This week in History

Kenyatta made me walk butt naked, drink human blood!

Rawson Macharia confessed to walking seven times in an arch of banana leaves before sipping from Kenyatta’s hands

Latter day Judas: Rawson Macharia was the star witness during the Kapenguria Trial against Jomo Kenyatta in April, 1953. He later never got a job in his life. The business permit to operate a bar, then the preserve of mzungus, was withdrawn. He was shunned by friends, relatives and not a few enemies. He was killed by a boda boda along Thika Road in 2008. He was 96.

By GW Ngari


He missed a chance to attend Alliance High School over Sh150-annual fee- in 1934. Missing out on Alliance because of money pained Rawson Macharia for over 70 years.

Now imagine how it felt like when he was bribed with Sh47, 000 to offer false testimony against Mzee Jomo Kenyatta during the Kapenguria Trial in April, 1953. That was a lot of money for someone who admitted “my life was in bad shape. I couldn’t get employment.”  Just imagine even 10 years later, an MP was earning less than Sh5, 000!

There were 47 witnesses who were bribed with money and parcels of land mostly at the coast. All disappeared into the cracks of time. Not so Rawson Macharia- the key witness during the Trial that sent Kenyatta and his co-accused to seven years hard labour. But why was Macharia the key witness?

Well, he was the future president’s neighbour in Ichaweri, Gatundu and “I knew more about Kenyatta than the other witnesses… I wish I had asked for the whole of Nairobi to testify— they could have given me,” Macharia recalled in 2007 then aged 95. “They were that desperate to have Kenyatta jailed.”

On top of the Sh47, 000 to offer false testimony, Macharia was also offered scholarship in England

Far from the madding crowd: President Jomo Kenyatta rallies side kicks after his limo (for which DT Dobie would spend years demanding payment) got stuck in mud during a tour of Lake Nakuru in July 1977. But 25 years earlier, Kenyatta had been arrested after the assassination of Senior Chief Waruhiu wa Kung’u who was shot dead in Kiambu by members of a secret Mau Mau murder squad called the ‘Muhimu’. The murder led Kenya Governor Sir Evelyn Baring to declare the State of Emergency in October 22, 1952 as the war for Kenya’s independence kicked off in earnest.

The Trial featured the famous Kapenguria Six: Kenyatta, Kung’u Karumba, Bildad Kaggia, Fred Kubai Paul Ngei and Achieng Oneko.

On top of the Sh47, 000, Macharia was also offered scholarship to study public administration at Exeter University, England under the care of LC Hill, the administrator. Being at Exeter more than made up for missing out on Alliance High. And what was more, the colonial government was to educate two of Macharia’s kids up to university level in case the Mau Mau snuffed him out. He was also promised a government job upon return besides being given business permits.

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Macharia’s testimony as a witness was to connect Kenyatta with Kenya African Union (K.A.U.) and the management of the Mau Mau who were demanding ithaka na wiyathi (land and freedom) and thus inducing migraine and sleepless nights to the colonial government.

He had been bribed with Sh4 million to find the Kapenguria Six guilty

Three days on the cross: Rawson Macharia was sentenced to two years for offering false testimony under oath, In his 1991 bio The Truth about the Trial of Jomo Kenyatta, Macharia confessed: “I shall regret, throughout my life, my appearance as chief witness against Mzee (Kenyatta… I shall live in shame throughout my life for betraying African nationalism.”

The judge in the Kapenguria Trial was Ransley Thacker. He had been recalled from retirement and bribed with Sh4 million to find the Kapenguria Six guilty. Macharia told Thacker that Kenyatta administered the Mau Mau oath on him while butt naked in the house of Joram Waweru in March 1950. Macharia confessed to walking seven times in an arch of banana leaves and on to drinking human blood straight from Kenyatta’s hands!

That was all Thacker needed: a witness to confess. It was how in April, 1953 after a five month trial, Thacker found Kenyatta and his co-accused ‘guilty of managing the Mau Mau”, a proscribed group which had planned to “murder all the White people in Kenya.”

Kenyatta was the main target. Never mind he had publicly denounced the Mau Mau. The other five, who held various posts in KAU, were collateral damage.

I have nothing to say. You can impose any sentence.

The jailbirds: The Kapenguria Six included (from left to right): Paul Ngei, Fred Kubai, Jomo Kenyatta (who would later die a billionaire during his 15 presidency), Achieng Oneko (who served his sentence in Manda Island and not Kapenguria), Kung’u Karumba and Bildad Kaggia.
Jomo Kenyatta, on behalf of the rest, pleaded ‘not guilty’ and laid intentions to appeal at the Supreme Court of Kenya. Thacker asked the other accused for reasons why a sentence should not be passed. Here were their responses:
Fred Kubai: “I have nothing to say. You can impose any sentence.
Achieng Oneko: “I have nothing to say…you can impose any sentence… I am only waiting to appeal to the Supreme Court of Kenya.”
Bildad Kaggia: “I am in full agreement… and I have nothing to add.”
Paul Ngei: “I strongly associate myself with what Kenyatta has said. You can impose any sentence you like.”
Kung’u Karumba:  “Just as you like!”
Judge Ransley Thacker sentenced all accused to Seven years hard labour that April 8, 1953.

Kenyatta was released in 1959. Macharia bickered over his monthly £29 (Sh4000) monthly student stipend as too small. His scholarship was terminated. The colonial government had spent £1,500 (Sh210, 000) on his family in Kenya while he was away. That financial leg up was withdrawn.

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Macharia returned from England and confessed to nationalist Tom Mboya about his false testimony during the Kapenguria Trial. He was supposed to be tried for ‘perjury’ but since it could have gotten Kenyatta released, the colonial government charged Macharia with the offense of ‘signing a false affidavit” and sentenced him to two years.

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