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How JKF was caught up in Kanu-Kadu war

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How JKF was caught up in Kanu-Kadu war by Kenyans247(1): Sun 15, November, 2020 10:44am
What you need to know:
When Mboya returned to America in 1961, he was keen to renew old acquaintances with Kennedy and request support for another airlift.
On May 11, 1961, tension was evident outside the Legco when the governor opened its first session.
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When Kanu secretary general Tom Mboya arrived in the US to celebrate African Freedom Week in April 1961, he hoped to capitalise on the trip and call on his friend President John F Kennedy who was barely three months in office.

However, his attempts were frustrated by state officials who feared the ramifications of such a meeting in Kenya.

The colonial secretary and Governor of Kenya Patrick Rennison, in an attempt to form a multiracial government, were secretly negotiating with Kadu after Kanu leaders maintained they would not participate in the government until Jomo Kenyatta was freed from prison.

As the talks continued, British Colonial Attaché in Washington John Hennings, kept the Kennedy administration posted. As a result, Mboya’s request to meet Kennedy was turned down by officials who feared the delicate negotiations could collapse if Kadu realised Mboya had been received by the president.


The multiracial government had been provided for in the first Lancaster House deal, and was to come into effect after the 1961 elections. However, after the poll, Kadu and Kanu accepted seats in the Legislative Council but refused to join the government.



April 6,1961 was the day the new multiracial government was to be inaugurated but with the nationalists maintaining their stand, the only options available to the governor were, ruling by decree or nominating Africans to the Legco then make them ministers.

Since he knew the backlash such a move would attract from nationalists, he decided to isolate Kanu by secretly reaching out to Kadu. Even though Kadu leader Ronald Ngala publicly expressed his commitment to the “No Kenyatta, No Government” call, he was receptive of the governor’s overtures.

Just the previous year, Mboya had been warmly received at the Kennedy family home in Hyannis Port when he arrived to seek financial support for the airlifts that saw many Kenyans get higher education in the US.

This was after a similar request to the US government, led by President Dwight Eisenhower, had been turned down. During the visit, he was picked up at Barnstable airport by Senator Kennedy’s sister,Eunice Shriver.

After listening to Mboya, Kennedy who was eyeing the presidency on a Democratic party ticket, promised $50,000 through his family foundation, but later decided to finance the whole airlift.

Offered Mboya $100,000

This did not go down well with the Eisenhower government, which on realising the offer made by Kennedy, rescinded its earlier decision and offered Mboya $100,000.

Mboya rejected the offer, accusing the Eisenhower’s government of having an ulterior motive of winning black votes by diminishing the help given by the Kennedy Foundation.

Elections were approaching and the Republicans feared sponsoring the airlifts would win Kennedy Black votes. Senator Hugh Scott accused the Kennedy family of sponsoring the airlift “to win Negro votes” adding that he was “concerned at misuse of tax exempt foundation money for political purposes”.


Kennedy countered, saying the foundation only agreed to finance the airlift when it learnt the government had vetoed it.

Kennedy went on beat Republican Richard Nixon in the election. He received 70 per cent of the Black vote.

Because of the interest in Africa Kennedy exhibited as a senator, African leaders hoped that as president he would in a better position to address their issues.

When Mboya returned to America in 1961, he was keen to renew old acquaintances with Kennedy and request support for another airlift.

In Washington, he joined Kenneth Kaunda, later President of Zambia, with whom he was to grace a number of events organised to celebrate Africa Freedom Week. That same day, he sent a request to the White House for an appointment with Kennedy. He followed up his request with a series of meetings with senior officials, among them G Mennen Williams the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs and Dean Rusk the Secretary of State.

It was not until April 18, 1961 that Kennedy agreed to meet Mboya and Kaunda. By this time the two had returned to New York from Washington DC, and had to make another trip the following day for the appointment on April 19.

Tension

Just before they were driven from the State Department to the White House, Mboya got word that Kadu had agreed to join the government.

Nevertheless, he went ahead to meet Kennedy and requested for another airlift to include east and central Africa.

After saying there were people working on the proposal, Kennedy switched the discussion to Kenyatta. The president then turned to Kaunda to discuss the problems facing central Africa.

On May 11, 1961, tension was evident outside the Legco when the governor opened its first session.

With the help of four Kadu ministers and two backbenchers, the government had 43 on its side to Kanu’s 35, which made the governor to declare authoritatively that the new government represented the largest group of elected members.

There would be twists ahead of independence in 1963 as Kenyatta was released and Kanu went on to form government.


newsdesk@ke.nationmedia.com

https://nation.africa/kenya/news/how-jkf-was-caught-up-in-kanu-kadu-war-3021408

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