A 12 ft statue of the first president of independent Kenya sits on the cobbled lawn of Kenyatta International Conference Centre.
The statue is a masterpiece that captured intricate details of Kenyatta from his sandals to his African coat and hat.
Unveiled in 1973, the statue of Mzee Jomo Kenyatta seems to watch over the city…. Or does it?
Jomo Kenyatta at Thogoto in 1912. (Photo by Africa24 Media)
There is very little and yet a lot that is said about his life, achievements, and “legacy…”
From his birth, school, religion, the meaning of Jomo Kenyatta’s original name and a series of name changes, to his role in the Mau Mau movement until he became Kenya’s first Prime Minister, his relationship with Oginga Odinga, his parents, wife and children, his death, burial, succession plan, and eventually his son Uhuru Kenyatta’s presidency.
Jomo Kenyatta’s Controversial Legacy:
Whenever the question of Jomo Kenyatta’s controversial legacy comes up, these issues almost always appear, silencing the bearers of any false alternative stories:
Jomo Kenyatta’s name and image was forcefully stamped across Kenya. From the currency (almost all coins and money notes), airport (Jomo Kenyatta International Airport), national monuments (Jomo Kenyatta Statue), major roads (Kenyatta Avenue), biggest hospitals (Kenyatta National Hospital), schools, universities (Kenyatta University, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology), buildings (Kenyatta International Conference Center), companies (Jomo Kenyatta Foundation Publishers), major beaches (Jomo Kenyatta beach)… The list goes on without even mentioning Mama Ngina.
Jomo Kenyatta was an orphan who was brought up by an uncle. As a student, he was often rock bottom broke and didn’t pay his landlady for over a year. One of his teachers later helped him pay his rent. Later on in Kenya after being jailed, he left as an even poorer man.
Mzee Jomo changed as a ruler after Kenya’s independence. He started amassing wealth through corruption. He stole so much to the extent that his wife and children are still dollar billionaires today. He acquired large masses of land which his family still owns today while we have internally displaced persons (IDP’s).
The controversy surrounding Jomo Kenyatta’s legacy is based on a false history and a culture of fear instilled through decades of oppression and assassinations that result in the blind worshiping of leaders.
A continued silence on his atrocities was based on the backward traditional scape goat that you are not allowed to speak ill of the dead. Moi, who took over presidency after him made it worse by following in his footsteps.
When news of his death reached the ground, people like Koigi Wa Wamwere openly expressed their joy. Some even said that death was not enough to punish Mzee Kenyatta’s deeds. Here is a highlight of his story:
Who was Jomo Kenyatta and what is his significance to Kenyan History?
On his release from Prison, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta became President of KANU and led the party to victory in the 1963 general election. Jomo Kenyatta became the first Prime Minister on Kenya in 1963. As Prime Minister, he oversaw the transition of the Kenya Colony into an independent republic. In 1964, Kenya became a Republic; the post of Prime Minister was abolished and Jomo Kenyatta assumed the position of President.
A Timeline of Mzee Jomo Kenyatta’s Biography:
Jomo Kenyatta, originally called Kamau Wa Muigai, was born on 20th October 1891. His parents were Muigai wa Kung’u, his father (a chief in a village in Gatundu and Wambui in the early 1890’s) and Wambui wa Kung’u, his mother. His birth happened in Ng’enda village, Gatundu Division, Kiambu, in British East Africa (now Kenya).
His date of birth, sometime in the early to mid 1890s, is unclear as his parents were almost certainly illiterate, and no formal birth records of native Africans were kept in Kenya at that time. His mother died in childbirth and his father died when Jomo was very young.
When was Jomo Kenyatta born? (Related to the controversial Kenyatta Day)
Jomo Kenyatta’s birth date is also the reason behind Kenyatta Day, a controversial holiday in Kenya that was scrapped out and replaced with Mashujaa Day. Mashujaa Day is now celebrated on October 20th. If October 20th falls on a Sunday, the following Monday will be a holiday. The reason Kenya celebrates Mashujaa Day is to recognise unsung heroes as well as present ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Mashujaa is Swahili for ‘Heroes’ and as such Mashujaa Day is also known as Heroes’ Day. It is a public holiday to honour all Kenyans who have contributed towards the struggle for Kenya’s independence.
