Tuesday, October 7, 2008



October 7, 2007
Dennis Onyango
The Standard
Nairobi, KENYA

We have heard so much about the America of Abraham Lincoln and William Jefferson.

These leaders had a direction they wanted the nation to take and a number of times, debate on the future of the country ends up with the question, "what did the founding fathers intend?"

What kind of Kenya did our founding fathers Jomo Kenyatta and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga have in mind? Can that Kenya be re-invented? Do we have the leaders to do it?

In Jaramogi’s Not Yet Uhuru, he says the meeting with Kenyatta that made the difference came in 1952 when Kenyatta visited Kisumu for the second time.

Kenyatta had come to recruit Jaramogi into the liberation struggle. Jaramogi had insisted he wanted economic independence for the Africans first. Kenyatta said political power came first. Kenyatta’s view was that without political power, Africans would not enjoy the wealth Jaramogi wanted for them. From that talk in a store, a fiery liberation struggle that sought nothing but a united and free Kenya was born.

In Odinga’s words, Kenyatta said he wanted 12 respected Luo elders to tour Kikuyu country and travel as far as Mombasa. The Kikuyu would also select 12 respected elders to tour Luoland.

Scary speech

"We must get to know one another. The Kikuyu must know the Luo thoroughly." These were Kenyatta’s words as recorded in Jaramogi’s book.

It was in Kisumu where Kenyatta delivered a scary speech that "the tree of freedom is planted" but "for it to grow, it needs the water of human blood".

As fate would have it, when Kenyatta was detained, the burden of pushing for his release and rallying the liberation forces fell on Jaramogi’s shoulders.

Andrew Morton, in retired President Moi’s biography, downplays this part of history, especially the role Jaramogi played in helping liberate Kenya as a united, not divided nation.

But a friend, who was in the colonial Special Branch and served in Kenyatta and Moi regimes, tells me Jaramogi’s accounts are accurate. The officer says he was the one the colonial authorities assigned to cover the Kiambu conference at which Kanu was born.

The spirit of one nation devoid of ethnic animosity was raging in the thinking of the founding fathers. That is why the likes of Arthur Ochwada and W W Awori raised funds for the detained freedom fighters and searched for a party whose name would evoke national spirit.

The intelligence guy tells me that if Jaramogi had regarded Kenyatta as a Kikuyu, freedom would have taken longer to come. He says nothing frustrated the British like the fact that Jaramogi closed ranks with Kenyatta and was able to rally all the Africans in Legco to demand Kenyatta’s release.

The intelligence guy said had Odinga not stood up, the Luo would have been recruited as home guards to fight the Mau Mau and that the British almost achieved that when Ambrose Ofafa, the treasurer of the Luo Union was killed in 1954. It was the colonial intelligence that passed the propaganda that Ofafa had been shot by the Mau Mau and tried to convince the Luo that the Kikuyu were coming for them and they needed to register as home guards. Jaramogi stopped it, telling his community that the Mau Mau war was their war so they should not join the police force to hunt the freedom fighters.

Mau Mau oath

In his book, Jaramogi says he challenged the people from Central Kenya who opposed Kenyatta’s release to attend rallies with him in their constituencies for contests.

My source tells me that Jaramogi’s threat that he would mobilise the Kikuyu to "clear" opponents of Kenyatta’s release, scared the British stiff because it would have worked.

He says that in those days when nationalism overpowered tribalism, had Jaramogi asked the Kikuyu to "clear" Kenyatta’s opponents, they would have done it, and the likes of Dr Julius Gikonyo Kiano would never have lived to see a free Kenya. Colonial intelligence believed that Jaramogi and Achieng Oneko took the Mau Mau oath, the retired officer tells me. Down the road, Kenya broke into tribal enclaves that doubled as political zones.

Where did that Kenya of Jaramogi and Kenyatta go? They may well have killed it themselves. Can Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga re-invent it?