Kenyatta’s Former House a Class of Heritage

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The cracks on the floor and walls are the only signs that betray the age of this 70-year-old house that is shielded on one side by an overgrown bougainvillea hedge.
But few people who see the simple house that blends inconspicuously among others at the new Githunguri District headquarters know either its age or what treasured secrets of Kenya’s Independence history it habours.
The house, which has become part of the infrastructure of the new district headquarters, was once the residence of Kenya’s first President, the late Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.

Mr Harry Thuku, son of the pioneer freedom fighter by the same name stands outside former President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta’s Githunguri house. [PHOTOS: JONAH ONYANGO/STANDARD]
It was part of the former Kenya Teachers College Githunguri where Kenyatta became an administrator in 1946 after he returned from a sojourn in London.
The college principal then was Kenyatta’s right hand man, the late Mbiyu Koinange who lived in another bigger house of similar design in the same compound.
Freedom fighters
Mbiyu, Kenyatta and the late former Minister James Gichuru were then members of the Kikuyu Central Association who all taught and lived at the college.
At one time, former freedom fighter the late Achieng Oneko also taught and lived in another college house.
It was while living in this house, in 1951, that Kenyatta met and married his fourth wife Mama Ngina Kenyatta.
Earlier, before going to London he had married Grace Wahu, then while in UK married an English governess, Edna Clarke in 1942, before marrying Mbiyu Koinange’s sister Grace Wanjiku when he returned in 1946.

Former President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta
From this house, Kenyatta went round the country urging hard work while campaigning for the return of land given to white settlers.
The teachers’ college was run by a group of Independent Schools, established then to cater for students who could not get a chance for further education in the colonial government schools.
The teaching-cum-political colleagues used the college to host members of the KCA and later Kenya African Union into their houses for night meetings for the then fledgling liberation movement.
Indeed, it is believed that it was here that the aggressive agitation that emboldened the freedom fighters in the build-up to the peak of the struggle in 1952 was fanned by plots hatched in Kenyatta’s house.
Apart from hosting local leaders, they also welcomed pan-African leaders for meetings to discuss the liberation of other African countries. Evidence of visits by Pan-African leaders is rooted in giant trees that they planted on their visits.
Some of the recognisable trees include a drooping cypress planted by Julius Nyerere, a bushy Muiri planted by Kwameh Nkurumah and a rotund, rugged blue gum planted by Kabaka Mutesa. All the seedlings were planted in 1949 in different parts of the 58-acre college compound.
Little documentation
A visit into Kenyatta’s two-bed roomed house and the sprawling compound of the former college is like a flip back into a part of the founding president’s life that is little documented.
The house’s sitting room features a huge, black, solid safe whose door is said never to have been opened since Kenyatta was arrested in 1952 when a State of Emergency was declared at the peak of the Mau Mau struggle.
Mr George Gitau, the vice-Chairman of Githunguri War Veterans Association (WVA) says the houses and the trees are a treasured possession for the new district headquarters.
"We have very fond memories of these houses and the trees in this compound. This place played a great role in the liberation struggle," says the 74-year-old man.
National heritage
The National Museums of Kenya (NMK) has gazetted the houses as part of national heritage. Githunguri DC Henry Wafula says he will ensure the houses and the trees are well preserved for historical purposes.
Mr Wafula says the administration will also petition NMK to preserve the trees.
Other houses include one that Mbiyu and Gichuru used and a dormitory that female students slept in. The houses, in the meantime are used to accomodate civil servants posted to the new district until a new housing block is put up.
On the lower side of the compound is a scene that was used as gallows to hang suspected Mau Mau fighters.
WVA members in Githunguri have erected crosses to mark the scene. Gitau recalls that five Mau Mau suspects were executed there in October 1952.
 Thanks To Maina Muiruri