The holiday was first observed in 1958 mainly by activists, but quickly grew and was seen as a success by 1959. After Kenya gained independence in 1963, the date was embedded in the law as Kenyatta Day. When Kenya adopted a new constitution in August 2010, several changes were made to the public holidays observed in Kenya and Kenyatta Day was renamed to Mashujaa Day and the focus of the day was widened to include all those who contributed to the independence of Kenya. Find out here Why was Kenyatta Day changed to Mashujaa day.
Why did Jomo Kenyatta change names and what was his original name?
Kamau Wa Muigai (original name)
Kamau Wa Ngengi (after adopting his uncles name)
John Peter Kamau (after baptism)
Johnstone Kamau (it rolls better off the tongue)
Johnstone Kenyatta (after his love for maasai beads)
Jomo Kenyatta (after suggestions to africanise his name)
As seen in the below quote shared by Former IEBC-Kenya Commissioner, Dr. Roselyn Akombe, people have different thoughts:
“…the same outrageous mindset which led Johnstone Kamau to appropriate a country’s name and present himself as it’s light (thus Kenyatta), … No wonder his descendants see the country as their personal property to plunder” – Miriam Abraham.
After his father’s death at a young age, he was taken in by one of his uncles, uncle Ngengi. His uncle Ngegi inherited Wambui, Kamau and the chiefdom.
According to custom, he took up his uncle’s Ngengi name. This made him adopt the name to Kamau wa Ngengi. As a young boy in 1914, Kamau Wa Ngengi was baptized a Christian and given the name John Peter Kamau Wa Ngengi. He later changed this to Johnstone Kamau Wa Ngengi.
According to some historical reports, he had some relatives in Narok. He regularly visited his Maasai relatives. In the process, he fell in love with the beaded Maasai belts, popularly known as Kinyatta. In 1928, he dropped his second and third names and became Johnstone Kenyatta.
In 1938, Kenyatta he changed his names to Jomo Kenyatta. This was after his supervisor Professor Bronislaw Malinowski from the London School of Economics (LSE) advised him to change his names. He had to Africanize his thesis he had gone to present in the UK. Kenyatta picked Jomo which he said were a good combination for Johnstone and Muigai.
He finally and officially adopted the name of Jomo Kenyatta taking his first name from the Kikuyu word for “burning spear” and his last name from the masai word for the bead belt that he often wore. His son Uhuru Kenyatta, who he fathered late in life, is the current and fourth President of Kenya.
Some people say that the name Jomo comes from a combination of the first two letters of his name: Jo from Johnstone and Mo from Muigai (pronounced with the Mo sound in Kikuyu).
It is also said that the name Jomo is a Kikuyu name meaning ‘burning spear’ and ‘Kenyatta’ was coined from a Kikuyu name for the beaded workers’ belt he wore when he was younger (mũcibi wa kinyata)
Kenyatta is an African masculine name of Maasai origin meaning “jewelry”. Kenyat, Kenyata, and Kenyatt are variants of Kenyatta.
It was first used by Jomo Kenyatta and although the name was fully adopted by Kenyatta’s children it has since been picked up across the world by people like: Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle (born 1987), American artist. Kenyatta Johnson (21st century), American politician. Kenyatta Jones (born 1979), American football offensive tackle.
Jigger Infestation starts Jomo Kenyatta School Education:
A jigger infection pushed him into school. It is said that when he went to get treated for a jigger infection at Church of Scotland mission at Thogoto, he was exposed to the missionaries and liked their way of life.
And so he ran away from home to join the mission school. At age 10, he became a resident pupil studying the Bible, English, Mathematics and Carpentry at the Church of Scotland Mission (CSM) at Thogoto, next to Kikuyu town a few miles from Nairobi.
Jomo Kenyatta at Thogoto in 1912. One of the only 16 boarders when he joined in 1909, after his primary schooling where he chose to be apprenticed as a carpenter. (Photo by Africa24 Media)
He paid the school fees by working as a houseboy and cook for a nearby white settler. Jeremy Murray-Brown in his 1973 bio of Kenyatta notes that he completed basic mission schooling from Thogoto in Kikuyu where he studied the Bible (but was later an agnostic despite his family being front-pew Catholics), mathematics and carpentry.
