Komo Kenyatta Essay Research Paper KENYATTA

Komo Kenyatta Essay, Research Paper

KENYATTA ….. Taa ya Kenya or Swahili for the ‘Light of Kenya’ was the

man who brought the light of independence to Kenya. Indeed, he was a

beacon, a rallying point for suffering Kenyans to fight for their rights,

justice and freedom.

His brilliance gave strength and aspiration to people beyond the

boundaries of Kenya, indeed beyond the shores of Africa. Just as one light

shines in total darkness and provides a raliying point, so did Ken-yatta

become the focus of the freedom fight for Kenya over half a century to

dispell the darkness and injustice of colonialism. Before matter can

become light, it has to suffer the rigours of heat. So did Kenyatta

suffer the rigorous of imprisonment to bring independence to Kenya. As the

founding father of Kenya, and its undisputed leader, he came to be known

as Mzee, Swahili for a respected eider.

No chronology can adequately reflect the many sided achievements of

Mzee Kenyatta. His life is the life of the free Kenya nation chronicled


There is Kenyatta the leader who united all races and tribes for the

freedom struggle; Kenyatta the orator who held his listeners entranced,

Kenyatta the journalist who launched the first indigenous paper to voice

his people’s demands; Kenyatta the scholar who wrote the first serious

study about his people; Kenyatta the teacher who initiated love for

Kenyah culture and heritage; Kenyatta the farmer who loved his land and

urged his people to return to it; Kenyatta the biographer who documented

his ’suffering without bitterness’; Kenyatta the conser-vationist who

protected Kenya’s priceless fauna and flora; Kenyatta the father figure

who showered love and affection on all; Kenyatta the democrat who

upheld the democratic principle of one-man one-vote; Kenyatta the eider

statesman who counselled other Heads of State, and finally Kenyatta the

visionary who had a glorious image of Kenya’s future and toiled to realise


Since ideas are more enduring than human bodies and sacrifices last

longer than sermons thus the light that is Kenyatta burns on to illuminate

the path of Kenya.

Kenyatta, Jomo (1897?-1978), first prime minister (1963-1964) and then

first president (1964-1978) of Kenya. Kenyatta was Kenya’s founding

father, a conservative nationalist who led the East African nation to

independence from Britain in 1963.

Kenyatta was born in Gatundu in the part of British East Africa that is

now Kenya; the year of his birth is uncertain, but most scholars agree

he was born in the 1890s. He was born into the Kikuyu ethnic group,

Kenya’s largest. Named Kamau wa Ngengi at birth, he later adopted the

surname Kenyatta (from the Kikuyu word for a type of beaded belt he wore)

and then the first name Jomo. Kenyatta was educated by Presbyterian

missionaries and by 1921 had moved to the city of Nairobi. There he became

involved in early African protest movements, joining the Kikuyu Central

Association (KCA) in 1924. He quickly emerged as a leader within the

KCA, and in 1928 he became editor of the movement’s newspaper. In 1929

and 1931 Kenyatta visited England to present KCA demands for the return

of African land lost to European settlers and for increased political

and economic opportunity for Africans in Kenya, which had become a colony

within British East Africa in 1920. Kenyatta had little success,


Kenyatta remained in Europe for almost 15 years, during which he

attended various schools and universities, traveled extensively, and

published numerous articles and pamphlets on Kenya and the plight of Kenyans

under colonial rule. While attending the London School of Economics,

Kenyatta studied under noted British anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski

and published his seminal work, Facing Mount Kenya (1938). In this book,

Kenyatta described traditional Kikuyu society as well-ordered and

harmonious and criticized the disruptive changes brought by colonialism.

Facing Mount Kenya was well received in Great Britain as a defense of

African culture, and it established Kenyatta’s credentials as spokesperson

for his people.

Following World War II (1939-1945), Kenyatta became an outspoken

nationalist, demanding Kenyan self-government and independence from Great

Britain. Together with other prominent African nationalist figures, such

as Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Kenyatta helped organize the fifth

Pan-African Congress in Great Britain in 1945. The congress, modeled after the

four congresses organized by black American intellectual W. E. B. Du Bois

between 1919 and 1927 and attended by black leaders and intellectuals

from around the world, affirmed the goals of African nationalism and

unity. In September 1946 Kenyatta returned to Kenya, and in June 1947 he

became president of the first colony-wide African political

organization, the Kenya African Union (KAU), which had been formed more than two

years earlier. Recruiting both Kikuyu and non-Kikuyu support, Kenyatta

devoted considerable energy to KAU’s efforts to win self-government under

African leadership. KAU was unsuccessful, however, and African

resistance to colonial policies and the supremacy of European settlers in Kenya

took on a more militant tone. In 1952 an extremist Kikuyu guerrilla

movement called Mau Mau began advocating violence against the colonial

government and white settlers(see Mau Mau rebellion). Never a radical,

Kenyatta did not advocate violence to achieve African political goals.

Nevertheless, the colonial authorities arrested him and five other KAU

leaders in October 1952 for allegedly managing Mau Mau. The six leaders

were tried and, in April 1953, convicted.

Kenyatta spent almost nine years in jail and detention. By the time he

was freed in August 1961, Kenya was moving towards self-government

under African leadership, and Kenyatta had been embraced as the colony’s

most important independence leader. Shortly after his release, Kenyatta

assumed the leadership of the Kenya African National Union (KANU), a

party founded in 1960 and supported by the Kikuyu and Luo. He led the

party to victory in the pre-independence elections of May 1963 and was

named prime minister of Kenya in June. Kenyatta led Kenya to formal

independence in December of that year. Kenya was established as a republic in

December 1964, and Kenyatta was elected Kenya’s first president the

same month.

