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J.M. KARIUKI

J.M. Kariuki

J.M. Kariuki, as he is popuraly known, he was born on the 21st March 1929,in an area known as Kabati-ini near Bahati Forest in the Rift Valley Province of Kenya. At that time, Kenya was a colony under British rule.His parents had ealier on been forced to leave their home area, Chinga located in the Nyeri native reserve back in 1928 to work in the white highlands. They became squatters on a European settler's farm and were expected, as was the case with African sqatter families,to do the regularand seasonal jobs for wages. Their family was allowed to stay in a small plot of land within the farm where they used to cultivate food crops and pasture a small number of goats. During these colonial days, Africans could not grow cash crops like tea, coffee or pyrethrum on their land.

J.M. was the 3rd born, only boy, in a family of 5 children. In 1940, when he was ill, his father Mr.Kariuki Kigani, married a 2nd wife and moved back to Chinga, where he died in 1943. J.M. was raised by his mother and another man, Mr. Zacharia Ndung'u.

In 1936, J.M. was assigned to work in the European farmer's kitchen(he does not tell us his name) where he earned 3/= a month plus meals. He start going to school in 1938 at Evanson's Day School. He quickly rose to be the star of his class but had to drop out of school for lack of fees. He moved from one school to another while his mother toiled the farms for fees. He occasionally used to cut down trees for framing lather at Bahati Forest to earn some money. In 1941,J.M. joined a school managed by the Kikuyu Independent School Association(KISA)at Bahati Forest.

During the days of the 2nd World War, the "Nubian" tribesmen from Sudan were brought by the British government to settle in small villages around the Rift Valley. These Nubians brought with them the art of brewing a new distilled gin that intoxicated very fast. European, African, and South African soliders would come with money all the way from Lanet and Nakuru barracks(nearby towns) to drink this gin in the villages. J.M.'s mother quickly learnt how to make the drink and shortly her brew became very popular. In 1942, his mother was arrested and imprisoned for selling the illicit brew.

In 1944, J.M. and his two younger sisters had to move to another white farmer's farm where he was employed to count the stockof milk and maize on the farm, and prevent other workers from stealing the same.In 1944,J.M.'s mother was released from prison and J.M. slaughtered a goat to celebrate her release. His mother tried to persuade him to resume school but he denied since the family was short of funds. He continued working at the settler's farm. In 1946, he had a major stroke of luck. On impulse, he went to the Nakuru Horse races and placed a bet on a 2/=sweepstake ticket (he only been there once before). He won the 1,600/=jackpot! He went home with the winnings, which was alot of money then, and was able to resume school. He joined the Nakuru African schoolin Feb. 1946 to repeat standard 5.

Later in 1946, a political rally was to be held in Njoro and word spread around that one African who had lived in Britain for many years ws going to speak. Everyone from the villages, including J.M. Kariuki, turned up for the rally to hear this man talk. The speaker was introduced and he was none other than the Late Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. At that time , the people of Njoro and the neighbouring area had never heard of him but his powerful voice and ideas caught everyone by surprise. He told the crowd to raise up againd the misery they had endured under the colonial rule. Justice and hope could be achieved. He appealed to the gathering to unite against tribalism (divide and rule) and work hard and educate their children so they may take over the government of the country from Britain. This speech inspired everyone, J.M. included.

During the next four years, J.M. concentrated on his studies. He also he had to role play in the fight against colonial rule. He attended Kariko Primary School in Chinga, Karema Primary School in Othaya and Kerugoya Intermediate School in Embu district, Central Kenya, before proceeding to join form 1 at King's College in Budo District, Uganda. He studied at King's College till he was 26 years. During his time in Uganda he established friendship in Kampala and met with visitors from Kenya. He constanly heard of the struggles that local Kenyans were facing from the European settlers. There was no scarcity of land for Africans to cultivate, there were no proper educational facilities, the administration mistreat Africans and Kenyans were not allowed into the legislative council. J.M. then realize the privilege he had in attaining higher education. He prepared himself with literacy skills.

Through 1951 and 1952 Kenya was getting more and more engrossed in political turmoil and it became clear to all unless British government soon gave away, Kenya was soon heading for a tragic disaster. J.M. sat for his certificate examination and returned to Kenya on 22nd October 1952 to await his results. On his way home he learnt that just 2 days previously Kenya had been placed under state emergency by the new Govenor, Sir. Evelyn Baring.

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