The settler knew a lot about how to use African labor. But he could not see what the use of that labor and the production of money was beginning to bring about. He could not see the political change.
WILLOUGHBY SMITH, District Officer in the Colonial Service, 1948-55
To understand the nature of the Mau Mau and of the Mau Mau uprising, it is first necessary to understand a little of the history of Kenya and in particular of the British Colonial administration from approximately the mid-nineteenth century until 1963.
The first Europeans to penetrate East Africa are thought to have been British and German missionaries who, as well as bringing the word of God and so-called Western civilization to the natives, also brought an attitude of acute moral outrage, particularly over the type of heathen practices in which, in their opinion, the natives were prone to indulge. For instance, a large number of the indigenous population did not wear clothes and their nakedness shocked and offended the Europeans, as did the custom of placing their dead in animal traps so as to entice prey to eat. For all their efforts, however, the missionaries made little headway in Kenya. It wasn’t until around 1880 that the British Imperial East Africa Company began to prospect in the region, looking for suitable land that could either be farmed or mined, or better still, both. At this point the Germans had an established protectorate over the Sultan of Zanzibar’s coastal regions, but in the 1890s Germany handed these holdings over to the British who subsequently, in 1895, established the area as a British settlement under the name of the East African Protectorate. Slowly but surely, the British brought the southern half of Kenya under their control too, although the northern half didn’t truly come under British rule until well after World War I (1914-18), during which time both British and South African settlers moved in to the highland regions of the country (soon to be nicknamed the White Highlands). This area contained rich farming land together with a climate perfectly suited to the business of growing coffee. The only drawback was that most of the territory belonged to Kenya’s Kikuyu tribe – a fact the British neither appreciated nor cared to acknowledge. The Kikuya were driven out of their homes and effectively excluded from owning their own land. As if this were not humiliation enough, the Kikuya also suffered when the European settlers decided they required ever increasing amounts of cheap labor in order to run their businesses efficiently. They persuaded the administration to raise taxes on their African neighbors so that increasing numbers of black Kenyans would either be forced to seek work on the farms in order to pay off their tax debts, or to find employment in urban areas such as Nairobi.
Dedan Kimathi was the last of the Mau Mau leaders to be brought to justice. Shot and captured by a Kenyan police officer in October 1956, he was tried and executed for his crimes.
In 1920, Kenya was named a British Crown colony and Sir Charles Eliot was appointed Governor, with an elected Legislative Council to provide him with both advice and support. Naturally, given Britain’s dismal colonial record, native Kenyans were not allowed on this committee; it would not be until the 1940s that a small number would, begrudgingly, be given seats. Eliot, who was first and foremost a scholar of languages (he had published several books, including one on Finnish grammar and another on the Ottoman Empire), was an inflexible man of the old school who believed that Kenya was a ‘white man’s country in which the interests of the European must always be paramount.’1 This attitude was commonplace during the period – based as it was upon the earlier Victorian conviction that it was the white man’s duty to civilize his African cousins. This was the proverbial ‘white man’s burden’: to civilize the Africans and teach them to know their place and accept it.
Given the extent to which the native Kenyans were subjugated and brow-beaten by the British, it is hardly surprising that resentment grew not only at their gross mistreatment but also due to the lack of proper representation in government. Not long after World War I, a political party, made up solely of Kenyan Africans, mobilized themselves into an opposition movement protesting against the government’s crippling tax system, as well as the general lack of opportunities for black Kenyans, the colonial labor-control policies and, most important of all, the illegal appropriation of land, which by 1948 saw approximately 1.25 million Kikuyu restricted to 5,200 square kilometers of scrubland. This was in sharp contrast to the 30,000 European and South African settlers, who enjoyed 31,000 square kilometers of the most desirable farmland.
One of the first of these opposition groups was called the East African Association, but the British swiftly outlawed this organization in 1922. In 1924 a second group was formed called the Kikuyu Central Association (KCA), which demanded not only that the British return all farmlands previously stolen from the Kikuyu to their rightful owners, but that they respect the Kikuyu culture and Kikuyu society. This group, however, much like its predecessor, failed to make any significant headway. Then, in 1945, following the end of World War II , opposition to British rule became increasingly nationalistic and far more noticeably vociferous. This was undoubtedly partly due to the fact that many Africans had been conscripted to help fight alongside the British during the war, and as a result their political consciousness had been raised to the extent that when they returned to civilian life they were no longer prepared to live as second-class citizens in their own country. In 1944 a new political organization had been formed – the Kenyan African Union (KAU). The main leader of this party was a Kikuyu by the name of Jomo Kenyatta who had previously belonged to the KCA. Kenyatta was determined to address the problems of his native Africans and improve their lot but, much as with the KCA, when it came to challenging British colonial rule, the KAU had made little progress.
