New book on Kenya’s first President released
Kenyatta Cabinets, published by the Kenya Yearbook Editorial Board, captures some of the most memorable occurrences during Kenyatta’s reign as his ministers lay the nation’s foundation.
It tells of Kenyatta’s troubled childhood having lost his parents at a tender age, how he was brought up by an uncle, Ngengi wa Magana. Kenyatta later betrayed him by abandoning goats and sheep he was herding in Gatundu and left for Kikuyu. The book retraces the footsteps of the 10-year-old boy walking from Gatundu to Kikuyu for his first encounter with the white man who left a lasting impression.
By the time he fled home, Kenyatta was in urgent need of medication and was easily won over by the whites who effortlessly ended his miserly and introduced him to formal education, marking the beginning of his journey into statesmanship and politics. The book at the same time pieces together the intriguing lives of the men who were picked by Kenyatta immediately after independence to steer the country’s social and economic growth and captures the tensions, thrills and pains of a young nation.
Veteran journalist, Philip Ochieng, describes the book as “an attempt to tell independent Kenya’s political history, informed by the belief that any society which desires to progress rapidly must first come to grips with its past.”
Information minister Samuel Poghisio says: “The book focuses on Kenya’s first president, examines the journey of the nation and looks at the hallmarks of Kenyatta’s era, giving biological accounts of the 38 Cabinet ministers who steered Kenya into the nation it is today.”
According to the Kenya Yearbook Chief Executive Dennis Chebitwey, Kenyatta Cabinets is the first of a biographical series to be published by the board, which hopes to record the country’s history for posterity.
Written in fast paced journalistic style, it captures some of the most momentous occasions of Kenya’s history, rendering some fresh anecdotes of Kenya’s most influential men and women. The book also offers new insights into how some colonial extremists plotted to shoot down any attempts by Africans to govern themselves even as some cantankerous racists such as Ewart Grogan advocated for Kenyatta’s release at a time when such an idea was considered crazy.
The book also recollects how US assisted Africans by offering them education opportunities through the famous airlifts popularised by Tom Mboya, while Britain responded by sending sons of colonial chiefs and home guards to diploma colleges in Kenya and Uganda.
At one point, there was comical rivalry between US and Britain, with the latter dismissing the education offered by US as low quality, while all Britain did was offer diploma courses to Africans.
Even as the friendly rivals sparred, they were forever wary of Moscow and the threat of communism, keeping a keen eye on Kenyatta who had visited Russia and even started a course.
The book climaxes with Kenyatta’s succession drama that shaped the country’s political path.