Harry Thuku’s last will reveals man with few possessions

Harry Thuku

When Harry Thuku died nearly five decades ago, he had Sh32 on him.

The pioneer African nationalist gifted his wife, Tabitha Thuku, everything he had, including the Sh32 and 72 acres of land in Githunguri, Kiambu, estimated to be worth Sh250,000 at the time.

Today, the land is worth Sh504 million given an acre fetches up to Sh7 million.

Mr Thuku died aged 75 in Nairobi on June 14, 1970. But his name still registers in the memories of a few Kenyans, among them those who dig into the country’s past or those who see the souvenir board bearing his name opposite Central Police Station.

Peugeot 504

According to an estate account prepared by Archer & Wilcock Advocates, Thuku owned a Peugeot 504 worth Sh23,720. After his death, it was left for use by his wife, according to documents exclusively obtained by The Standard.

Thuku was born in Kambui in Kiambu, in 1895. His clan, Mbari ya Gathirimu, was one of the most influential clans at the time. He lost his father before his second birthday and was brought up by his mother and older brother.

His clan had donated 100 acres of land to the Gospel Mission Society for the establishment of Kambui Mission. This is where he landed his first job as a herd’s boy in 1907, although he often doubled up as a houseboy.

Four years later, he came to Nairobi and got a job as a sweeper and messenger with Standard Chartered Bank.

He would then run afoul of the law for forging a cheque and had to cool his heels behind bars for two years. In 1914, he got a job with a white settler newspaper, Leader of British East Africa, as a typist.

Thuku burst into politics due to his opposition of the kipande system and forced labour. By then he was working at the Treasury and living in Pangani estate. The British government gave him an ultimatum: choose politics or lose his job. He chose the latter.

He was arrested on March 14, 1922, and detained at Queensway Police Station (now Central Police Station).

In 1932, he became the Kikuyu Central Association president but would later form the Kikuyu Provincial Association (KPA).

British Crown

Through KPA, he shifted his stand to support the British Crown. Out of this, he became the first African to be allowed to grow coffee in Kambui. He also built a sprawling house in 1938, drawing the suspicion of his kinsmen on how he could afford such a lavish life.

Court documents also reveal that his wardrobe was worth Sh400 and it was given to charity.

At the time of his death, Thuku had some unpaid loans, which Tabitha paid in full. Alibhai & Company Ltd demanded Sh587, and he also owed Sh807.50 to the Kenya Planters and Co-operative Ltd.

He also had a Sh1,905 loan from a man named Gathungu.

Together with his funeral expenses of Sh1,624, which were to be paid to the City Council of Nairobi, the debt totalled Sh4,923.50.

His National and Grindlays bank accounts also held Sh9,811.

He left a one-page will written in 1964.