Kapenguria Six

The Kapenguria SixBildad Kaggia, Kung'u Karumba, Jomo Kenyatta, Fred Kubai, Paul Ngei, and Achieng' Oneko – were six leading Kenyan nationalists who were arrested in 1952, tried at Kapenguria in 1952–53, and imprisoned thereafter in Northern Kenya.


Evelyn Baring was the new Governor, who arrived in Kenya on 30 September 1952.[1]

After the European invasion, large amounts of Kenya's best land were alienated for exclusive white use. Black Africans were allowed to remain as tenant farmers ('squatters') on land they had previously owned or newly cultivated; their terms of service steadily worsened. At Olenguruoune in 1944, 11,000 squatters were expelled, the beginning of the last act of a land dispute that had raged since the 1920s.[2][3] The first Mau Mau oaths were probably administered there and then.[4] Kenyatta returned home from the UK in 1946. By 1947, oathing had spread all over Kikuyuland and into Nairobi.[5] Mitchell, the previous Governor, proscribed the new organisation – now called Mau Mau – in 1950.

On 9 October 1952, Senior Chief Waruhiu was shot and killed by Mau Mau gunmen. Baring had been on a tour of Central Province. It was cut short.[6] At the funeral, he and Kenyatta locked eyes over the casket; days afterwards, Baring signed the arrest warrants for the Six.[7]

Operation Jock ScottEdit

On the night of 20/21 October, a mass arrest was carried out of Mau Mau and KAU leaders. There is some doubt about the actual number of arrests.[8] Baring had signed the Emergency order on the evening of the 20th,[9] the emergency was publicly proclaimed on the morning of the 21st. Troops from the Lancashire Fusiliers, flown in on the 20th, were in place later that day, patrolling the African areas of segregated Nairobi.

The trialEdit

Anthony Somerhough, the Deputy Public Prosecutor, opened proceedings on 3 December 1952. The charge against the defendants was that they had jointly managed a proscribed society (and that the proscribed society, the Mau Mau, had conspired to murder all white residents of Kenya).

The defence was led by Denis Nowell Pritt,[10] assisted by a multiracial team: HO Davies, a Nigerian; Chaman Lall, an Indian and friend of Nehru;[11] and the Kenyans Fitz De Souza, Achhroo Ram Kapila, and Jaswant Singh. In line with the segregationist legislation then in force, they were prohibited from staying in the same hotel.[12]

Baring offered Ransley Thacker, the presiding judge, an unusually large pension, and that from the Emergency fund rather than a more conventional source; the two also maintained secret contact during the trial.[13] Witnesses were suborned, as Baring admitted in a letter to Lyttelton, saying that "every possible effort has been made to offer them rewards".[14] Rawson Macharia, the key witness at the trial, was later to testify that he had been offered a university course in public administration at Exeter University College, protection for his family, and a government job on his return from the UK.[15] Other witnesses were offered land at the Coast.[16]

I would submit that it is the most childishly weak case made against any man in any important trial in the history of the British Empire.

—Dennis Lowell Pritt, QC, gives his view
of the case against Kenyatta[17]

The crucial piece of evidence was Macharia's.[18] He testified that in March 1950, he had taken one of the Mau Mau oaths at Kenyatta's hands. He further claimed that the oath had required him to strip naked and drink human blood. [19]Macharia's submissions were the only evidence of a direct link between Kenyatta and Mau Mau produced before the court.[20] However, Mau Mau was proscribed in August 1950, so, even had the claims been true, it is unclear that they would have proved Kenyatta's membership, let alone management, of a proscribed organisation.[21] The defendants were all convicted, and sentenced to long terms and permanent restriction.[22] All defendants got seven years each.[23]

The remainder of the nationalist movement – in which Mboya and Odinga featured prominently – kept up the pressure for Uhuru and the release of the detainees: KANU's election slogan in the 1961 election was Uhuru na Kenyatta (Independence with Kenyatta).[24] KANU won the election and then refused to form a government unless Kenyatta was released. Despite Renison's famous dismissal of Kenyatta as the leader "unto darkness and death", it was clear that he was indispensable; he was duly released in 1961.[25] The rest of the Six were released soon thereafter.[26]

