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BILDAD KAGGIA

Bildad Kaggia is yet another unsung hero in Kenya's struggle for independence. His name is often mentioned alongside other Kenya's founding fathers, but just in passing. The truth is, he played a very important role in sensitizing the Kenyan masses about the evils of the colonial government. Like Dedan Kimathi, he approached the struggle from a spiritual perspective. He started the African Independent Church which he used to "Africanize" Christianity and make it more relevant to the African situation. This was after his visit to Jerusalem in the 1940s that led him to reject missionary christianity.

Kaggia's political involvement can be traced to 1940 when he was recruited into the British Army, and sent to the Middle East. His assignment in the Middle East is said to have revolutionised him. For the first time he realised that the British, whom he had previously considered all too powerful, could also be defeated in battle. He immediately embarked on a plan to secure Kenya's independence from the British, first by diplomacy but if need be, by force. As a bank clerk, he formed the Clerks and Commercial Workers Union, which he affiliated with the Labour Trade Union of East Africa, an organisation he later led. Right around this time, he joined Kenyatta's KAU, and brought with him the much needed Labour Union backing. He was considered a radical leader by the colonialists and often suspected of having ties with the Mau Mau, another powerful movement from his Kikuyu community. Sources close to him say he was secretly involved with the Mau Mau and that he actually found it funny that Kenyatta was among those arrested with him in 1952, for being involved with the group. He said he was the one who always told Kenyatta the names of the Mau Mau leaders. His detention ended in 1959, but he was restricted under house arrest until 1961.

With Kenya's independence in 1963, Kenyatta appointed him Assistant Education Minister. Not long after that however, the two clashed over land policy and Kaggia lost his job. Kaggia wanted the government to confiscate the land that had been stolen by the white settlers, and use it to resettle African squatters. He also called for cooperatives and other government agencies to be built on the confiscated white lands. The government was opposed to this idea as it would scare away the white settlers, who Kenyatta had promised no government retaliation should they decide to remain in Kenya after independence. Kaggia, together with then Vice-President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, then became open critics of Mzee Kenyatta's government. They would later leave the ruling party KANU to form their own political parties. After losing his parliamentary seat in the next General Elections, Kaggia was arrested in 1968 for holding an unlicenced meeting and imprisoned for six months. He retired from politics in the 1970s.

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