Masonry was reserved for brighter students, but Jomo was condemned to the less mentally-exerting woodwork that enabled him to become an apprentice carpenter in a Thika sisal farm under John Cook in 1912.
Kenyatta received no secondary education. But good old Jomo had academic forays from University College of London and the London School of Economics (LSE) after leaving Kenya in 1929.
20 years after leaving Thogoto, the future president enrolled at the Fircroft Working Men’s College for a year’s bridging course and to “improve his English.” William McGregor Ross, former Director of Publics in the Kenya Colony, later assisted his admission and fee payment at Woodbooke Quaker College in Birmingham, England in 1931.
Kenyattas support of FGM and opposition from Louis Leakey:
Kenyatta studied social anthropology, fervently arguing in favor of FGM with Louis Leakey, who rebuffed his position in flawless Kikuyu to the amusement of students, including the visiting Elspeth Huxley, author of Flame Trees of Thika: Memories of African Childhood.
University of the Toiler’s of the East came next, before studies were terminated after only a year in the Soviet Union where his mind got impervious to communist ideologies in 1933.
Bruce J Berman informs us in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography that Kenyatta returned to England and became a linguistic informant at University College in London.
Hustling in London to make ends meet: Sanders of the River
Before he dipped into the political scene, the former president dabbled with acting, playing a tribal chief leader in a 1934 movie Sanders of the River.
It’s said that the reason he acted in the movie was that he was broke and looking for work. Sanders of the River Synopsis: In N’Gombi, Nigeria, British District Commissioner R.G. Sanders (Leslie Banks) oversees various tribes.
Discovering that a Liberian native, Bosambo (Paul Robeson), has been acting as chief without approval, Sanders nevertheless is impressed by Bosambo’s skills and allows him to remain chief.
With Sanders’ aid, Bosambo holds off an attack by rebel Mofolaba, and for the next five years peace reigns at the river. However, when Sanders heads to England to marry, Mofolaba returns, vowing revenge.
Sanders of the River full Movie:
Here, he also worked on Arthur Ruffell Barlow’s, English-Kikuyu Dictionary, and Lilias Armstrong’s, The Phonetic and Tonal Structure of Kikuyu, for which the publishers wrote that Kenyatta was an “interested, patient and critical native assistant.”
In 1935, Prof Bronislaw Malinowski, the world eminent anthropologist, wrote a recommendation letter to the London School of Economics, where Kenyatta was transferred as his personal student.
University College London:
Between 1935 and 1937, Kenyatta worked as a linguistic informant for the Phonetics Department at University College London (UCL); his Kikuyu voice recordings assisted Lilias Armstrong’s production of The Phonetic and Tonal Structure of Kikuyu.
The book was published under Armstrong’s name, although Kenyatta claimed he should have been listed as co-author. He enrolled at UCL as a student, studying an English course between January and July 1935 and then a phonetics course from October 1935 to June 1936.
London School of Economics and Political Science:
Enabled by a grant from the International African Institute, he also took a social anthropology course under Bronisław Malinowski at the London School of Economics (LSE).
Kenyatta lacked the qualifications normally required to join the course, but Malinowski was keen to support the participation of indigenous peoples in anthropological research.
Facing Mount Kenya – Kenyatta’s Post-Graduate Diploma Thesis:
He published two books, Facing Mount Kenya and a memoir of reminiscences and speeches, Suffering Without Bitterness: The Founding of the Kenya Nation.
Kenyatta returned to his former dwellings at 95 Cambridge Street, but did not pay his landlady for over a year, owing over £100 in rent. This angered Ross and contributed to the breakdown of their friendship.
He then rented a Camden Town flat with his friend Dinah Snock, whom he met at an anti-imperialist rally in Trafalgar Square.
After four years at LSE, Kenyatta published Facing Mt Kenya as a revised version of his post-graduate diploma thesis in 1938.
Facing Mt Kenya, where the name Jomo Kenyatta first appeared, was edited by his roommate, Dinah Stock, the Secretary of the British Centre Against Imperialism. The future teacher in India paid rent since Kenyatta the student was often rock bottom broke!
