Posts filed under 'Kenya'

1969: Nahashon Isaac Njenga Njoroge, assassin of Tom Mboya

7 comments November 8th, 2010 Headsman

At 3 a.m. this date in 1969 at a Nairobi prison that Nahashon Isaac Njenga Njoroge swung for assassinating Kenyan Luo politician Tom Mboya earlier that year … never clarifying the cryptic question he uttered to the authorities, “Why don’t you go after the big man?”

“No African leader has an abler brain or a stronger will,” wrote one Englishwoman who knew Mboya during his lifetime.*

A trade unionist during the waning days of British authority, the ethnically Luo Mboya had become a leading anti-colonial figure as the ethnically Kikuyu Mau Mau were suppressed.

During Kenya’s last years as a British possession, Mboya organized the African American Students Foundation, to provide scholarships for students from British East Africa to study in the United States.

(It was on Mboya’s AASF program — funded by John F. Kennedy — that a promising young Kenyan economics student named Barack Obama studied at the University of Hawaii in the 1960-61 academic year, and got an American girl pregnant. The reader will be familiar with those semesters’ legacy.)

Upon Kenyan independence, Mboya became a Member of Parliament and a cabinet officer, holding the Economic Planning and Development portfolio until he was gunned down on the streets outside a pharmacy on July 5, 1969.

Mboya’s murder by Njoroge,** a youth activist for the Kikuyu-dominated Kenya African National Union party (KANU) that Mboya himself had also joined, was widely read as President Jomo Kenyatta consolidating his own grip on the country and eliminating potential rivals.†

Mboya certainly had the talent and ambition to aspire to leadership in Kenya; little wonder that anger among his Luo people boiled over when Mboya was laid to rest.

Njoroge’s hanging during the pre-dawn hours this date — just days after Kenyatta banned the Luo-based opposition party, making Kenya into a one-party state — was conducted in secret; word only got out in late November, and even then it was not through an official announcement.

Njoroge remains the official lone gunman in this case, the only person ever held to judicial account for Tom Mboya’s convenient elimination. Decades later, however, many are still searching for the real story.

* From the London Times‘ unsigned July 7, 1969 obituary of Mboya.

** Allegedly by Njoroge; the assassin was not caught on the scene and Njoroge denied pulling the trigger, telling the court that Mboya was his longtime friend. (London Times, September 10, 1969) There are plenty who consider Njoroge a fall guy.

Pio Gama Pinto (1965) and Josiah Mwangi Kariuki (1975) were similar

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Activists,Assassins,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,History,Kenya,Murder,Notable for their Victims

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1957: Dedan Kimathi, Mau Mau commander

1 comment February 18th, 2009 Headsman

At a Nairobi prison this morning in 1957, the most famed and feared of the so-called Mau Mau was hanged under emergency measures permitting the death penalty for illegal firearms possession.

The armed Mau Mau uprising against British colonialism was by this time on its last legs militarily, having been ground down by years of murderous anti-insurgent operations and pleasantries like mass internment.

It had been an ugly fight on all sides, with overlapping conflicts — within the Kikuyu tribe, between Kenya’s native populations, and between the British Empire and her faraway subjects — brutally settled.

Certainly the Mau Mau’s depredations had garnered voluptuous press coverage in the mother country; accordingly, the capture of “Field Marshal” Kimathi, the biggest name in the insurgency, was a plume in the British lion’s cap.

(An earlier propaganda piece along the same lines sounded the war tocsin “so that peace may come to this troubled colony.”)

Notwithstanding the (still) official London take on Kimathi and the Mau Mau, their fight for the independence Kenya would soon attain has made Kimathi a hero to many Kenyans.* He was honored on the 50th anniversary of his death with a bronze statue in Nairobi.

And more than that: the Mau Mau would metastasize into a sort of floating signifier for implacable racialized anti-colonialism, a powerful symbol for an age of decolonization. Malcolm X frequently invoked the Mau Mau example. Frantz Fanon saw in the Mau Mau the potency of spontaneous rural resistance in generating white interest in “compromise” with the moderate who

never stop saying to the settlers: ‘we are still capable of stopping the slaughter; the masses still have confidence in us; act quickly if you do not want to put everything in jeopardy.’ … as the settlers cannot discuss terms with these Mau-Mau, he himself will be quite willing to begin negotiations.

* Although many surviving Mau Mau themselves are nonplussed by their post-independence treatment.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Famous,Guerrillas,Hanged,History,Kenya,Language,Martyrs,Occupation and Colonialism,Popular Culture,Separatists,Soldiers,Terrorists,Wartime Executions

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