As president, Kenyatta, known affectionately to Kenyans as mzee

(Swahili for “old man”), strove to unify the new nation of Kenya. He worked to

establish harmonious race relations, safeguarding whites’ property

rights and appealing to both whites and the African majority to forget past

injustices. Kenyatta adopted the slogan “Harambee” (Swahili for “let’s

all pull together”), asking whites and Africans to work together for

the development of Kenya. He promoted capitalist economic policies,

encouraged foreign investment in Kenya, and adopted a pro-Western foreign

policy. Such policies were unpopular with radicals within KANU, who

advocated socialism for Kenya. However, Kenyatta isolated this element of

KANU, forcing radical vice president Oginga Odinga and his supporters out

of the party in 1966. Odinga formed the rival Kenya People’s Union

(KPU), which drew much support from Odinga’s ethnic group, the Luo.

Kenyatta used his extensive presidential powers and control of the media to

counter the challenge to his leadership and appealed for Kikuyu ethnic

solidarity. The 1969 assassination of cabinet minister Tom Mboya a Luo

ally of Kenyatta’s by a Kikuyu led to months of tension and violence

between the Luo and the Kikuyu. Kenyatta banned Odinga’s party, detained

its leaders, and called elections in which only KANU was allowed to

participate. For the remainder of his presidency, Kenya was effectively a

one-party state, and Kenyatta made use of detention, appeals to ethnic

loyalties, and careful appointment of government jobs to maintain his

commanding position in Kenya’s political system. Kenyatta was reelected

president in 1969 and 1974, unopposed each time. Until the mid-1970s

Kenya maintained a high economic growth rate under Kenyatta’s leadership,

due to a favorable international market for Kenya’s main exports and

external economic assistance.

After 1970 Kenyatta’s advancing age kept him from the day-to-day

management of government affairs. He intervened only when necessary to settle

disputed issues. Critics maintained that Kenyatta’s relative isolation

resulted in increasing domination of Kenya’s affairs by well-connected

Kikuyu who acquired great wealth as a result. Despite such criticism,

however, no serious challenge to Kenyatta’s leadership emerged. Kenyatta

died in office in 1978 and was succeeded by Kenyan vice president

Daniel arap Moi. Moi pledged to continue Kenyatta’s work, labeling his own

program Nyayo (Swahili for “footsteps”).. Kenyatta was revered after his

death as the father of modern Kenya. His published works include

Suffering Without Bitterness (1968), a collection of reminiscences and


Kenyan independence involved some of the most characteristic elements

of the African liberation movements: trivial division, settler

resistance, a wavering colonial policy and a charismatic black leader, Jomo

Kenyatta. The grandson of a medicine man of the Kikuyu, Kenya s dominant

tribe, Kenyatta was unsure of the date and year of his birth, probably

1891. Like other modern revolutionaries, his name was an adopted one;

Jomo means “burning spear” and Kenyatta refers to the beaded belt, or

kinyata, that he habitually wore.

Kenyatta spend much of his youth traveling in Europe. He returned home

in the 1920 s, became secretary of the Kikuyu Central Association and

began to involve himself in his country s future. In 1929 and again in

1931 he went to London to argue his tribe s rights to the land on which

it had settled.. The British government refused to grant his request by

allowed the Kikuyu to establish their own schools. Over the following

years he attended the London School of Economics and wrote

anthropological studies of his people as well as an autobiography, Facing Mount

Kenya (1938), that became a bible of the independence movement.

In October 1945, Kenyatta was one of the organizers of the landmark

Pan-African Congress that met in Manchester, England. Seizing the postwar

moment, young radicals such as Kwame Nkrumah demanded full independence

for Africa. When Kenyatta returned to Kenya in September 1946, he

became president of the Kenya Africa Union (KAU), a political party that

sought to unify Kenya s tribes. While urging his followers to act with

discipline and restraint, he fought for African voting rights, the

elimination of racial discrimination and the return of tribal lands.

When the British rejected these demands, Kikuyu militants organized a

terrorist underground, the Mau Mau, which prompted the declaration of a

state of emergency, Kenyatta was accused of masterminding the Mau Mau,

a charge almost certainly false; unquestionably, however, the KAU had

links to the Mau Mau, and in 1952 Kenyatta was imprisioned. But British

ascendancy was on the wane, and with Ghana s independence in 1957,

Kenya s drive toward nationhood accelerated. The KAU, now the dominant

black party, refused any participation in a transitional government until

Kenyatta was freed. In 1961, he returned home in triumph, his captivity

having made him the moral leader of his people s struggle. In December

1963 he became the first president of the Republic of Kenya.

Kenyatta s firmest base of support was among the Kikuyu, who formed but

20% of the black population of Kenya. As president, he reached out not

only to other tribes but also to white and Asian settlers, assuring

them of their place in a multiracial society. Europeans continued to serve

in his government, and despite his rhetorical commitment to the slogans

of “African Socialism,” he rejected Soviet assistance and built up a

wealthy black proprietor class under settlement schemes financed by the

British treasury and the World Bank. This elite continued as the

backbone of support for his successor, Daniel Arap Moi (born 1924).

A man of enormous vitality, Kenyatta, more than any other figure, came

to represent the new Africa on the world stage. never losing touch with

his origins — he lived on a farm outside his capital, Nairobi, and

regularly worked the land — he became a familiar figure at international

conferences and assemblies. Wearing alternately impeccably tailored

suits and resplendent tribal robes, he symbolized both the revolutionary

charisma that had built modern Africa and the political pragmatism by

which he hoped to forge its future. He died in 1978.


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