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Biography of Jomo Kenyatta – a Kenyan Statesman and Nationalist

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Jomo Kenyatta, also known as Kamau Ngengi, was a Kenyan statesman and nationalist. He was also Kenya’s prime minister and first president. He played a big role in the development of African nationalism in East Africa. Jomo Kenyatta was born on October 20, 1891 in Gatundu, Kenya. He died on August 22, 1978 in Mombasa, Kenya. Jomo Kenyatta was born as Kamau Ngengi. He was the child of Moigoi and Wamboi. His father was the chief of a small agricultural settlement. At age ten, Kamau became ill with a serious case of jigger infections in his feet and in one leg. He was taken to the Church of Scotland mission and underwent a successful surgery. This was his first contact with Europeans and was determined to join the mission school. He ran away from home to become a pupil at the mission. There, he studied the bible, English, mathematics, and carpentry. Kamau was able to pay the school fees by working as a houseboy and cook for a European settler. He married his wife, Grace Wahu, in 1919 and his first son was born on November 20, 1920. Later, he got a job at the Public Works Department, where he got the name Jomo Kenyatta. The name was derived from a beaded workers’ belt he wore called a “mucibi wa kinyata.”

Kenyatta joined the EAA, East African Association, in 1922 ran by Harry Thuku. It was the first African political protest movement in Kenya against a white-settler dominated government. Three years later, Kenyatta became the general secretary of the organization. On May 1928, Kenyatta launched a monthly Kikuyu-language newspaper called Mwigithania (he who brings together), hoping to bring Kikuyu together. In March of 1930, Kenyatta wrote a letter in the The Times of London addressing five issues: security of land tenure and the return of lands, increased educational facilities, repeal of hut taxes on women, African representation in the Legislative Council, and noninterference with traditional customs. Kenyatta briefly joined the communist party during the 1930s and met other black nationalists and writers. Together, they organized protests against the Italian invasion of Ethopia. He continued to promote and publicize the Kikuyu case. Kenyatta helped to organize the fifth Pan-African Congress (met in Manchester, England). Resolutions were passed and plans were discussed to demand independence from colonial rule.

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On 1946, Kenyatta returned to Kenya to lead the newly formed Kenya African Union, he was elected president a year later. He organized a mass nationalist party. On 1952, the Mau Mau rebellion erupted as a force against the presence of Europeans settlers in Kenya and them owning land. On charges of having run the movement, Kenyatta was arrested. He was sentenced to seven-year imprisonment for “managing the Mau Mau terrorist organization.” He denied the charge saying that the Kenya African Union’s activities were not related to the violence of the Mau Mau organization. He was released on August 1961. At the London Conference in 1962, Kenyatta negotiated terms relating to Kenya’s independence. Kenya celebrated its independence on December 12, 1963 and Kenyatta was prime minister. As Kenya became a one-party republic, Kenyatta became the first president of Kenya under a new constitutional amendment. He strived for a strong central government and he appointed members of different ethnicities. Kenyatta symbolized his slogan “Harambee” and “Pulling Together”. Kenya’s gross national product and economic growth grew as a result of Kenyatta’s policies. A downside of large economic growth was that it caused a concentration of wealth. This means that living standards did not increase very much under Kenyatta’s leadership. Kenyatta made Kenya one of the most economically dynamic and stable black African countries.


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