When Jomo had to duck chicken offal, eggs in London

Kenya's first president Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. [File, Standard]

The journey to Kenya's independence was rocky and rugged. While the dreaded Mau Mau was causing havoc to British establishments in Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta, then future president, was languishing in the bleak and windswept prison compound in Lokitaung, Turkana.

Upon his release from exile in Lodwar in 1961, Kenyatta took the lead in formal discussions in London that would culminate in the country's independence. The talks, labelled Lancaster House conferences, were not devoid of drama. There were groups that had vowed to cause the old man harm, with fears that they could use treacherous methods employed by the Mau Mau against British interests.

In London, Kenyatta's personal secretary Joseph Murumbi had enlisted the help of Kenyan students to guard him, especially during his stay at the Cumberland hotel. During the first round of talks, the British government did not see the need to protect Kenyatta.

Basically, students would line up on both sides of the corridors to prevent any unauthorised person from getting into Kenyatta's room. They would throw such a cordon until 'Mzee' got into his car.

Unfortunately, there were always some cracks in the armour. During the first talks, Kenyatta had a scheduled meeting in the colonial office. As he approached the venue, a man threw an egg at him. He was slow to react and the egg fell on his lapel. Murumbi says Kenyatta was dignified and just gave the man his dreaded stare "then brushed it off and got inside the colonial office and did not refer to it at all".

During the second conference, more people had trained their sights on Kenyatta, including a group called League of Empire. The group was formed in 1954 to prevent the breakup of the British Empire.

Kenyatta was thus an easy target for them. This time, however, the local police had offered protection to Kenyatta. In fact, a police officer had come up to Murumbi to warn him about a certain lady who looked suspicious.

"The lady sitting in the front row is from the League of Empire loyalists, so watch out."

As the meeting went on, the lady stood up and tried to swipe Kenyatta with her handbag but Murumbi blocked her move and she fell back on her seat.

In the same meeting, an ex-commander in the Air Force flung a newspaper from the end of the room with what turned out to be chicken offal. The contents hit the edge of the table and fell down. "One of our students, Ngumo Njuri, tackled this man and knocked him down and he was taken out by the police," wrote Murumbi.