Dinah, who sent Kenyatta books while he was cooling colonial porridge in Kapenguria, was a State guest during Uhuru celebrations in 1963.
Prof Malinowski wrote in the foreword of Kenyatta’s magnum opus: “It is one of the first really competent and instructive contributions to African ethnography by a scholar of pure African parentage.”
For Kenyatta, acquiring an advanced degree would bolster his status among Kenyans and display his intellectual equality with white Europeans.
Over the course of his studies, Kenyatta and Malinowski became close friends. Fellow course-mates included the anthropologists Audrey Richards, Lucy Mair, and Elspeth Huxley.
Another of his fellow LSE students was Prince Peter of Greece and Denmark, who invited Kenyatta to stay with him and his mother, Princess Marie Bonaparte, in Paris during the spring of 1936.
Jomo Kenyatta’s Marriage and Work:
After school, he secured a job as a carpenter in a sisal farm in Thika but soon took off to Narok when the British forcibly started recruiting Kikuyus for World War 1. In Narok, he took up his very first job as a clerk with an Asian contractor.
He married four known times. Grace Wahu m. 1919, Edna Clarke m. 1942-46, Grace Wanjiku m. 1946-50, Mama Ngina Kenyatta 1951-78. He had eight children. His children included President Uhuru Kenyatta, by his fourth and youngest wife, Mama Ngina.
Little is known about Kenyatta’s other wives and children. His eldest son Peter Muigai Kenyatta by first wife Grace Wahu was born in 1920 and died in October 1979, barely a year after his father’s demise on August 22, 1978.
Grace Wahu Kenyatta was the first wife of Jomo Kenyatta, the first president of Kenya. Records indicate that Wahu married Kenyatta, then known as Johnstone Kamau, around 1917 or 1919.
She had two children with Jomo Kenyatta: Peter Muigai Kenyatta and Margaret Wambui Kenyatta.
When Grace got pregnant, his church elders ordered him to get married before a European magistrate, and undertake the appropriate church rites.
Grace Wahu lived in the Dagoretti home until her death in April 2007 at the age of around 100.
In 1942, Kenyatta married an Englishwoman, Edna Clarke. Edna gave birth to their son, Peter Magana in 1943. In 1945, with other prominent African nationalist figures, such as Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Kenyatta helped organise the fifth Pan-African Congress held in Britain. He left Edna Clarke behind in Britain when he returned to Kenya in 1946.
Kenyatta returned to Kenya in 1946, after almost 15 years abroad. He married for the fourth time to Grace Wanjiku, Senior Chief Koinange’s daughter and sister to Mbiyu Koinange.
Jomo Kenyatta then went into teaching, becoming the principal of Kenya Teachers College Githunguri.
In 1947, he was elected president of the Kenya African Union (KAU). He began to receive death threats from white settlers after his election. This is where the Mau Mau story begins.
Kenyatta’s first wife, Wahu died in October 1979, second wife Edna, died in 1995 and third wife Grace Wanjiku, died in 1950 leaving only former First Lady Mama Ngina Kenyatta, the family matriarch.
Muhoho Kenyatta, Uhuru’s brother, was born in 1964 and operates the Kenyatta family’s vast business empire. They include the Heritage Hotels, Mediamax Group that owns K24 and the People Daily, Commercial Bank of Africa, and Brookside Dairy, of which he is the executive chairman.
In 1922 Kamau began working, as a store clerk and water-meter reader for the Nairobi Municipal Council Public Works Department, once again under John Cook who was the Water Superintendent.
Meter reading helped him meet many Kenyan-Asians at their homes who would become important allies later on in his struggle for independence.
Jomo Kenyatta’s Involvement in Politics – Kikuyu Central Association:
In 1925 the EAA disbanded under governmental pressure, but its members came together again as the Kikuyu Central Association (KCA), formed by James Beauttah and Joseph Kangethe.
Kenyatta worked as editor of the KCA’s journal between 1924 and 1929, and by 1928 he had become the KCA’s general secretary (having given up his job with the municipality to make time).
In May 1928 Kenyatta launched a monthly Kikuyu-language newspaper called Mwigwithania (Kikuyu word meaning reconciler or ‘he who brings together’) which was intended to draw all sections of the Kikuyu together.
