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Lives and contributions of Kenyan leaders - History Form 3

Lives and contributions of Kenyan leaders

In this Topic, we shall discuss the lives and contribution of Kenyan leaders, Jomo Kenyatta and wangari Maathai. Jomo Kenyatta was the first President of the Republic of Kenya, founding father of the nation. He was one of the leading nationalists in Kenya and Africa. The late Professor Wangari Muta Maathai was also a renowned Kenyan leader who greatly contributed to Kenya's development as a female leader.

Mzee Jomo Kenyatta


By the end of the lesson, you should be able to:

1. Analyse the early life of Jomo Kenyatta.

2. Explain the political career of Jomo Kenyatta.

3. Assess the achievements of Jomo Kenyatta.

Jomo Kenyatta

Kenyatta was born in Gatundu in the early 1890s. His real name was Kamau wa Ngengi. His parents were Muigai wa Ngengi and Wambui. He spent most of his early life at Dagoretti where he lived with his maternal grandfather Kung’u wa Magana. He joined Thogoto Mission School and obtained elementary education. He then moved to Nairobi where he worked as a clerk with Municipal Council of Nairobi. He acquired the name "Kenyatta" from a heavily beaded Maasai belt he always wore.

Mzee Jomo Kenyatta

His Political Career

Mzee Jomo Kenyatta is one of the Nationalists who shaped the history and politics of Kenya before and afterindependence.

- His political career began when Kenyatta became a member of Kikuyu Central Association (KCA)

- He then became the Secretary of KCA and the editor of KCA newspaper Muiguithania

- Muiguithania published articles about African grievances against colonial rule such as land, forced labour and taxation

He travelled to London to present Kikuyu grievances to the colonial government in 1929.

While in London Kenyatta wrote articles in a newspaper called 'Daily Worker' concerning alienated African land and arrest and detention of Harry Thuku. KCA had been formed in 1924 to aggitate for the grievances of the Africans. Kenyatta who was by this time in London worked hard to strengthen the organisation and represented its demands to Hilton Young commission. While in London, he published his famous book "Facing Mt Kenya". He returned to Kenya i 1946, where he got involved in the struggle for independence.

Mzee Jomo Kenyatta

His Contribution to the Struggle for Independence

Kenyatta contributed a lot to the struggle for independence in Kenya. Among his contributions were;

(i) He became the President of Kenya African Union (KAU) after James Gichuru stepped down in his favour

(ii) He was a member of Pan-African Movement which was against colonization of Africa

(iii) He believed in using constitutional reforms other than violence as a method of attaining independence

(iv) He conducted rallies all over the country to foster nationalism which brought various communities together

(v) The Mau Mau activities led to the declaration of State of Emergency in October 1952. Kenyatta was arrested together with other leaders of KAU

Kenyatta being arrested

Kapenguria Six

Kenyatta travelled throughout the country holding rallies and addressing the people. This alarmed the colonial government. Kenyatta and other five leaders of KAU were sentenced to seven years in Kapenguria prison. They became known as Kapenguria Six. These were Jomo Kenyatta, Paul Ngei, Bildad Kaggia, Kung'u Karumba, Achieng Oneko and Fred Kubai.

Kapenguria six

Road to Independence

In 1961 KANU won the elections but the party refused to form the government until Kenyatta was released from detention

- In 1961 Kenyatta was set free and became the President of KANU

- In 1962, he attended the second Lancaster House Conference to discuss the constitution that led Kenya to independence in 1963

Lancaster Conference

- In June 1963 KANU won the general elections and Kenya attained internal self-government with Kenyatta as the first Prime Minister

- On 12th December 1963 Kenya attained independence with Kenyatta as the first president

- On 12th December 1964 Kenya became a Republic

- Kenyatta ruled the country until his death in August 22, 1978.

