It is exactly 40 years since the death of Kenya’s first president, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, who led the East African country to independence from British rule in 1963. He died on August 22, 1978.
As the government, led by Kenyatta’s son and now President Uhuru Kenyatta, is honouring the founding father, it is surprising to note that the known Pan-Africanist who prior to independence spent nine years in prison for allegedly masterminding the Mau Mau Rebellion of 1951 against the British is being remembered for the wrong reasons by Kenyans on social media.
“Political frustration of Jaramogi, sidelining real freedom fighters, rewarding colonial loyalists, massive land grabbing, cronyism, Kisumu massacre, Pio Gama Pinto’s murder, General Baimungī’s murder, Mass murder in North Eastern, centralizing the government to enable marginalization, JM Kariuki’s murder, setting up infrastructure for tribalism and exclusion, Kiambu Mafia (and ultimately Tom Mboya’s murder), misappropriation of resettlement funds” and many other allegations were noted by one Twitter user out of over a hundred who were replying to a tweet about their fond memories of Jomo Kenyatta.
— ktn (@KTNKenya) August 22, 2018
It didn’t end there as many other replies followed and were filled with negative sentiments against the first president who was originally named Kamau wa Ngengi.
Greed, political assassinations, ethnocentrism, mutilation of the independence constitution to create an imperial presidency, sabotage of the devolution (majimbo) system, regional imbalance in development through Sessional Paper No. 10 (1965), emasculation of political opposition
— Charles Wafula (@WafulaCharles) August 22, 2018
His ability to use and misappropriate money meant for resettlement of natives for himself and still lecturer the rest on hardwork.
— T’Chaloh Wammz (@wambua1) August 22, 2018
Everything wrong with this country, that’s what. His memory will fade, he wasn’t even a freedom fighter. MauMau are the real heroes.
— Uniq Meli (@UniqMeli) August 22, 2018
He came to our village in the late 60’s , hounded out my grandparents and resettled them in Lamu .
— ?? (@awesomekenyan) August 22, 2018
One man who had nothing became prime minister and then president. Then he owned the entire country and all factors of production. A man who is responsible for the deaths of the then remaining freedom fighters e.g. Gen. Baimungi and the deaths of brilliant Kenyan politicians
— Lord Gilgamesh (@BWGathecha) August 22, 2018
He tended and nurtured corruption, tribalism and political assassinations.
— Dagama Bosco (@vascodagamabos2) August 22, 2018
Corruption Corruption and Corruption
— Isaac K. Tuva (@TuvaIsaac) August 22, 2018
He was Corrupt. Laid out the foundation of corruption and impunity we witness in Kenya today
— OptaFPL (@opta_FPL) August 22, 2018
Definitely that he destabilized Kenya and left it worse for wear with inequity and mistrust amongst Kenyan tribes. He is responsible for the poverty and marginalization that we experience today. So forgive me there are no ‘fond’ memories.
— Henryan (@charlesambetsa) August 22, 2018
All I know he is the pioneer of corruption and tribalism in kenya
— amudava d. Amugune (@AmudavaD) August 22, 2018
the beginning of all the problems and the genesis of the current problems.. ask yourself why he is never celebrated unlike Nyerere, Mandela, Sankara etc
— Mint Condition (@Frankayub) August 22, 2018
am still yet to understand his contribution to our independence,clearly his impact was minimal,there are others out there deserve to be called founding father of our country,kenyatta was an opportunist from day one….
— miks (@AnthonyMikwa) August 22, 2018
Would it be far fetched if somebody came out to sue GoK/Ministry of Education for allowing distortion of historical facts & lying to countless generations?
— Kenyan Taxpayer a.k.a Punda (@EricJowi) August 22, 2018
— Kenyan Taxpayer a.k.a Punda (@EricJowi) August 22, 2018
— Kylo Ren (@marvinsrm) August 22, 2018
He never liked MauMau pic.twitter.com/juxoQgjVXe
— #FreeBobiWine (@MARKDAILER) August 22, 2018
Geez….even the guys who voted his son and miraculously expected something different are here throwing stones? “Eat your tomatoes”
— Ja’Rusinga (@ajanjaot) August 22, 2018
How can we forget that disgusting speech where he berated Kungu Karumba for not stealing and being as poor as when they were in Jail.
— #FreeBobiWine Kabuba (@kabubagachugu) August 22, 2018
Getting Kikuyus to blindly worship him despite stealing their land, displacing them as squatters and snitching on+killing their freedom fighters.
— That Dark Black Bloke (@MaiconCarioca54) August 22, 2018
Indeed little is mentioned of the good works of Jomo Kenyatta besides leading as the president of the country.
Kenyatta was raised in the village of Gatundu by his parents as part of the Kikuyu people. After his father died, he was adopted by an uncle and later lived with his grandfather who was a local medicine man.
Entering a Christian missionary school as a boy, Kenyatta worked small chores and odd jobs to pay for his studies. He then converted to the Christian faith and found work as a carpenter. Kenyatta married his first wife, Grace Wahu, in 1920 under Kikuyu customs but was ordered to have their union solidified by a European magistrate.
Kenyatta’s political ambitions grew when he joined the Kikuyu Central Association (KCA), becoming the group’s general secretary in 1928. Working on behalf of the KCA, Kenyatta travelled to London to lobby over the right to tribal lands.
Kenyatta did not get support from the British regarding the claims, but he remained in London and attended college there. While at University College London, Kenyatta studied social anthropology.
Kenyatta came to embrace Pan-Africanism during his time with the International African Service Bureau, which was headed by former international Communist leader George Padmore. Kenyatta’s thesis from the London School of Economics was turned into a book, “Facing Mount Kenya,” and he went on to become one of the leading Black-emancipation intellectuals alongside Padmore, Ralph Bunche, C.L.R. James, Paul Robeson, Amy Ashwood Garvey, among others.
The Mau Mau Rebellion of 1951 was a time of political turmoil in Kenya, still known as British East Africa. The Mau Mau were in open opposition of British colonizers, and Kenyatta was linked to the group. Despite little evidence connecting Kenyatta to the “Kapenguria Six” – the individuals accused of leading the Mau Maus, Kenyatta spent nine years in prison.
He was released in August 1961, which set the stage for bringing about Kenya’s independence.
Kenyatta joined the Legislative Council, and he led the Kenya African National Union (KANU) against the Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU) in a May 1963 election. KANU ran on a unitary state ticket, while KAU wanted Kenya to run as an ethnic-federal state.
KANU defeated KADU handily, and in June 1963, Kenyatta became the prime minister of the Kenyan government. Although the transfer of power was slow to come, with Queen Elizabeth II remaining as “Queen Of Kenya,” Kenyatta eventually became the nation’s first president under independence.
Kenyatta’s health had been poor since 1966 when he suffered a heart attack. He ruled, however, as a leader open to reconciliation with the British and Asian settlers in the land. Kenyatta embraced a capitalist model of the government, although some experts write that he selfishly promoted those from his own circle and tribal line to positions of power. Still, Kenyatta was beloved by many all the same, despite the rumblings that in his later years he had no control over government affairs due to his failing health.
Kenyatta died of natural causes, later succeeded by his Vice President Daniel Moi. Today, the late-first president’s son, Uhuru Kenyatta, is the current and fourth president of Kenya.