As the first leader of a unified, independent Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta brought stability and economic growth to the former British colony. serving first as Prime Minister (1963-64) and then as President (1964-78). He is considered the founding father of the Kenyan nation.
He was a well educated intellectual who authored several books, and is remembered as a Pan-Africanist. He is also the father of Kenya’s fourth and current President Uhuru Kenyatta. Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi’s main street and main streets in many Kenyan cities and towns, numerous schools, two universities (Kenyatta University and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology), the country’s main referral hospital, markets and housing estates are named after him, considered by some a quasi-monarchical leader. A statue in Nairobi city centre and monuments all over Kenya stand in his honour. Kenya observed a public holiday every 20 October in his honour until the 2010 constitution abolished Kenyatta Day and replaced it with Mashujaa (Heroes’) day. Kenyatta’s face adorns Kenyan currency notes and coins of all denominations (save the 40 shilling coin), but this is expected to change as Kenya’s 2010 constitution bars the use of the portrait of any person on Kenya’s currency.
Kenyatta returned to Kenya in 1946, after almost 15 years abroad. He married for the third time, to Grace Wanjiku, Senior Chief Koinange’s daughter, and sister to Mbiyu Koinange (who later became a lifelong confidant and was one of the most powerful politicians during Kenyatta’s presidency). Kenyatta then went into teaching, becoming principal of Kenya Teachers College Githunguri. In 1947, he was elected president of the Kenya African Union (KAU). He began to receive death threats from white settlers after his election. From 1948 to 1951 he toured and lectured around the country condemning idleness, robbery, urging hard work while campaigning for the return of land given to white settlers and for independence within three years. His wife, Grace Wanjiku, died in childbirth in 1950 as she gave birth to daughter Jane Wambui, who survived. In 1951 Kenyatta married Ngina Muhoho, daughter of Chief Muhoho. She was popularly referred to as Mama Ngina
and was independent Kenya’s First Lady, when Kenyatta was elected President. The Mau Mau Rebellion began in 1951 and KAU was banned, and a state of emergency was declared on 20 October 1952. Trial and imprisonment Kenyatta was arrested in October 1952 and indicted with five others on the charges of “managing and being a member” of the Mau Mau Society, a radical anti-colonial movement engaged in rebellion against Kenya’s British rulers. Kenyatta was admitted into the Legislative Council after his release in 1961, after Kariuki Njiiri (son of late Chief Njiiri) gave up his Kigumo seat for him. In 1961 and 1962, he led the KANU delegation to first and second Lancaster Conference in London where Kenya’s independence constitution was negotiated. Elections were then held in May 1963, pitting Kenyatta’s KANU (Kenya African National Union- which advocated for Kenya to be a unitary state) against KADU (Kenya African Democratic Union – which advocated for Kenya to be an ethnic-federal state). KANU beat KADU by winning 83 seats out of 124. On 1 June 1963, Kenyatta became prime minister of the autonomous Kenyan government. After independence, Queen Elizabeth II remained as Head of State (after Independence, styled as Queen of Kenya), represented by a Governor-General. He consistently asked white settlers not to leave Kenya and supported reconciliation.