6 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.*
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.
Also on this date
- 1793: Madame Roland, éminence grise
- 1752: James of the Glen
- 1676: Anna Schmieg and Barbara Schleicher, Langenburg witches
- 1861: Sushun, by Empress Dowager Cixi
- 1845: Lavinia Burnett and Crawford Burnett
- 1892: Jens Nielsen, the last in Denmark
- 1520: Stockholm Bloodbath