Defiance and Activism During the Jomo Kenyatta Regime In Kenya



As many Kenyans became educated and began to understand the colonial system of governance, they started forming parties or associations through which they would agitate for the rights for Africans. The first political association to be formed by Africans in Kenya was The East African Association, which was formed by Harry Thuku, Jessie Kariuki, Joseph Kangethe, Abdulla Tairara, Norman Mboya and a Ugandan by the name Ssetongo in 1921 (Hornsby, 2001). Harry Thuku started publishing pamphlets and articles critical of the colonial administration and was arrested in 1922 as a way of silencing him. In the colonial era, Harry Thuku stands out as a major activist against colonial excesses.
By 1924, following the disintegration of EAA, tribal political associations emerged in Kenya. There was the Kavirondo Tax Payer’s Association, Ukamba Members Association, and Taita Hills Association. The arrest of Thuku infuriated people such that in 1924, a political organization (Kikuyu Central Association) was formed with one of the major objectives being to free Thuku among other objectives that related to grievances by the Agikuyu people of central Kenya. Thuku was released from prison in 1930 and became leader of KCA in 1932. In 1944, in order to accommodate others rather than just the Kikuyu, the Kikuyu Central Association rebranded to Kenya African Study Union (KASU) but changed name to Kenya African Union (KAU) led by James Gichuru and Harry Thuku. To accommodate African issues, for the first time an African joined the LEGICO. Eliud Mathu was the first African to join the legislative council (LEGICO) in 1944.
Other than the political associations, other forms of African rebellion were in the form of religious movements by Africans. These religious movements were good vehicles for mobilizing Africans and they became the springing board for African agitation against the colonialists. In some of their doctrines, they likened themselves to children of Israel under captivity, who had a longing to repossess their land and worship their true God on Mt. Zion. In Nyanza, there was Nomia Church, In Central there was Dini ya Kaggia and in Western, there was Dini ya Msambwa led by Elijah Wanameme. Later others like Legio Maria Sects emerged. It is in this context of religious groupings emerging that the MAU MAU also emerged, initially as a spiritual movement concerned about African religious beliefs and practices that were being defiled by the colonialists. Acts like FGM became major acts of defiance against colonialists.
Oginga Odinga brought into the struggle a new dimension by forming the Luo Thrift trading company (1946), which was focused on economic interests of the Luo community. The outfits formed before 1955 were considered illegal and either operated as proscribed sects or banned political outfits. Political activity and agitation found legitimacy through the labour movements. Led and masterminded by Tom Mboya who had the support of the African labour movements body, Mboya and other trade unionists pushed the colonial government in beginning to reconsider the grievances of the Africans. Labour movements agitation led to the legalization of political parties in 1955 in order to isolate labour concerns from political concerns.
The 1952 state of emergency was a defining moment in Kenya’s political activity. The arrest of various political leaders, especially the Kapenguria Six, united political activists in Kenya. A wave of nationalist sentiments swept through leading to many tribal associations being abandoned. In 1960, Oginga Odinga who had formed the Kenya Independence Movement joined James Gichuru who was then the leader of KAU after Thuku resigning earlier, and Tom Mboya who had formed National People’s Convention Party. These three parties merged to form KANU; a strong party that would ably take on the colonial administration. Based on the nationalist sentiments, Kenyatta who had been leader of KAU before detention was elected first leader of KANU and James Gichuru was to hold brief for him. One of the main objectives of KANU was to secure the release of Kenyatta and agitate for independence. Tom Mboya was KANU’s first secretary general while Odinga Deputized Kenyatta.
Many African nations have struggled with the challenge of nationhood vs. statehood. These countries are not nation states due to the level of ethnic diversity in the country. In the pre-colonial era, these countries were not unitary states but rather there were dotted in them small nations or tribal communities that had their own systems of governance. The indirect rule by Britain meant that most of the African communities retained their traditional systems of governance running parallel to the colonial administration. What the colonialists did was to try to use or adapt the chiefdoms to their system of governance through the chief’s ordinance. Consequently, African leaders of different communities like Chief Warihiu retained the African systems while supporting or fitting it into the colonial administration system.
In the run up to independence, the different nations or communities were angling for their position in the independent Kenya. Some had the notion that the different communities would gain their own independence by becoming recognized governments in a federal system of government. The differences between KADU and KANU revolved around the form of independence after the colonialists leave. KADU was concerned about every community or region enjoying self-governance and thus having its own government. On the other hand, KANU luminaries wanted a unitary state.
Once in power, Kenyatta swerved from objectives of nationalism, including widespread restitution of land to Kenyans and communities. Although considerable policy development occurred after independence, in practice, not much changed. The fundamentals of the colonial land tenure system remained in place, including the unequal relationship between statutory and customary tenure, the retention of de facto ethno territorial administrative units, and the unaccountable powers of the executive branch over land.

