In Summary
  • Kenyatta stayed in this house between 1933 and 1937, and at one point — perhaps unable to throw him out — the landlord reported him to the Colonial Office, hoping to get paid.
  • Some KCA correspondence accused Jomo Kenyatta of failing to account for the money sent to him.

You only need to read a Colonial Office letter dated September 8, 1936, to know the kind of predicament Mr Jomo Kenyatta was in during his stay at 95 Cambridge Street in the upmarket Pimlico area of London, UK.

The letter to a Mr Wade illustrates the kind of problems Kenyatta was facing — or feigning — in this house, and for that reason, and more, it was preserved by the British as part of its English Heritage.

When it was elevated to a heritage site, President Uhuru Kenyatta was there to unveil the blue plaque. The house is still well-kept, the neighbourhood serene.

BRITISH MI5

It was here that the British MI5 started snooping on Kenyatta’s mail and private life, fearing that his dalliance with communists and civil rights activists would be dangerous for the survival of the Kenya colony.

Kenyatta stayed in this house between 1933 and 1937, and at one point — perhaps unable to throw him out — the landlord reported him to the Colonial Office, hoping to get paid.

The letter to Mr Wade said: “A certain Mr S. Hosken of 95 Cambridge Street, Victoria, called here in woe. He has been Johnstone Kenyatta’s landlord for four years but for the last 18 months there has been no rent.”

In those days, Kenyatta’s rent was paid by the Kikuyu Central Association (KCA), led by Mr James Beauttah and Mr Joseph Kang’ethe, who mobilised locals to finance Mr Kenyatta’s stay in one of London’s prestigious districts.

When short of funds, Kenyatta would turn to the family of a former public works officer, William McGregor Ross, previously his boss at the Municipal Council of Nairobi as a meter reader. Mr McGregor Ross and his wife had helped Kenyatta settle at 95 Cambridge Street.

PENURY

But whether Kenyatta had money or was feigning penury will never be known. Some KCA correspondence accused him of failing to account for the money sent to him.

As a result, Mr Flood wrote: “Kenyatta has moved from the first floor to the attic and gets no meals. Hosken says (Kenyatta) is still well dressed and well fed and goes abroad at times (now in Denmark). Mrs McGregor Ross has apparently washed her hands of him”.

There was something else about Kenyatta’s handling of the KCA money.

Hosken produced a letter from the Kikuyu Central Association, of which I enclose a copy. It may interest you. They seem to want him back — but wisely — won’t trust him with the cash.

The blue plaque unveiled by President Uhuru Kenyatta when the house was made a heritage site. PHOTO | FILE

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