Founding President Jomo Kenyatta’s Cabinets have been documented in a book to be launched on Wednesday.
The launch of the Kenyatta Cabinets: Drama. Intrigue. Triumph coincides with marking 34 years since Kenya’s founding president died.
The 368-page publication, put together by the Kenya Yearbook Editorial Board, focuses on Kenyatta’s life, Kenya’s journey into independence, the hallmarks of Mzee’s era and his death.
The book also gives extensive biographical accounts of the 38 Cabinet ministers who served under Mzee Kenyatta and helped steer the newly independent Kenya into the nation it is today.
Unlike the current government which has more than 40 ministers, Mzee Kenyatta only served with 38 during his 15-year rule.
There’s, however, relief for Kenyans as the Constitution has set the maximum number of ministers, now called cabinet secretaries, the country should have at 22.
According to Information and Communications minister Samuel Poghisio, as Kenya’s founding father, Mzee Kenyatta and the Cabinet members that helped him lead a young and newly independent Kenya, “indeed gave us footing as a country through the leadership principles they instilled during the formative years of this country”.
“From this era, we learn the spirit of one-ness with which our founding father held the nation together at a delicate time when much was still uncharted for a country still grappling to adjust from colonialism to independence,” Mr Poghisio said.
Kenya Year Book board member Philip Ochieng’ said the book attempts to tell independent Kenya’s political history.
“The effort is informed by the belief that any society which desires to progress rapidly must first come to grips with the past. The reason seems self-evident. Only from the pages of history can a society find the lessons with which to tackle the present as it tries to build a better future,” Mr Ochieng said.
He added: “It does not matter whether the past is glorious, whether the lessons are positive. In fact, as one philosopher points out, it is often our failings — rather than our successes — that determine our ideals.”
The book notes that during Kenyatta’s time, the economy grew by leaps and bounds. The glossy book also has some landmark pictures including one of Kenyatta being sworn in as Kenya’s first Prime Minister by governor Malcolm Macdonald on June 13, 1963.
Another photo taken at the Bamburi Lodge, Mombasa, in 1970 shows Mzee Kenyatta with Mama Ngina and their children Muhoho, Nyokabi and Uhuru.
In another photo, former Cabinet minister Tom Mboya and now President Mwai Kibaki hug and jump for joy after Kanu’s victory over Kadu in the 1963 parliamentary elections as an overjoyed Mzee Kenyatta flashes the Kanu salute.
Among the people who had great influence in the Kenyatta Cabinet were Jaramogi Oginga Odinga who was his Vice-President and minister in the first Cabinet before their fallout in 1966 when Jaramogi formed the Kenya Peoples Union.
Jaramogi was to remain the father of opposition politics until his death in 1994.
Mr Daniel arap Moi, who was to rise to VP and rule Kenya for 24 years as president, also served in the Kenyatta Cabinet after disbanding Kadu.
Moi, together with Mr Mwai Kibaki (now president), Mr Charles Njonjo, Dr Njoroge Mungai and Mr Joseph Otiende are among the few surviving members of the Kenyatta Cabinets.
Following are some of the most influential members of the Kenyatta Cabinets:
Jaramogi Oginga Odinga: He was appointed Vice-President and Home Affairs minister in 1964 and resigned in 1966.
He was detained from 1969 to 1971 after his supporters stoned Mzee Kenyatta’s motorcade in Kisumu.
He led the fight for political pluralism until the country returned to multiparty democracy in 1990. Mr Moi had amended the Constitution to make the country a one party state in 1982.
He was elected MP for Bondo and leader of the Official Opposition in Parliament in 1992 after 23 years out of politics.
Charles Njonjo: He was the first Attorney-General when Kenya gained Independence in 1963.
He is credited with recommending Moi as Kenya’s third Vice-President after the resignation of Mr Joseph Murumbi in 1967.
He resigned as AG in 1980, the same year he contested the Kikuyu parliamentary seat which he won and was appointed minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs.
Mr Njonjo resigned as minister in 1983 after being accused of trying to illegally take over the presidency from Mr Moi.
Today, he keeps a low political profile although he is among an elite group from central Kenya who support Prime Minister Raila Odinga in his campaigns for the presidency.
Tom Mboya: At Independence (1963) he was appointed Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister and a year later moved to the Ministry of Economic Planning and National Development.
Mboya was one of Kenya’s most influential post-independent leaders and was seen as a Kenyatta heir-apparent until an assassin’s bullet stopped him in 1969.
He negotiated the formation of a joint government between Kanu and Kadu after the later disbanded.
A fiery trade unionist, Mboya was instrumental in the formation of the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu).
He spearheaded the educational projects in East and Central Africa that led to East African students travelling for further studies in American universities.
Achieng Oneko: He was the first minister for Information and Broadcasting after winning the Nakuru town seat in the first General Election.
Through his influence, the government nationalised the national broadcasting media.
He was detained under the Kenyatta government (1969-1975) and returned to politics in 1990, winning the Rarieda constituency seat on a Ford Kenya ticket but lost in the 1997 elections.
Ronald Ngala: He led Africans to the Lancaster House Conference in 1960.
In 1962 after the elections, he became the leader of the Official Opposition as leader of Kadu and fought constitutional amendments that led to a powerful presidency
In 1964 after the dissolution of Kadu and incorporation in Kanu, he was appointed minister for Cooperatives and Social Services.
Njoroge Mungai: He was elected MP for Nairobi West in 1963 and appointed minister for Health and Housing in the first Cabinet.
He played a key role in establishing the medical school and the Kenya Medical Association. He also served as minister for Internal Security and Defence.
He participated in dialogue with Somali elders from North Eastern and developed the Arusha Accord in 1967 that ushered in peace in the region.
During his tenure as Environment minister, he played a big role in the setting up of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) in Kenya in 1981. He retired from politics in 1997.
Kenyatta Cabinets: Drama. Intrigue. Triumph is available in leading local bookshops at a cost of Sh6,000.