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The day a senior police officer wept profusely in front of Jomo Kenyatta

Kenya's first President Jomo Kenyatta and officer Ian Henderson. [File, Standard]

Police officers are by nature supposed to be stone cold and exhibit little emotions regardless of prevailing circumstances.

However, one Ian Henderson, formerly a colonial police officer and who later came to serve in independent Kenya had stepped on far too many toes for his comfort.

Henderson will be remembered as the officer who led the manhunt for freedom fighter Dedan Kimathi, earning himself the King George medal for bravery, “having done more than any single individual to bring the Emergency to an end,” according to the book, Hunt for Kimathi.

It was Henderson too, who led in coaching witnesses during the trial of Jomo Kenyatta in Kapenguria.

As such, he was among colonial officers who spent sleepless nights after Kenyatta became Prime Minister, and later, president.

One day, owing to rising criticism, Henderson requested some audience with Kenyatta.

As Joseph Murumbi later wrote in his book, A Path not Taken, Henderson, who spoke fluent Kikuyu, decided to address Kenyatta in his mother tongue.

Kenyatta called Murumbi, then the External Affairs minister into his office to witness the spectacle.

“Joe, you know Henderson?” Kenyatta asked. “Yes, I know him very well Mzee.”  

Addressing Murumbi, Kenyatta continued: “He [Henderson] is just talking to me in Kikuyu. Now Henderson, will you speak in English because Joe doesn’t understand Kikuyu?”

The 37-year-old police chief, who was now deputy head of the Special Branch went on to relate the circumstances under which he carried out his activities.

He was caught between the horns of a dilemma and needed to know from Kenyatta whether he should stay on the job or quit.

Kenyatta though was very tolerant and forgiving. “

You were detailed to do your job and you did it. I have nothing against you at all…If you will devote the same loyalty to us as you did the colonial regime, carry on working.”

According to Murumbi, the poor man wept profusely and had to be calmed by the president.

“Now, don’t cry, this is all history, and let’s forget about it."

But with pressure for him to quit growing by the day, the government had to let him go.

Records indicate that as his position became untenable, he was deported on August 7, 1964, following orders from Oginga Odinga who was dubbed as Home Affairs minister.

He later found a job in Bahrain, where too, he was accused of torture. He died in April 2013, at the age of 86.