The paper, supported by an Asian-owned printing press, had a mild and unassuming tone and was tolerated by the British authorities.
Worried about the future of its East African territories, the British government began toying with the idea of forming a union of Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika.
Whilst this was fully supported by white settlers in the Central Highlands, it would be disastrous to Kikuyu interests. It was believed that the settlers would be given self-government, and that the rights of the Kikuyu would be ignored.
Kikuyu Central Association Demand Letter:
In February 1929 Kenyatta was dispatched to London to represent the KCA (Kikuyu Central Association) in discussions with the Colonial Office.
The goal was to lobby on KCA’s behalf with regards to Kikuyu tribal land affairs. However, the Secretary of State for the Colonies refused to meet him.
Undeterred, Kenyatta wrote several letters to British papers, including The Times.
Kenyatta’s letter published in The Times in March 1930 set out five points:
The security of land tenure and the demand for land taken by European settlers to be returned
Improved educational opportunities for Black Africans
The repeal of hut and poll taxes
Representation for Black Africans in the Legislative Council
Freedom to pursue traditional customs (such as female genital mutilation)
His letter concluded by saying that a failure to satisfy these points “must inevitably result in a dangerous explosion “the one thing all sane men wish to avoid”.
He returned to Kenya on 24 September 1930, landing at Mombasa. He had failed on his quest for all except one point, the right to develop independent educational institutions for Black Africans.
In May 1931 Kenyatta once again left Kenya for London, to represent the KCA before a Parliamentary Commission on the ‘Closer Union of East Africa’, and once again he was ignored, this time despite the backing of Liberals in the House of Commons.
The British government abandoned its plan for such a union. Kenyatta headed north, to Birmingham, and enrolled at Woodbrooke Quaker College. Kenyatta would stay away from Kenya for the next 15 years.
How did Jomo Kenyatta manage to consolidate and maintain his power?
He joined KCA in 1924 and rose up the ranks of the association. Eventually he began to edit the movement’s Kikuyu newspaper. By 1928 he had become the KCA’s general secretary.
In 1928 he launched a monthly Kikuyu language newspaper called Muĩgwithania ( Reconciler) which aimed to unite all sections of the Kikuyu. The paper, supported by an Asian-owned printing press, had a mild and unassuming tone and was tolerated by the colonial government.
Jomo Kenyatta managed to consolidate and maintain his power in Kenya through fear an a series of assassinations that scared off any opposition.
Since Kenya was a single-party state, there was also the uncertainty as to who will be his successor when he died of a Heart attack in Mombasa on the 22 August 1978, in Mombasa at the age of 86 years.
He had a flamboyant fashion sense, wearing a leather jacket made of antelope skin by a little known tailor in Nakuru called Dhanji Liladhar Parmar which became his trademark
He had a flamboyant fashion sense, wearing a leather jacket made of antelope skin by a little known tailor in Nakuru called Dhanji Liladhar Parmar which became his trademark
Mzee Jomo changed as a ruler after kenya’s independence and started amassing wealth through corruption. This can still be seen by looking at his children I.e Uhuru Kenyatta (a Kenyan politician, businessman, and the fourth and current President of the Republic of Kenya.), Margaret Kenyatta, Christine Wambui, Peter Muigai Kenyatta, Anna Nyokabi, Peter Magana Kenyatta, Muhoho Kenyatta and Jane Wambui as well as his children’s children.
Koigi Wa Wamwere is quote to say: Kenyatta had two personalities. When fighting for independence, Kenyatta was a freedom fighter and a hero of Africans everywhere.
He was an enemy of colonialism and a friend of freedom. Later when Kenyatta became president, he became a king, a dictator for life, and a friend of tyranny and dictatorship.
During the struggle for freedom, Kenyatta was my personal hero who symbolised everything that I considered good.
To hear him, when merely a 12 and 13-year-old boy, I would travel to Nakuru town just to hear Kenyatta and other freedom fighters like Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Tom Mboya, Bildad Kaggia, Wasonga Sijeyo, and others speak.
When Kenyatta became president, instead of creating democracy and promoting freedom, he became a dictator who championed one party, one man rule.