It was at this point, during these turbulent post-war years that a secret Kikuyu guerrilla organization called the Mau Mau first came into being.
Mau mau is, experts on African languages assert, a term of uncertain provenance. Some people claim it is the Kikuyu word for a group of hills bordering the Rift Valley and Lake Naivasha in northern Kenya, while others maintain the word is a rough alliteration of the Kikuyu war cry. A third interpretation has it that Mau Mau is a British invention meant not only to denigrate the insurgents, but to demonize them. In a British television Channel 4 documentary, How Britain Crushed the Mau Mau Rebellion, the historian Professor Lonsdale remarked how the Mau Mau were first portrayed by the British government as ‘the welling up of the old unreconstructed Africa, which had not yet received sufficient colonial enlightenment and discipline, which proved that colonialism still had a job to do.’ In other words, the Mau Mau were little more than savages bent on misrule and destruction.
Whatever the provenance of the word Mau Mau – be it a form of demonization or the Kikuyu war cry – it is believed that the group was first established some time between 1947 and 1952 with one aim in mind: to free Kenya from colonialism at any cost. In practice, this involved the Mau Mau in a campaign of anti-colonial terrorist violence in which large numbers of both Europeans and Africans were killed.
There had always been a minority of native Kenyans who had cooperated with, and therefore benefited from, colonial rule. Targeting these groups (who mainly lived and worked in the Nyeri District of the Central Province) was relatively easy, and many black ‘collaborators’ subsequently died. Yet the Mau Mau’s violence was, at least initially, directed against the white settlers – a violence that was reflected in the group’s wild initiation ceremonies. These ceremonies made extensive use of ancient symbols and black magic together with the number seven which, for the Kikuya, has huge significance as it is directly linked to their most sacred initiation rites.
Writing extensively about such initiation ceremonies in his book on the Mau Mau, and basing much of his work on the writer L.S.B. Leakey’s original research, Fred Majdalany describes one such ritual:
It is quite dark and he [the initiate] is ordered to remove his clothes. In the darkness he is pushed forward and receives his first Shock when his naked body is brushed by the outline of an arch. This is totally unexpected, but he knows it is the arch of sugar cane and banana leaves through which he has to pass during his initiation into manhood […] Now they would go to work on him quickly. He would be ordered to eat a piece of sacrificial flesh thrust against his lips. This would be done seven times and after each he would have to repeat the oath. Then the lips would be touched with blood seven times, the oath being repeated after each. Next a gourd of blood would be passed round his head seven times; he would be ordered to stick seven thorns into a sodom apple and pierce the eye of the sheep.2
This blend of both the sacred and the profane had a lasting effect on the initiates, who would usually be totally overcome by the ceremony. ‘We used to drink the oath,’ one ex-Mau Mau insurgent, Jacob Njangi, admitted. ‘We swore we would not let white men rule us for ever. We would fight them even down to our last man, so that man could live in freedom.’3
Majdalany also listed the set of oaths he believed Mau Mau initiates were required to take:
(a) If I ever reveal the secrets of this organization, may this oath kill me.
(b) If I ever sell or dispose of any Kikuyu land to a foreigner, may this oath kill me.
(c) If I ever fail to follow our great leader, Kenyatta, may this oath kill me.
(d) If I ever inform against any member of this organization or against any member who steals from the European, may this oath kill me.
