Jomo Kenyatta – Biography, Family & Lesser Known Facts

Jomo Kenyatta is a popular name that cannot be forgotten so easily most especially among Kenyans. His name, originally Kamau Ngengi, has gone down in history as one of the most prominent personalities in Kenya, East Africa and Africa as a whole. Below are some of the most intriguing facts about Jomo Kenyatta.

Jomo Kenyatta: Background Facts

1. Jomo Kenyatta is well known as the founding father of the Kenyan nation. He was an African statesman and a Nationalist.

2. He was the first Kenyan prime minister in 1963 and when Kenya gained independence, he became the country’s very first president (1964-1978).

Jomo Kenyatta’s Early life

3. Kenyatta was born in a small agricultural village in Gatundu Division, Kiambu District, around 1894 though the exact date of his birth is not known, having been born before formal education was introduced in Kenya.

4. Kenyatta was first exposed to the Europeans around the age of 10 after he was successfully treated for an infection on his leg by the Church of Scotland Mission at Thogoto. Impressed by his first exposure, he ran away from home to pursue his elementary education and become a resident pupil at the mission school where he studied the Bible, mathematics, English, and carpentry from 1909 to 1912. He was able to pay his fees by working as a houseboy and cook for a European settler.

5. Kamau was baptized with the name John Peter Kamau by the Church of Scotland mission, in August 1914, but soon changed the name to Johnson Kamau and afterwards left the mission, and worked for Nairobi town council in the water department.

See Also: 100+ Popular Kenyans that Ever Lived

Jomo Kenyatta’s Wife, Son, Family & Education

6. During the period he worked for the Public Works Department in Nairobi, Kamau adopted the Kikuyu name – Jomo (meaning ‘burning spear’) Kenyatta (meaning ‘light of Kenya’) after a fancy belt that he wore.

7. Kenyatta was a polygamist who married four women. He married his first wife Grace Wahu under Kikuyu customs in 1919. His first son, Peter Muigai, was born on 20 November 1920.

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8. He went to London in 1929 and enrolled at one of the Selly Oaks collages in Birmingham in 1931. The next year, he moved to Moscow State University where he studied economics under the sponsorship of the Caribbean Pan-Africanist George Padmore. He was also educated at the University College, London, in 1934 and the London School of Economics in 1935 where he studied social anthropology under the renowned Polish anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski.

9. In 1942, he married an English governess, Edna Clark who gave birth to his second son, Peter Magana in August 1942. After almost 15 years abroad, he returned to Kenya in 1946 leaving Edna Clarke in Britain and married Grace Wanjiku who died in 1951 while giving birth to their daughter Jane Wambui. In 1951, Kenyatta married Ngina Muhoho who would later be known as Kenya’s First Lady. Together they had four children; Christine Wambui (1953), Uhuru Muigai (1961), Anna Nyokabi Muthama (1963) and Muhoho (1965). His son, Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, is now the fourth president of Kenya.

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Jomo Kenyatta in Politics

10. Kenyatta’s political career started in the 1920s when a new nationalism spirit was growing especially among the Kikuyus who were opposed to some aspects of the European influence and the grabbing of African land by the settlers. He was among the few educated Kenyans and in 1922, he joined the Young Kikuyu Association, and other parties until Kenya was granted independence and he assumed the presidency.

11. Between 1948 to 1951, Kenyatta travelled extensively around the country urging people to work hard and protesting against European settlement in Kenyan land, and demanding independence from colonial rule.

12. In 1952, he and five other leaders were arrested and charged with being members of the outlawed and radical anti-colonial revolt – the Mau Mau movement. He was sentenced to seven years in prison with hard labour. He was released in 1961 and returned home to receive a hero’s welcome. In 1963, Kenya became an autonomous state and he became its first prime minister. Later in 1964, when the constitution was amended and the office of the prime minister was replaced by a president, Kenyatta became the first president of Kenya. In his lifetime, Kenyatta was a source of strength and inspiration to Kenyans. His leadership was focal during the fight for freedom as the Kenyan freedom fighters decried the injustices of colonialism. He suffered torture and imprisonment during the course of the quest for independence together with other freedom fighters. He was a symbol of unity during the struggle, bringing together the different tribes in Kenya to a common fight.

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13. He was a well-educated intellectual and a scholar, and he authored several books. He was the one who launched the first paper in which indigenous Kenyans voiced their grievances. He also wrote a comprehensive work on the culture and way of life of the Kikuyu entitled Facing Mount Kenya. Kenyatta was an ambitious and hardworking man and he is fondly remembered by his appeal to Kenyans to return to the land after the struggle was over. He was highly acclaimed as a visionary leader and a political figurehead. As the president, Kenyatta’s leadership led to an improvement in agriculture, tourism, business, health, among other sectors, that had mostly been neglected during the struggle thereby reviving the country’s economy. He served three terms as Kenya’s president.

The Death of Jomo Kenyatta

14. Kenyatta died peacefully in his sleep on 22nd August 1978 at Mombasa. He was accorded a state funeral attended by heads of states. He will be remembered for his leading role towards independence as well as uniting Kenyans after independence and restoring the country’s peace and prosperity. Most of Kenyatta’s policies were continued by his vice president, Daniel Arap-Moi, who succeeded him.

These are a few of the notable facts about Jomo Kenyatta, the former President of Kenya, an African statesman and an international personality.

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