Prior Knowledge

Previouly, we learnt that Kenya gained independence in 1963. We also said that several nationalists contributed toward the achievement of independence. We also mentioned that after independence, the country faced three major challenges, namely:

Some of the Kenyan leaders such as Jomo Kenyatta, Martin Shikuku, Mwai Kibaki, Kalonzo MusyokaTekla Lourupe, Oginga Odinga, Dekha Ibrahim, Wangari Maathai, Tom Mboya, Daniel Moi,Charity Ngilu, Ronald Ngala, Eddah Gachukia, Manu Chandaria and Lady Justice Joyce Aluoch have contributed and sacrificed a lot to see Kenya overcome the three challenges and unite the country to achieve development. Other Kenyans who have also played a significant role in national development include Jane Kiano, Ndingi Mwana Nzeki, Kipchoge Keino, Grace Ogot, Kivutha Kibwana, Martha Karua, Raila Odinga, Chelagat Mutai, Paul Muite, Alexander Muge, Kenneth Matiba, Sally Kosgei, James Orengo, Timothy Njoya, Maria Nzomo, Yash Pal Ghai, and Henry Okulu. Which other Kenyans can you add to the list as having contributed to development in Kenya?


By the end of this lesson you should be able to:
Analyse the life and contribution of Wangari Maathai

Wangari Maathai

In this lesson, we will analyse the life and contribution of the late professor Wangari Maathai who until her death on 25th September 2011, was known for her efforts in environmental conservation.

Wangari Maathai

Wangari's early life

The Late Professor Wangari Muta Maathai was born in Tetu, Nyeri in 1940. She attended Ihithe and St. Cecelia primary schools before joining Loreto Limuru Girls for her secondary education. She later joined Mount St. Scholastica College, in Atchison, Kansas, where she obtained a degree in Biological sciences in 1964. In 1966 she earned a Master of Science degree from the University of Pittsburg. She went on to obtain a PhD from the University of Nairobi where she was also teaching In 1971. This made her the first woman in East and Central Africa to acquire a doctorate degree. In 1976 she became chairperson of the Department of Veterinary Anatomy and later on In 1977 she became an Associate Professor at the University of Nairobi. In both cases, she was the first woman to attain those positions in the region. In 1982, she resigned from teaching and joined political activism and active politics.

Late Wangari displays her award

Wangari' Contributions

The late Wangari Maathai is one of the personalities who have greatly contributed to the development of this country. In 1976-1987, Wangari was actively involved in the activities of the national council of women in Kenya. In 1981-1987 she was the chairperson of the National Christian Council of Women. While here, she introduced the idea of community tree planting. Later she formed the Green Belt Movement which has helped plant 40 million trees on community lands including farms, schools and church compounds.

Women planting trees, one of Late Wangari's projects.

In 1986- the Green Belt Movement established the Pan African Green Belt network which has exposed the idea of tree planting other African countries. Countries that have established Greenbelt movement successfully include:

1) Tanzania

2) Uganda

3) Malawi

4) Lesotho

5) Ethiopia

6) Zimbabwe

In 1988 - she launched the campaign known as Jubilee 2000 coalition. This was an organization that sought to seek cancellation of the unpayable debts of the poor countries in Africa by the year 2000. She has campaigned against land grabbing and illegal allocation of forests. Internationally, she is recognized for her struggle for democracy, human rights and environmental conservation.

late Wangari Mathai

Wangari' achievements

Wangari's achievements include;

1) In 2004- she got the most prestigious award, the Nobel Peace Prize. In the same year, she got the Sophie prize, the Petra Kelly prize for environment and the Sterling Morton. Others include;

1) 2003- Wango environment award

2) 2002 - Outstanding Vision and Commitment award as well as the Excellence award from Kenyan community abroad

3) 1991- Hunger Projects Africa prize for leadership

4) 1989- The Women of the World

Late Wangari Maathai receiveing the Nobel Peace Prize

Wangari Maathai received honorary doctorate degree from the following institutions;

1) 1990: Williams college MA USA

2) 1994 Hobert and William Smith College

3) 1997 University of Norway

4) 2004 Yale university

Late Wangari Maathai

Other achievements of Wangari Maathai are:

- She successfully campaigned against the construction of a 60 storey building at Uhuru Park. He also stopped the acquisition of forest land by private developers.

- In December 2002, the late Wangari Maathai was elected as Member of parliament for Tetu Constituency and served as assistant minister for environment and natural resources between 2003 and 2007 in Kenya's ninth parliament.

Professor Wangari Mathaai died on 25th September 2011 at the age of 71.

Late Wangari Maathai with one of her awards.

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