(e) If I ever fail to pay the fees of this organization, may this oath kill me.4
The deaths that ensued from failure to adhere to such oaths were savage in the extreme. Many of the corpses of former Mau Mau that were discovered had wounds that were characteristic of the ritual mutilation favored by the Kikuyu. Despite the bloodshed, however, or perhaps because of it, more and more people joined the Mau Mau until, in 1950, having enjoyed unimpeded growth, the organization was declared illegal. In August of that year Kenya’s Internal Security Working Committee had been tasked with evaluating the insurgency question. Its report was a corrosive denunciation of the Mau Mau, which was defined as follows:
This is a Kikuyu secret society which is probably another manifestation of the suppressed Kikuyu Central Association. Its objects are anti-European and its intention is to dispossess Europeans of the White Highlands. Its members take an oath not to give information to the police, and may also swear not to obey certain orders of the Government. It is suspected that some members employed on European farms indulge in a ‘go slow’ policy and that they may also have committed minor acts of sabotage on farms. Successful prosecutions against the society are believed to have checked its growth; or at least to have curbed the forceful recruitment of adherents. The potency of the organization depends on the extent to which it possesses the power latent in all secret societies, of being more feared than the forces of law and order.5
Despite the above recognition of the problem, and despite the Mau Mau having been declared illegal, during January 1952 reports continued to trickle through about ‘oathing ceremonies’ not only in Kenya’s northern territory, but also in the Nairobi district. It was a desperate state of affairs, yet the colonial Governor at that time, Sir Philip Mitchell, who was an acknowledged expert on African matters, didn’t appear too concerned. Following the Internal Security Working Committee’s report he glibly stated that Africans were nothing but a primitive people and, therefore, what could one expect them to do but dabble in black magic and oath-taking ceremonies? By February 1952, events had become even more grave, with several reports of crops being set alight on land belonging to the white settlers. But the attacks were not only restricted to the white-owned coffee plantations – there were additional reports of Mau Mau violence in Nairobi’s white suburbs. In May 1952 intelligence reports suggested that the content of the Mau Mau’s oaths had begun to change character – moving away from a general promise to commit violence against European settlers in favor of more specific threats of murder against named individuals. The practice of oath-taking was also being seen on a larger and larger scale, with massive initiation ceremonies taking place involving up to 800 people. Those Kikuyu who would not take the oath, or informed on those that did, were summarily killed and mutilated.
On September 25, 1952, five white-owned farms were attacked. Outbuildings were burnt to the ground and over 400 sheep and cattle were either maimed or killed. With all this going on, it might be expected that Governor Mitchell would change tactics, instead of which he continued to dismiss claims that any major problem existed in Kenya. It wasn’t until his departure from the country (on authorized terminal leave) that any serious effort was made to combat the Mau Mau.
The new Governor was a man by the name of Sir Evelyn Baring who, on arriving in Kenya, immediately conducted a week-long tour of the colony. He was made aware that the Mau Mau had murdered in the region of forty people in the past month alone, and were also beginning to acquire large quantities of firearms. Baring swiftly concluded that the only remedy to the situation would be to declare a full-scale State of Emergency accompanied by an increase in the number of British Army personnel in Kenya.
In a letter addressed to the Secretary of State for the Colonies Baring wrote:
I have just returned from a tour [of Kenya] and the position is now abundantly clear that we are facing a planned revolutionary movement. If the movement cannot be stopped, there will be an administrative breakdown followed by bloodshed amounting to civil war.6
On October 21, a State of Emergency was finally declared and troops began pouring into the country. Anyone suspected of being a political agitator was rounded up, including Jomo Kenyatta, president of the KAU, who was now accused of belonging to the Mau Mau. It is a generally accepted view among modern researchers and historians that the militant branch of the KAU was linked to the Mau Mau, and it is also agreed that the Nairobi criminal underworld comprised of a high percentage of Mau Mau operatives as well. What has never been proved satisfactorily, however, is Kenyatta’s link to this secretive and extremely violent organization. After all, his modus operandi was always to present himself as a rational African leader through whom the British could reach a satisfactory resolution with the Kenyan people.
Following the declaration of the State of Emergency, events moved swiftly with the Kenyan government making every effort to suppress the Mau Mau and protect its white citizens. Kenyatta was flown to Kapenquria, where he was placed under heavy armed guard to await trial (in 1953 he was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment with hard labor), while approximately 112 others were also arrested on suspicion of Mau Mau involvement. On the morning of October 22, Nairobi’s citizens were alarmed to find the Lancashire Fusiliers patrolling their streets, and the next day the Royal Navy cruiser Kenya arrived in Mombassa carrying a detachment of Royal Marines, who were deployed to suppress any Mau Mau activity in that city as well.
Guards escort Mau Mau suspects to cells in Nairobi in November 1952. The month before, the Mau Mau problem had become so acute that a State of Emergency was declared and British troops were deployed in Kenya.