Kenyatta maintained the system of freehold land titles and did not question how the land had been acquired; individual private ownership rights continued to derive from the sovereign; then the President just as in colonial times. Government programs to systematically adjudicate rights and register land titles persisted and continued to undermine customary tenure systems. The “Crown Land” was categorized as government land. The native reserves became Trust land, but under governance of statutory trustees i.e. the County Councils and the Commissioner of Lands rather than directly by traditional institutions as was the demand during the colonial era.

The Kenyatta government also established the Settlement Fund Trustees (SFT) to facilitate the purchase and distribution of settler farms to landless Kenyans at market system. The beneficiaries were principally Kenyans with the financial means to purchase land. Those who had customarily owned the land generally did not have access to the needed capital, or refused to purchase land, which they considered to be theirs. Kenyans who purchased such land were seen as “immigrants” or “incomers.”

December 1963: Ethnicity and Majimboist Debate at 1st General elections in Kenya
The constitution sets up a multi-party system. Three political parties, the KANU, KADU, and the African People's Party (APP), contest the second general. Kenya's first pre-independence general elections are held. The KANU defeat the Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU). The KADU (led by Masinde Muliro, Daniel arap Moi, and Ronald Ngala) represents smaller and less advantaged ethnic groups of the Great Rift Valley and coastal areas, including the Kalenjin. The KADU advocated Majimboism (regionalism in Swahili) which would create ethnic-based, semi-autonomous regions. The KADU had been formed with the covert assistance of the British government and British businesses, in an effort to get a more 'moderate' government after independence. The British stopped supporting it when they saw it could not beat the KANU. The formation of KADU and its Majimboist rhetoric entrenched a narrative of some communities in Kenya being dominant and thus the impossibility of fair and equitable participation in a national government. This majimboist rhetoric was revisited later at the introduction of multiparty politics and sowed the seeds for negative ethnicization that culminated in the 2007 post election violence.

1963- Jomo Kenyatta – 1st Prime Minister
The struggle for independence is linked to land grabbing by colonialists but also in bid to have regular supply of laborers on the settler farms, the introduction of tax payable in monetary terms. To raise money to pay hut taxes, the Africans had to get into low- wage jobs to earn money and pay. The Africans agitated in order to get their land back and for self-governance.

Kenya became independent in 1963 and many Kenyans were optimistic. However, from his independence speech, it was clear that more work lay ahead. Kenyatta made it very clear that the colonialists had gone but the work of building Kenyans fell squarely on Kenyans who had to pull together in the spirit of Harambee.

Ironically, Kenyatta in his independence speech called for acceptance of white people and honored their contribution to the establishment and development of Kenya as a state. It was made abundantly clear by Kenyatta that Kenyans were to co-exist with white settlers who had chosen to remain. It was also made abundantly clear that Kenyans were not to expect any freebies from his government.

Despite gaining independence, Kenyatta’s relations with the British implied little shift from the programs and governance structures and system that had been established by the colonial administration. Therefore, although leadership had changed hands from the colonialists to the Africans, there were no structural changes to signify such change.

Just like the British who treated Kenya as personal property to the exclusion of the Africans and Asians, President Kenyatta ran Kenya as if it was his personal property. To consolidate power, Kenyatta entrenched patronage and clientilistic politics that was ethnic based (Hornsby, 2001). He identified tribal chiefs, rewarded them, and helped those in the inner political circles to accumulate wealth; especially land. While rhetoric towards independence had been nationalist, after independence, rhetoric turned elitist and nationalist as well as ethnic sentiments were only invoked as a way of justifying an emerging form of exploitation.

