Jomo Kenyatta and Tom Mboya in Gatundu (there is little doubt that Mboya is upset about something): If history is the truth then it must be re-written.
The second and final part of the annual Kumekucha Tom Mboya tribute 2009
It is easy for those who do not know the whole story to make rash judgments about something or somebody. Indeed what the comments to my previous Tom Mboya post have proved is that David Goldsworthy’s title for his Mboya biography (Tom Mboya: The Man Kenya Wanted To Forget) was just perfect. The Kenyatta government succeeded a great deal in making Kenyans forget Tom Mboya. It saddens me how the new generation drowning in tribal politics have no idea of how to analyze the man without the sickening Kikuyu/Luo thing.
Lets get a few things straight first.
The evil that the Kenyatta government did and the ones that are still being perpetuated by the Kibaki regime have nothing to do with tribe or even Kikuyu supremacy. It is simply my-turn-to-eat-politics (not the turn of a whole tribe but just a few chosen individuals). Nothing more. Do you know which tribe suffered most under the Kenyatta regime? The tribe that had farms snatched from them? It is NOT the Luo or any other tribe. It is the Kikuyu. Look at what happened after the 2007 elections. Who are the majority in IDP camps? Our dear Kikuyu brothers of course. I dare say no other tribe has suffered as much from Kenyan politics to date. Even the Luo are a distant second when it comes to sufferings as a result of politics. Have we all forgotten what happened to our Kikuyu brothers during Moi’s long reign in power? Have you talked to coffee farmers who had their livelihoods destroyed?
So I agree 1000 percent with the commentator who brought this out in my previous Mboya post. My big appeal to my fellow Kenyans is that it is now time for us to reach out to our Kikuyu brothers so that we may fight the political class with one voice—as Kenyans. Those clever, greedy leaders do not want us to do it of course and will always divide us along tribal lines.
Secondly I would like to say that Mboya’s great weakness and at the same time great strength was that once he had identified an enemy he would usually single-mindedly focus all his energy and thoughts on finishing off that enemy completely. The problem with this is that he would only re-analyze his position very late in the game when he had already done plenty of damage. The numerous constitutional amendments brought to parliament between 1964 and 1968 are a case in point. They destroyed Kenya in that they gave too much power to a corrupt presidency. But let’s look at them in context shall we.
In identifying the colonialists as the enemy Mboya came out with the call Uhuru sasa which man Kenyans at the time felt was very far fetched. The hot-headed young man in a big hurry in his element. But Mboya ended up being the chief architect in delivering that Uhuru far much sooner than anybody had thought possible.
One thing that really fascinates me and I try to emulate from Mboya’s life was this ability he had to think about a problem continuously even as he read voraciously and widely about other things. Time and again Mboya would make sure he had done all his homework before even a political encounter and would come up with an effective strategy. The Limuru incident in 1960 which led to the formation of KANU is very instructive in this regard. Odinga had planned to form a new national party that would leave out Mboya. He laid his plans well but Mboya did his homework and called in favours from powerful people within the nationalist movement like James Gichuru. What emerged was a national party called KANU where Mboya was more powerful than Odinga as secretary general. Interestingly this secretary general post has been held by many after Mboya who have never made use of it the way Mboya did. Mboya used it perfectly for his political scheming because secretary generals call meetings and do most of the administrative stuff.
When Kenya gained independence his enemy was KADU and their federal system of governing. Mboya felt sure that the only way Kenya would end up as one nation with politicians like Odinga senior around, was with a strong centralized government. Of course he made a lot of assumptions in reaching this conclusion. For instance he assumed that President Kenyatta was sincere in his nationalistic ideals. Don’t forget that Kenyatta was Mboya’s inspiration when he started out in politics in the mid 50s. Mboya could not believe that a man would spend so many years in the struggle and in prison for political reasons would still end up being the greedy selfish leader that Kenyatta was. Can you imagine Nelson Mandela being corrupt?
Indeed Mboya discovered the true Kenyatta when it was very late. When he had already dismantled Oginga Odinga with such finesse that the Kiambu mafia were even more worried about him. In fact Mboya started saying openly that big man politics had not worked out so well for Africa after all. A person who admits openly that they were wrong is a rare and unique person and if it is a leader then he has to be great in my book. Mwalimu Julius Nyerere of Tanzania admitted that his Ujamaa policies had failed to work in Tanzania.
It is important to know that another reason why Mboya hated Odinga senior so much was because of his tribally-based politics.
Tom Mboya had ambition and there is no doubt that he was going for the presidency. However in seeking the presidency it is very clear that his objectives would have been very different from what we have seen from the Kenyatta, Moi and Kibaki presidencies. Mboya achieved so much within such a short time. He was a powerful cabinet minister at the tender age of 28 for instance. What anybody would gather from this is that he aspired to much higher ideals than grabbing every available piece of fertile land that he would lay his eyes on. He had no tribal base around which to build a kitchen cabinet where the most powerful man has to be the one who comes from as near as possible in his village.
Mboya was NOT perfect. Indeed he was a serious womanizer and when his charm was not turned on the electorate it went to many different attractive women across the world. Still Mboya did not become so popular by accident. It is instructive that JM Kariuki’s own popularity climbed in leaps and bounds when he became the only Kikuyu to be allowed to attend the funeral of Mboya on Rusinga Island. If Mboya was able to see this from beyond the grave he would have hung his head in shame at how people turned his funeral into a tribal affair when he had fought all his life and died in the cause of nationalism and fighting what he called “negative tribalism”. He would have been sad that so many of his close Kikuyu friends were not able to pay their last respects because of the tribal monster that rose up.
Even today, ask folks who Kungu Karumba was. Or even who JM Kariuki was. With all due respect you will hear very little. Whenever I meet a person who was old enough in the 60s I always ask them if they could remember Mboya. Their reactions are always the same. Asians, Europeans, Africans, former Kadu diehards. Kikuyus, Giriamas, whatever tribe you care to think about. The whole lot usually react so similarly.
Their eyes light up and they start talking excitedly. They usually talk about a Kenyan leader who was different. A leader like no other they have seen since. A leader who put Kenya before their own personal interests. A man who had he lived would have taken care and made sure Kenya did not sink to where we are now.
Thanks TJ, let another like you come quickly.
Read more about the man called Ben Gethi