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Tom Mboya's unholy procession on a sacred Good Friday

 Legislative Council Opening in 1954. [File, Standard]

Is there a day that is so holy that Christians should not raise their voices against vices? If the government has its way, some holy days would be reserved strictly for the confession of sins or praise and worship.

But when a country is struggling to sever its umbilical cord with its oppressor, its leaders can be forgiven for overlooking certain sensitivities. This explains why senior government agents got blue in the face when Tom Mboya chose to remind his colonial masters of some of their gravest sins on the holiest day in the Christian calendar.

Mboya, representing Nairobi in the Legislative Council (Legco) had planned a protest march in the streets of Nairobi to present a petition to the governor’s residence at the Government House (today’s State House).

This displeasure had been triggered by the government’s obstinate refusal to release a man they considered extremely evil and dangerous, Jomo Kenyatta.  

Mboya, who also doubled up as Nairobi Area representative in the Legco) and leader of the Nairobi People’s Convention Party, did what the State described as a desecration of Good Friday by issuing a notice to hold a procession in Nairobi on April 15, 1960.

The petition, an outraged Parliament was told by  R.S Alexander (Nairobi West), that it had been organised with the singular intention of petitioning the government to release Kenyatta. Alexander pontificated: “Kenya is predominantly a Christian country and it is right for this House to have an opportunity to register its indignation and its shame at the attempt to desecrate Good Friday by blasphemously associating it with the worst of political motives with a name that had vilely offended against Christian and human behaviour.”

He challenged the African representatives in the Legco to indicate their stand on the matter and was optimistic that the call for a strike would be condemned.

He wanted the Ministry of Labour to deregister any trade union that was in any way involved in desecrating the holy day by supporting Mboya’s strike.

At the time, Mboya was not in the Legco and the white members were mollified when Bernard Mate, who was representing Central Province North, questioned the wisdom of choosing Good Friday.  “I am not a member of the Nairobi People’s Convention Party... On the choice of dates, it has raised doubt as in my mind whether they were very wise in choosing the day they have chosen.”

 Mate stressed that he had held many meetings with his constituents in Central Province and Nairobi who had expressed their desire to see Kenyatta and other political detainees released.

“Jomo Kenyatta and many of our people should be given a chance to come and settle back in their homes,” he said.

All the holy thoughts of Good Friday and its holiness in Legco disappeared when  Chief Secretary W.F. Coutts neutered Mate’s hopes with an order that none of the political prisoners would be released as long as they remained a security threat.

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