The man who had symbolized everything good that I knew, as a perpetrator of dictatorship, Kenyatta became a traitor of freedom and democracy.
The person whose freedom had become the dream of my life became my detainer and arch enemy of my personal freedom.
As a champion of dictatorship, Kenyatta also became the enemy of the nation, freedom, and democracy.
After independence, it was tragic that instead of Kenyatta creating democracy for Kenya, he terrorized Kenyans with dictatorship.
Indeed, I could hardly believe when Kenyatta’s government carted me away into indefinite detention without trial in the same prisons of Kamiti, Manyani, and Hola where Kenyatta and his Mau Mau comrades were detained, tortured and many killed.
Kenyatta and the Mau Mau Movement:
Jomo Kenyatta became the first Prime Minister on Kenya in 1963. In 1964, Kenya became a Republic; the post of Prime Minister was abolished and Jomo Kenyatta assumed the position of President.
Following a power-sharing agreement in February 2008, the post of Prime Minister was recreated that April. The position was again abolished by the 2010 Constitution after the 2013 elections.
The last Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, was sworn in on April 17, 2008. He was Kenya’s second Prime Minister.
The story of Kenyatta’s rise to power cannot be told without touching Mau Mau because he was later arrested, charged and imprisoned for this cause.
In 1952 violence broke out in the British colony of Kenya, setting in motion what would be arguably the first of the modern African liberation struggles.
The characteristics of the Mau Mau Rebellion were very different from later manifestations of the African liberation movement.
Nationalist militancy in Africa began more or less after WWII.
The leading factors that coincided at this time were, in the first instance, the emergence of the first generation of university-educated blacks who were able to embrace western-style politics in the modern context and who could picture a progressive majority ruled state under a pan-African umbrella as hitherto explained.
This was distinct from many earlier rebellions that had sought in some way to eject European rule in favor of a return to a utopian past.
In the second instance the demobilisation of large numbers of black ex-servicemen who had served in many foreign theatres – south-east Asia being not least of these – where the mood of liberation had been very strong.
The independence of India, granted in 1948, was a huge stimulus for a combination of the disenfranchised masses and a strong, educated, and articulate political leadership.
Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and five others were charged of “managing and being a member” of the Mau Mau Society (a radical anti-colonial movement engaged in rebellion against Kenya’s British rulers) and were charged with seven years imprisonment with hard labor and indefinite restriction thereafter.
Jomo Kenyatta was detained between 1953 and 1961 for his part in the organisation of the Mau Mau movement, which explains the long hiatus before the arrival of Uhuru in 1961.
Uhuru was the second child Kenyatta had with Mama Ngina and was named so to herald the coming of independence that was attained two years later.
On 28 February 1961, a public meeting of 25,000 in Nairobi demanded his release.
On 15 April 1960, over a million signatures for a plea to release him were presented to the Governor. On 14 May 1960, he was elected KANU President in absent.
On 23 March 1961, Kenyan leaders, including Daniel arap Moi, later his longtime Vice President and successor as president, visited him at Lodwar.
11 April 1961, he was moved to Maralal with daughter Margaret where he met world press for the first time in eight years. On 14 August 1961, he was released and brought to Gatundu.
Jomo Kenyatta’s Powerful Speech Daring Idi Amin to Invade Kenya [VIDEO]
(20 Feb 1976) Kenyan demonstrators protesting against Idi Amin’s claim that part of their country belongs to Uganda and Jomo Kenyatta at a rally where he said Kenyans would fight if necessary to protect their territory:
1976, former Ugandan President Idi Amin’s threat to march to within 32 kilometres of Nairobi to reclaim parts of Nyanza and Rift Valley, was met by unqualified fury by Kenya’s first President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.
In a Massive rally at Uhuru Park, Kenyatta gave a response which included one of the most strongly worded speeches he had ever given.
Kenyatta had spent a number of years in Britain in the lead up to the Second World War and his oratory had echoes of Sir Winston Churchill’s speeches to the nation when Britain faced an invasion from Hitler’s army.
He spoke, not just to the military, but to the entire nation declaring that defending the country’s borders was a collective endeavour. It is reported that the speech unleashed a strong wave of patriotism that saw anti-Amin demonstrations held in nearly every town in the country.
