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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Jomo Kenyatta and the witchdoctor link

Read Part 1 of the Kumekucha weekend book special

The early 50s were a time of unprecedented turmoil and violence in Kenya. The wind of change that was sweeping across much of Africa did not spare this previously peaceful terrain. Many people even at the time suspected quite rightly that these were the birth pangs prior to the birth of a new order, a different Kenya, and this included those who did not want to imagine in their worst nightmare a government run by “the natives” as they called them.
Jomo Kenyatta top and Louis Leakey participated in a public debate in London in 1935 that went on in Kikuyu. Kenyatta argued strongly in favour of the circumcision of women. Hardly surprisng for a man who had been brought up by a witchdoctor from a very tender age.

The violence in Kenya was provoked by the Mau mau who were fighting for their land rights after the colonial settlers had grabbed prime land mainly from Central Kenya.


The man who was to later become Kenya’s first President Jomo Kenyatta always had a frosty relationship with the Mau mau. This is contrary to popular opinion. In fact the Mau mau threatened his life on several occasions. It was rather ironic that he ended up on trial trying to prove to a compromised court his innocence in NOT being involved with the Mau mau. Kenyatta was not only accused of being a member but of being one of its’ leaders. The only word that could come close to describing such an allegation against Kenyatta is preposterous! If the charges had not been that serious, even Jomo himself would have found that charge a big joke. And you will too when we dig deeper into the true character of Kenya’s first president. The chief witness in that sham of a trial Rawson Macharia admitted only in recent years that he had been bribed into giving false evidence against Kenyatta.


Obviously Kenyatta must have had some very powerful enemies in the colonial government. What had built up such hatred towards? One clue can be found in the fact that Kenyatta firmly believed in tradition and African customs like female circumcision. This disgusted many in the colonial administration and may have been the reason why he became a marked man, whatever he did or said. It is recorded that Kenyatta took part in a public debate in Kikuyu
in 1935 over the issue of female circumcision (the irua of girls). Kenyatta passionately argued in favour of the brutal custom being retained against the like of Louis Leakey.

But Kenyatta was never a violent man at heart and did not believe in violent means and yet when he became president he worked hard to glorify the Mau mau as the chief freedom fighters of Kenya and always emphasized that independence was won with a violent resistance and he was at the centre of it himself. In a way he was insinuating that the colonials had rightly charged him with being leader of the Mau mau. He was telling the Kenyan people that he had been part of a violent struggle that had landed him in jail where he had suffered for many years for the sake of the people. All this was pure fairy tale. But it was undoubtedly very romantic and the kind of thing that gave the old man just the right kind of image to tower like a giant well above any other politician. It is the same image he retains in the eyes of many younger Kenyans who still greatly admire him as a man who fought violently for what he believed in.


It was all part of a very deliberate effort to lift the office of the presidency to a pedestal that Kenyans would look up to. One that nobody would dare challenge.


Kenyatta was born Kamau wa Muigai to parents Muigai and Wambui in the village of Uranus, Gatundu, Kiambu but his father died when Jomo was very young after which, as per Kikuyu custom, he was adopted by his uncle Ngengi, who also inherited his mother as his wife. But tragedy struck yet again and his mother died while giving birth. The young Jomo then moved from Ng’enda to Muthiga to live with his medicine man grandfather Kingu wa Magana. Magana was a very famous witchdoctor of the time. The two are said to have become very close. It is no accident that in later years Kenyatta called his son with Briton wife, Edna Clarke, Peter Magana. He was born in August 11th 1943.


And so the story goes that Jomo was told very early (when he was still a child) by his witchdoctor grandfather that he was going to be a very famous leader. I am not a superstitious man and the witchcraft story (told earlier) is virtually impossible to verify but this “knowledge” of him being destined to be a great leader seems to be confirmed by many of his actions including the launching of his Kikuyu newspaper. It was strange because although it was clear that Kenyatta was fighting for something he was too much of a moderate and was almost apologetic as he went about this business of liberation. Little wonder that the then extremely sensitive colonial government tolerated the newspaper that he briefly published from May 1928 called Mwigwithania (the Kikuyu weekly whose name meant, The Reconciler) since they found it mostly harmless.


In many respects the man was an unlikely first president of Kenya for anybody who knew his character well.

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Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

1 comment:

Taabu said...

Chris,
Why are you soiling the name of Jomo ati he survived on DECEIT? And you go ahead to insinuate that he was POLYGAMOUS. What is worse is you linking him with witchcraft. And you even shamelessly imply that Ngegi INHERITED Wambui.

Kwani you have not been educated here at KK by the knowledgeable Diaspora that such practices belong elsewhere? Please Chris don't disturb the bones of BABA WA TAIFA.

And BTW is the body still beautifying the city centre at the musoleum?

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