Since independence on December 12, 1963, they have milked from our commerce and industry, state tenders and jobs
By GW Ngari
President Uhuru Kenyatta is the son of a ‘Mission Boy.’ Former Opposition leader Raila Odinga, the perennial presidential hopeful, is also the son of a ‘Mission Boy.’
When the two cooled political temperatures with their ‘Handshake’ in March 2018, they were just continuing the political dynasties started by their fathers- Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga-who attended Thogoto and Maseno, both mission schools.
We are not done yet: Central Bank Governor Dr Patrick Njoroge is another ‘Mission Boy,’ an Opus Dei. His brother, Catholic Bishop Anthony Muheria, was widely known as the ‘President’s Bishop’ for his religious proximity to retired President Mwai Kibaki- an alumnus of Mang’u, a mission school making him yet another ‘Mission Boy.’ Before Kibaki was retired President Daniel arap Moi, another ‘Mission Boy’ of the African Inland Church.
Since independence on December 12, 1963, and when the country became a Republic on the same date the following year (both marked as Jamhuri Day), Kenya’s commerce and industry, state tenders and jobs which spawned the bulk of Old Money families, have been controlled by these ‘Mission Boys.’
Militant Boys fought for independence but Mission and System Boys benefited the most
Fellow Kenyans, how have we kept ‘Mission Boys’ in power this long?
For starters, our country’s political heritage has taken three forms: the ‘Militant Boys’, ‘Mission Boys’ and the ‘System Boys’…and their daughters as well.
Militant Boys fought for independence but in the end, it was the Mission and System Boys who benefited the most from state power and largesse.
Militant Boys were ‘militant nationalists’ who emerged in the 1930s and morphed into the Mau Mau rag tag militia which agitated for land and freedom in the 1950s culminating in the war of independence and the attendant State of Emergency lasting seven years to 1959.
Unlike Mission Boys who attended Mission schools where most were sheltered from the vagaries of Mau Mau insurgency, these Militants Boys had limited Christian education. Their leaders emerged from resource challenged families with less land and lesser economic, political and societal wherewithal.
British historian David Anderson in his 2005 book, Histories of the Hanged, notes on good authority that these militant nationalists “mobilized cultural nationalism in defense of the interests of those being excluded by social economic changes.”
Without access to capital, the children of Militant Boys inherited inter-generational poverty
The Militant Boys mobilized support from jobless youth, the landless and the voiceless and Anderson writes “moving between African estates of Nairobi and their rural homelands, they lived by their wits, sometimes on the fringes of criminal activity, sometimes in it up to their necks…these were the people who would take a lead in the Mau Mau movement.”
With less land and lesser education after years either in forests as Mau Mau soldiers or as inmates in colonial detention camps, these Militant Boys had no networks to benefit when Kenya gained her independence on December 12, 1963.
They neither had access to bank loans, formal employment, state jobs and tenders. Without access to capital and other resources, these Militant Boys were not in a position to bestow their brood with upward social mobility, instead, their children inherited inter-generational poverty and all cycles associated with it for over 50 years and still counting.
‘System Boys’ comprised the whole gamut of colonial chiefs, headmen, senior African clergy, Tribal Police and Home Guards
Founding President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta said “Mau Mau was a disease which must never be remembered again” and with that, militant nationalists got excluded from plucking and enjoying ‘matunda ya uhuru’ besides a few nationalists like Fred Kubai and Bildad Kaggia who were gifted political positions but in the end, died as paupers; the barrel of which their children are eating from the dregs.
Besides Mission and Militant Boys, there were also the ‘System Boys.’ These were the conservatives. They comprised the whole gamut of colonial chiefs, headmen, senior African clergy, the Tribal Police and the Home Guards and whose “authority had been greatly consolidated through association with the colonial project,” notes Anderson and “as landowners and business people, they had class and status.”
The likes of Chief Kung’u Waruhiu of Kiambu whose family had prosperous farmlands, haulage, wholesaling and retail businesses.
Others in the category of System Boys were colonial-era teachers, clerks, meter readers and court interpreters. ‘System Boys’ invested heavily in their children’s education. They were first to be awarded bursaries and scholarships. The State of Emergency did not affect their movements. They had access to business permits, passes, passports, seedlings and extension services, land and livestock confiscated from the Mau Mau and their detained sympathizers.
‘System Boys’ “represented landed Christian aristocracy in the struggle between the haves and the have nots” writes Anderson and “they were gatekeepers of the colonial state, and they became used to wielding patronage under its auspices…they worked hard to uphold the status quo resulting in a politics of exclusion. Over time, they made enemies.”
System and Mission Boys shared a common enemy in Militant Boys who deemed them “corrupt betrayers” and ineffective advocates of colonial disenfranchisement” respectively.
Famous System Boys included former Attorney General Charles Njonjo, former Head of the Civil Service the late Jeremiah Kiereini and the sons of Chief Waruhiu who became prominent lawyers including the late Sam Waruhiu- the first African chair of Sigona Golf Club in 1974 on his way to chair endless boards in Kenyan blue chips.
Then there were the children of Chief Peter Gatabaki also of Kiambu among them Kung’u, Njehu and Dr Sam Gatabaki, multimillionaire land owners and their siblings in medicine, architecture, economics, engineering, banking and real estate.
System and Mission Boys shared great similarities. Mission Boys emerged in the 1920s and were westernized in dress, attitude and favoured clerical jobs in urban areas. They were from the same class and background as System Boys.
System Boys are today the propertied class, Mission Boys are the ruling elite
They only differed with System Boys in their attitude and education which was from mission schools and “a materialistic rivalry fueled and intensified their political struggles” but their agenda of political leadership remained the same.
The Mission Boys were neither in the Mau Mau nor in the colonial system. By the 1940s they had moved their cause to national politics “and to the building of pan-ethnic political alliances, as a means of fostering greater credibility in the struggle for representation.”
This coalition of Mission Boys became the ruling elite when KANU formed government at independence with Jomo and Jaramogi at the helm.
Educated and well-connected System Boys joined the civil service, others became magistrates, Permanent Secretaries, like the late Kenneth Matiba at the Ministry of Education at just 28 and Under Secretaries and managing directors when the colonialists left.
Militant Boys were thus shortchanged. System Boys are today the propertied class. Mission Boys are the ruling elite. The losers in this state of affairs were Militant Boys-those who went to the trenches to wrestle freedom from British colonial rule.