Independence Day, 1963
This day marks the birth of an independent Kenya. Kenyans have expectations and are optimistic that their hope for a fair and just society will finally be realized. Key concerns that define the expected just society are equity in land access and use, representation and self-governance, fairness and access to employment opportunities, freedom from oppressions of Kipande and taxes.

The Kenyatta regime is praised and criticized in equal measure. The activist in Kenyatta seems to have died with the detention in 1952. Once given the instruments of power in 1963, President Kenyatta was more interested in consolidating power and using the power to facilitate certain narrow interests. According to (Mutua and Gonzalez, 2013), from the independence speech, one could already deduce a shift from communitarian to enterprise and state building. For instance, Kenyatta used the words Harambee and Uhuru but shifted these terms from their traditional meaning that emphasizes communal cooperation and anchors them to the enterprise of state building. In the speech, the call for “unity” constructs an uncritical conformity that prolongs the subservience under colonialism (Mutua and Gonzalez, 2013). The colonial government had put a ban on Mau Mau in 1952; Kenyatta and Moi’s regime reinforced this ban. It is not until 2003, during Kibaki’s tenure that the ban on Mau Mau was lifted.

The independence speech by Jomo Kenyatta is very telling in terms of how the issues facing the country were going to be addressed. Kenyatta in his independence speech called for acceptance of white people and honored their contribution to the establishment and development of Kenya as a state. It was made abundantly clear by Kenyatta that Kenyans were to co-exist with white settlers who had chosen to remain. It was also made abundantly clear that Kenyans were not to expect any freebies from his government. Briefly, while celebrating self-governance, Kenyatta is clear on the fact that the status quo has not changed. The system established by the British would persist.

As shown throughout his rule, just like the British who treated Kenya as personal property to the exclusion of the Africans and Asians, President Kenyatta ran Kenya as if it was his personal property. To consolidate power, Kenyatta entrenched patronage and clientilistic politics that was ethnic based. He identified tribal chiefs, rewarded them, and helped those in the inner political circles to accumulate wealth; especially land. While rhetoric towards independence had been nationalist, after independence, rhetoric turned elitist and nationalist as well as ethnic sentiments were only invoked as a way of justifying an emerging form of exploitation.
1963- The Registered Land Act, cap 300
It was enacted to ensure better registration of title.  This legislation was to deal with African grievances that had been ignored by the earlier legal instruments.  The main achievement under this legislation was the element of individual ownership and registration of land. All titles that had been issued were to be reissued under this law.

1963- The Constitution of Kenya (Independence Constitution)
This constitution was majorly comprised of the provisions made by the Lancaster House Conference. Section 19 provided for rights over property, mechanisms to be used under compulsory acquisition, and the various avenues to seek remedy when proprietary rights are infringed. Under Section 132, the Regional assembly was obliged to make laws to regulate the use of land; the provisions were though not clear.


1963- Shifta Bandits[1]
President Jomo Kenyatta very first Christmas after independence – December 25, 1963 – was messed up when on that day, Somali bandits (Shiftas) butchered 40 Kenyans – four of them administration police – at the Wajir/Tana- River border. On the Boxing Day, the cabinet convened and declared a state of emergency in the North Eastern province, Tana-River, Isiolo and Marsabit districts. The background to the attack was that a few months to Kenya independence, the Somalis in North Eastern Kenya had overwhelmingly voted in a referendum to have North Eastern province cede to join Somalia.

