Thursday, May 23, 2024

Kenya’s history that you did not know

A glimpse of the people, incidents, facts and figures that tell the Kenyan story.Former president Moi’s early business ventures (with Reuben Chesire as partner) included selling animal skins, paraffin, posho mill, general store, and transport. They owned the Rift Valley Transport Company.

The former president never enrolled in a formal driving school. Paul Chemirmir, his friend, taught him how to drive a Land Rover registration number KFF 82, according to Moi’s biographer, Andrew Morton.

As Vice President, Moi would be harassed by certain elements in the Rift Valley Provincial Administration. His patience paid off.

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Moi’s first house at Timboiwo, Sacho, still stands.

His baptism name, Daniel, was inspired by Daniel of the Old Testament and the popular song of the time: “I dare to be a Daniel, dare to stand alone.”

75 Castle Town Road: Jomo Kenyatta’s first address in 1929 in England. He was so broke that he toyed with the idea of becoming a musician.

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Miss Wilson, Kenyatta’s personal secretary, was a British spy, according to Duncan Ndegwa’s, Walking in Kenyatta Struggles.

Diehard majimboist Ronald Ngala, the Kadu president and the undisputed leader of the Coast, converted the present State House, Mombasa, into the headquarters of the coastal regional government.

On Duncan Ndegwa’s authority, we learn that Ngala used cartons to partition the building after regional governments were deliberately starved of cash, something Ndegwa acknowledges in his book.

Ndegwa informs us that Ngala had the gumption to fly “a small flag he had specially fashioned for his car, which Tom Mboya forcibly plucked off during a visit to the Coast by Kenyatta in 1963.”

Kenya’s first Vice President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga changed from being Jomo Kenyatta’s “disciple in nationalism” to his most avowed critic when he, Jaramogi, embraced Socialism.

Pioneer hotelier Abraham Block, founder of the Block Hotels, is the great grandfather of Kenyan swimmers Jason and David Dunford. He died in 1965.

Although now a residential area, Doonholm, writes Nation journalist John Kamau in a forthcoming book, was previously a dairy farm known as Doonholm Estate and named after Glasgow’s Doonholm Estate where its previous owner, J.K. Watson, hailed from.

Initially a 4,600-acre farm that stretched from the eastern edge of City Stadium towards modern-day Doonholm housing zone, this was the first place in Kenya to have a cattle dip and to initiate a serious experiment against east coast fever.

It was also the place where the first breeds of Ayrshires, named after Watson’s birthplace, Ayr, were first tried in East Africa, earning him many trophies including a prestigious Gold Cup given by the East African Standard.

From that perspective, it would be interesting to look again at Doonholm Estate and appreciate its place in Kenya’s dairy history. Watson was not ordinary colonial settler and had been one of the few architects and constructors whose passion was to construct roads and houses.

Perhaps long forgotten is that this was the man who dug up cotton soil from Nairobi’s Kenyatta Avenue and laid the foundation for the road. Jogoo Road was formerly Doonholm Road.

The first car in Kenya, informs us, was the De Dion-Bouton. It was “lowered from a steamship at Mombasa’s old port in December 1903. There were several challenges facing pioneer motorists such as George Wilson; there were no garages, no petrol pumps, and only one major road in  the entire country, the Mackinnon-Scalter Road.

The De Dion-Bouton was the only car at the time and its petrol was transported in the same ship that brought it. It came packed in four-gallon tins, similar to kerosene debes, the mode of packaging at the time.

75 Castle Town Road: Jomo Kenyatta’s first address in 1929 in England, where he was so broke that he toyed with the idea of becoming a musician.

“Mile 327” was the name of Nairobi in the 1910s.

The first mayor of Nairobi was Edgah Henderson from 1923-1924.

Lady Gladys Delamere (1938-1940) was the first female mayor of Nairobi. The city has had three females mayors, the others being Mrs Marjorie Needham-Clarke (1958-1960) and Margaret Kenyatta (1970-1976).

Nairobi had no mayor from 1983 to 1992 as former President Moi had replaced the City Council with the City Commission.


The first Kenyan album to go platinum was The Best of African Songs by coastal-based band Safari Sounds in the mid 1970s. The album contained, among other popular songs, Jambo Bwana, Malaika, Lala Salama, Nakupenda, and Pole Pole. Of the original six members, drummer Waiyaki Swaleh is still active with the band.


