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JOMO KENYATTA KENYA FIRST PRIME MINISTER 100 GREATEST AFRICANS
Jomo Kenyatta (October 20, 1893 – August 22, 1978) a politician, was the first Prime Minister (1963–1964) and President (1964–1978) of an independent Kenya. He is considered the founding father of the Kenyan Nation. Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is named after him.
Kenyatta was born Kamau wa Ngengi in the village of Ichaweri, Gatundu in British East Africa (now Kenya). He assisted his medicine man grandfather as a child after his parents' death. He went to school in the Scottish Mission Centre at Thogoto and was converted to Christianity in 1914 with the name John Peter, which he later 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.
In 1920 he married Grace Wahu and worked in the Nairobi City Council water department. His son Peter Muigai was born on November 20. He entered politics in 1924 when he joined the Kikuyu Central Association. In 1928 he worked on Kikuyu land problems before the Hilton Young Commission in Nairobi. In 1928 he began to edit the newspaper Muigwithania (Reconciler).
In 1929 the KCA sent Kenyatta to London to lobby for their views on Kikuyu tribal land affairs. He wrote articles to British newspapers about the matter. He returned to Kenya in 1930 in the midst of much debate over female circumcision. In 1931 he went back to London and ended up enrolling in Woodbrooke Quaker College in Birmingham. In 1932–1933 he briefly studied economics in Moscow at the Comintern school, KUTVU (University of the Toilers of the East) before his sponsor, the Trinidadian Communist George Padmore, fell out with his Soviet hosts, and he was forced to move back to London. In 1934 he enrolled at University College London and from 1935 studied social anthropology under Bronislaw Malinowski at the London School of Economics. During all this time he lobbied on Kikuyu land affairs. He published his revised LSE thesis as Facing Mount Kenya in 1938 under his new name Jomo Kenyatta. During this period he also was an active member of a group of African, Caribbean and American intellectuals that included at various times C.L.R. James, Eric Williams, W.A. Wallace Johnson, Paul Robeson, and Ralph Bunche. He also was an extra in the Film 'Sanders of the River' (1934), directed by Alexander Korda and starring Paul Robeson. He married Englishwoman Edna Clarke who gave birth to his son Peter Magana in 1943. He later left her to return to Kenya in 1946.
Return to Kenya
In 1946 Kenyatta founded the Pan-African Federation with Kwame Nkrumah. In the same year he returned to Kenya and was married for the third time, to Grace Wanjiku. He became a principal of Kenya Teachers College. In 1947 he became a president of the Kenya African Union (KAU). He began to receive death threats from white settlers after his election.
Grace Wanjiku died in childbirth in 1950 when she gave birth to daughter Jane Wambui. In 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 of organizing the Mau Mau and on April 8, 1953 was sentenced to seven years in prison and hard labour. Contemporary opinion linked him with the Mau Mau but later research claims otherwise. Kenyatta was in prison until 1959. He was then sent into exile on probation in Lodwar, a remote part of Kenya.
The state of emergency was lifted in December 1960. In 1961, both successors of the former KAU party, the Kenya African National Union (KANU) and the Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU) demanded his release. On May 14, 1960, Kenyatta was elected KANU president in absentia. He was fully released on August 21, 1961. He was admitted into the Legislative Council the next year when one member handed over his seat, and contributed to the creation of a new constitution. His initial attempt to reunify KAU failed.
In elections in May 1963 Kenyatta's KANU won 83 seats out of 124. On June 1 Kenyatta became prime minister of the autonomous Kenyan government, and was known as mzee (a Swahili word meaning old man or elder). 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 on December 12, 1963. On December 12, 1964, Kenya became a republic, with Kenyatta as executive president.
Kenyatta's policy was in the sign of continuity and he kept many colonial civil servants in their old jobs. He asked for British troops' help against Somali rebels Shiftas in the northeast and an army mutiny in Nairobi (January 1964), a subsequent mutiny in (1971) was nipped in the bud with the then Attorney General (Kitili Mwenda) and Army commander (Major Ndolo) forced to resign. Some British troops remained in the country. On November 10, 1964, KADU's representatives joined the ranks of KANU, forming a single party.
To his credit he oversaw Kenya's joining the United Nations, and concluded trade agreements with Milton Obote's Uganda and Julius Nyerere's Tanzania. He pursued a pro-Western foreign policy (David Lamb, The Africans, page 61; Martin Meredith, The Africans, page 266). Stability attracted foreign investment and he was an influential figure everywhere in Africa.
"The basis of any independent government is a national language, and we can no longer continue aping our former colonizers ... those who feel they cannot do without English can as well pack up and go." (1974)
"When the Missionaries arrived, the Africans had the Land and the Missionaries had the Bible. They taught how to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened them, they had the land and we had the Bible".