1964 – KADU unites with KANU
KANU as a party was largely dominated by Kikuyu Activists and Luo Independence agitators. This led to other communities feeling not represented. It is believed that formation of KANU got the colonialists worried because the whole country was uniting unlike initially when we had tribal outfits. Consequently, with support of colonialists, the other tribes not strongly represented in KANU formed their own party: The Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU) led by Ronald Ngala. To safeguard the interests of every tribe or community, KADU agitated for a federal State while KANU agitated for a Unitary State. These issues defined the first Multi-Party election in Kenya in 1961, which was won by KANU. In 1963, another election was held and KANU won against KADU again and formed the internal self-government. In order to consolidate power and unite the nation, Kenyatta initiated talks that led to dissolution of KADU in 1964 ushering in the one Party Rule that lasted until 1990 when multi-party politics was re-introduced in Kenya through repealing of section 2A of the constitution.
At Independence in December 1963, our Constitution had a Prime Minister (Kenyatta). He headed a KANU Government and there was a KADU Opposition. The Constitution also provided for regional assemblies and government, an earlier form of devolution. In November 1964, Kenyatta entered into a pact with KADU headed by Ronald Ngala and Moi (President of KADU). KADU (though supporting the creation of the Republic) had been opposing the abolition of the Regions. KADU also strongly opposed the new 1964 Republican Constitution, proposed by Kenyatta, being passed without a Referendum first being held. Then, as 12 December 1964 approached, Kenyatta and KADU officials kept meeting on-and-off, until finally a pact was made. On 15 November 1964, KADU’s Ronald Ngala announced, “The Opposition is dissolved as from today. Any differences of opinion on matters of foreign policy, economic development or defense would be ironed out between ourselves [KANU and KADU][2].

On 15 November 1964, KADU’s Ronald Ngala announced, “The Opposition is dissolved as from today. Any differences of opinion on matters of foreign policy, economic development or defense would be ironed out between ourselves [KANU and KADU]. This was a turning point because it entrenches KANU and consolidates power in KANU thus defining the role KANU played in Kenyan politics until 2002. The merger signifies Kenyatta’s attempt to consolidate power. This consolidation process begins through the change in army generals in 1964 and crackdown on Mau Mau remnants in the forest by the year 1965. The consolidation of power and emergency of a capitalist leaning elite leads to socialist leaning activism championed by Pio Gama Pinto, Oginga Odinga, Bildaad Kaggia, Henry Wariithi among others[3]. This leftist activism leads to assassination of Pinto in 1965. The consolidation of power and abuse of the same in land transactions leads to an ideological fall out between Odinga and Kenyatta hence Odinga declaring, “It is not yet Uhuru”, resigning from government, and forming KPPU in 1966.

By early 1950s, interethnic hostilities due to land were beginning to emerge. Land was centre stage in most of the activist activities during the colonial era. Land was a key issue in the fight for independence. At independence, people were optimistic. However, due to Kenyatta ignoring the plight of the masses “the actual unfolding of political events during the Kenyatta era proved to be antithetical to these hopes” the unfolding events during the Kenyatta regime led Oginga Odinga to make the famous proclamation in 1967 of “Not yet uhuru”[4]


1964- Coup Attempt[5]
ON January 11, 1964 – hardly a month after Kenya’s independence – self-styled “Field-marshal” John Okello staged a military coup in Zanzibar islands and declared, “The mission to liberate the East African region from imperialism had just began.” The same day, soldiers at the Kenya’s Lanet military barracks staged a mutiny. That set off panic buttons in Kenyatta’s young government

1965- Crackdown on dissident Mau Mau
By 1965 some Mau Mau were still in the forest and did not accept the new independence that did not involve land. President Kenyatta lured them, winning some like Field Marshal Mwariama but the likes of General Baimungi did not leave the forest. This led to a crackdown on Mau Mau and on January 26, 1965, Baimungi and security personnel following Kenyatta’s directive massacred others[6]

1965-           Assassination of Pio Gama Pinto
The Kenyatta regime was from the outset capitalist oriented. This was seen in the agreement with Britain for a willing buyer, willing seller policy in the redistribution of land. Many had expected some radical nationalization of land and resettlement of squatters and those that had been forced into native reserves. Pio Gama Pinto was assassinated on 24 February 1965[7]. This is because was increasingly seen as the socialist. “A secret conclave, held at the defunct Lumumba Institute, was chaired by Odinga, Pinto was the rapporteur. Others in attendance were Kaggia, Oneko, Akumu, Henry Wariithi, Odongo-Okello, Maka Anyengo and Kali. The matter for discussion was the controversial Sessional Paper No 10 on African Socialism prepared by Tom Mboya and was to be presented by Kenyatta to Parliament on 29 April 1965. Odinga, Pinto and Odongo-Okello had prepared their own blueprint on African Socialism and now planned to launch it on the same day thus rejecting the one of the Kenyatta government. This would have led to a vote of no-confidence, forcing Jomo Kenyatta’s government to resign barely four months after he was sworn in as Kenyatta’s first president on December 12, 1964.”[8]

