NEW DELHI India --
On 20 October, Kenya celebrates its national holiday, the
former 'Kenyatta Day' and subsequently renamed 'Heroes Day',
to pay tribute to all freedom fighters and the father of the
nation, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, writes Swami Anand Kul Bhushan .
During the Kenyatta era, Kenya Indians prospered as Kul
Bhushan, who worked as a newspaper editor in Nairobi during
this period, recalls the charismatic leader who united
different races and tribes for progress and prosperity.
The word Kenyatta means light of Kenya in Swahili.
Jomo Kenyatta was the unquestioned leader who brought the
light of freedom to Kenya after tremendous sacrifice and
Kenya Indians during his 15-year presidency from 1963 to
1978, thousands of Indians left Kenya when he introduced
Africanisation of business.
Many more became small industrialists from shopkeepers as
the economy grew by around seven per cent during this time.
Earlier, Kenya Indians played a key role in the fight for
independence for many decades.
They demanded equal rights for all in the legislative
council; published newspapers and magazines pressing for
equality and some even went to jail with African leaders in
their freedom struggle.
But the focus was always Jomo Kenyatta.
Known by different names during his life, he was born as
Kamau wa Ngngi in a village near Nairobi between 1889 and
After his parents died during his early years, he moved
with his grandfather.
He obtained his early education at a church school with
As an apprentice, he was baptized as Johnstone Kamau.
While working as an interpreter, in 1919, he married
Grace Wahu in a tribal ceremony, so he was ordered by the
church to get remarried before a magistrate.
Working as a store clerk, he wore a beaded belt with the
Taking interest in politics as an activist of Kikuyu
Central Association (KCA), he became its leader and editor
of its weekly.
In 1929, KCA sent him to London to present African
grievances before Colonial Office funded by an Indian
leader, Isher Das who sails with him.
He visited Russia before returning as unrest started at
home. Joined a one-year course at Moscow University and
later University Colle, London, and published his magnum
opus, ‘Facing Mount Kenya’ under his new name, Jomo
Kenyatta, about the lifestyle and culture of his Kikuyu
During the World War Two, he worked as a film actor and
married an Englishwoman Edna Clarke while working as a trade
union leader before returning to Kenya in 1946.
After becoming the president of Kenya African Union, he
meets Indian’s High Commissioner Apa Pant who later became a
Addressing rallies all over Kenya, he calls for
independence within three years. Another trade unionist,
Makhan Singh, joins him.
When Emergency is declared in 1952, he is arrested with
Makhan Singh, Pio Gama Pinto and others. Charged for
managing Mau Mau uprising, he is defended by D. N. Pritt,
Q.C.; Diwan Chaman Lall sent by Indian PM Nehru and Kenyan
Indians lawyers, A. R. Kapila and Dr. F. R. S. DeSouza.
During his seven year imprisonment, an Indian Gandhian,
Ambu Patel, forms Release Kenyatta Committee, stages
protests and publishes books urging for his freedom.
On his release in 1961, he is given a hero’s welcome in
Nairobi as president of Kenya National African Union (KANU).
Two years later, on 12 December 1963, he is sworn as the
president of Kenya until his death in 1978.
Earlier, in 1961, a son, Uhuru (freedom) was born to his
third wife. Uhuru became the fourth president of Kenya in