Yet, despite the mass arrests in Nairobi and the surrounding areas, it soon became apparent that the Mau Mau were still growing in strength. A Kikuyu chief who was sympathetic towards the British administration’s goals attempted to break up a Mau Mau oathing ceremony, only to be hacked to pieces with machetes by the crowd. Shortly afterwards the Mau Mau claimed their first white victim, a farmer by the name of Eric Bowyer. Bowyer lived with two African servants on an isolated holding. While he was taking a bath, Mau Mau rebels broke into the house and slaughtered all three occupants. Acts such as this continued apace, leaving the colonial administration feeling frustrated and impotent. Their problems appeared to be threefold. Firstly, there was an acute lack of reliable intelligence to indicate the Mau Mau’s organizational structure, how well it was armed and what its intentions were. This meant that government forces were unable to plan an appropriate strategy to overcome the rebels. Secondly, the armed forces operating in Kenya were of very mixed abilities. There was the British military, the colonial military, a critically understaffed civilian police force and an unarmed tribal police unit. Finally, all of the above units operated independently from each other, with very little organized coordination.
To resolve some of these problems it was decided that Kenya’s only intelligence agency (a Special Branch unit of the Kenyan police) would be upgraded and trained specifically to combat the Mau Mau. The Lancashire Fusiliers were deployed up-country to the Rift Valley province around Thomson’s Falls, Naivasha and Nakuru, which had all been designated Mau Mau trouble spots, while the King’s African Rifles were deployed mainly in the native reserves of the Central province as well as around Nairobi. The colonial administration also saw to it that those Kikuyu who were loyal to the British were allowed to form a self-defence unit known as the Home Guard. Slow headway was being made by the British administration, but it was always set against a background of continuing Mau Mau activity.
Charles Hamilton Ferguson lived on a remote farm in the Thomson’s Falls area of Kenya when, on January 1, 1953, while enjoying a late dinner with a friend, Richard Bingley, a gang of Mau Mau insurgents swept into the house and murdered the two men where they sat. The next evening, the Mau Mau attacked another farmhouse, this time located near Nyeri. This house was owned by a Mrs. Kitty Hesselberger and her companion Mrs. Raynes Simpson. Mrs. Simpson, according to a later police report on the incident, was seated in the living room of the house with her face to the door, and on the arm of the chair she was sitting in she had placed a gun. When the houseboy entered, Mrs. Simpson, noticing something odd about his appearance, swiftly picked up her weapon and was immediately confronted by a gang of Mau Mau thugs piling into the room. Her first shot mortally wounded the gang’s leader while it is believed her second shot distracted another Mau Mau member who was about to kill Mrs. Hesselberger. Mrs. Simpson then continued to fire her weapon, giving Mrs. Hesselberger the opportunity to pick up a shotgun, at the sight of which the remaining Mau Mau fled.
Other victims of Mau Mau attacks were not so fortunate. Over the following two weeks, it is believed that thirty-four Africans were murdered by the Mau Mau, yet it wasn’t until the events of January 24, 1953 that the world became fully aware of the type of atrocities the Mau Mau were prepared to commit in the name of freedom. On that night, at a remote farm owned by a Mr. Ruck, a gang of Mau Mau were smuggled onto the premises by Mr. Ruck’s African employees. At 9.00 p.m., while Mr. Ruck was having dinner with his wife, he was asked by one of his servants to step outside as they had caught an intruder on the premises. Mr. Ruck did as he was requested, only to be struck down as he exited the house. On hearing his cries for help, his wife grabbed a gun, but was quickly overcome by the insurgents before she could fire a shot. Both bodies were later found outside in the scrubland, where they had been badly mutilated. But as if that wasn’t sickening enough, the Mau Mau conducted a thorough search of the house, during which they came across the Ruck’s six-year-old son, Michael, asleep in bed. What was done to this little boy does not bear description.
