuberance and love of display found perfect expression in Kenyatta's flair alongside the dignity and respect due to 'His Excellency, the President, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta'."


The Right Honourable Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.

The Right Honourable Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.

August 1, 1982: The attempted coup

In what remains as one of the most trying times for any Kenyan government, Kenya was scheduled to be a military state. At 3 A.M. On Sunday, 1 August 1982, a group of soldiers led by one Hezekiel Ochuka from the Kenya Air Force attempt to overthrow a sympathetic Moi government.

Hezekiah Ochuka, whose rank of Senior Private Grade-I was the second-lowest rank in the Kenyan military, claimed to rule Kenya for about six hours before a group of loyal Kenya Army saved the Moi's regime. Ochuka was tried and found guilty of leading the coup attempt and was hanged in 1987. Marking the end of what remains to be the most trying times of any government.

The aftermath of the 1982 attempted coup.

The aftermath of the 1982 attempted coup.

August 14, 1992: Masinde Muliro's death

One of the key figures in the shaping of Kenya's political landscape is Masinde Muliro. The Cape Town University graduate was among the leaders who championed for a multiparty country in 1992.

The Kitale East constituents legislator collapsed before passing away on August 14th 1992. He will be remembered for chairing a committee that led to the birth of Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology that continues to provide approximately 17000 students education.

The late Masinde Muliro.

The late Masinde Muliro.

August 7, 1998 US Embassy in Nairobi bombing

This remains one of the worst tragedies of the " August" era. During the deadly attacks, 212 people died while 5,000 people were injured. The attack has to date been is linked to the Al Qaeda terror network. It remains imprinted in most Kenyans as it put Kenya in the international spotlight. Hundreds of people were maimed in the horrible terror attack.

The aftermath of the 1998 US Embassy bomb in Nirobi, Kenya

The aftermath of the 1998 US Embassy bomb in Nirobi, Kenya

August 23, 2003: The death of Kenya's 8th vice president.

Michael Kijana Wamalwa remains one of the few gifted orators Kenya has ever had. The Saboti constituency legislator's death which also occurred in August has sparked a heated debate over the years, with the Kenyan government in the spotlight for not specifying the real cause of the death. Some trusted sources claim that he died of HIV/AIDS while various Kenyan newspapers cite, a chest infection, or pancreatitis as the reasons for his illness. British magazine The Economist however reported his death had been caused by complications relating to AIDS.

Wamalwa with Yvonne Nambia at their wedding.

Wamalwa with Yvonne Nambia at their wedding.

Other notable August misfortunes.

August 22, 2012: Martin Shikuku, the former MP for Butere popularly known as the “the people’s watchman” passed on after a battle with cancer. Marking an end of a people's servant in the political arena.

August 22, 2012:The inter-ethnic fighting between the Orma and Pokomo tribes who reside in Tana River District results in the deaths of at least 52 people.


The Late Martin Shikuku.

The Late Martin Shikuku.

Why the 'August ghost' is still hooving around

While you may have noted that since 2012 we have had a peaceful August, on 8 August 2018 Kenya suffered another major blow. Nicholas Bett a Kenyan track and field athlete who competed in the 400 metres hurdles died in a grisly road accident. He was a world champion in the event, having won in 2015. At a prime age of 28 the world mourned Bett, a young athlete with a visibly bright future.

Dear Kenyans August is the not the month to be in smiles, be careful. Have a happy August and enjoy with a lot of precaution.

Nicholas Bett in a past race.

Nicholas Bett in a past race.

© 2021 Albert Mungai

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