Detailed Chronology of Political and Trade Union career

Thomas Joseph Mboya.

Minister for Economic Planning and Development aged 36 years.

He entered public life in 1951 by joining the Nairobi African City Council Staff Association, and met Mzee Jomo Kenyatta several times at the K. A. U. headquarters in the ensuing months.

In early 1953 during the initial days of the state of emergency he became acting treasurer of the K.A.U and organized finance for the legal defence of Mzee Kenyatta and others detained in Kapenguria. He founded the Kenya Local Government workers Union, and after resigning from the city council he was appointed National General Secretary in 1963.

He then joined the Kenya Federation of Registered Trade Unions (a fore runner to the Kenya Federation of Labour). When his KLGCU became an affiliate member the same year, he was soon elected Secretary General.

Soon after this the K. A. U was banned and he concentrated all his efforts to develop the trade union movement under difficult emergency conditions. No meetings were allowed and trade union members were victimized. The KFL became the only voice of the Kenya people filling the vacuum left by the banning of KAU. Thus it was became a political as well as a trade union organization.

Between late 1953 and 56, Mboya visited Europe several times to educate external opinion on the case of the African people. To this end he petitioned the Colonial office and the British TUC. Members of the House of Commons, the I.L.O, and the I.C.F.T.U, and invited British Mp’s to visit Kenya. He also visited India and spent a year at Ruskin College, Oxford studying industrial relations and economics (1955/56).

He addressed several meetings during his stay in Britain and on the continent, and published the first African written exposition of the Kenya situation under the state of emergency under the title ‘The Kenya Question – an African Answer’. He also established worldwide contacts through trade unions and other bodies in many countries laying foundations for the independence struggle.

He addressed many meetings in the United States and Canada in 1956 before returning to Kenya in the days of the state of emergency. He intervened (throught the KFL) with the Government regarding the condition of detainees and secured a revision of the screening process. In 1957 Mboya was first elected to Parliament as a member for Nairobi area and became secretary of the African Elected Members Organisation which declared the ‘Lyttelton Plan’ null and void and began the constitutional struggle for Uhuru. He also became chairman of the East and Central Africa Coordinating Committee of Trade Unions in the same year.

In 1958 Mboya together with friends launched a movement for Education Overseas and organized the first Student airlift to the United states. While in America in 1958 he raised (on televison) the issue of Mzee Kenyatta’s release and presented the case for Uhuru in a book, ‘Kenya faces the future’. He also visited Ghana to attend the first anniversary conference in March 1958.

Back in Kenya through a speech at Makadara Hall and through publication of the N.P.C.P newspaper he sought to discipline political awakening and support the release Kenyatta campaign.

During the same year he discussed such matters with Lennox-Boyd and presented in London papers relating to the ‘Macharia Confession’ of perjury in Kapenguria. At this time also. PAFMECA was formed after he traveled to meet Mwalimu Nyerere in Mwanza. In December 1958, he flew back to Ghana and was elected chairman of the first ‘All African Peoples Conference’ ever to be held on the continent of Africa. Mboya again traveled to America in 1959 where he secured 200 University scholarships and arranged the largest student airlift in history to date.

For this and his earlier political work as well as his trade union organisation, he was awarded an Honorary Doctrate in law by Howard University. He also became a member of the I.C.F.T.U executive board and declared in Legislative Council (before the year ended) that there was no point in ending the emergency in Kenya unless Mzee Kenyatta was released.

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