Where and When did the death of Jomo Kenyatta happen?
After serving three terms as Kenya’s president, Jomo Kenyatta died of a Heart attack after a series of strokes on the 22 August 1978, at State House in Mombasa, Kenya.
For many years, Kenyatta had suffered health problems. Kenyatta would not hear of wearing glasses even as his sight deteriorated, preferring his speeches to be typed in bigger fonts. He grudgingly wore glasses when the large-fonts-trick couldn’t work.
He had several mild strokes towards the late 60’s. He also had gout along with heart problems which he struggled to keep hidden from the public.
By 1970 he was senile and unable to govern. Mzee had reached a stage where he could not remember simple things and was unable to sign documents.
How Jaramogi Mourned His Ally-Turned-Rival Mzee Jomo Kenyatta
As a result, four Kikuyu politicians Koinange, James Gichuru, Njoroge Mungai, and Charles Njonjo, took over by forming an inner circle. This circle of associates ensured Kenyatta wasn’t seen in public without them to keep the lie going and protect the government.
Josiah Mwangi Kariuki (J.M. Kariuki) along with several KANU sidelines opposed this arrangement. In March 1975, J.M. Kariuki who was seen as the key leader of this opposition was kidnapped, tortured, and murdered, and his body dumped in the Ngong Hills. After J.M. Kariuku’s murder, support for Kenyatta and his government declined.
Following a series of strokes in the mid seventies, Jomo Kenyatta finally died on 22 August 1978, of a heart attack in the State House, Mombasa. On August 22, 1978, when Dr Mngola, who was Kenyatta’s physician, pronounced the death, the then Coast Provincial Commissioner Eliud Mahihu was at State House, Mombasa, from where he started breaking the news to senior officials.
In 2014, 36 year later, Uhuru Kenyatta lay a wreath on his father’s grave as the commander-in-chief of the Kenya Defence Forces and the President of Kenya
Lee Njiru, Jomo Kenyatta’s Presidential press unit information officer and later President Daniel arap Moi’s press secretary for more than three decades, claimed that President Jomo Kenyatta would have lived longer were it not for negligence and corruption by his aides.
According to Njiru, the founding father of the nation didn’t get the best of medical attention in spite of his advanced age and failing health.
His death had secretly been prepared for over 10 years after his first major stroke.
African heads of state also attended, including Nyerere, Idi Amin, Kenneth Kaunda, and Hastings Banda, as did India’s Morarji Desai and Pakistan’s Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq.
His body was buried in a mausoleum in the parliament grounds.
Jomo Kenyatta’s Succession and KANU’s de jure one-party state under MOI.
Kenyatta’s succession had been an issue of debate since independence since Kenyatta hadn’t nominated a successor.
The Kikuyu clique surrounding him wanted to amend the constitution to prevent vice president Moi—who was from the Kalenjin people rather than the Kikuyu—from automatically becoming acting president, but their attempts failed amid sustained popular and parliamentary opposition.
After Kenyatta’s death, Vice President Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi was sworn in as acting president for 90-day interim period.
The transition of power proved smooth, surprising many local international observers especially after the assassination of J.M. Kariuki.
In October he was unanimously elected KANU President and subsequently declared President of Kenya itself.
Inspire of Moi emphasizing his loyalty to Kenyatta, he nevertheless criticized the corruption, land grabbing, and capitalistic ethos that had characterized Kenyatta’s period and expressed populist tendencies by emphasizing a closer link to the poor.
In 1982 he amended the Kenyan constitution to create a de jure one-party state.
People talk of how Jomo Kenyatta and Kwame Nkrumah differ: Well… While contemporary opinion linked Kenyatta with the Mau Mau, historians have questioned his alleged leadership of the radical movement.
Kenyatta was in truth a political moderate.
His marriage of Colonial Chief’s daughters, his post-independence Kikuyu allies mainly being former colonial collaborators (though also from his tribe), and his short shrift treatment of former Mau Mau fighters after he came to power, all strongly suggest he had scant regard for the Mau Mau.
Jamhuri Day Special: Jomo Kenyatta Speeches Highlights:
Quotes and name changes aside, what did Jomo Kenyatta really do and accomplish for Kenya, whose impact we can see and feel today?