|Kenya’s first president, the late Jomo Kenyatta (third from left) with his co-accused during the famous Kapenguria trials before independence. His son, Kenya’s fourth president Uhuru Kenyatta is facing charges of crimes against humanity at the ICC, The Hague. [PHOTO: FILE]|
By MUNENE KAMAU and ERIC WAINAINA
As the trials of Kenya’s president and his deputy unfold at The Hague, central Kenya residents say they are amazed at the case’s similarity with one that took place 61 years ago.
Elders who lived through the trial of Jomo Kenyatta, President Uhuru Kenyatta’s father, which was held in a remote makeshift court in Kapenguria, say they are amazed at the similarities between the predicament facing father and son, six decades apart.
They recalled how the whole of Mt Kenya region, like the rest of the country, was plunged into darkness and despair when Kenyatta was arrested on the night of October 20, 1952.
“There was a dark cloud hanging over the country. People talked in whispers. Although I was only six years old, I could sense the fear and desperation hanging on our land,” Isack Kimani recalls.
Gitu Kahengeri, Mau Mau War Veterans Association chairman, says during the trials, unlike today when Kenyans are watching streamed videos from The Hague, they had to wait to get an update of the matter from the defence lawyers.
“There was a lot of security and you could not attend the court. We were not even allowed to go past Nakuru so we would wait for the lawyers to come back and inform us of the last hearing,” he explains.
To many in the region, The Hague today is like Kapenguria then, for it is not accessible to ordinary people.
At that time, Kahengeri says Kenyatta did not have enough money to pay for good lawyers to defend him in the case.
“We were contributing money and some would give 5 cents, others 10 cents to pay for good lawyers. Kenyans portrayed a lot of solidarity just like they have done with his son,” says the independence war veteran.
Voted for a suspect
But despite the tag given to Kenyatta as a leader unto death and darkness by colonial judge Thacker, Kenyans still elected him in absentia.
This, Kahengeri says, happened to Uhuru too, who was elected president despite the crimes against humanity charges preferred against him at The Hague.
“They voted for him knowing he is a suspect because they believe he is innocent just like we did not believe that Kenyatta was a criminal,” Kahengeri says.
“We are lucky now that we can actually monitor the proceedings live from The Hague on television. People who had access to the lawyer representing Kenyatta would communicate the proceedings, which spread throughout Kenya,” Kimani adds.
However, loyalists who had radios monitored the proceedings from the comfort of their sitting rooms.
But just like some Kenyans today want Uhuru to continue being tried at The Hague and even wish he is found guilty, there were those who wanted Kenyatta to be jailed for long.
“One chief, Njiiri wa Kigo from Location Three, now known as Ruchu in Kandara, Murang’a County, was overjoyed when Kenyatta was convicted,” says Kahengeri.