History Kenya

Political Organization in Kenya during the Colonial Period

In 1920, Kenya became a colony of the British. With Kenyans barred from direct participation in politics of the colony, they formed political organisations cloaked as welfare associations. They included the Young Kikuyu Association, led by Harry Thuku, and Young Kavirondo Association, launched by Jonathan Okwiri in 1921.

In Ukambani, Ndonye wa Kauti used the pulpit to preach politics. Thuku’s role is widely documented. In his 20s and working as a telephone operator, he proposed change the organisation’s name to East African Association because “if we set anything coming from the Kikuyu alone, we would carry no weight. But if we could show that it came from all tribes… then we should have a great voice”.

In 1922, Thuku was detained for eight years, an act that provoked widespread protests that led to the killing of a number of Kenyans during a confrontation with the police. His organisation was outlawed.

But another organisation, Kikuyu Central Association(KCA), was started. Jomo Kenyatta, then Johnstone Kamau, quit as a clerk of the Nairobi Municipal Council to become its secretary-general in 1926. Similar organizations, including the Kavirondo Taxpayers’ Welfare Association, were formed at the same time to crusade for African representation in the Legislative Council(the equivalent of Parliament).

The crusade for freedom also took the form of independent schools and churches built in Gikuyuland in the 1930s. For instance, Mbiyu Koinange, upon his return from overseas in 1938, helped set up Kenya Teachers Training College for independent schools in Githuguri, Kiambu.

The same year, Kenyatta, who had gone to Britain in 1929-1930 and then 1931-1946, wrote Facing Mt Kenya, an anthropological work on the life of the Agikuyu life.

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