However horrific these single incidents were, two months later on March 26, the Mau Mau stepped up their programme of terror and instigated two large-scale operations. The first targetted Naivasha police station – a change from previous operations, which normally concentrated on isolated farms. Just after midnight on March 24, approximately eighty-five Mau Mau, having shot the watchtower sentry, broke through the station’s outer perimeter of barbed wire. They then split into two groups. The first group headed for the police station’s main office, where they killed the duty clerk, while the second group headed straight for the station armory where they stole as many weapons and as much ammunition as they could carry. Having driven a truck into the compound, the armory raiders loaded it with their newly acquired arsenal while the other group breached the walls of a nearby detention center, releasing 173 prisoners. Naturally, during all this mayhem several gunshots were fired, awakening all those off-duty officers who were asleep in their barracks. Luckily for them, on realizing the nature of the attack they fled to safety rather than face up to the Mau Mau, who by this time were making away with their arms haul.
While the Naivasha raid was in full swing, another Mau Mau unit was gathering around the settlement of Lari, located approximately thirty miles south-southeast of Naivasha. Lari was home to many hundreds of Kikuyu men, women and children, most of whom were opposed to the Mau Mau or, worse still, were members of the Kikuyu Home Guard. Lari was also a base for the King’s African Rifles, but on the night of the 26th most of the soldiers had been sent to the Athi River Prison, where it was feared a mass break-out was planned.
With its defences down, Lari made an easy target for the Mau Mau. An estimated 1,000 insurgents, split into a number of groups, spread themselves throughout the village so that they could attack the homesteads simultaneously. Each unit had a specific task, with one group ensuring that all the huts were bound with cable around the outside to prevent the doors from opening. Another unit then soaked the huts with petrol while a third squad was tasked with attacking all those trying to escape the ensuing fires. Over 200 huts were burned to the ground during the attack at Lari. Thirty-one people are believed to have survived, but nearly all of these suffered horrendous injuries. Because a large percentage of Lari’s male population was out on patrol on the night in question, most of the dead were women and children. It has also been estimated that over 1,000 cattle were slaughtered during the raid.
Worldwide reactions of horror over both the Naivasha and Lari attacks bolstered the British administration’s resolve to wipe out the Mau Mau. More reinforcements were required so that the military could get on with the job. In addition, the police, the army and all the various civilian loyalist groups also began working more closely together and began conducting large-scale raids through areas that were thought to be Mau Mau strongholds.
6000 Africans in the shanty village of Kariobangi (near Nairobi) were rounded up for questioning April 24 and their village was ordered destroyed by bulldozers. 7000 natives in two villages northeast of Nairobi were evicted April 17 and their homes were leveled similarly April 19. The area was called Nairobi’s Mau Mau headquarters.7
The administration also instigated what became known as the Kikuyu Registration Ordnance Act, which in effect meant that any Kikuyu living outside a designated reserve had to carry identification papers. But nothing was as easy as it seemed, for when the Mau Mau heard of this new initiative they ‘persuaded’ most of the Kikuyu to resist this order by returning to the reserves. The majority of white farmers, now more than ever before fearing Mau Mau attacks, dismissed their black servants and land workers who, having nowhere else to live, also returned to the reserves. Suddenly, tens of thousands of people were converging on land meant to house a fraction of that number, a situation which in turn led to overcrowding and bitter resentment among the largely Kikuyu population. The Mau Mau took full advantage of this disaffection, recruiting new members by the dozen. Yet, despite this sudden eagerness of Kikuyu to join the Mau Mau, there were still a fair number unwilling to sign up to such an organization – particularly given that the massacre at Lari, far from targeting white landowners, instead involved the murder of their fellow countrymen. Indeed, by mid-1953 the biggest question on the minds of most Kikuyu tribesmen was whether to join an organization which actively promoted the brutal and often irrational murder of their own kind, or to take a stand against them. Many chose the latter option, joining the British administration’s Home Guard. ‘Whatever use the Government made in publicizing the Lari Massacre to the world,’ wrote A. Marshall McPhee in his account of this time, ‘the fact remains that it was the turning point against the Mau Mau; many more rallied to the Kikuyu Guard and from this time on Mau Mau would meet increasing resistance from the people they sought to liberate.’8
This resistance was further strengthened by the British who, on the advice of a senior member of the army, now decided to provide the Home Guard with firearms – a move they had previously dismissed, fearing the Mau Mau would try to appropriate the weapons.
