Celebrating a Shujaa: Germany’s First Kenyan Surgeon Passes On

Dr. Peter John Ngari
File photo of Dr. Peter John Ngari.  Photo Credits

If you came to Germany way back when being a Kenyan professional was like being a white rhino in Kenya today, then you had to find people who had made it to motivate you. Role models that you kept in mind as proof that you could actually “Make it in Germany”. Dr. Peter John Ngari, was such an individual.

Having come to Germany in the late 60s, Dr. Ngari is well remembered not only as the first Kenyan surgeon and subsequently, the first Kenyan to own and run a surgery clinic in Germany, but also as a philanthropist and a key member in the Kenyan community in Germany. Dr. Ngari was a man of many firsts in Germany. The first Kenyan surgeon, the first Kenyan to own a clinic, the first to register a Kenyan organisation and many other firsts.

Dr. Ngari’s life starts along the slopes of Mt. Kenya in Kimwea in Kirinyaga County, with an iron lady for a mother, Josephine Wambui. Determined to have her sons succeed, Dr. Ngari and his brother, Josephine she brought them up with an iron fist.

Luckily, this bore fruits with young Dr. Ngari getting a scholarship to come to Germany to study medicine. He first landed in Cologne, the Kenyan hot spot in Germany and enrolled at the Cologne University. In 1972, he graduated and soon after got a job at the St. Marien Krankenhaus in Cologne, before moving to Wipperfürth.

Like many diasporans then, Dr. Ngari decided to return home and help build his young home country. He packed his bags and returned to Kenya. He landed back at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in 1974 to an independent Kenya where jobs were plenty. With his qualifications, there was only one place he could work, at the Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi as the Senior Surgical Registrar but that didn’t suit him well enough and he soon moved to Thika where he took over the management of the Thika Level 5 Hospital.

Deciding, he could help more people as a surgeon than as a general practitioner, Dr. Ngari returned once again to Germany in 1977. He signed up for his training and three years later, he was issued with the Fachärztliche Anerkennung from the  Medical Association of North Rhine-Westphalia. Here began the second half of his life this time as a surgeon in Germany.

He moved to Birkenfeld where he worked as the Head Surgeon at the St. Elisabeth-Stiftung, before moving and opening his own surgery clinic still in Birkenfeld.

In the 90s, the number of Kenyans had increased and he noted the need to have an association that would bring Kenyans in Germany together and represent them before the government. Together with his wife, Mabel, he joined hands together with several other Kenyans including the Tsuwis, Dr. Karanja, Wangari Greiner to form the first Kenyan organisation in Germany, Kenya Community Abroad e.V. An organisation that was quite vocal during the drafting of the current Kenyan constitution. Through them, issues like women being allowed to pass their nationality to their children and dual citizenship, were considered and eventually included in the new constitution. Until then, Kenyan women in Germany especially, needed the father to accept the child and if this didn’t happen, then the child either got German citizenship or remained stateless until they were old enough to meet the requirements to apply for Kenyan or German citizenship.

In 2005, his mother passed on, but not before living behind a wish. Josephine had been taking care of children in her village, who had either been orphaned or simply abandoned. Her one wish was to have them taken care of even after her passing. Taking on the challenge, Dr. Ngari and his wife, decided to take on the baton. They started the Orphan’s Hope & Life (Kenya) e.V., renovated Josephine’s house into a children’s home and took in several kids.

After his retirement, he continued to work for the NGO they had started, collecting donations and organising for volunteers to help out at the home. Together with his family, they went home often to spend time with the kids and share with them.

Until his passing, Dr. Ngari remained a friendly companion and a great elder you could always go to for support and advice. He will be dearly missed and I hope we get to learn from him and take on the baton.

Celebrating a true Shujaa!

Koma thayu Awa, Koma thayu.


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