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Heroes Day: Kenya Indians flourished under President Kenyatta | Coastweek

MEMORIES OF KENYA'S FIRST PRESIDENT MZEE JOMO KENYATTA - Clockwise from top left: Youthful Kenyan newspaper editor Kul Bhushan presents his 'Kenya Factbook' to President Jomo Kenyatta in 1975. Looking on is his ubiquitous minister Mbiyu Koinange. Kenya’s undisputed leader, Jomo Kenyatta, pictured with trade unionist Makhan Singh [and center] after their release from prison in 1961. In a happy mood with Apa Pant, Indian High Commissioner, who later became a life-long friend of President Jomo Kenyatta. The first day cover for special stamps in honour of President Jomo Kenyatta were issued on 16 October and not 20th, the then 'Kenyatta Day'.


Heroes Day: Kenya Indians flourished under President Kenyatta
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 suffering.

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 1895.

After his parents died during his early years, he moved with his grandfather.

He obtained his early education at a church school with carpentry training.

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 word ‘Kenyatta’.

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 tribe.

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 close friend.

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 2013.

Known simply as ‘Mzee’ or a respected elder, Jomo Kenyatta, a thundering orator, always promoted unity among the three races and over 50 Kenyan tribes.

His philosophy of ‘forgive but do not forget’ is presented in his book, ‘Suffering Without Bitterness’. Kenya became the blue-eyed nation for the west as investment poured in.

And Kenya Indians were always eager to pledge their loyalty to him for their security and prosperity.



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