Judge Ransley Samuel Thacker
  • Judge Ransley jailed Jomo Kenyatta to seven years in prison with hard labour in Kapenguria
  • The judge is said to have been bribed Sh 2.8 million for him to find Kenyatta guilty
  • The trial for the Kapenguria six was moved from Nairobi to Kapenguria wasteland to ensure no street protests

He goes down in history as one of those corrupt judges whose dwindling fortunes saw him jail nationalists in exchange for a comfortable retirement.

Judge Ransley Thacker became more famous for jailing President Uhuru’s father in Kapeguria after sentencing him to seven years hard labour in 1953. Jomo Kenyatta was jailed alongside the famous Kapenguaria Six: Kung’u Karumba, Fred Kubai, Bildad Kaggia, Achieng Oneko and Paul Ngei. They were falsely accused of ‘managing the Mau Mau’ which Kenyatta had all along denounced.

According to American historian Caroline Elkins’ 2005 tome, Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya, Judge Thacker was bribed £20,000 (Sh2.8 million at current exchange rates) by the Colonial government to find Kenyatta guilty.

Before coming to Kenya, Thacker had served as the Chief Justice of St Vincent in the West Indies for two years to 1933. He was 42. He then became Attorney General of Fiji for five years to 1938 and a Judge of the Supreme Court in colonial Kenya for 12 years to 1950.

Judge Thacker retired in Nairobi on a £474 (Sh57, 000) pension supplemented by a law practice before the Sh2.8 million bribe came calling. He was fished from retirement on November 17, 1952 and made a First Class Magistrate.

His express mandate was to preside over the Kapenguria Trial where Governor Evelyn Baring, in taking no chances, also bribed Rawson Macharia, the star witness, with promises of higher education at Exeter University to bear false witness. The trial was also moved from Nairobi the Kapenguria wasteland to ensure no streets protests.

Jeremy Murray-Brown noted in Jomo Kenyatta’s eponymous biography that “It was this atmosphere of suspicion, intrigue, intimidation and fear which made the Kapenguria trial seem more like a political frame-up than something in which the British imperial mission could take any pride.”

Judge Thacker in pronouncing his judgement told Jomo Kenyatta: “You have successfully plunged many Africans back to a state which shows little humanity. You have persuaded them in secret to murder, burn and commit atrocities which will take many years to forget. You have let loose upon this land a flood of misery and unhappiness affecting the daily lives of the races in it, including your own people.”

Judge Ransley Samuel Thacker, the husband of Olive Braithwaite and father of three died in 1965 at 74.