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Jomo Kenyatta

Jomo Kenyatta (1892?-1978) was an African politician, the first prime minister of an independent Kenya.

Kenyatta was born as Kamau wa Ngengi in Mitumi[?], Kenya and assisted his medicine man grandfather as a child after his parents’ death. He went to school in Scottish Mission Center[?] at Thogoto[?] and was 1914 converted to Christianity with the name John Peter, which he changed to Johnstone Kamau. He moved to Nairobi. During the First World War he lived with Maasai relatives in Narok[?] and worked as a clerk.

1920 he married Grace Wahu and worked in the Nairobi City Council water department. His son Peter Muigai was born November 20. He entered politics in 1924 when he joined the Kikuyu Central Association[?]. In 1928 he worked for Kikuyu land problems before the Hilton Young Commission in Nairobi. In 1928 he began to edit a newspaper Muigwithania (Reconciler).

1929 KCA sent Kenyatta to London to lobby for their views for the Kikuyu tribal land affairs. He wrote articles to British newspapers about the matter. He returned to Kenya in 1930 to lobby against female circumcision. In 1931 he went back to London and ended up enrolling in Quaker College[?] in Woodbrooke[?].

In 1932-1933 he briefly studies economics in Moscow before his sponsor, West Indian[?] George Padmoore[?], fell afoul with Russians and he was forced to move back to London. In 1934 he enrolled in the University College[?] of London and 1937 studied anthropology in London School of Economics. During all this time he lobbied for Kikuyu land affairs. He wrote Facing Mount Kenya in 1938 under his new name Jomo Kenyatta.

During World War II, he worked in a British farm and as a film actor. He married Englishwoman Edna Clarke who gave birth to his son Peter Magana in 1943. He later left her.

In 1946 Kenyatta founded the Pan-African Federation[?] with Kwame Nkrumah. In the same year he returned to Kenya and married for the third time with Grace Wanjiku. He became a principal of Kenya Teachers College[?]. In 1947 he became a president of KAU (Kenya African Union). He begun to receive death threts from white settlers.

Grace Wanjiku died of childbirth in 1950 when she gave birth to daughter Jane Wambui. 1951 Kenyatta married Ngina Muhoho.

His reputation with the British government was marred by his assumed involvement with the Mau Mau Rebellion. He was arrested in October 1952, accused for organizing the Mau Mau and April 8 1953 sentenced to seven years in prison and hard labour. Contemporary opinion linked him with the Mau Mau but later research claims otherwise.

Kenyatta was imprisoned between 1952 and 1959. He was then sent into exile in Lodwar[?], remote part of Kenya in probation.

State of emergency was lifted in December 1960. In 1961, both parts of the former KAU party, KANU (Kenya African National Union) and KADU (Kenya African Democratic Union[?]) demanded his release. May 14 1960 Kenyatta was elected KANU president in absentia[?]. He was fully released in August 21 1961. He was admitted into the Legislative Counsil the next year when one member handed over his seat and contributed to the creation of new constitution. His initial attempt to reunify KAU failed.

In 1963 elections Kenyatta’s KANU won 83 seats out of 124. In June 1 Kenyatta became mzee, prime minister of the autonomous Kenyan government. At this stage he asked white settlers not to leave Kenya and supported reconciliation. He retained the role of prime minister after independence was declared December 12 1963. In 1964 he became president of the country.

Kenyatta’s policy was conciliatory and he kept many colonial civil servants in their old jobs. He had to ask British troops’ help against Somali revolts in the North East and an army mutiny in Nairobi. Some British troops remained in the country. November 10 1964, KADU’s representatives joined the ranks of KANU, forming a single party.

Kenyatta instituted relatively peaceful land reform, oversaw Kenya’s joining to United Nations and formed trade agreements with Uganda of Milton Obote and Tanzania of Julius Nyerere[?]. He formulated non-aligned[?] foreign policy. Stability attracted foreign investment and he was influential figure anywhere in Africa. However, his authoritarian policies draw criticism and caused dissent.

Kenyatta was re-elected 1966 and the next year gained extended powers. The term brought border conflicts with Somalia and more political opposition. He made Kikuyu-led KANU practically the only political party of Kenya. His security forces harassed dissidents and were linked in public to various murders of opposition figures. He was re-elected again in 1974. He died in August 22 1987 in Mombasa and was buried Aug 31 in Nairobi.

Kenyatta was a colorful and controversial figure. His death left the Kenyan republic once more at risk from tribal rivalries.

Jomo Kenyatta’s books:

  • Facing Mount Kenya (1938)
  • Suffering Without Bitterness (biography 1968)

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