The first Kenyan to study abroad was Molonket Olokorinya ole Sempele. He enrolled at the Boydton Academic and Bible Institute in Virginia in 1909. Sempele returned home in 1912, but could not secure gainful employment besides briefly conscription to the Career Corps during the outbreak of World War I in 1914.

Julius Gikonyo Kiano was the first Kenyan to obtain a PhD in 1956 from Califonia University

The name of James Muigai wa Johnstone, Jomo Kenyatta’s younger stepbrother, was the first on the first student roll of Alliance Boys’ High School in 1926, when the school was first opened. Muigai was the father of politicians Beth Mugo and Ngengi Muigai.

Dagoretti High School was a detention camp where Mau Mau detainees were incarcerated before it became a school in 1962 through the initiative of the then area MP, Dr Njoroge Mungai.

Kenya’s most influential teacher was Edward Carey Francis, the second principle of Alliance Boy’s High School from 1940 to 1962. He not only taught “arithmetic”, but a whole generation of students who were instrumental in Kenya’s future at independence.

They included Kenneth Matiba, Ngala Mwendwa, Julius Gikonyo Kiano, Duncan Ndegwa, Charles Njonjo, Jeremiah Kiereini, Jeremiah Nyaga, Bethwel Kiplagat, Evans Gicheru, John Keen, and Njoroge Mungai. Francis House and his statue commemorate Carey Francis’s memory.


1956 Melbourne Olympics: Kenya took part for the first time in the Games while still a colony.

“Kip” Keino, chairman of the Kenya Olympic Committee, was inducted into the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame. Bristol City (which boasts the Kipchoge Keino Stadium) awarded Kip “freedom of the City,” the first since Winston Churchill.

Wilson Kiprugut, now 74, became Kenya’s first Olympian in 1964 when he won bronze in the 800 metres during the Tokyo Olympics.

Philip “Nakayama” Waruinge, 67, is the most decorated Kenyan boxer and the only one to have appeared in three consecutive Olympic Games —1964, 1968, and the 1972 Munich Olympics in which he won silver.

Together with South Africa’s George Hunter, Waruinge is one of the only two African recipients of the Val Barker Trophy awarded for outstanding “pound to pound” performance and style in boxing at the Olympics. Kenya’s most decorated boxer turned pro in 1973, but after 14 wins, 10 losses, and one draw, retired in Japan five years later.

Matters money

At Sh189 billion by market capitalisation, East African Breweries Ltd is the largest listed company at the Nairobi Securities Exchange. In the case of the EABL the math is: Sh239 (share price as of last Friday) multiplied by 790.8 million (issued shares) which is roughly Sh189 billion.

Furniture dealer Hutchings Biemer is the smallest listed company at the NSE in terms of shares (360,000) and market capitalisation at Sh7.2 million.

The first black Kenyan to be issued with a cheque book was politician Njenga Karume.

The earliest bank in Kenya was Standard Chartered, which opened shop along what is now Kenyatta Avenue in 1911.

Harrison Wairobi, 47, from Huhi-ini village begged in Nairobi so consistently that he bought a house and a truck by 2009.

Kenya loses Sh27 billion every year due to poor sanitation, according to the World Bank.

Pearl Dry Cleaners, Theta Tea Factory, Lonrho Motors, East African Packaging Industry and

Lakes were once listed at the Nairobi Securities Exchange.


Kenya Breweries delivered its first order of beer to the New Stanley (now the Sarova Stanley) Hotel in an ox-cart in 1923.

Lt-Col. John Kiili is the only fighter pilot in Kenyan history to have both ejected and bailed from flights due to emergencies, with the incidents occurring 10 years apart, the first in 1994.

The late politician Tom Mboya and Ibrahim Hussein Kipkemboi — three-time winner of the Boston Marathon — are the only two Kenyans ever to grace the cover of Time magazine.

An average Kenyan spends three hours a year looking for a toilet, according to the World Bank.

Ownership of Lake Victoria: Tanzania (52 per cent), Uganda (42 per cent), Kenya (6 per cent).

Colonial settler Kitching was the first person to grow coffee in Dagoretti in the late 1890s.

Kenya’s road network is roughly 160,886 km long.

The Little Theatre Club in Mombasa opened in 1907 as Kenya’s first performance theatre.

Kenya’s first cinema hall was Theatre Royal inside Cameo building on Kenyatta Avenue in 1912.

The first radio broadcasts began in 1927.

The first television broadcast services for Africans was started in 1953.

The Westminster House on Kenyatta Avenue was initially a lodging for colonial administrators.









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