Kenyatta went on to the presidency of Kenya; Kaggia and Ngei served as ministers; Oneko was detained by Kenyatta between 1969 and 1974, before later serving as MP for Rarieda in Kenya's 7th Parliament; Kung'u Karumba disappeared in 1975, while in Uganda on business; Fred Kubai twice served as MP for Nakuru East – from 1963 to 1974, and from 1983 to 1988 – before his death in June 1996.[27]


  1. ^ Law of War: Can 20th-Century Standards Apply to the Global War on Terrorism?. DIANE Publishing. 2005. ISBN 978-1-4379-2301-8.
  2. ^ The number is Piers Brendon's, see Brendon 2007: 546.
  3. ^ See further Kanogo's 1987.
  4. ^ See Throup 1985:415.
  5. ^ Corfield 1960: 51.
  6. ^ Conveniently, Baring later remembered having been told by the chiefs that, "if you don't get Kenyatta and those all around him and shut them up somehow or other we are in a terrible, hopeless, position". See Elkins 2005: 33. She is quoting the MS of an interview between Baring and Margery Perham; see Elkins 2005: 381 n. 6 for the full reference.
  7. ^ Elkins 2005:35
  8. ^ See page 74 of Emergency In Kenya: Kikuyu And The Mau Mau Insurrection :"Sources vary as to the number of arrests actually made that night, though Governor Baring had signed 183 arrest and detention warrants. By dawn somewhere between 83 and 112 arrests had been made quietly and without resistance."
  9. ^ Elkins 2005: 36
  10. ^ Pritt had sat as Labour MP and later, after his explulsion from the Labour Party for Soviet sympathies, as an independent Left MP; he was thought by George Orwell to be 'perhaps the most effective pro-Soviet publicist in this country' (Morgan 2004). Neither of these facts made him popular with white Kenyans.
  11. ^ See Elkins 2005:40
  12. ^ See Elkins 2005:40-1.
  13. ^ See Elkins 2005: 40, and Anderson 2005: 65
  14. ^ See Elkins 2005: 40
  15. ^ See Lonsdale 2000: 235
  16. ^ See Lonsdale 2000: 235–6
  17. ^ Elkins (2005). p. 42. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  18. ^ See Kaggia, 2012: 102
  19. ^ "The case that immortalised Kenya's 'Kapenguria Six'". The East African. Retrieved 27 May 2020.
  20. ^ "Criminal Appeal 276, 277, 278, 279, 280 & 281 of 1953 - Kenya Law". kenyalaw.org. Retrieved 27 May 2020.
  21. ^ Kushner, Gilbert (1965). "An African Revitalisation Movement: Mau Mau". Anthropos. 60 (1/6): 763–802. JSTOR 40457916.
  22. ^ "The case that immortalised Kenya's 'Kapenguria Six'". The East African. Retrieved 15 May 2020.
  23. ^ "The case that immortalised Kenya's 'Kapenguria Six'". The East African. Retrieved 27 May 2020.
  24. ^ The post-colonial condition : contemporary politics in Africa. Ahluwalia, D. P. S. (D. Pal S.), Nursey-Bray, Paul F. Commack, N.Y.: Nova Science Publishers. 1997. ISBN 1-56072-485-4. OCLC 37862841.CS1 maint: others (link)
  25. ^ "Ministry2Kenya: "Loving my Neighbor": Saiwa Swamp, to see the endangered and elusive Sitatunga antelope; plus the Kapenguria Six museum". Ministry2Kenya. 11 February 2019. Retrieved 27 May 2020.
  26. ^ "Kapenguria Six | Grand Dream Development Party". Retrieved 27 May 2020.
  27. ^ "Kapenguria Six | Grand Dream Development Party". Retrieved 27 May 2020.


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  • Caroline Elkins (2005), Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya, New York:Henry Holt. ISBN 0-8050-8001-5
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