1966- Kenya people’s Union formed by Odinga
The cold war contributed to the fall out between Jaramogi and Kenyatta. While Kenyatta was pro-capitalism and western leaning, Jaramogi was socialist[9]. Jaramogi differed with Kenyatta on leadership and the foundations of the state. He desired a more communist oriented state that focused on welfare rather than enriching of an elite. Together with the likes of Pio Gama Pinto, they agitated against elitism and capitalism that was supported by neo-colonialist (former colonial masters who still had influence in governance matters.) Odinga resigned from his position as vice president in 1966 to form KPU

1967- The Land Control Act
It was enacted to direct the activities on land. These activities included dividing the land, sale, transfer, lease, mortgage and any other activity that involved movement of interests or rights. The same legislation was later implemented by the Land Control Regulations, 2012.

1968- The Land Adjudication Act Cap 284
It was enacted to cater for group rights; specifically the nomadic and pastoral communities; their nature o land use disapproved Land Individualization move. It provided that the group rights be registered under Land (Group Representative) Act, cap 287 to ensure such communities have land to graze their animals


1969- Detention of Sheikh Abdilatif Abdalla
In March 1969, at the tender age of 22, Sheikh Abdalla joined the list of political activists in the government’s bad books. Indeed, he was jailed for sedition.

1969- Assassination of Tom Mboya
With Jaramogi Odinga out of the picture, Tom Mboya became the most powerful politician and was seen by many as a likely successor of President Kenyatta. On 5 July of 1969, Mboya was assassinated while coming out of a chemist in Nairobi[10]

1969- Kenya People's Union (KPU) banned
KPU was tolerated by Kenyatta but in the run up to the 1969 elections, chaos in Kisumu on October 25, 1969[11] led to the party being banned. Chaos erupted in a rally after a verbal exchange between Kenyatta and Jaramogi. The happenings in Kisumu were linked to perception that Kenyatta had something in Tom Mboya’s assassination. After the incident, Jaramogi was arrested and detained until 1978

1969- Nandi Declaration[12]
Marie Jean Seroney was arrested and detained without trial for three and a half years. Seroney defended the independence of Parliament at a time when it was becoming an arm of the executive branch Seroney got in trouble in September 1969 when he presented the controversial "Nandi Hills Declaration", a document that was authored by his friend Mr. Joseph K. Mitei from Koilot, Ol'Lessos of Nandi District. Mitei was the Organizing Secretary of ruling party Kanu, Nandi branch on wrote the document on 27 July 1969. The document challenged the Kenyatta administration's sale / settlement of Nandi land to non-Kalenjin settlers at the expense of former owners of that land while the other half was a protest on police brutality and the unfair judicial system in Nandi[13]. The document was immediately deemed seditious and Seroney was arrested on Saturday, September 20, 1969 at Eldoret and transported to Nakuru with his friend Mr. Mitei and on Tuesday 23 September charged with sedition in a Nakuru court

The 1970s

1970- Enactment of the Land Planning Act
It repealed the Development and use of Land (Planning) Regulation. This Act governed how land was planned for development but was later repealed in 1996.

1970: Vice President Moi
The appointment of Moi by Kenyatta may have been informed by desire to attract and appease the larger rift valley. By 1970, Vice President Moi had become the most visible non-Kikuyu politician that was looked at enviously by the GEMA community.

1971- Alleged Plot to Overthrow President Kenyatta
In 1971, a conspiracy emerged indicating that some groups in KANU were plotting to overthrow the president. The plot, it was claimed was not just against the president but also against the GEMA community as a whole. This conspiracy led to greater schisms, accusations and counter accusations in KANU.

