Friday, December 19, 2008



Thursday, December 18 2008

The most intriguing story about Rawson Macharia, who was buried last week, is not how he testified against Mzee Jomo Kenyatta but how Kanu – or to be more precise, Mr Tom Mboya, used the “frail little Kikuyu shopkeeper”, as the Time magazine called him, to his advantage.

It was to the offices of Mr Mboya’s People’s Convention Party headquarters that Macharia walked one day and signed an affidavit alleging that the British Government had paid him to lie during the 1952 Kapenguria trial. He was handed a 21-month jail sentence for perjury.

There were many promises made to Macharia who was the star witness in Kapenguria and whose evidence about Mzee Kenyatta taking the Mau Mau oath was relied on by the prosecution.

Historians today are still struggling to place Macharia within the history of Kenya. Was he a character shaped by the Mau Mau interrogator Ian Henderson? Did Henderson dictate Macharia’s testimony to fix Kenyatta?

In the notes of a Colonial Office meeting held on September 23, 1952, it was succinctly put that “time might come when a decision had to be taken to either “bust” or “buy” Jomo Kenyatta.

It would depend on how the campaign went against the Mau Mau. Unless action was taken against Jomo, Africans might say that he was too important for the Kenya Government to tackle.”

That could be how Macharia was brought into the picture in an attempt to “bust” Kenyatta, and it’s no wonder that Kenyatta’s lawyer, Mr D. N. Pritt, described him as “a dirty little informer”.

The story of how Mboya took advantage of Macharia to win political battles has not been told. What is known is that after his testimony, Macharia became a loner and turned down several jobs after a beer bar opened for him by the government flopped due to lack of customers.

After all, most Kikuyu men were either in detention or in secured camps. Macharia tried in vain to hawk his story to newspapers, and frustrated, he walked into Mboya’s office.

Mboya spotted a political chance to rally Kenyatta’s supporters to his side and outwit his main political rival in Nairobi, lawyer C.M.G. Argwings-Kodhek, the man who had founded the Nairobi District African National Congress specifically to tame Mboya.

Mboya reasoned that if he used Macharia to rubbish the Kenyatta trial, he would have an upper hand among the Kikuyus who supported Mzee.

Also, Mboya wanted to show that the moderates had forgiven the loyalists, and to portray himself as above the emerging radicals within Kanu who included Jaramogi Oginga Odinga.

Mboya had other ideas on how to tackle his rivals. Back in Nairobi, he had befriended Pamela, the fun-loving daughter of veterinarian Walter Odede, who was a restricted detainee.

Odede was better known than Odinga in Nyanza politics, and Mboya used his US connections to secure for Pamela a college bursary as the father remained in restriction. Odede was a senior official of the Kenya African Union (KAU) before it was banned, and a major political figure in Nyanza.

If Mboya could get Kenyatta’s supporters – he would outfox Argwings-Kodhek. And if he secured Odede’s support through Pamela, he would secure the Luo vote. On both counts, Mboya won and Macharia faded into oblivion.