Influential Political Leader in Kenyaby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
Jomo Kenyatta entered the world as Kamau wa Ngengi sometime between 1889-1895 in Kenya, Africa. He was born to parents Muigai and Wambui who were part of the Kikuyu tribe. Kenyatta had a typical Kenyan childhood for his time. He received an education from the Church of Scotland Mission beginning in 1909.1 It was there that he received his elementary education and was later christened as John Peter Kamau, which he later changed to Johnstone Kamau. There is not a lot known about his early childhood other than that he took a keen interest his ancestral culture and customs. He also lived with some Maasi relatives at one point, during World War I.2 However, it was not until later in his life that his true accomplishments and character began to shine.
Education is very important in Kenya, even today and so it is not surprising that it was important for Jomo Kenyatta. His education was not limited to Kenya but he also ventured to other lands for further education that was not available to him in his home country. Kenyatta traveled to England in several times but in 1931 he traveled there in order to attend Quaker College, Woodbrooke.2 From there he went to Russia to study at Moscow University but unfortunately do to some political disputes his education there was canceled. However, Russia was not the end of his education and from there he returned to England and pursued his studies at University College, London.
Jomo Kenyatta had a very long and important political career in Kenya and he is considered as Kenya’s most beloved son thus far. He had a powerful vision for a unified and free Kenya that still lives on in Kenya today. Kenyatta got a start in his political career when he joined the Kikuyu Central Association in 1925 from which he later went to Nairobi in representation of Kikuyu land problems. Land was not the only issue that Kenyatta spoke out about, he spoke against the injustices of the British Colonial government and brought to Kenyan’s eyes the wrongs they were being dealt.3 Kenyatta not only spoke in words but he also wrote. In 1928 he began editing a Kikuyu weekly called the, Mwigwithania which served as another testament that Kenyatta embraced his leadership. He was willing to work with anybody, anywhere in order to get his message across. Throughout his political career Kenyatta traveled to Britain on several occasions the first of which was in order to present African grievances before the colonial office in 1929. On this trip he was accompanied by an Indian leader, Isher Dass.2 During his trip Kenyatta published several articles in newspapers regarding the situation in Kenya. Kenyatta left for Britain again in 1931, once again to present grievances. However, his grievances were ignored. Using his writing Kenyatta published his book, Facing Mount Kenya in 1938 under the name Jomo Kenyatta which he would be known as from then on. In 1945 Kenyatta organized the Fifth PAN African Congress in Manchester and in June 1947 he became the President of Kenya African Union.4 He made it clear to Kenyan’s that they needed to reclaim their land and get their independence from Britain. However, things are never easy for outspoken leaders and in 1952 after the start of the Mau Mau rebellion Kenyatta was arrested. He was accused of being the instigator of the rebelling and sentenced to seven years hard labor and an indefinite period of restriction. After fighting for his sentence of restriction to be ending in 1961, Jomo Kenyatta was released and was able to get back to his political career. In 1963, Kenya was freed from the British and Kenyatta was elected prime minister and later president. He served two full terms and was beginning his third before he died.4
For a typical Westerner, Kenyatta’s life may seem random and abnormal. However, for a Kenyan it was very typical, especially for his time. One thing that was typical was the number of wives he had. Although it is not known for sure whether they were all living at the same time or not, since their deaths were not really mentioned it would not be surprising since for Kenyan’s polygamy is not illegal.4 Kenyatta had four wives that are known of a on average a couple children from each.
“Baba Wa Taifa” (Father of the Nation), says a lot as to how Kenyans view Kenyatta and his character.4 To them Kenyatta was, is, and always will be a profoundly important figure in this history and one they will forever cherish. He was definitely a renowned leader who had vision, initiative, guidance, and he was an international public figure. Kenyatta gave Kenyans hope and a true belief in the future of their country. He instilled in them a desire for freedom and independence.5 Kenyatta was a man numerous talents. He was charming and articulate, both of which made him a great politician. He was also a capable scholar, journalist, teacher, biographer, conservationist, and the father figure Kenya needed.
Today in Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta’s spirit still lives on.4 He is still beloved and remembered. His beliefs are still being an inspiration. Kenyatta loved his country and he would be proud that it was still an independent nation. Travelers from the West still venture in to Kenya but they are greeted by a proud people, who show them their culture and heritage, not a people cowering in the darkness. Kenyatta taught them that they had to be able to live in the light to live, and from his treatment of outsiders and willingness to work with them to accomplish great things for Kenya, Kenyans take their cue. Kenyans young and old will never forget the man who brought them out of darkness and into light.6 Unfortunately, many view Kenyatta as their savior. Hopefully, for all Kenyans they will realize that there is another man far greater than Kenyatta who can really guide them from darkness into light (John 3:16)7!
1 - http://www.africawithin.com/kenyatta/kenyatta_bio.htm
2 - http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/people/A0827421.html
3 - http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1952kenyatta-kau1.html
4 - http://www.bartleby.com/65/ke/Kenyatta.html
5 - http://www.bartleby.com/65/ke/Kenyatta.html
6 - http://people.africadatabase.org/en/person/2719.html
7 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believed on him would have eternal life” – John 3:16