1972- ILO Report On Regional Inequalities
Despite the detaining of Jaramogi among others, agitation for inequality in Kenya did not end. There was perceived inequality in the civil service and in the distribution of resources across the country (National Cake)

“In 1970, at the invitation of the Kenyan government, the International Labor Organization initiated an evaluation of the distribution of employment opportunities and other means of income generation. The committee reported to the government in early 1972, and published its analysis and recommendations shortly thereafter. The research depicted regional differences in welfare statistically for the first time, highlighting the privileged position of Central Province. The policy proposals urged a redistribution of public resources to achieve greater equity in levels of "development" and income-earning opportunity between people of different regions and backgrounds”[14]

This report became centre stage in discussion in parliament as well as political mobilization with inequalities being cited by politicians to evoke ethnic sentiments and balkanization. Some key politicians were Seroney, Mwangale, and Shikuku among others.

1973- GEMA spearheads attempt to "rejuvenate" KANU
In the run up to the 1974 elections, there was widespread agitation for equal distribution of resources in the country. Factions had emerged in the ruling Party Kanu; the factions were ethnic based. Additionally, perceived aging of the president led to the GEMA community being wary.  

1974- General elections
Due to ethnic mobilization, the 1974 despite being in a one party system was contested. Voter turnout was also relatively high as most Kenyans in the grassroots began to link elections with resource allocation or national cake sharing.

1975- J. M. Kariuki assassinated
Apart from Oginga Odinga, Kenyatta also faced fierce opposition to the Kenyatta regime came from J. M. Kariuki. For him, the Kenyatta government was supporting a few elites and exploiting the masses. The contentious issue was land, where Kikuyu elites awarded themselves large tracts of land without paying attention to other poor kikuyu that had been displaced from their ancestral land by the colonial administration.

J. M Kariuki was one of the socialist leaning, anti-inequality crusaders in the run up to the 1974 elections. He had been involved in various campaigns highlighting inequality in Kenya. J.M using his great oratory skills had managed to articulate the problem of have-nots and the haves in Kenya. He criticized the system that facilitated greater riches for the rich by bleeding the poor. J. M. Kariuki was found dead on 2nd march 1975 and his death precipitated various activities. For instance, it brought repression in Kenya to international attention. It led to riots by university of Nairobi students and the university was closed for several years.

1975- Detention of University Lecturers Critical of Kenyatta
The death precipitated criticism from university lecturers and journalists like Koigi Wa Wamwere writing about ills of the system. This led to a crackdown leading to detaining of Koigi among others in 1975. In 1976, Ngugi waThiong’o was arrested owing to art based activism as part of the wider crackdown on lecturers and writers critical of the country. While Prof. Mazrui did not earn the tag of activist, as used in the mainstream, he was in no way a lesser activist for political freedom and better governance in Africa. Through his writings, Prof. Mazrui highlights the ills of the colonial administration but also the neo-colonialism that was perpetuated by independence regimes like Jomo Kenyatta’s government. For Prof. Mazrui the Kenyatta regime did not appreciate the power of traditional values in uniting Kenyans. Instead, traditional values, idiom, technologies and systems were exploited by the state for the benefit of the state rather than to the benefit of communities and individuals in society. Such values were supposed to contribute towards establishment of national ethos that would liberate national creativity for patriotic engagement in nation building.

Kenyatta while seeming to advocate for indigenization through for instance his attire and use of Kiswahili as opposed to English as a national language, used these African items to consolidate power rather than to empower the people. Mutua and Gonzalez, (2013) point out that his attire was made up of items that were trademark symbols of traditional authority: beaded Maasai hat, carved walking cane and whisk. The cultural apparel are symbols of traditional authority and as such positioned Kenyatta as a person who understood the complexities of staying connected to indigenous cultures and still managing to navigate new cultural contexts.

