Jomo Kenyatta was born in Kamau, Kenya, on 20 October 1891 and grew up in Ichaweri, southwest of Mount Kenya. Kenyatta ran away from home to become a pupil at the Church of Scotland Mission, where he studied English, Mathematics, the Bible and carpentry. In 1914, he was baptised Johnstone Kamau and left the mission for Nairobi.
In Nairobi he adopted the name "Kenyatta" and worked in the Public Works Department. In 1922, he joined the first anti-settler protest movement, the East Africa Association (EAA). However, this organisation was banned in 1925, and he joined the Kikuyu Central Association (KCA), of which he later became general secretary. The aim of the KCA was to address the colonial challenges faced by the Kikuyu.
In 1929, Kenyatta went to London, and only returned to Kenya 15 years later. He became the principal of the Kenya Teachers College on his return and in 1947 was elected the president of Kenya African Union (KAU). He was later linked to the Mau-Mau Society, a radical anti-colonial movement that staged the Mau-Mau Rebellion, a peasant revolt against white colonial rule. He was arrested in 1952 for allegedly leading the group.
Following a five month trial, he was imprisoned until 1959 and detained until 1961. Kenyatta became Prime Minister in 1963 and the President of Kenya in 1964. The opposition party, KADU, was dissolved, and Kenya became a one party state. As he had been the sole presidential candidate in each election during his term of office, Kenyatta was re-elected three times. His leadership was marked by corruption and nepotism, and he is said to have been the largest landowner in Kenya.
In 1966, Kenyatta had a heart attack and was plagued by ill health until his death on 22 August 1978. He was buried on parliament grounds and was succeeded by his vice president, Daniel arap-Moi.
The Mau-Mau Rebellion, with which Jomo Kenyatta was frequently associated with, served to inspire protest action in many parts of the African continent, including South Africa. This is because at the time of the rebellion, the Malan administration had began to implement its repressive laws.
- Bute, E.L. & Harmer, H.J.P. (1997) The Black Handbook. London: Cassell.
- Jomo Kenyatta [online] Available at: britannica.com [Accessed 11 August 2009]
- Jomo Kenyatta - A Leader of Black Africa (1952) The Age [online]. 12 November, p.2. [Accessed 11 August 2009]
- Wallis, F. (2000). Nuusdagboek: feite en fratse oor 1000 jaar. Kaapstad: Human & Rousseau.