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1953: Seven years' hard labour for Kenyatta

Jomo Kenyatta has been sentenced to seven years hard labour for his part in the organisation of the rebel Mau Mau movement.

The leader of the Kenya African Union, who was found guilty on all charges, was also given three years hard labour to run concurrently for being a member of the movement.

Five others, Fred Kubai, Richard Achieng, Bildad Kaggia, Paul Ngei and Kungu Karumba were also sentenced to seven years hard labour for assisting in the management of Mau Mau.


"You (Kenyatta) have successfully plunged many Africans back to a state which shows little humanity"

Judge Ransley Thacker

Kenyatta told the court he and his colleagues were not guilty but that they stood for the rights of the African people and peace in Kenya.

The outlawed Mau Mau movement has terrorised and murdered countless Europeans and Africans for the past five years during its campaign for Kenyan independence.

'Little humanity'

Heavy security surrounded the courthouse in Kapenguria throughout the trial.

The road from Kitale was patrolled by armoured cars and road blocks were manned by armed police.

All members of the public and the media were searched before entering the building and armed guards patrolled outside during the trial.

In passing sentence the judge, Ransley Thacker, told Kenyatta: "You have successfully plunged many Africans back to a state which shows little humanity.

"You have persuaded them in secret to murder, burn and commit atrocities which will take many years to forget."

He added: "Make no mistake about it, Mau Mau will be defeated."

During the 58-day trial it was suggested by the defence that the Mau-Mau movement did not even exist - this was rejected by Mr Thacker.

Kenyatta was also given several opportunities to denounce the illegal movement which he refused to do.

At the end of the trial the defence counsel indicated that an immediate appeal would be lodged.

In Context
Jomo Kenyatta's appeal failed.

He was never a member of the Mau Mau and his trial is generally regarded by historians to have been rigged by the British.

He completed his sentence on 14 April 1959 and was freed from all restrictions in August 1961.

On 28 October 1961 he became president of the Kenyan African National Union (Kanu).

In June 1963 Mr Kenyatta took control as the first prime minister of a self-governing Kenya.

The following year Kenya broke its last ties with Britain and became a Republic within the Commonwealth with Mr Kenyatta as its president. He remained in office until his death in 1978.

His government had included more people who had fought against Mau Mau than had participated in the rebellion.

The ban on the Mau Mau as an organisation was only lifted by the Kenyan Government in August 2003.

The Mau Mau movement
The Mau Mau movement was a secret society which began in 1947 among members of Kenya's Kikuyu tribe.

Their aim was to rid Kenya of thousands of white and European settlers who had arrived since World War II and seized African land. They also targeted disloyal Africans.

The Mau Mau members resorted to violent means because they felt their voices were not being heard by the colonial government.

By the early 1950s, however, the Mau Mau's activities had developed into open warfare and in 1952 a state of emergency was declared.

Hundreds, including Jomo Kenyatta, were arrested.

The group's activities gradually subsided and finally ceased in 1959.

More than 14,000 Africans and Asians and 95 whites died between 1952 and 1957 during the Mau Mau rebellion.


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