1976- Ngugi waThiong’o,
In 1976, Ngugi helped set up The Kamiriithu Community Education and Cultural Centre, which, among other things, organized African Theatre in the area. The uncensored political message of his 1977 play Ngaahika Ndeenda (I Will Marry When I Want) provoked the then Kenyan Vice-President Daniel arap Moi to order his arrest. While detained in the Kamiti Maximum Security Prison, Ngũgĩ wrote the first modern novel in Gikuyu, Caitaani mũtharaba-Inĩ (Devil on the Cross), on prison-issued toilet paper

1977- GEMA Dominance
By 1977, about 95% of the former White Highlands had been transferred to black African ownership, principally Kikuyu, but also Embu and Meru (together these ethnic groups comprised 30% of the population). Ethnic favoritism and political patronage also played an important role in land acquisitions, as did corruption. The system favored wealthy Kikuyu with political connections, at the expense of other ethnic groups, such as the Luo, Maasai and Kalenjin. They gained access to settlement scheme lands in Coast Province, Rift Valley Province, and other locations across the country.  Kenyatta himself illegally acquired large tracts of settlement land.

1964-1978-   Defacto One Party State
The merger of KANU and KADU led to Kenya becoming a de facto one party state until 1966 when KPU was formed only for it to be banned in 1969. Jomo Kenyatta managed to easily consolidate power through oratory but also patronage and tactical competence (Laikidi and Mazrui, 1973:24). Wooing KADU leaders to join KANU government was a tactical move that rendered KANU identical to the state. Kenyatta eloquently drummed up support for a united Kenya through his colorful speeches. Consequently, as people bought into nationalist rhetoric, they became increasingly entrapped in the shackles of KANU through patriotic sentiments. Consequently, Kenyatta managed to centralize all power and institutional management in the country fall under the direct purveys and control of the state. The centralization of power gave Kenyatta and top leaders in Kanu immense control over state operations, production activities, land acquisition and adjudication and overall administration at all levels in the country. The provincial administration was filled by state appointees, largely KANU die-hards or loyalties.
To become a member of parliament, one had to be a life member of KANU. This practically meant that members of parliament were direct appointees of KANU. Parliament was ineffective due to the power of KANU in determining who can be a member of parliament and who cannot be. Lakidi and Mazrui (1973:1 explain this as they observe that "Parliamentary practice and the very institution of parliament requires that the mechanism of competitive political recruitment become institutionalized such as elections. Which become a way of attracting new political talent, and whose rewards provide a stimulus for political ambition". Role of KANU and by extension the president in determine individual politicians survival effectively crippled the efficacy of parliament hence there were no check and balances to the executive.
Consolidation of power through KANU helped President Kenyatta to minimize political competition, especially competition for presidency. Additionally, it was easy to award cronies and satiate the local economic and political elite that were emerging by offering powerful positions in KANU. Competition for power happened within KANU and thus Kenyatta and his powerful friends had to purge any form of defiance in KANU and carefully control the electoral process.
The first squabble in KANU is associated with Cold War intrigues. Odinga and Kenyatta differed ideologically but also practically in terms of approach in tackling issues of land, state organization and economic development. Due to ideological differences, Mboya and Kenyatta went on the offensive painting Odinga as a renegade keen on destabilizing the government and that Marxism was a political ideology of the lazy who expected freebies from the government rather than working hard. While Kenyatta and Mboya’s camp worked on sessional paper no. 10 of 1965 to propound the progressive social capitalism, Oginga and the like of Gama Pinto worked on a counter paper that was to entrench socialist thinking in government organization. Everything in KANU revolved around Kenyatta until in May 1968 when the president suffered a Mild heart attack. This brought to the fore the question of succession in case the president passed on.
Mboya and Kenyatta having successively maligned Odinga, he resigned from KANU in 1966 and formed the Kenya People’s Union in 1966 (Ingham, 1990:98). Once Odinga had been chased out of KANU, Mboya became the most powerful Luo politician in government and was widely viewed as the likely successor of President Kenyatta. This is considered, by many, as the reason why he was assassinated in July 1969. The assassination of Mboya added fire into the Kenyatta-Odinga conflict because Odinga accused Kenyatta of the assassination. In an ugly incident during a rally in Kisumu, Odinga supporters booed and heckled Kenyatta. The presidential security team shot and killed several people and after the incident, KPU was proscribed Odinga was arrested and detained.
Majority of university lecturers and students had bought into the Marxist approaches in analysis of society. This put them at loggerhead with government for they seemed to be supporting the socialist leaning opposition.  The membership in KANU was institutionalized with most active members being life members. Kenyatta being the chair and life member was declared life chairperson, which translated into president for life because the chair of the party was the automatic president.
The KANU Manifesto stipulated the conditions for nomination. To be eligible for candidacy, all aspirants had to be life members of KANU. Former KPU members had to have been members of KANU for a period of three consecutive years from the time of their release from detention. All candidates and in particular former KPU members had to identify themselves with the government and KANU policies.
1976-1977- Change the Constitution Movement
GEMA fails to introduce a constitutional amendment to prevent non-Kikuyu Vice President Moi from succeeding Kenyatta. With the help of Charles Njonjo, attempts by the likes of Kihika Kimani to introduce constitutional clauses that would prevent Moi from succeeding Kenyatta were thwarted. Njonjo introduced a clause that made it illegal and treasonable to imagine the death of a president. When the legal efforts failed, the group tried to deal with Moi through KANU elections. However, the elections of KANU of 1977 were abortive.
At a Nakuru rally, on 26 September 1976, attended by over 20 MPs including Kenyatta's heir apparent Dr. Njoroge Mungai (a nominated MP) the campaign by Change-the-Constitution advocates was launched. Paul Ngei, Minister for Co-operative Development said "During the three months that allows the Vice President to become President....a lot of things can happen. If you give me that period I can really teach you a lesson and I can assure you it would not be a pleasant one: (quoted in Karimi and Ochieng, 1990:21). October 4th 1976 the fiery member for Mombasa Central Shariff Nassir, became the first to openly condemn the advocates of Change-the-Constitution. On 6th October, the attorney general seeking to stifle change the constitution declared
"In view of the recent wave of statements at public meetings about the alleged need for amendment to our constitution, I would like to bring to the attention of those few who are being used to advocate the amendment that it is a criminal offence for any person to encompass, imagine, devise or intend the death or deposition of the President....Furthermore, it is also an offence to express, utter or declare such campassings, imaginations, devices or intentions by publishing them in print or writing" (quoted in Karim and Ochieng, 1980:22).
On October 7 the change constitution group issued a press statement dubbed the Midlands Hotel Declaration (Karim and Ochieng, 1980). Politicians such as Kihika Kimani, Njenga Karume, Njoroge Mungai, Jackson Angaine, James Gichuru and Paul Ngei and 98 members of Parliament led by the late Stanley Oloitiptip condemned Njonjo’s amendment. The pro-amendment crusaders did not heed Njonjo leading to a clamp down campaign by Kenyatta’s government using the Ngoroko – leading to the emergency of a scandal called the NGoroko Affair.
President Kenyatta dies in 1978 and Moi was sworn in as acting president.


