The Rev John Gatu, the ex-moderator of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa who spilled the beans on Mau Mau oaths during the Jomo Kenyatta era, is dead aged 92.
Close family and church sources on Friday confirmed to the Nation that the veteran cleric passed on at The Karen Hospital on Thursday.
He was admitted to the Nairobi hospital after suffering a heart attack on May 2 at his home.
Dr Gatu will be remembered for his candour in speaking against the excesses of previous governments, especially that of President Daniel Moi.
In late last year, he revealed Mau Mau oath ceremonies in the Mount Kenya region in an explosive autobiography — Fan to Flame — implicating Kenya’s founding President Kenyatta.
His niece, Chebet Karago, eulogied him as “wonderful, kind man who put his faith into action.”
“Uncle was the loving father of many including people from other churches who called him Dad. When my cousin fled the country my aunt and uncle took care of his family and when his driver died, he fostered his children,” she said.
“He lived a simple life in his two bedroom house in Karen. A person who knew his true home was elsewhere with his God.”
Dr Gatu was born on March 3, 1925 to Muthoni and Gachango Gatu.
His wife, Rahabu Gatu, died in 2016.
He was the first African General-Secretary of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa and the past moderator of the 9th and 10th General Assembly.
A celebrated ecumenist, he was the founder of the Jitegemee spirit in the PCEA church.
In the 1970s, he introduced the Moratorium Debate that called for a moratorium on foreign aid to African churches to promote growth and self-reliance and this led to him being called by the West a “missionary hater”.
In his autobiography, Fan into Flame, he discuses the origin of the Christian churches in Kenya, the turmoil Kenya went through during the Mau Mau uprising of the 1950s.
He is also the author of among other books, Joyfully Christian: Truly African.
He wrote many hymns including Ni kii wenakio utaheirwo? He also translated into Kikuyu language hymns such as Do Not Pass Me By.
The clergy studied in among other institutions around the world, the Princeton Theology College in New Jersey.
In all his travels he was always accompanied by his wife, according to his niece.
“He was the first student to take a wife to what is now St Pauls University,” she told Nation.
- Dr John Gatu (right) and Senior Clergy Consultative Forum founder member Bishop william Tuimising address a press conference in Nairobi on July 29, 2007. Dr Gatu is dead.