Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, as founding president of the Republic of Kenya is arguably one of Kenya’s greatest and most beloved leaders. Even though his physical presence is long gone, his vision for a unified and free Kenya lives on, and remains a major source of inspiration not only to Kenyans, but for all people of African descent. The name Kenyatta stems from the Swahili phrase taa ya Kenya, which stands for the “light of Kenya”, truly befitting of his stature. Just as light shines in the dark, Kenyatta’s vision shone so bright that it awakened Kenyans to the injustices of the British colonial government and prompted them to fight for their rights. It was Kenyatta who powerfully reminded Kenyans that they didn’t have to be colonial subjects and that they could determine their own destiny. Kenyatta was clearly a man of many talents. Not only was he a very charming individual, but was very articulate too. This fact made him a formidable politician, because he always commanded the attention of his audiences. He was also a journalist, but more importantly provided the father figure that Kenya desperately needed. As a journalist, he launched Muigwithania, the first indigenous newspaper to voice Kenyan demands to the colonial government and sensitizes the public on their rights. As a scholar, he wrote the first serious study about his people, Facing Mount Kenya. As a biographer, Kenyatta documented in the book Suffering Without Bitterness, the poignant memories of fighting against the colonial government that knew no restraint. What Mzee accomplished was monumental, but what makes more mind-boggling is the time period in which he did it. His achievements are ranked alongside those of other outstanding black nationalists like Kwame Nkurumah, Nelson Mandela and Marcus Garvey. Kenyatta’s early life
Jomo Kenyatta was born Kamau wa Ngegi sometime between1889 and 1895 to Muigai and Wambui of the Magana clan in Ichaweri village at Ng’enda ridge of Gatundu Division, Kiambu District. His father died when he was a young boy. His mother, Wambui, was inherited by her younger brother-in-law, Ngegi. However, the re-marriage was short lived. Wambui returned to her parents and died soon afterwards. The young Kamau left Ng’enda for Muthiga near Dagoretti to live with his maternal Grandfather, Kung,u wa Magana who was a mediceneman and fortuneteller. There, he learnt Agikuyu customs, rituals, cultural practices and traditions from his grandfather. Kenyatta encountered the influence of Christianity and formal western education from the Church of Scotland Missionaries at Thogoto near Muthiga. He joined Thogoto mission school in 1909 and obtained elementary education in reading, writing, agriculture, arithmetic, carpentry and Christianity. At the mission station he met influential young men like Musa Gitau. He completed his elementary education in 1912. As per the Agikuyu tradition, Kenyatta was circumcised in 1913 at Nyongara stream near the mission and became a member of kihiu mwiri / Mabegi age group. In 1914, he was baptized Johnstone by Reverend Spiter of the Church of Scotland Mission Kikuyu. Thereafter, he left for Nairobi being a fairly educated man by the standards of that time. He worked in various places and in 1916, he worked in Thika sisal estates. However, fearing that he would be forcefully recruited into World War One, Kenyatta escaped to Narok to seek refuge among his Maasai relatives. In Narok, he worked for an Asian who was supplying the British with meat. After the war, Kenyatta returned to Nairobi and worked as a storekeeper in a European firm. By this time, he had acquired a bicycle. It added to his fame and prestige. He also wore a fashionable Maasai ornamental belt, Kinyata. This was to determine the name he was to adopt, Kenyatta. Kenyatta married Grace Wahu in 1919 according to the Agikuyu tradition. He was summoned by the Kirk Session of the Church Missionary...
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