[1] http://www.jambonewspot.com/how-kenyatta-tackled-early-scares-to-his-presidency/
[2] Story by Norjee in the star news paper of Wednesday, December 5, 2012, - See more at: http://new.the-star.co.ke/news/article-98377/sickening-kanu-kadu-deal-back#sthash.Q9deRDJP.dpuf
[3] Idem
[4] idem
[5] http://www.jambonewspot.com/how-kenyatta-tackled-early-scares-to-his-presidency/
[6]http://www.nation.co.ke/News/regional/Unsung%20Mau%20Mau%20hero%20whose%20%20family%20cries%20foul%20over%20injustice%20/-/1070/1087940/-/10q8iab/-/index.html
[7] http://www.awaazmagazine.com/index.php/archives/item/304-pio-gama-pinto-independant-kenyas-first-marytr
[8] Idem
[9] http://mobile.nation.co.ke/news/When-Kenyatta-and-Jaramogi--were-caught-up-in-Cold-War-intrigues/-/1950946/2112244/-/format/xhtml/-/67wibfz/-/index.html
[10] http://www.tommboya.org/index.php/news-2/archives/99-death-in-the-afternoon
[11] http://africanewsonline.blogspot.com/2009/10/incident-that-turned-kenya-into-one.html
[12] Daily Nation, 28th July 1969
[13] Ibid
[14] http://publishing.cdlib.org/ucpressebooks/view?docId=ft9h4nb6fv&chunk.id=d0e1634

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