Tom Mboya

Kenya's Iconic Leaders

Tom Joseph Odhiambo Mboya (1930 – 1969) was a Kenyan trade unionist, educator, Pan-Africanist, author, independence activist, and statesman. He was one of the founding fathers of the Republic of Kenya.He led the negotiations for independence at the Lancaster House Conferences. He laid the foundation for Kenya's capitalist and mixed economy policies at the height of the Cold War and set up several of the country's key labour institutions.

Mboya's intelligence, charm, leadership, and oratory skills won him admiration from all over the world.
Mboya worked with both John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. to create educational opportunities for African students, an effort that resulted in the Kennedy Airlifts of the 1960s enabling East African students to study at American colleges. Notable beneficiaries of this airlift include Wangari Maathai and Barack Obama Sr.

Mzee Jomo Kenyatta

First President of Kenya

After his release in August 1961, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, at the London Conference, negotiated the constitutional terms leading to Kenya’s independence. KANU won the preindependence election in May 1963, forming a provisional government, and Kenya celebrated its independence on December 12, 1963, with Kenyatta as prime minister. A year later Kenya became a one-party republic when the main opposition party went into voluntary liquidation. At the same time, Kenyatta became the first president of Kenya under a new constitutional amendment.  In general, Kenya enjoyed remarkable political stability under Kenyatta’s rule.

Kenyatta early on rejected socialist calls for the nationalization of property and instead preached a doctrine of personal and entrepreneurial effort, symbolized by his slogan “Harambee,” or “Pulling together.” Besides relying heavily on a free-market economy, he encouraged foreign investment from Western and other countries. Largely as a result of his policies, Kenya’s gross national product grew almost fivefold from 1971 to 1981, and its rate of economic growth was among the highest on the continent in the first two decades after independence. But though economic growth benefited large numbers of people, it also led to tremendous disparities of wealth, much of which was in the hands of Kenyatta’s family and close associates. This concentration of wealth, along with an extremely high rate of population growth, meant that most Kenyans did not realize a correspondingly large increase in their living standards under Kenyatta’s leadership.

Jomo Kenyatta died on 22 August 1978, in Mombasa and was succeeded by Daniel arap Moi, who continued most of his policies.

Wangari Maathai

Social, Environmental and Political Activist

Wangarĩ Muta Maathai ( 1 April 1940 – 25 September 2011) was a Kenyan social, environmental and political activist and the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.As a beneficiary of the Kennedy Airlift she studied in the United States, earning a Bachelor's Degree from Mount St. Scholastica and a Master's Degree from the University of Pittsburgh. She went on to become the first woman in East and Central Africa to become a Doctor of Philosophy, receiving her Ph.D. from the University of Nairobi in Kenya.

In 1977, Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement, an environmental non-governmental organisation focused on the planting of trees, environmental conservation, and women's rights. In 1984, she was awarded the Right Livelihood Award for "converting the Kenyan ecological debate into mass action for reforestation". Maathai was an elected member of the Parliament of Kenya and between January 2003 and November 2005 served as assistant minister for environment and natural resources in the government of President Mwai Kibaki.

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