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When Prince Philip visited Kenya in 1972

By Amos Kareithi | April 16th 2021

Prince Phillip.

Cheering, the Kenyans clapped. The big man was grinning, sleeves folded, like a gentleman going for an afternoon stroll in his garden. The smile, the swagger, and the walking stick carried by Isaiah Mathenge clearly demonstrate how things have changed.

Looking at the faces, it is difficult to imagine that some of those lining up to welcome the Prince, who was also the Duke of Edinburg, were peasants and labourers who had once been forced to work for white settlers.

Others had been flogged for failing to stand still and show maximum respect to a passing white person. 

In February 1972, nine years after colonialism ended, the Prince was back. Kenya had a special place for the royal family for the crown was thrust to Queen Elizabeth II in 1952 while on a tour in the country following the passing away of her father. A decade later when Prince Phillip’s visit was captured by The Standard snapper, circumstances had changed.

The man the British hated and had described as a leader unto death and darkness - Jomo Kenyatta was - occupying State House. The cogs of his government were the very men and women from the provincial administration who had been used to crush any form of dissent by locals.

When the Prince visited Rift Valley, Mathenge was just one year old as the provincial commissioner in Nakuru. He, like the colonial government, was in the process of establishing his own empire in the Rift.

The PC was close to Kenyatta and his family, as his daughter was married to Ngengi Muigai, Kenyatta’s cousin. Since Ngengi’s father was unavailable, it was Kenyatta who represented the family during the dowry negotiations and the consequent marriage.

This explains the power Mathenge wielded in Kenyatta’s government, acting as his chaperon at Nakuru State House as he decided which Nyakinyua group would entertain Jomo and which politician was to be allowed access to the aging and ailing head of state.
Prince Phillip, who died on April 9 aged 99, outlived both Mathenge and Kenyatta.

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