It is whispered loudly that President Uhuru Kenyatta was conceived in a house in Samburu County. I recently toured this county and decided to visit the house and see it for myself.
On arrival the curator, John Rigano, tells us there are charges one has to settle before taking a tour of the house.
Kenyans pay Sh100 and their children Sh50. East African residents pay Sh400 and their children pay Sh200, while foreigners pay Sh500 and their children Sh250.
With that amount settled, we head out to what is known as Kenyatta House. A three bedroom bungalow sitting on a 28-acre piece of land on the sides of a hill near Maralal town. Built in 1959, the house is now a historical site under the National Museums of Kenya.
“Was President Uhuru Kenyatta conceived here?” I ask Rigano.
Instead of answering, he opens a drawer and fishes out a visitor’s book, flips through several pages, before settling on one of the pages. “Read this,” he tells me.
The writings in black ink read: “Conceived in this house in the year 1961. A pleasure to be back using my own two feet.” It is signed by Hon Uhuru Kenyatta, dated July 1, 2007.
Right there before me, written in the President’s own hand, is the confirmation I seek that a part of our country’s history was in fact made in this place.
In the sitting room, there is a wooden couch with canvas pillows and a dining table. Rigano warns us not to sit on the chairs saying they need to be preserved for future generations.
There are a host of Jomo Kenyatta photos on the walls and Rigano tells us the first President spent his last days of restriction, just before independence, in the house.
The house was initially used by a senior colonial administrator who worked in Samburu area. Kenyatta was the second person to live in it between April and August 1961 after being transferred from Lodwar where he was detained by the colonial government for his alleged involvement with the Mau Mau movement in 1953.
Rigano dispels the notion that Kenyatta was detained at the Maralal House.
He explains: “Kenya’s independence was brokered in this house. When the colonial government realised it was inevitable for Kenya to gain its independence, they picked on Jomo Kenyatta. They chose him from among three heavyweights: Ronald Ngala, Tom Mboya and Oginga Odinga.”
According to Rigano, it was a white settler — the late Sir Michael Blundel, who recommended Kenyatta. He was acting as a liasion between him and the colonial government and it was he who facilitated Kenyatta’s move from Lodwar to Maralal.
In Maralal, Kenyatta was granted the freedom to walk to a nearby shop in the company of his two bodyguards. He, however, was not allowed to talk to more than 10 people at once.
While in Maralal, his family — Mama Ngina and their two children, Christine Wambui, now (Christine Pratt), and Jane Njeri came to live with him.
After getting most of this story in the sitting room, Rigano takes us to the guest room where Kenyatta’s visitors would stay.
Next, we move to the master bedroom where we find a study desk facing the window. Looking through the window one sees a hilly landscape, far away.
Rigano tells us one can see the apex of Mt Kenya during morning and evening hours. “Kenyatta sat here while working on his book, Facing Mount Kenya,” he says.
The bedroom has a dressing table complete with a full length mirror. It also has a metallic spring bed and a mattress made of sisal fibres as well as chest drawers. Also present is a charcoal iron box that Kenyatta used to press his clothes before meeting visitors.
We also toured the children’s bedroom which has two beds and a reading table. The kitchen comprises a firewood oven that could bake bread, cook and at the same time heat water for bathing. There are washrooms and a bathtub.
“Everything in this house has been maintained to look just like it did in 1961.
True, the walls have been repainted but they retain their original colours,” Rigano tells us.
Now 57-years-old, the house — which is privy to the greatest land deal secret signed between Kenyatta and the colonialists, is still very strong.