But the British had a long way to go before any of their military operations bore fruit, for despite an increase in the number of soldiers being deployed to Kenya, and despite the rapid growth within the ranks of the Home Guard, tracking the Mau Mau down was an almost impossible task. The British administration’s biggest break didn’t come until early in 1954 when Waruhiu Itote (better known by the nickname ‘General China’), one of the Mau Mau’s most powerful leaders, was wounded during a minor skirmish with government troops and subsequently captured. While he was in custody, the police’s Special Branch unit questioned Itote for days, trying to elicit from him not only information, but also an agreement that in return for his freedom he would attempt to negotiate a mass surrender of those men directly under his command. Before long, General Kaleba and General Tanganyika, both Mau Mau leaders like Itote, were also captured and ‘persuaded’ to participate in a negotiated surrender of their men. On March 30, 1954 members of the police, the army and the government sat down with a selection of Mau Mau representatives to thrash out a deal. The government guaranteed that all those who gave up their arms would not be executed, although inevitably their leaders would face long jail sentences. Furthermore, all those Mau Mau who weren’t thought to have been actively involved in terrorist activities would be gradually rehabilitated into the community. It was a good deal, one which the British administration gave the Mau Mau ten days to consider. In the interim, however, another Mau Mau general called Gatamuki, who was adamantly against surrender of any description, kidnapped several of those who had attended the government negotiations. Government forces now had to move very swiftly to address what was rapidly turning into a major crisis. Manoeuvring their troops into position they mounted a full-scale attack on Gatamuki and his men, killing twenty-five Mau Mau and capturing nine others, including Gatamuki himself.
Placed under arrest, Gatamuki announced that, having spoken at length with the Mau Mau he had kidnapped, these men had persuaded him that surrender was the best option considering how low morale was within the Mau Mau’s ranks. Conditions in the forests, where most of them were hiding out, had become intolerable. Food supplies were low, as were ammunition supplies, while the increasing strength of the government forces had left the Mau Mau’s communications system in disarray.
Meanwhile, back in Nairobi, operations were under way to settle the Mau Mau question once and for all. Knowing that large pockets of insurgents were both living and operating within the city itself, Operation Anvil swung into action. On April 24, 1954, British troops sealed all exits to the entire city, thus preventing anyone from entering or leaving Nairobi. Then police began a methodical house-to-house search of the city. All identification papers had to be produced, with anyone who was suspected of belonging to the Mau Mau was arrested and sent to a detention center at Langata, five miles from Nairobi where they underwent further investigation. Similar screening operations were also carried out in the reserves, as were large-scale military sweeps through the Aberdare Mountain Range, where it was known that large numbers of Mau Mau operatives were still hiding out. Naturally, given that the enemy was well-practiced in guerrilla warfare, there were as many steps back as there were forward, but slow progress was made until finally, with the deployment of small tactical units made up entirely of Home Guard officers who knew the terrain better than anyone, arrests started to mount up.
Former Mau Mau leader Jomo Kenyatta became Kenya’s first black Prime Minister in May 1963 and is pictured here (right) with Ugandan Prime Minister Milton Obote at a meeting in Nairobi the following month.
By the autumn of 1956, it was believed that there were only around 500 Mau Mau members still at large. The administration’s main concern now was to track down and capture the last major player in the Mau Mau organization, a commander by the name of Dedan Kimathi, who was thought still to be hiding out in the Aberdare Mountains.
On October 17, 1956, Kimathi was wounded by Henderson’s [Superintendent Ian Henderson, who conducted operations against the Mau Mau] men, but succeeded in escaping through the forest, but after traveling non-stop for just under twenty-eight hours and covering nearly eighty miles, he collapsed near the forest fringe. There he remained for three days, hiding in the day time, foraging for food at night. Early on the 21st he was found and challenged by a tribal policeman who fired three times at him, hitting him with the third shot. He was then captured, in his leopardskin coat, and in due course brought to trial and sentenced to death.9
Indeed, it seemed only fitting that it was an African who brought down one of the last of the Mau Mau, for despite being a group who were ostensibly fighting for African rights, during their operations it was their fellow Africans who bore the brunt of the violence. The statistics agree; for it has been calculated that during the whole State of Emergency while 32 Europeans were killed and 26 wounded, a total of 1,817 African civilians died, with 910 wounded.
The general State of Emergency was finally lifted in December 1960 and shortly thereafter Jomo Kenyatta was released from prison. While he had been in jail, the newly-formed Kenyan African National Union (KANU) party had voted him their president, and on his release he was also admitted onto Kenya’s Legislative Council.
In May 1963 Kenyatta became Kenya’s first black prime minister, and led the country to full independence on 13 December of the same year.