The case that immortalised Kenya's ‘Kapenguria Six’

Saturday July 1 2017

The Kapenguria Six from left: Paul Ngei, Fred

The Kapenguria Six from left: Paul Ngei, Fred Kubai, Jomo Kenyatta, Achieng Oneko, Kungu Karumba and Bildad Kagia. PHOTO FILE | NATION 

By FRED OLUOCH
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When the British colonialist under then Governor Sir Evelyn Baring, declared a state of emergency on October 20, 1952 and arrested six political activists, they were taken to Kapenguria in northwestern Kenya because it was the most secure place where it was thought the Mau Mau could not break them out.

Kapenguria, in the current West Pokot County, 412km northwest of Nairobi, was also considered remote as it was far removed from the other populated regions of the country.

It also lacked amenities such as telephone and postal service, railway, hotels and the only road leading there was almost nonexistent.

In addition, Kapengiruia was a “closed” area and any one going in and out had to get a government pass, at a time when getting an “African Pass” to enter any town was difficult.

The six detainee; Jomo Kenyatta, Bildad Kagia, Ramogi Achieng Onek, Paul Ngei, Fred Kubai and Kungu Karumba, were on trial for six months, from December 1952 to April 1953, found guilty and sentenced to seven years imprisonment with hard labour.

Their crime was that, between October 12, 1950 and October 20, 1952, they assisted the management of unlawful society (Mau Mau) and conspired together and with persons not before the court to commit felony by physical force or by threat or intimidation to compel persons in the Kenya colony to take an oath to bind the persons to act in a certain way.

After the trial, the six were taken to prison

After the trial, the six were taken to prison in Lakitaung to serve their sentence. By the time they were being transferred to Lodwar, Mr Oneko had won an appeal but he was separated from the rest and detained in Manyani Prison, near Voi, 310 kilometres east of Nairobi. PHOTO | FRED OLUOCH | NATION

The six were represented by Irish lawyer Peter Evans, whose visiting pass was later cancelled in May 1953 and he was deported to UK.

Other 145 political activists were also arrested following what the colonialists called African militancy and unrest.

The court room in Kapenguria was too small to accommodate the six, their lawyer and guards, so a school room at an agricultural college, two kilometres from the cells, was used.

Today, the college is known as Chewoyet Secondary School.

The defence was led by lawyer Denis Nowell Pritt, assisted by Chaman Lall, Fitz De Souza, Achhroo Ram Kapila, and Jaswant Singh.

The presiding judge was Ransley Thacker, while the main witness was Rawson Macharia, who testified that he was forced to take an oath in Kenyatta’s house which required him to strip naked and drink human blood.

After the trial, the six were taken to prison in Lakitaung to serve their sentence. By the time they were being transferred to Lodwar, Mr Oneko had won an appeal but he was separated from the rest and detained in Manyani Prison, near Voi, 310 kilometres east of Nairobi.

In April 1961, Kenyatta was moved to Maralal while the other four detainees remained in Lodwar.

In Maralal, Kenyatta stayed in a bigger three-bedroomed house, enjoyed more freedom but was still under house arrest and therefore close watch. He was finally released to his house in Gatundu, Kiambu, just outside Nairobi, on August 14, 1961.

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